CATCH THIS READ! (Clockwise) Dr Fonseca’s `The Pontin Secret’ is about the turns and twists a woman’s life can take; autographing spree with a smile; at the release function – special guests Sidharth Kuncalienker, Celsa Pinto, Eduardo Faleiro, with doctors Sushila and Edward Fonseca; Celsa Pinto reviewing the book with enthusiasm; mistress of ceremonies Jean Sequeira made everyone feel at home!

IT’S the season of book releases, my dears. And this time around the author is my favourite pathologist, Dr Sushila Fonseca, who’s perhaps the only niz Goenkar amongst the medical fraternity I know, who believes in putting pen to paper to tell a story with easy grace be it fiction or non-fiction.

Of her two books I’m familiar with, one is non-fiction  “Know Your Fever” — a useful booklet to have at home if you want a primer on understanding fever (after all the moment someone has fever at home we get so worried like it’s the end of the world. Dr Fonseca assures one that it’s okay, there is fever and fever, but know which ones we will recover from and which may turn out to be deadly).

Then I’ve also read “Invisible Currents” which offers insight into how a Goan family becomes vulnerable to the drug trade along the coastal belt of Goa. (It’s an invaluable and poignant story, one all of us should read). I haven’t read her first fiction titled “Rebecca’s Inheritance,” or subsequent books “Touched by Love,” “What I Should Know About HIV/AIDS,”,”Good Health Practices.” But her 8th book is fiction anew and titled “The Pontin Secret” (notionpress.com, paperback, `249), it’s also available as an e-book. The hard copy was released amidst a warm and intimate family and friends gathering at the Hotel Mandovi, recently.

While sister-in-law Jean Sequeira was the smooth mistress of ceremonies, former director of education, Celsa Pinto reviewed “The Pontin Secret” and was lyrical about books and why we should go back to reading like her generation, ardently and voraciously! It would be hard to find so much passion for reading today, with young folk  far too wrapped up in computers and android phones.

Dr Fonseca too filled up the picture of how reading mattered so much once upon a time. She was born to Dr Antonio and Belinda Sequeira in Kenya, her parents later returned to Goa; passed with flying colours at the Nair Medical College in Bombay, doing her MD in pathology and later getting married to Dr Edward Fonseca. They have their own pathology lab and clinic in Panjim.

She took to reading early in life and cherishes a memory from when she was in the third or fourth standard. At a birthday party someone gifted her a book. “Even before the guests had departed I began reading and fell asleep clutching it!” Once the reading bug bites, Dr Fonseca mused, there’s no stopping it. She grew up on the Noddy and Secret Seven; later graduated to “The Scarlet Pimpernal,”; a lot of Fr Rev Talesman crusade books; there is history and geography in Pearl S Buck’s books; she remembers reading  “Fever” and “Coma” by Robin Cook… She wanted to read “Papillon” by Henri Charriere but couldn’t get her hands on it until her 2nd year MBBS, when a group of them decided to get the Dean’s permission to get a library going, and she finally read “Papillon.” Nair’s Medical College in Mumbai soon had the best library.

She got married but didn’t abandon her love for reading breaks and was soon encouraged to put write herself, later acquiring an electric typewriter. Instead of knitting while babysitting the children she went tap tap tap on a typewriter as her mind  overflowed!

Dr Fonseca firmly believes that by writing one may sow the seeds of an interest, even good morals, in a book. It’s not difficult to write if one uses simple English to weave a story which anyone can understand. Being a doctor it was easy for her to introduce medical elements and her experiences, as she has done in her latest book.

Her non-fiction book “What I Should Know About HIV/AIDS” came about because her husband and she got concerned about how easily youngsters got AIDS in Goa, without being even aware of the gravity of the disease! It is clear that for Dr Fonseca, her books stem from concern with what’s happening in society around her and her books have an element of some cause dear to her heart.

In “The Pontin Secret” she has come a long way and before I knew it I was wrapped up in the story of Tina, her worries about her children and the Pontin Mansion. It’s a story of hard times and how one may emerge the happier for them. Dr Fonseca’s fiction has a flavour of life in Goa in times gone by and times closer to us.

She is easily one of Goa’s most appealing authors, and the warmth of her personality shines through in whatever she writes, be it fiction, non-fiction or an article on some medical subject. I must get her other books to read — the ones I haven’t read yet!

For I too come from a background where we lived on books. As a schoolgirl I used to stay up nights out on the staircase of the house we lived in — pretending to study for exams, but devouring all of Enid Blyton’s rivers, mountains, valleys of adventure series! To this day I swear, my dears, there’s nothing so precious to look forward to as curling up in a warm bed with a book ….to the sound of pouring monsoon rain outside! It’s one of life’s evergreen treats to be grateful for.


GOA got a very, very special visitor last week and we should pay heed to what he says at least at we, the people’s level. Forget this chatur baniya BJP government of Manohar Parrikar and Narendra Modi! The special visitor was the celebrated “Waterman of India” Dr Rajendra Singh, who along with his dynamic team from Rajasthan, is on a ‘Goa Guwahati Literacy Yatra for A Drought-Free India’, a road trip from July 30 to August 15, 2017, to promote the cause of saving our water bodies small and big and educating people on the water politics of linking up the country’s rivers.

WATER YATRA: Men with a mission to create an awareness about water conservation…Dr Rajendra Singh with his team in Goa, the 3,000 km Goa-Guwahati Water Literary Yatra will stop at Bijapur (Karnataka) for a “Drought-Free India” national conference from Aug 15-17, 2017

He was here to address the State-level symposium on water, organised jointly by Peaceful Society, CSIP, Rashtra Seva Dal, Vivekanand Environment Awareness Brigade, Goa Foundation, Goa Jal Yatra, Nirmal Vishwa and Jal Biradari-Tarun Bharat Sangh at the Institute Piedade Hall in Panaji on July 31, 2017. To an overflowing audience Rajendra had many things to say but mainly it was not get carried away by the rhetoric of our governments at State or Central level on the subject of the nationalization of  rivers.  He said, “Nationalisation is privatization is commercialization!”  It’s all balderdash that the government is going to save our rivers, we’ve seen lots of money going down our once upon a time glorious rivers, many of which no longer exist for even 12 months of the year now!

He is clear that the natural resources of a country must not be handed over to the government to feather its own political nests. Primary resources do not belong to the government but to the communities of this country and they must have a say in what kind of development is good for them at  aam aadmi level and not just khaas aadmi level.

Best of all before the government succeeds in its conspiracies to steal away our natural water resources we must stop being lazy and at least save our local water bodies like  rivers, ponds, lakes, wells or any water body…restore them to life and make them yield water once again!

Never worry about water shortage again. There are many ways to bring back water and take charge of its usage for the benefit of all equally. If they can do it in once dry, drought-ridden Rajasthan, in Goa it should be no problem at all! But the people’s will must be there (even if the political will is not there at least in the desired manner). As a matter of fact there’s only 3 per cent fresh potable water for the world and this water crisis is very serious, so serious that the stage is currently being set for a third world war where we will be fighting over water rights.

You in Goa, exclaimed Dr Rajendra Singh, are “ladle bête” (privileged sons/children) for all the wonderful monsoon rain we get, even if we don’t harvest it practically for year round use and let almost 90 per cent of it drain away into the sea! You have to live in Rajasthan to respect water! He hails from Alwar district in Rajasthan and here  people know how much water they have to use every day depending on their storage facilities — the old traditional engineering of water storage which respected the grain of the land is far more scientific…

“If you work for water, you will get it,” he said, as they have succeeded in getting it in Rajasthan where once people couldn’t hope to have a bath every day, “People used to dip a towel in a lota of water and just wipe their body, that was a bath. We have a Ramu-kaka who bathed only twice a year, during Diwali and Holi…today in his senior years he bathes twice a day and still can’t get over the wonder of it!”

They have managed to bring back their lost water resources and created new ones by understanding their geography and topography and working with it, judiciously planting trees where aquifers could be built up, “We started working for water years ago and it is the third generation now reaping the rewards…many of my generation have gone! But our girls go to school today instead of walk miles to collect water, we have a mahila bank too.” They got people’s monetary contributions because everyone knows that “pani ka kaam punya hai.”

His organisation, Tarun Bharat Sangh, made water available to about 1,000 villages and it is not for nothing that Dr Rajeshwar Singh is called the “Waterman of India”, he got the Stockholm Prize (noted prize for water development), also the Ramon Magsaysay Award amongst other awards and the British Guardian in 2008 described him as one of “50 people who can save the planet!” Former president of India, K R Narayanan, visited them in Rajasthan and praised what they had done by way of cleaning up and reviving traditional water storage systems and building earthen dams to collect rain water…”he literally saved me from being arrested at one point of time!”

It’s always the water resources of villages which an urban, industrial civilization wants to rob or empty out without a thought of what will happen to the people who live there! Hence, the need to educate the common people of the country and the purpose of their current  “Goa-Guwahati Literary Yatra” which will conclude with a huge meeting in Bijapur on August 15, 2017. Dr Rajendra Singh urged Goa’s water activists fighting to save Karnataka from diverting the head waters of river Madei and its tributaries to drought-stricken areas of Karnataka, “Come and place your anxieties on the table before the people of Karnataka, people are always human and will listen if you explain why rivers should be left untouched and not dammed or diverted….” One may not tamper with the water arteries of the earth using mega technology without reaping long-term damaging consequences. The United States of America has learned this the hard way, why can’t we out here in India take a few cues?

Needless to say, my dears, I’ve taken a shine to Dr Rajendra Singh and would vote for him any day to be the country’s water minister! He spoke in eloquent Hindi and with such warm down-to-earth common sense that he  won everyone’s heart in the audience. He urged Goans to start harvesting monsoon rain water at residential level right away, using underground tank technology, so that they are not so dependent on the government’s unreliable supply of piped water.

We may pay water bills for piped water in our homes but it’s always wise to have our own wells or village or neighbourhood water bodies alive and healthy, and available to anyone in need of water for non-commercial purposes. Water should be equally and never selectively distributed. This happens only when some political nests have to be filled — with diminishing returns for the innocent humble people of a country.

On that note it’s avjo, poite verem, selamat datang, au revoir arriverdecci and vachun yeta here for now.

— Mme Butterly


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