Striking even through his 80-year-old frame, a sprightly Rene Mendes makes quite a first impression as he greets me in Goa. A mixture of Konkani, the official language of the state, and Portuguese is clearly evident in his accent. As distinct as it can get, his accent clearly hints towards his descent, a feature which catches my attention almost immediately. Dressed in a simple white shirt and cream-coloured pants, the octogenarian - a stickler for timeliness - meets us as early as 8 am on a bright sunny day in Goa. A Panjim local, he is one of only 1000 people in Goa, who are of Portuguese descent. Rene is a popular face in the sunshine state. A fact, evident by how fellow tourist guides and passing locals, greet him in Portuguese.
Unlike most travel guides, his love for language, history and culture makes him a strong cultural advocate in Goa. His origins are clearly visible as he explains the semantics of the Portuguese language, with the enthusiasm of a teenager. While there isn’t statistical data about the number of Portuguese speakers, it must be noted that it ceased to be the official language after the end of the Portuguese rule in 1961. However, there is a current debate about whether the mix of languages led to the formation of the Indo-Portuguese Creole.
When it comes to Fontainhas, Rene is a treasure trove of knowledge and facts, difficult to find in an encyclopedia, which is how we notice that it may be among his favourite places in Goa. An interesting observation about the Latin Quarters by me, makes him explain the Portuguese influence in its architecture, including the rooster at the top of every house, which is one of many theories, we hear. While one is to simply fill hole made by meeting of roofs, the other is to represent Portugal, the national emblem of which is coincidentally the rooster. From the history of 18th June Road to Goa’s politics of freedom, Rene manages to invoke child-like curiosity in every traveller. Unfortunately, strapped for time I had to leave but not before hearing, “Come home for a traditional lunch if you can". .
Illustrated by: @saniidee - 4 hours ago