MY DOOD-BHAAV – HIS NAME IS ANTHONY GONSALVES
By Damodar Mauzo
For Jose Mestre’s wife, Ana Quiteria, the way to Majorda’s Mhamai Saibinn Church passed by my house. So whenever she would return after attending the mass, she would invariably stop by to say hello to my mother. It was in the mid-40s of the last century and village life was a sossegado affair. One day, when I was a baby, as she was returning after mass, she did not find Aayee in view and heard the baby crying. She entered the house to find Aayee down with fever and the baby crying because the sick mother could not breastfeed. Judging the situation, Ana Quiteria who was feeding her own son, Eugenio, proffered to feed the hungry babe. And soon the baby, that was me, stopped crying. Probably, there wasn’t anything extraordinary in that act in the Goa of those days. What I remember now is Ida and Flavia, Anthony’s sisters, calling me their dood-bhaav. Today, it certainly makes me proud that our families were so open-minded.
I vividly remember Jose Mestre going to the parish school where he taught music to children. Tall and handsome, hair neatly combed backward and dignified as he was clad in formal wears, Mestre had an aura of a bhatkar. I don’t remember having met Anthony, until the early 80s when he returned from the USA for good. When I did, he reminded me of his father. The same stature, the same looks, and the dignified manners. I was told that he is a man of few words. He indeed was, but not with me. The first time I met him at his house, he offered me a glass of wine. ‘Try this, I have made it.’ It was a homemade wine using pure coconut feni as a base. ‘I liked it’ I said and then it became a regular welcome drink for me.
Though not very often, I did visit him on festival days or occasions like his daughter Laxmi’s birthdays. Every time I met him, we could connect instantly, probably because, as he said, ‘we both are writers. You write stories while I write music.’ He was writing a book of ‘New Notation System for Indian Music’. Today, my regrets are that no one has bothered to look into the incomplete project.
Anthony was an accomplished musician at 12, trained under his proficient father. He was just 16 when he left for Mumbai to explore opportunities in his career. Talented that he was, he was instantly picked up as a violinist in Naushad’s Orchestra. He then opened violin classes and soon was hailed as a master teacher. Among his students were R. D. Burman and Pyarelal who later became big names in the industry.
Anthony was always a learner. He was not content with his knowledge of Western music. He learned the nuances of Hindustani music. His passion for raga-based music encouraged him to discover new vistas of harmony. His understanding of both Indian and Western music propelled him to greater heights. But he had dreamed something different. He founded the Indian Symphony Orchestra and in 1958, he staged an impressive concert at the Quadrangle of St. Xavier College, with 110 musicians, wherein Lata Mangeshkar and Manna Dey sang his compositions. That fetched him the fellowship to travel to the US where he spent nearly 12 years.
When he was in a pensive mood, he’d lamented to me that he felt sorry that little has been done to salvage the efforts that had gone into the 1958 concert. He believed that it depicted the rich tradition of Indian music.
It is common knowledge that Lata Mangeshkar has her roots in Goa. But the singer who is reported to have sung in 36 different languages has no Konkani song recorded so far. But she has sung once, that too at the insistence of Anthony Gonsalves. When I asked Anthony about it, he joyfully gave the details which are worth sharing.
In 1962, soon after Goa was liberated, a fund-raising performance was organized in Mumbai by the MG Party of Goa, wherein Lata Mangeshkar had sung a Konkani song. Because Lata did not want her name associated with the concert, it was called Laxmikant Pyarelal Night. Lata had agreed to sing and Anthony had composed the score. Everything was fine until the rehearsals. At the concert, the organizers suddenly reached Anthony’s ear to tell him that Lataji had refused to sing. The language controversy was at the peak then. Anthony got irritated. Unmindful of that he went up to the mic and announced that the next Konkani song would be sung by India’s nightingale Lata. Maybe hesitatingly, Lata came up and rendered the Konkani song. That happened because Anthony was irresistible.