Past (wasn’t) perfect

Ambika Shaligram
Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fashion designer-author, Wendell Rodricks in his second book Poskem — Goans in the Shadows, writes subtly about the horrors of child labour and documents history   

Fashion designer-author, Wendell Rodricks in his second book Poskem — Goans in the Shadows, writes subtly about the horrors of child labour and documents history   

He is known as the ‘Guru of Minimalism’, when it comes to his designs and style. We can also say the same for his stories —  Wendell Rodricks’ second book, Poskem — Goans in the Shadows (published by Om Books International), tells the tales of his four protagonists simply but empathetically, drawing us into their tales of pathos, revenge and small joys. Wendell weaves a masterful story of the island state that we, as tourists, are perhaps not aware of. His writing is complemented by the late Mario Miranda’s illustrations. We caught up with the fashion designer-author in between the book’s launch parties. Excerpts:  

How long did the idea simmer in your mind before putting pen to paper?
I think it must have been a decade ago that the idea of writing about the Poskim (Poskem is female, Posko is male and Poskim is plural) germinated. I had a Poskem who lived opposite my house, and when Rosa passed away, I promised at her coffin that I would write about the Poskim people.

Were all these stories a culmination of the tales that you had heard in your growing-up years?
A combination of both. I did not know the meaning of Poskim when growing up. I thought it meant a servant. When I grew up, my mother told me what the word meant and I was horrified at the thought that wealthy families adopted children who were later used as labour for the home.

Are you glad that the Poskim tradition has died a natural death, because of laws, changing social mores, etc?
There are still some Poskim in Goa. In fact, I received an email from a lady who is a Poskem and wants to meet me to tell her story. I hope to meet. With this book, I hope the tradition dies forever.

Did you study the part on Baghdadi Jews/ Moira Jews, Goan-African unions?
I know my Goan history well. There was no need to research that part about the Jews and Africans in Goa.

Is Rosa, the  Poskem, the same Tia Rosa whose culinary skills you’ve described in Mita Kapur’s food anthology Chilies and Porridge?
Both Rosas have no connection at all. One was a fictional aunt and the other is a real Poskem.

Can you explain the bit about Poskim being good cooks, but lacked the skills of the elite society, like playing the piano?
It depended on the situation. Some loved to cook. Others were taught other skills. In my book, which is fiction based on factual happenings, three Poskim have a good life, one suffers. But eventually all are victorious in their own way. Their connection was food... in my mind. Food was the link between the four siblings.

The decades that you mentioned —  how the story unfolds in the lives of Alda, Nascimento, Sita and Lianne — are they important years in Goa’s social and historical fabric?
Those decades are important to Goa. We look back with what the Goans call ‘saudades’; a bitter sweet memory and nostalgia. After Goa became a part of India, things changed dramatically in every way — from the people and cultural to the physical landscape. I personally yearn for the days when I was growing up in a very innocent Goa. When I wrote  Poskem... it took me back to those days.

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