In his novel “Once Upon A Time in Aparanta”, Sudeep Chakravarti reclaims Goa for itself

Far beyond the shores of paradisiacal Goan sun and sands and pretty little places, advertising lures of “Come to Goa” and beach shacks, drugs and coconut trees, are the moods and ideologies of the inland villages. Former journalist Sudeep Chakravarti, also a Goan resident for four years, has just completed his third novel, the Penguin-published, “Once Upon a Time in Aparanta”, set in Goa.

Lyrical and fast-paced, this 217 page-turner delves into the different parallel universes of Goa — which cut across and merge with each other. He believes that there are many Goas. “The novel attempts to go beyond the surfaces of the beauty of the state and explores it as an idea. The unique story questions the premise of the self-proclaimed paradise.”

So digging deeper into the sands of Goa as a paradisiacal entity, Sudeep found that Goa is also corrupt, venal, rotten and schizophrenic. After four years of research and living in the place, he found that all the Goas talked about are true. “The stereotypes of the prostitute and the politician which are discussed and enforced, all exist.”

When it comes to literature from the region in terms of the time, place and milieu it was situated in, Sudeep finds that Margaret Mascarenhas’ novel “Skin” and Maria Aurora Couto’s “Goa: A Daughter’s Story” are both set in very different, far-removed Goan communities. “‘Skin’ though set in an upper-middle class Goan background, cornered and questioned the demons and dark sides of that socio-economic strata.” So also with the non-fiction ‘Goa: A Daughter’s Story’ which was similarly set in the upper-strata of Goa. “Maria Aurora Couto had a hard time believing that sections of Goa do talk like the way they do in ‘Once Upon a Time in Aparanta’!” he laughs. He finds that this privileged section is not relevant to his universe or story.

So in his novel, heroes and villains both find space of articulation. “I enjoyed creating and characterising my villains. I break into the masks and universes of Goa in this novel”, he asserts. Using ‘Aparanta’, the classical Sanskrit term for Goa, was intentional, Sudeep says. “It was about reclaiming Goa for itself. There is a lot of public resentment by the Goans about selling Goa, who, in turn depend on tourism and the hospitality industry for their livelihood.” Sudeep who is working on the second in the trilogy of “Tin Fish” which will be set in the 1970s, reveals that ‘Once Upon a Time in Aparanta’ was meant to create a controversy and has succeeded in doing so. The novel, filled with arresting characters from “Sergei, a Russian druglord, the Princess, a Brazilian transsexual, Fernandes, her Goan policeman lover to Number One, the political overlord” is priced at Rs. 250.

AYESHA MATTHAN

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