ON A RAIN-BATTERED Thursday evening, news came in from Bangalore that Alito Siqueira, former Associate Professor at the Goa University's Department of Sociology and a member of many an online fora, had passed away. He was unwell for a short while prior.
In his early sixties age-wise, Alito, as everyone called him, had recently taken premature retirement from the university, and was known for a few weeks or months to have been battling cancer. From what I understand, he died of a stroke (according to news reaching here on August 8) after a recent operation (around July 23). Alito was a great mentor. He was very exacting in his standards. In fact, I thought he was particularly demanding on himself. Thus, though he had a great many points to make, he didn't write a lot, perhaps because of the weight of these expectations of himself. Alito was earlier a researcher scholar at the prestigious IIT-Bombay's HSS, or Department of Humanities and Social Sciences. This is a prestigious technological education centre, but also has a smaller and difficult-to-enter Humanities section. Alito was an East Africa 'kid' (ex-Kenya, if one recalls right), who came to Goa during his schooldays, faced the challenges of transition, and went on to become more Goan than many an other Goan. He was deeply integrated, spoke Konkani (managing its varying dialects too), and, in a place that can be divided by community and caste, often broke such barriers with felicity. He would often remind middle-class Catholics to go beyond their comfort zone, and look at the wider realities. A friend, writing an informal message on a WhatsApp group commented: "[He was m]y friend and batch-mate, Class of 1972 [at Britto, Mapusa]. In school, he was a brain. He also allowed his classmates to copy from him at examinations, if we wanted. We affectionately called him "chacha"." Even as an academician, Alito wore his scholarship lightly, was generous with what he knew, and perhaps subversive enough to realise that controlling knowledge is not the best way of spreading it. His students often spoke highly of him. One lady in North America wrote yesterday, "He was a truly great guy. My professor when I was doing my Master's at [the] Goa University. Very inspiring." One got to know Alito in the 1980s, around 1987 or 1988, when he was a young lecturer at a GU and me a young students just exiting out of the GU. The GU was then just being set up, had completed maybe two years of its existence, and had the B.Sheikh Ali-Dr Gopal Singh imprint writ large on it. Later, we would meet at his tiny office at the end of the arts faculty, or at his quarters, over hot tea and more and discussions over many issues. He was always willing to listen to others' points of view, especially coming from those with a different background. In the 1990s, these meetings were rather frequent, when I was more into documenting and collating paper-clippings of trends in Goa for my journalistic work. We had friends in common, and quite a few scholars I got to know through Alito. With a few others, we went to an all-night zatra at Pernem, preceded by a tasty meal at the Prabhudessais', one year. Alito always had a deep empathy and concern for the underdog. He had been in varying forms of intellectual and social activism through groups like IDEAS in Margao, in the 1970s. This was a time when Goa was in the midst of much political and social ferment and turmoil. This concern showed up in varying ways. For instance, a recent story about the village of Kurdi, which was sunk by the Salaulim dam, went (belatedly) viral in the mainstream media recently. This happened largely because Alito saw a student's project more than just a "student's project". This led to a documentary film being completed about five years back. Actually, the village was submerged in the mid-1980s, but got noticed in any significant manner by the media only very recently. Alito kept himself out of the limelight, and in the background. Some (only a little) rare footage of his can seen in the film 'Remembering Kurdi', the trailer of which is online. We often disagreed and argued, but without bitterness. Once, he told some caller at the other end of the line, "I'm right now talking to Mr. 1556 himself." Laying before me were spreadsheets, through which I had the challenging task of explaining to Alito the difficult business model of getting some books on Goa published. The irony of it was not lost on me, and we both laughed heartily. When I requested him to give a keynote speech once, he readily agreed provided he could critique my book publishing approach, without any reservations. This he did, and here is vintage Alito, starting from 42:34 mins onwards. His is a speech laced with some humour and many sharp points which raise a deal of wider issues: [http://bit.ly/2GSv40U] I will also remember Alito for never wanting me to click his photograph, even in public settings. Despite the odds, I did manage, but only on too few occasions, mostly when he was caught up in some other discussions during Goanetters' meets, I think. For instance: https://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/6628439323/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/6630112653/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/6630132943/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/5334211034/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/fn-goa/2312877458/ He is survived by his wife, Milan, who is an artist, siblings, neices and nephews. May his trail continue to bring back many memories and inspire those who knew him, or meet those who did. FN PS: E&OE, if I've got anything wrong above, kindly correct.... -- FN* फ्रेड्रिक नोरोन्या * فريدريك نورونيا +91-9822122436 AUDIO: https://archive.org/details/goa1556