03 August, 2021

The Old Family Tree Shade

A scattered diaspora dips into Goa's rich archives in a hunt for roots and a place in history

Abhijit Bhatlekar
The Old Family Tree Shade

If Tom Fernandes' accent seems German as do his light eyes, his surname sounds decidedly Goan. Fernandes, 24, a software engineer, is in fact one of the tens of thousands of Goans scattered in distant lands in one of history's most under-studied diaspora. But today, Goa, Europe's first colony and the longest-held in Asia, is seeing people like Fernandes return like homing pigeons in search of their roots. "It has great nostalgia value," he says.

Centuries ago, Goa became one of South Asia's first areas to see a heavy migration of its residents. Goans, particularly Catholics, migrated mainly to East Africa (then ruled by the British), Portugal, Mozambique and Angola (Portuguese colonies in Africa), Myanmar, the current Pakistan (particularly Karachi), the UK, US and Australia.

Today, Goa could be the best place in Asia to belong to if you're curious about your roots. Besides fairly well-kept colonial records, the still-existing village 'gaunkari' system and the rural networks of 'vangods' (extended clans based somewhat on caste, present...

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