The Literary City

Bandleaders In Zanzibar And Chronicles Of The Goan Diaspora With Selma Carvalho

March 23, 2022 Explocity Podcasts Season 1 Episode 13
The Literary City
Bandleaders In Zanzibar And Chronicles Of The Goan Diaspora With Selma Carvalho
Show Notes Chapter Markers

Even a mildly curious glance at any of the millions of communities of migrant people the world over will yield something interesting.

The Goans of India, are one such. They are a fun and likeable lot as far as most of us can tell. We know them by their state, Goa—a dream vacation destination for many—and their seeming love of life, which is synonymous with a state of bliss—they even have a word for that.

And don’t get me started on their feni. I fondly remember  commencing my descent into bottles of Goa’s finest but, for some reason, not what happened after.

Those were my happy drinking days. I haven’t touched a drop to drink for over 20 years now as I stew, in abstemious contemplation of my navel.

Goans have been an adventurous people. Sea-faring and peripatetic, while they migrated to every continent, mainly in search of better livelihoods.

All tales of migrant people always have some surprises.

A Goan becoming an accountant in Muscat, Oman might not be much of a story. But how a musician, a Mr de Souza, came to be the bandleader of the Sultan’s band in Zanzibar is a matter of lasting curiosity.

My guest today is she who tells such tales. Selma Carvalho—a Goan who grew up in Dubai and now lives in London. By all evidence, not only is she the most visible chronicler of Goan migrants, but also the most compelling. Selma’s record of this history is as entertaining as it is scholarly.

I started by researching her for this podcast. Very quickly, I disappeared into its maw of her prose to its—I use her rather digestive word—centripetal location.

After much non-fiction, her debut novel Sisterhood Of Swans is available everywhere.

And now I am privileged to be the one of many to bring this witty and incisive scholar to you. Selma Carvalho.

Carvalho is a British-Asian writer whose work explores themes of migration, memory and belonging. She is the author of three non-fiction books documenting the Goan presence in colonial East Africa. She led the Oral Histories of British-Goans Project (2011-2014) funded by the UK Heritage Lottery Fund. Her short fiction, in English and in Portuguese translation, has been published in journals like Litro and Lighthouse and anthologies published by Comma Press and Kingston University Press. She is also the editor of two volumes of The Brave New World of Goan Writing & Art (2018 and 2020). Her work has been shortlisted for several literary prizes, notably the London Short Story Prize, the Dinesh Allirajah Prize and the New Asian Writing Prize. She is the winner of the Leicester Writes Prize 2018 and her collection of short stories was a finalist for the prestigious SI Leeds Literary Prize 2018. Sisterhood of Swans is her debut novel and was shortlisted for the Mslexia Novella Prize 2018 in the UK. Selma lives in London.

Here are links to a selection of Carvalho's articles:

Buy Sisterhood Of Swans:

Co-host Pranati "Pea" Madhav joins Ramjee Chandran in the segment "What's That Word?", to find the meaning of many words. But they finalise on discussing the phrase "contemplating your navel."