ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

From Nehru’s India to Modi’s India: Novels that Activate Memories of the Portuguese in India


Kabir Ananya Jahanara - King’s College London, English, London, United Kingdom


45 – South Asian–Portuguese relationships from the fifteenth century to the present: Colonialism, interactions, and identities


 This paper will explore how the memory of Portuguese presence in India is recollected in novels by authors writing in a variety of languages and representing different generations. Activating this memory through the tools of description, characterisation, and narration both allows their authors to make certain political arguments and reflects their cultural and ideological positions at specific moments within postcolonial India. From Nehru’s India, when Goa got absorbed into the Indian Union, to the early years of Hindutva ascendancy, and now to Modi’s India, turning to the history connecting Portugal to India is a conscious act of memorialisation with sociohistorical ramifications. To substantiate this argument, four novels will be examined: Lambert Mascarenhas’ ‘Sorrowing lies my Land’ (1955) and Suneeta Peres da Costa’s ‘Saudade’ (2019), both written in English; N. S. Madhavan’s ‘Litanies of Dutch Battery’ (Malayalam, 2003); and Vasudhendra’s ‘Tejo-Tungabhadra: Tributaries of Time (Kannada, 2019). Together, these novels reveal the complex memorial repercussions of relations between not just Portugal and Goa, but also Portugal and other regions in India. The paper thus contributes literary sources to the panel’s interest in explicating the identity-formations and interactions generated through Portugal-India relations in the frame of multiple colonialisms as well as flashpoints and key moments in postcolonial India.