April 05, 2020
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Showman Speaker

Politics is just one of Tomazinho Cardozo's many pursuits

Showman Speaker

HE is a man of many talents. And nobody appreciated them more than his audience in the Gulf where he had embarked on a musical tour in early December, singing Konkani songs with his troupe to a 600-strong audience in Dubai.

And when Tomazinho Cardozo is not singing, he is performing for an audience of a different kind—as the Speaker of the Goa Assembly. A headmaster-turned-Congress legislator, Cardozo has notched up quite a few points also as footballer, village sarpanch, Konkani actor and, of course, politician.

Cardozo's passion for art is as strong as his zest for politics and there are no compromises on either front. In fact, Cardozo still sees himself as an artiste first. "Art is more important to me than politics," says he. "I've always said this Speaker's post is a purely temporary phase in my life." His affair with the Konkani stage is long-standing; he has 17 books to his credit, including plays, verse, stage songs, folk songs and short stories.

Art imitates politics in most of Cardozo's early plays. Samaj Seva (Social Service) was the story of a politician who offers assurances to everybody but fulfils them only for his relatives. Katanch Kate (Thorns, Thorns and More Thorns) was about a man committed to work for the people and for which he is keen on attaining political office. But once he assumes power, he finds himself unable to do what he wants and quits office in disgust.

Other facets of Cardozo's public life appear in other plays. Movall Vikh (Sweet Poison) warns how tourism has affected Goan society adversely and how foreign values have eroded local morals. A cause that incidentally is very dear to the Goa speaker, since Candolim, the village whose sarpanch he was in the late '70s, has itself transformed into a concrete jungle owing to the tourist boom in the area, abetted by corruption at the village and state level. Cardozo regrets that his earlier appeals to the villagers fell on deaf ears. He had warned the villagers not to rent out their homes to foreigners in return for the small income. "Many children have been affected adversely by the presence of tourists in their homes."

Cardozo is modest about his success in theatre. Troupes led by him have made their mark both in theatre and song. But his involvement with politics does not leave him with enough time to produce more plays. "Talented boys and girls (in my troupe) have been suffering unduly because of this," he says. The musical tour to the Gulf was part of an exercise to revive the troupe.

Cardozo remembers his days as football player with pleasure. He recalls how he and Goa Sports Minister Wilfred Mesquita were both forwards in the same college team. "He was left-out and I was centre," he says. Years later, both found themselves on opposite sides of the political fence. At one party hosted by the state governor, Cardozo remembers telling Mesquita: "Wilfred, there was a time we were shooting in the same goal. Now we'll be shooting against each other." But in all his various pursuits, the role that remains the dearest to the former teacher is that of headmaster. "It still is the best. In school, it is easy to convince parents about a decision taken for the good of the students. But here I cannot. Different parties interpret a Speaker's decision the way they want to. So, you don't get any satisfaction." But naturally, all this interest in matters artistic have not really served to spare Cardozo from political controversy. The Congress minister earlier representing Cardozo's Calangute constituency had publicly questioned his sources of income and charged the latter with managing to wrangle the party ticket only because of his connections to certain 'Jains' who flaunted their close links with Narasimha Rao. Again, Cardozo's ascent to the chair in January 1995 attracted criticism over the manner in which he was elected speaker. With a revolt in the party and subsequent cross-voting, the opposition nominee got more votes in the secret ballot. The result was then allegedly scrapped on the grounds that some votes were "invalid" and Cardozo was elected again by a voice vote.

Cardozo remains unfazed by such criticisms. Says he: "You have to be a moderate...and go along without getting yourself totally drowned in the system. You have to be in a position to keep your face up. I'm trying to balance things. Even the cleanest man who enters the system, if he wants to survive has to adjust."

In the meantime, it is his artistic soul that Cardozo turns to to escape from the pressures. "I'm thinking of another full-length Konkani drama. But I've got to be very cautious in selecting a theme. As long as I continue to remain here, my themes will continue to be watered down. I cannot do anything now because of a certain responsibility." No freedom of speech for the Speaker? "Yeah," laughs Cardozo.

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