by Maria Aurora Couto

Category: Memoir/Autobiography

Filomena’s Journeys is a daughter’s moving tribute to the mother who held her world, and that of her six siblings, together through long years of insecurity and hardship. It is also an often heartbreaking attempt to come to terms with the painful memories of her father.
In 1935, Filomena Borges, aged twenty-six, married for love and moved from her grandmother’s village, Raia—where she had arrived as an orphaned child—to one of Goa’s most prominent and fashionable towns of the time, Margão. This move, from rural peace and simplicity to urban buzz and formality, from a modest landowning family to one of formidable eminence, was to transform her life, but in ways she could not have imagined. Chico, the man who had charmed her with his wit and intelligence, turned out to be as troubled as he was passionate. An unusually gifted musician, he lacked the discipline and conviction to rise above the limitations of great but vanishing privilege that was the bane of Goa’s Catholic elite in the twentieth century. The frustration broke Chico, and his decline threatened to destroy his family. Until Filomena took a leap into the unknown and moved with her young children to Dharwar, a town across the border, in Karnataka. Here, in unfamiliar surroundings, with no source of income apart from a share of the harvest from dwindling family lands back in Goa and rent from students whom she took in as lodgers, Filomena raised her seven children, shielding them from tragedy, and gave them the best opportunities to fashion secure futures for themselves. In her last years, when they were all settled—the period of her quiet triumph—she chose to live alone, sustained till the end by the qualities she had absorbed as a young girl from her grandmother: pragmatism, faith, compassion, love of family, and a strong connection with the land and Goa’s ancient traditions.
A compelling family memoir, Filomena’s Journeys is also a revealing examination of Goan society and culture. And like all enduring stories, this testament to resilience and hope makes the particular universal.

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