The Baptism of Tony Calangute

by Sudeep Chakravarti

Read time: about 4 minutes

It was at the brink of my study trip to Goa that I was frantically looking for a book from/set in Goa. I couldn’t find anything that spiked my interest, therefore, left without reading any literature from the place. This book fell into my lap after months but I am glad I finally read it. Even though I will not go back to this book again, this one is a well written book that any travel enthusiast should read.

Cover: The Baptism of Tony Calangute

Cover page

There were three reasons I picked up this book.

  1. The setting,

  2. The cover image, and

  3. The title.

I absolutely loved the cover. A man carrying cross across the field. There is almost a saddening anonymity in the cover. The title is a cherry on cake. The Baptism of Tony Calangute sounds like an initiation into something great.

The aleph team has done a great job with the cover.

characters

There are so many! There are so many characters in the book that it is difficult to keep track of it even towards the en. But let me break them in two groups. There are good guys and there are bad guys. The good guys are Dantas and Tony, bad guys are Winston, PI Fernandes and Princess. The good guys are as usual good and boring but the author has filled in bad guys with all the talent here. Winston, named after Winston Churchill starts his slow take-over of Goa with a football team. He goes on to become a land shark in Goa. PI Fernandes is a cop who tries to make money here and there using his position, by being a bully basically. The most interesting of them is the Princess. A Brazilian doll like face and a penis to go with it. But not to be mistaken as a meek transgender because the Princess is the deadliest of them all.

The characters in the book are so well detailed out that they remain the only way you can distinguish one from the other.

Content

The story is set in Goa where the Land mafia is slowly taking over land from the natives to turn it into a thriving business.

Amidst all the chaos in Goa there is a man who has studied outside but is drawn back to Goa to wipe out all the dirt from it. Dantas, or general Dantas as they know him by, is man of principle. He is back in Goa running Save Goa Society. His cousin, Tony Calangute, is his saviour. Not a revolutionist himself, Tony does believe in clean Goa. But he believes more in earning living and lead a good life.

The book is a collection of short chapters that present to you different scenarios. There are heroes telling their stories. There are villains who are one of their kind, each inventing ways to torture commoners, competing in techniques with one another.

In addition to the back story of land mafia in Goa, Chakravarti describe the place and culture of Goa so aptly in the book that you will fall in love with the place immediately. The use of colloquial language to quote and the feni culture brings you one step closer to the city and experience it yourself.

But there could be not be a true farewell with whiskey, because a son of soil must be accorded dignity on his final journey. So the best feni in Aparanta, from Siolim and areas further up the Chapora river and near the ore-laden eastern hills, had been obtained by the professor, who doubled as the Villa’s procurer-in-chief.

There are multiple back stories in the book.

With all the beauty and setting, the book fails to hold the attention. You will end up hoping for it to finish soon. With all the back stories the book only fails to progress at a gripping speed. There is not much of the story going on anywhere. The whole book feel like a well directed Bollywood movie.

Language

The book is almost poetic. Each sentence is written so beautifully that you would want to keep reading on just to appreciate the craft.

Till concrete came and robbed the sunset, the smell of the sea and the breeze, nature would continue to play at magic.

Good points

The cover page is beautiful. One will relish the characters while reading about them. The content is interesting. The language is surreal, almost poetic.

Bad points

Even though the content is inventive, there is not much pace in the story. It seems like time has stood still and you are reading the description of the life in Goa.

Overall

I like the book halfway and then got bored of it. I didn’t think it would be but I wanted to give it up.

Whom do I recommend this to

This book is for those who want to read a fiction set in Goa. Those who like beautiful writing are going to love this one too.

Buy the book

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Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH merakipost.com