June 8, 2022
With the sudden demise of noted Konkani litterateur CGS Taccode (Cyril G Sequeira), we lost one of the greatest humourists of Konkani language. Having enthralled his fans for decades, he is now amidst a host of angels who are rendering heavenly music to the man who lived his life to the fullest by using his rare talents and contributing immensely to the Konkani language.
Never in my several years’ of WhatsApp usage had I as repeatedly been alerted with the news of someone’s death as that of CGS. Within minutes, more than half dozen WhatsApp accounts pinged crying out his death, saddening me. This clearly demonstrated his popularity as writer of varied genres, primarily the humour.
CGS had been well known to our Menezes family for decades. I had first met him in our house which he often visited in the early 1970s as a friend of my eldest brother (15 years his senior), Late John Baptist Menezes. A genius and skilled in varied fields, John had been a writer, dramatist, actor, stage set-up expert, artist, master of ceremony and stand-up comedian, apart from being a pioneer of church bulletins. He was the first one to introduce church bulletins in Mangalore diocese with his bulletin (JIVIT) for Valencia Parish in the 1960s. Written by him in his ornate penmanship on broad white sheets, JIVIT was read by the Parishioners standing before the notice boards. The people who are septuagenarian and octogenarian today have told me that it was his brainchild. Church bulletins are ubiquitous today with most parishes having their own rolling out of the printing presses, month after month.
Now coming back to the writer duo (John and CGS), they always discussed the nuances of writing just like two cricketers who, upon meeting, discussed silly mid-on or cross-bat shot or how much they earned out of their recent TV commercial endorsements. At the time, I sank in a nearby chair burying my head into my school text book eavesdropping on their conversation, but not committing to memory the things they said since I was then madly in love with cricket dreaming big to become a test cricketer rather than venturing into writing.
Decades later, when CGS settled in Valencia, his talents moved with him thus enriching the already rich Valencia parish in terms of art - from Taccode (also famed for many talented people) to Valencia parish where there had never been a dearth of talented people. Taccode is close to my heart because my father hailed from that place. So does my wife. Not only CGS was the most talented writer, but he had also recognized and appreciated people of talent. He was very humble about his own accomplishments.
CGS was quick to recognize the treasure trove of talents in Valencia parish - writers, dramatists, composers, singers, musicians, actors, etc., about whom he wrote in one of the EKVOTT issues (current Valencia’s parish bulletin) which once again had been launched in 1990s by my brother, Late Peter Menezes (writer, poet, dramatist and master of ceremony). A family of voracious readers, it produced four writers, including Late Fr Vincent Victor Menezes, erstwhile Editor of RAKNNO Konkani Weekly.
I can safely say that CGS had been my inspiration for writing humour in Konkani in addition to the inspiration I had drawn from my three deceased writer brothers. My first humour was published in 1980 in POINNARI Konkani Weekly. I was working in Bombay back then. By then, CGS had already emerged as King of Konkani Comedy. To my pleasant surprise and pleasure, CGS was the first one to comment on my humour in the Letters to the Editor section dishing out encouraging words to write more. I still cherish those lovely words. In fact, I had written the humour by putting myself in his shoes since his style was my favourite. For some obscure reason, I did not pursue writing thereafter and I still look back at those days with regret.
I have read most of CGS’ works. His unique brand of humour never gave me a déjà vu feeling that I might have read or heard somewhere. An original after original, he churned out humour with lucid prose that gave the readers a hilarious ride laughing all the way to the end, wanting still more. He used all five senses (sight, smell, sound, taste and touch) in writing which is most evident in his humour.
CGS’ humour appealed to me as much as that of Art Buchwald, American Satirist, Behram Contractor (Busybee) and Khushwant Singh (later Robert Clements of Bobs Banter). Behr am Contractor was the Art Buchwald of India and CGS was the Busybee of Konkan World. They all belonged to one league. All of them were Humourists/Satirists who produced out of an idea, a tiny plot, a hint, a news headline that prompted them to expound extraordinarily interspersed with moral, humour and sarcasm with no personal attack . All they needed was an infinitesimal bait to pull out a shark from the deep waters and throw it at readers, amusing them. After reading one wondered: ‘Hey, how did he do it, man?’
To my delight, Busybee had been visiting the American Library at New Marine Lines, Bombay to read Art Buchwald column which I too read from The Washington Post at the very Library. On the same day, I read Busybee’s column in the Mid-Day Newspaper. In the same week, I would read a brand new humour from CGS in a Konkani weekly. Three Kings of Comedy from three diverse worlds created in me laughs which kept me happy weeklong. This was in early 1980s.
An article about CGS is incomplete without a comment on humour. I love humour and have always wondered how the minds of humourists worked. Writing humour is not easy for those who have no sense of humour. It is not an art that could be learned in any institution. Yet humour is much needed in our current hard times. It is a great stress buster. It builds bonds, defuses tension and bolsters resilience through difficult times. It has always been sought by people from time immemorial – emperors, kings, queens, intellectuals and common men.
Are comedians and humourists born or made? Or is it something that can be taught? An interviewer asked the very same questions to the Singaporean Stand-Up Comedian, Gurmit Singh. His reply: If it was a science that could be taught, I would have set up an academy by now. He had been approached by schools and companies to set up such courses and he told them that he didn’t know how to teach to create humour.
What is their secret to be funny then? Is the funny bone inherited from their mothers? God given gift? Did nature or nurture play a role in development of a sense of humour? Or is it because the Doctors and Nurses cracked jokes in the maternity ward making them laugh boisterously and the crying baby suddenly switched over to laughing, acquiring funny bone instantaneously? We don’t have a definite answer as yet and are still waiting to hear from the Researchers with credible evidence.
Experts say that a good sense of humour is a sign of psychological health. That’s good news for those who joke. Let’s joke. Let’s laugh. Let us remain in good health forever.
Master Storyteller, Sidney Sheldon had said: ‘The art of making others laugh is surely a wondrous gift from the gods.’ CGS took his wondrous gift back to Heaven, back to gods. The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. But God never disappoints His people. There is always a reason to be happy in the marvelous goodness of God’s creation. CGS has left behind tons of humorous material, apart from other praiseworthy literary works, that could still be read by the current and future generations of Konkani speakers, savouring his own sense of humour.
Although I had not much interacted with CGS, all three of my deceased writer brothers did so a great deal. Having said so, I’m sure all three of them have now met up with CGS in the Heavenly Abode. With no pen to hold anymore, each of them are now quantifying the stuff they wrote - without complaining about the paltry payment (royalty) they had earned - carrying out the labours of literature for the sheer joy of it and for the love of the mother tongue, Konkani language. Oh, no they are not just foursome writers in a friendly competition. Among them present is a special guest, Francis de Sales, the patron saint of writers and journalists refereeing the proceeding. The result is unimportant but the literary work they had produced is a great blessing to the Konkani readers.
Artists never fade away into oblivion. They remain active forever in another place, time and dimension, albeit existing differently.