Wendell Rodricks is not known to keep quiet about things that matter to him. Case in point: he’s a fierce advocate of same-sex rights and has campaigned vociferously for LGBT equality. This time around, he’s bringing to light the less talked about Goan tradition of the poskim (singular: poskem): children who were taken in by wealthy families to be raised alongside their own, as their companions. But that is where the nurturing stopped. The poskim had no right to inheritance, despite often taking on the family name, and many were not even allowed an education. They were glorified house help, more precisely.
His new book, Poskem: Goans In The Shadows (Om Books), is set mostly in Goa between the ’30s and ’70s. But it also cuts across three other cities—Mumbai, Lisbon and Lyon—with parts of the story in Konkani, Portuguese and French. Most of the material for the book came through word-of-mouth, from his mother, and others of her generation and beyond.
“We are the last generation of Goans to witness the poskim,” says Rodricks. “When I moved to Goa in 1993, I had a poskem named Rosa who lived by herself across the street. The family left her behind to look after the house. I befriended her and learnt her story. At her funeral, I stood beside her coffin and promised her that I would write about the poskim. This book is for them, as a sort of apology.”
Wary that it might be too dark a tale, despite insisting that there are moments of happiness in there too, Rodricks has peppered the book with illustrations from his friend, the late Goan artist Mario Miranda. There are also recipes in each chapter, many of them Rosa’s—a fitting tribute to the woman who taught him so much about the poskim and inspired him to write this book.
While Rodricks hopes that readers will appreciate his exploration of this facet of Goa—one that’s far removed from all popular notions of the Sunshine State—he is well aware that “not everyone will be happy with the book; some people still have poskim in their homes”.