Literary Shelf

Joseph Furtado: The Fortune-Teller

A singer of Goa, Joseph  Furtado (1872-1947) was one of Indo-Portuguese descent, a Christian and that too a Catholic, but forgetting them all, leaving all these behind, he was but first of all a fun-maker, one given for comics, hilarity and joy, to make fun, pun and mirth was his job, a fiddler fiddling with, a merry-maker making merry with, always piping down the valleys, rambling the ways.

The poet as a fortune-teller is making a tryst with fortune-telling as for bread-earning, profession given to. He can see the hands and can talk about the fortune of the memsahib too. Just only one rupee as his fee he will demand, want to have. If requested, he can tell. The sahib’s hand he does not want to see. The sahib’s fortune, what it in telling which but everybody is in the know of it how fine it is. How lucky is he that he has got everything! What to say about his marriage and conjugal life? As he is a sahib, he can marry it twice. The sahib’s fortune he can tell it in a minute.

The sahib is forty-five years and will live double of this. A long life has he, a long way to go. So fortunate and good is he in his looking and position. He is handsome and his money too handsome. He has but nothing to ask for as he knows he will get that easily. The cunning are all around him to take money from him through flattery and he keeps spending.

To read the poem is to be reminded of R.K. Narayan’s An Astrologer’s Day. How are our soothsayers, oracle-makers, palmists and fortune-tellers? Who are but fortune-tellers? Can they say? The lines are very comical and funny as the teller keeps cringing, stooping to conquer, a psychologist of some sort. A murkha pundit, he seems to be, an illiterate Acharya caste sub-Brahmin horoscopic and commonly ritualistic. To read the mood and mind his job. To please with his stock of words is olden convention carried down to ages. His sycophancy everybody is in the know of it. His good words are for nothing which is but a fact. He just keeps giving consolation prizes and says only those words which please it all.

His English even Kipling may not match with, pidgin English, a master writer of light verses and mazak which he does so easily in his poetry and which we could not take it then as were not so conversant with its idiosyncrasies and nuances.

We do not know what astrologer is he? And whose hand is he seeing? Who the sahib is, an Indian sahib or a European one? A European’s fortune is he telling, his native of a mixed descent.

To see the start is to be reminded of Indian bahurupis, churiwallahs, jadugars, madaris and nautch girls. There was a time of bards who used to recite poetically, of storytellers.

Fortune-teller, memsahib, a fortune-teller, am I here, is the subject with which the poem begins and keeps going. The half-spelt words tell of how the persona is we are confronting with, a fortune-teller, a palm-seer, a mentality-reader, a psychology-dealer. Generally, mendicants turn into socialites and experts. His fee is one rupee. Just like a hawker he keeps calling, visiting.

Fo TU -T LL , memsaib!
Tell fortune very well,
Past, present, future tell,
A only one rupee
My fortune-telling fee —
Fortune-teller, memsaib!

He is a fortune-teller, and he can tell one’s fortune, predict and guess about. But the sahib’s case is different from others. His fortune is good enough as for luck goes favoring. Let his second wife keep him dilkoosh, his dilruba he is with.

Saib’s hand one minute see
No like no pay my fee
Saib plenty money make,
But cunning people take.
Saib’s luck to marry twice.
The second memsaib nice.
So nice and pretty wife
Keep saib dilkoosh all life.

We do not know if the sahib is with the second wife or not, but the astrologer in the poet guesses it to please. Whatever be it, let there be three children to him. After two boys he will have a girl in number three. It can also be that the astrologer has gathered information prior to his telling. His guess is pucca, not kaccha, be sure of what he is predicting or prophesizing, it has never gone wrong with his clients and customers. But in prediction it is very difficult to say.

She give saib children three.
And darling dear they be:
First come two boys, then girl
Just like the beauty pearl.
Saib reading mighty much,
Religion books and such
Saib’s star it rise in west —
No understand the rest,
I tell no more no less
But what be pucca guess.

A forty-four-year sahib he has a long time to live. He is here for to tell the fortune of the sahib. The lines are clear. There is nothing as disturbing. The road of life is smooth with a very promising and happy career. It is no lie. Do not take it otherwise. It is not a joke shared with.

Saib’s years now forty-four.
Live certain forty more
No he, saib see this here.
This line show age quite clear,
I never telling lie—
What good do saib or I
No good, and why I should?
Saib’s fortune very good
1 get now plenty pice,
Saib’s fortune very nice

Joseph Furtado is really such a Goan fiddler of Indo-Portuguese descent who takes us to Goa, to its shady glades, sunny beaches, seashores, hamlets and colonies, dwellings and settlements with his hilarity and fiddling, as shown through Indian pidgin-English and shared with hearty laughs and ironies.

But we could not take to his laughter and hilarity, joy and pleasure of living, a Goan fiddler he fiddled and rambled singing the songs of Goa so ahead of his time and in his joviality understanding the value of fun and laughter in life.

11-May-2024

More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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