By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial |February 18, 2022
Book Review: The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes
The Essence: Remo is a roller-coaster of emotions. For me, it was a page-turner. Mentioning his neighbours should not have been a priority but Luis Remo de Maria Bernardo Fernandes, the writer, takes the pain to acknowledge all of them. Remo is a symphony in harmony!
Remo Book Review
The Autobiography of Remo Fernandes, aptly titled ‘Remo’, was released sometime in November 2021, and for the publishers, Harper Collins, not to publicise the book, in Goa, nor in Mumbai, is quite surprising.
I was in Goa in November 2021, and there was not an inkling of the release. It was only by accident that I chanced upon the book at St Paul’s, Mumbai, in January 2022. I flipped through to see if there was any mention of Bondo. I found a chapter on him, laughed out loud and then purchased the book.
Remo has described Bondo perfectly: “He’s one of the guys whose enormous laughter makes you laugh, even if you haven’t heard or followed his joke.” I have the good fortune of knowing Bondo, (Goa’s numero uno percussionist and if I may add, India’s best) and I have had these hearty laughs with him. This description along with the other minute details of his personality got me hooked. There was no here and there—it was perfect.
And when I started reading Remo from page one, I was captivated. I could smell the Goa of old. Remo’s ability to go back in time and live the moment, and to write it the way he has, taking the reader to the event, is a rare gift a few writers possess. His photographic memory has to be lauded.
Can an autobiography be honest?
A few years ago, in one of my conversations with Salimsaab (Salim Khan), I asked him if he was working on his Autobiography. He simply said: “Martin, It’s not possible to write the complete truth in an autobiography. There are so many lives involved. One has no right to speak about anybody. I’ve got no right to say she was my girlfriend, she may be somebody’s wife and mother now. There’s sanctity to these things. I have read many biographies and one can say that it’s not the whole truth.” That got me thinking. Of course, one will not reveal everything in an autobiography.
But here is where Remo had me stumped. After reading Remo, I can safely say that he has done justice to his personality, holding nothing back. Speaking about his litany of ‘escapades’ in Europe and above all his humour at the end of every chapter makes you marvel at his creativity.
An autobiography is written at a time when all emotions have washed over you: good, bad and the ugly. One has also aged. And here is where Remo is a cut above the rest. He narrates every relationship (even if it has soured towards the end) with all honesty, leaving the bitter part for the end as his life unfolds.
Remo is honest without being vindictive: he has removed hate from within and used humour instead. He has not let the emotions get the better of him. And even though his cousin has sold off property, perhaps forging his and Belinda’s (his sister’s) signature, he refuses to be a “hypocrite over sorpotel.”
There’s humour in every chapter
Mamá está tonta (Mama has gone nuts) is a phrase used by his aunt Angela to taunt Vovo (his paternal grandmother and her mother) when she was hard on hearing and had become forgetful. Then, life came a full circle with Garcia using the same phrase for his beloved Mum, Angela, now old and forgetful and hard on hearing as well. This is an anecdote well narrated. So also the punch line during his failure at the ‘first time’ in a seedy hotel in Colaba, Bombay, as an Architecture student at the J J College of Architecture. “An Alsatian and a Pomeranian could do it, but we couldn’t,” he narrates unabashedly.
Being a Goan, I learnt so much more about the Portuguese which I never knew. Even though my parents knew Portuguese and spoke the language at home sometimes, they never spoke about the Portuguese ruling Goa. This was a Goa that was new to me, not to mention the dictatorial manner in which Goa was ruled.
A roller-coaster of emotions
Remo is a roller-coaster of emotions. There’s his childhood, his initial ‘crushes’, his busking in Europe, the ‘Angel’ always watching over him (even today), his success as a singer-writer-composer, his marriage to Michele and the tragedy that struck after a successful show in Kanpur when his entire band was wiped off in a road accident. Unlike the British Pop Band Bucks Fizz, who survived their bus crash, Sunil Redkar, Dharmendra Hirve, Selwyn Pereira and Victor Alvares from Remo Fernandes & The Microwave Papadums all perished. Remo does not even forget to mention the driver, Kanhaiyalal, who passed away, leaving behind a young widow and a child.
Then there’s also his sister Belinda, who he speaks about much later in the book. His tribute to João Bosco Pires will leave you in tears. Of course, there’s also Zenia, for whom Remo is dedicated.
Writing an autobiography is a tough task as one will never be wholly honest. Reading through the 482 pages, I must say was satisfying—money and time well spent. For me, it was a page-turner. Mentioning his neighbours should not have been a priority but Luis Remo de Maria Bernardo Fernandes, the writer, takes the pain to acknowledge all of them.
Remo is a symphony in harmony. Leitura obrigatória (a must-read) for every Goan, for every musician, and every creative person.
Also Read: Hamnet Book Review