The magic and mischief of Mario

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mario 2
Self-portrait by Mario Miranda

Four years ago, on this day, my friend Mario Miranda passed away. Remembering him today by reproducing this interview I did with him that appeared in ‘Goa Times,’ the supplement of the Goa edition of ‘The Times of India’:

By Marcellus Baptista

It’s a long and winding road from Panjim to the village of Loutolim. But it’s worth the drive for when you reach the white church and go a little distance down a mud path you are in front of a heritage 325-year-old mansion. And stepping out to greet you is Goa’s very own and most celebrated cartoonist and artist Mario Miranda (full name: Mario Joao de Rosario de Britto Miranda).
It’s been a while since I met him and he seemed a bit weary but still appeared worldly wise as I took in the glint of mischief in his eye. At once I pictured him at work on his desk high up at Oyster Apartments, Mumbai, as he quickly executed some deft strokes to his inimitable characters and gave a catchy caption that brought a smile to the lips. But it’s been a while, so many years, that he shifted lock, stock and barrelful of laughs from Mumbai to Goa.
In the old days he would make frequent trips to Goa but now Goa is well and truly his home. So, does he miss Mumbai? Yes, at times, especially the Mumbai nightlife and the cocktail parties that he used to attend regularly. The avid movie buff that he was, he now misses the magic of going to the movies. The multiplex in Panjim is too far away, he groans. He also misses the Goa of old, when the living was easy and there was a certain charm. The quiet charm is still there, he says, though he feels it has been losing a lot of quality. He laments about the rice fields being wiped out, hills cut and the houses demolished. It’s a change for the worse, he concludes.
But, on a positive note, he observes that the people of Goa have become more powerful and much more aware of things around them, particularly the environmental issues.
It seems a fairly relaxed and, dare I say, a retired life for Mario in Goa. Of course, what he would really like to do is to travel like he did in the past, to the United States of America, London, Portugal, Germany, Paris and other places, stopping and seeing things in his own observant way, adding all those delicate details to the picture, bringing alive the nuances and niceties of each place.
His latest travel was to Spain with an exhibition of his sketches on Madrid. He plans another trip there and fondly remembers more recent journeys to Brazil and Cuba. Now, he travels within the confines of his own house, but then there is so much to see there, what with the multitude of rooms including an art gallery and a chapel, a kitchen as big as that of a fine dining restaurant but minus the frills and gadgets of a thoroughly modern kitchen.
And talking about food, my chat with Mario was cut short by his wife Habiba (always the gracious host) announcing that lunch was served. It was a homely meal in a room with framed paintings and sketches on the wall, some done by Mario himself. And over prawn curry and rice, beef, fish cutlets and more, I learnt that Mario enjoys a glass of beer in the afternoon and sometimes cashew feni at night, though not at the neighbourhood tavern which, he says, is not like the old days.
As Habiba excused herself, I left Mario with his two dogs – a barking and non-biting Mexican Chihuahua called Momo and a Boxer named Peevee. There are also two turtles, Oscar I and Oscar II that Mario transported from his house in Mumbai. They were both hiding in the shady grass and I didn’t go looking out for them, for it was a warm afternoon and time for Mario Miranda’s siesta.

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