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Gossiping about the Goan Ayah: Migration, Diaspora, and Anxieties at Home in Karmelin

Dale Luis Menezes

Abstract


This paper examines the representation of the Goan ayah in the recent history of Goa. Taking Damodar Mauzo’s Karmelin (1981), a novel which portrays the life of a Goan woman who migrates to Kuwait for employment, as an entry point, I will attempt to discuss the various issues pertaining to the representation of the Goan ayahs found in the historical record. It is claimed that the figure of the Goan ayah was viewed with suspicion when they migrated from Goa to Bombay, to be employed as domestic helpers. I attempt to highlight how Goan men and a few upper-class Goan women, in Goa and Bombay, shared an anxiety that in the anonymity of the metropolis the Goan ayah might transgress various boundaries: sexual, religious, caste, moral, and societal. Following this logic, I argue that rather than being a complex narrative about Goan women, Karmelin is a reiteration of a form of representation that harbors suspicion and anxiety about the migrating woman. Karmelin places the figure of the Goan ayah as central in its storyline precisely because stories about the ‘scandalous’ behavior of the ayahs in the diaspora have been circulating in Goan society for many years.

Keywords


Ayah, Bombay, Goan women, Konkani, Goan literature

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