Sunday 29 November 2020

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Wendell Rodricks: A Philanthropist & A Researcher

 

A human being who connected varied hearts of Goan society and Indians across class barriers, will thus remain in the history of mankind as a live example of what research on scientific footings engaged with a strong rational philosophy can do.



No, Wendell Rodricks should not be remembered as a mere fashion designer. Or a celebrity of the world of glamour. Fashion designing was his profession. And the world of glamour was his bazaar. But he did not live it. He lived his passion.

He was just not a creator but a researcher. Annd how many hearts he had touched is a matter of research. That too from intellectuals to activists to the students to even whose struggle was an achievement.

He loved pets, plants, people and Mother Nature. A true human being.

He did not believe in charity, to gain fame.  Did not throw money, but his time, energy, knowledge, talent and his tender heart. That was his passion. He lived for others, and his dear motherland: GOA!

Goa has not lost a mere celebrity, but a passionate human being who celebrated his life with a cause & for a cause. And celebrated even his sudden exit. Indeed, a Niz Goenkar!

1989 to 2016. Not even three decades as a professional fashion designer. But Wendell left a mark on India’s lifestyle. Even in the world of celebrities from Bollywood to the Corporate world, and even the young class of Indian politicians, he was known for & respected as an eco-friendly designer.

He had developed a philosophy of fashion designing; not merely fashionable designs. The punch line on his professional website said it all:

I am more Gandhian. I don’t want clothes to wear you. You wear the clothes.

Anybody will call you a fool if you promote your clothing in the name of Mahatma Gandhi. The Father of the Nation (India) was described by former British Prime Minister (the Coloniser) as ‘half-naked fakir’, in a humiliating tone. And here was Wendell, who philosophised the ‘remaining half’ and established himself as one of the leading fashion designers of India, and even internationally.

Only a researcher with a strong philosophy based on spirit of humanity can achieve this. Turning negative into positive.

He believed in Mother Nature. And thus had the  guts to hold a fashion show with costumes using even plastic waste and a waste like gablo of coconut tree.

In spite of being born and brought up in ‘Bombay’, he took a huge risk of shifting his base to Goa, which too in his serene native village of Colvale, while not getting disconnected with his market of glamour in the business capital of India when neither cellphones nor Internet existed.

Calling himself a ‘reluctant activist’, he once brought live Tisryo and Khube (clams) from the market & harvested them in Colvale river while threatening the sand extractors to not enter the harvested water. The rampant sand extraction activity had literally destroyed the river rich of Tisryo  & Khube. (His recent struggle to save an age-old mango tree and a heritage chapel are well known episodes).



With the name and fame he achieved, which was also honoured with a prestigious civilian award like Padma Shri by Government of India, Wendell was a ‘professional fool’ to ‘waste’ his energy and precious time on researching and writing books.

He fell in love with ‘Dethlli’, a Kunbi saree, did his research and rejuvenated the dying profession of Dethlli weavers.  He simply got mesmerised by the fine-polished (not painted) coconut shell jewellery fashioned by a young boy of Camurli, Franco Fernandes and his models fascinated the whole fashion world with this authentic original ‘jewellery’.

And imagine an artist like Mario Miranda tells him to write a chapter on the history of ‘Pano Bhaju’, the costume worn to perform Mando, and this ‘fashion  designer’ (?) spends 10 long years researching on it. It translates into a historical document, a book “Moda Goa: History and Style”, on the history of Goan costumes and jewellery.

From his childhood, this boy born in a chawl of Bombay dreams of owning a ‘Portuguese’ villa of his Bhatkar neighbour Braganzas in Colvale, actually buys it one day, names it as ‘Casa Dona Maria’ and one fine day simply converts it into a museum & research centre run by a trust, for the benefit of future generations. What generosity!

‘Moda Goa Museum’ is Wendell’s dream come true. A first of its kind costume museum of India, for which he shifted to a smaller house and renovated ‘his’ 450-year old villa into a museum while strictly maintaining the heritage architecture.

It’s a unique museum displaying indigenous cultural heritage of Goa through over 800 artefacts from way back in 7th Century AD till date, displaying in 15 galleries the statues, objects, furniture, photographs as well as costumes, jewellery and accessories. All of us are eagerly waiting for its launch, which his France-born partner Jerome Marrel has assured through the touchiest tweet:

"Rest in Peace my darling Wendell. 36 years together and you just left me alone to open @modagoamuseum but we will do on 19th October 2020, the date we met 37 years ago."

What a tribute!!!

But this passionate researcher doesn’t stop at making the museum a professional venture that would mint money. Moreover, the thoughtful mind also calls it a Research Centre, providing ample space for scholars and students to come down and conduct further research.

There are plentiful activists who fight to preserve the heritage. But there are few, like world famous Goan architect Charles Correa or a ‘fashion designer’ like Wendell Rodricks. They not just preserve, but create heritage. The real torch bearers of Goan lifestyle.

And also the torch bearers of reforms. His firm stand on gay relationships, which he personally lived with a pride, was a great strength to the movement of LGBT in India. It finally culminated into Supreme Court striking down Section 377 and permitting consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex.



Wendell not only dared to admit his homosexuality by justifying it based on scientific research but also married Jerome Marrel in a civil ceremony in Paris in 2002. The liberal society of Goa and India embraced him even when it was an ‘offence’. And though the conservative religious institution like Church is yet to fully accept the biological reality, his funeral mass was conducted by Fr Joaquim Loyola Pereira, Secretary to Goa’s Archbishop Filipe Neri Ferrao and Fr Maveric Fernandes, the arm of Church fighting for Social Justice.

The message was loud and clear. Hats off to the Church!

This too is a social heritage Wendell Rodricks has created while departing us. A human being who connected varied hearts of Goan society and Indians across class barriers, will thus remain in the history of mankind as a live example of what research on  scientific footings engaged with a strong rational philosophy can do. You simply can’t challenge it.

Philanthropy so well-defined!

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.



Dear Sandesh

I am Kit Heredias wife Iona.

Congratulations on writing such a Sensitive tribute to our dearest Wendell. We miss him terribly already. I just loved your touching every aspect of this remarkable jewel of Goa.

He was really a true son of Goa difficult to replace,but we have Jerome who will keep his legacy alive.

Thank you Sandesh

You said it all,

Dev borem koru

Warmly,

Iona Heredia.

 
Iona heredia ( Kit Heredias wife ) |

A wonderful insight into Wendell's life and works. Congratulations to the writer. A beautiful tribute by Wendell's partner. May he have the strength to carry forward Wendel's work. Rip Wendell

 
Shobha |

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Sandesh Prabhudesai

Sandesh Prabhudesai is a journalist, presently the Editor of goanews.com, Goa's oldest exclusive news website since 1996. He has earlier worked as the Editor-in-Chief of HCN and Prudent, Goa's TV channels and Editor of Sunaparant, besides working as a reporter for Goan and national dailies & weeklies in English and Marathi since 1987. He also reports for the BBC. He is also actively involved in literary and cultural activities.

 

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