On the 25th of January I thought of phoning Lino Leitao to pass on a piece of information that I had received from Dr. Rollason Christopher,, a professor of literature and a writer from France. In his newsletter, Dr. Christopher wrote about the latest issue of Pegasus that carried an article by Lino about my poetry. I wanted to pass on this information to him. Instead, I received an email from Olga, LinoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s wife, to give me the sad news about this flower of passion. On February 2nd, I was at his memorial service at St. VeronicaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Church in Dorval, Quebec, Canada, to present a eulogy.
Lino told me a few months ago that he was going for an operation. I considered that operation to be serious. But in the tone, words and the way Lino discussed some books with that operation, and me I detected no fear, or anxiety. Therefore I did not take his ailment and operation seriously. Apparently, he took his condition philosophically.
Lino was a philosopher, a visionary, but primarily he was a novelist and a short story writer. He was quite awake about his social, political and literary environment. I appreciated him for this factor as well.
Those who are involved with writing know that writing by its very nature is a lonely profession. Creative writers, including poets, have to be by themselves to create. When they are in social circles, they write on the canvas of their mind. Later when they are alone they put that on a piece of paper.
Man is a social animal, Aristotle said. Christ added that man does not live by bread alone. The worst punishment that the law of a country can give to any culprit is to confine him or her to a lonely cell. As humans, writers need someone to share their concerns and experiences. I found Lino active in that respect. He was fully awake about the literary world around him. He knew about books by Canadian writers, mainly by Asian writers and could comment on them easily. He had a good knowledge of African literature, as well as Indian. There was always a meaningful exchange of information when we spoke over the phone. Our literary and philosophical conversations used to last for even an hour and still there was no end to them.
As a fiction writer, Lino worked with energy and passion. Most of his stories are set in Goa and also in Uganda where he migrated, and taught for a few years. When Adi Amin forced Asians to leave Uganda, he settled in Canada.
Lino wrote these stories in a straightforward way without any ornamentation, sometimes addressing social and racial issues indirectly. He had insight into his compatriots from Goa. He presented them as they are in a language that is unique and in a style that is interesting. He had a notable proficiency for painting the portraits of Goans. He displayed that proficiency particularly in his Collected Short Tales, then again in Goan Tales, and again in his Six Tales. He often liked to talk about his novel Gift of the Holy Cross that was published in England. He portrayed in this novel the Canadians who were born in Goa. He told me about his latest novel that I believe is still with a book publisher in Toronto.
Life is composed of meetings and departures. Some departures are more painful than others. Death is the worst departure. It has taken a flower of passion from the garden of Indo/Canadian writing. In the gallery of new comers, Lino was a passionate painter of the Goan soul. I have no doubts whatsoever that whenever and wherever there will be talk in any literary circle in Canada, or India, the contributions of Lino Leitao will be remembered. He is alive in the memorable lifelike characters he has created in his fiction, in the sincerity of friendship, and among the compatriots for his fiction in which he has resurrected the life and atmosphere of Goa. Above all, Lino is alive in the vibrant and loving family that he and his wife Olga have raised.
The departure of Lino is painful to his close family for different reasons, particularly to his wife Olga, and their three children Andres, Rodin and Sheila. May The Supreme Power give them every imaginable courage and patience to bear this loss, and keep the soul of Lino close to His Kingdom, where the purity of the bliss reigns and where the evil birds of bloodshed do not nest.