His humour is so subtle that many people often end up missing it. However, singer Remo Fernandes’s autobiography is an amalgamation of honesty and power in a life well lived. Titled Remo (HarperCollins India; Rs 799), this gigantic book is as much a tryst with his beloved Goa as it is with his past. He recounts the place where he grew up and created iconic songs like Humma humma, Maria pita che and Bombay City. The Portuguese man is a thoroughbred Goan and his life’s work has earned him the Padma Shri award along with some of the highest musical awards around the world. His work has been equal parts activism and art and recounting his adventurous life is this detailed book. The Telegraph caught up with Fernandes at the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet in association with The Telegraph right before he took the stage for his session where he regaled the audience with his words and his music. Excerpts.
Were you apprehensive about being so brazenly honest and candid in the book?
The only apprehension was about hurting other people’s feelings. I can be as honest and open as I want about myself but there are other people involved and I got to respect their privacy and feelings. I hope I was cautious enough about that. I asked for permissions and didn’t mention names as was necessary. The only thing that I strictly avoided was using fake names; that’s just something that didn’t appeal to me. My life is an open book as you can see from my Facebook page. I don’t believe in hiding anything. I firmly believe that as long as you are not paying my bills, why should I hide something from you?
Tell us about the inception of your book. Since so much of it is about Goa, was that the driving force?
Yes, I always wanted to write about Goa and I realised that the Goa I grew up in was not something that could be found in any book. I did not read about it. I really wanted to put that out there. There are lots of books about the place by people who have never lived there or were never born and brought up there. They came to Goa when it became fashionable to do so. They all claim to be Goans but I wanted to write about what it felt like to actually grow up there. It was such a precious experience and I wrote this book when I realised the worth of those times.
Your words are so detailed that they almost seem to paint a picture.
I have always loved writing. I have written often –– articles for newspapers and magazines and I have, of course, written lyrics. But it is one thing writing an article and a book. I had no clue about them, not even how many words an autobiography is made of. I was later told that it is about 90,000 words on an average and I have written about 140,000! Even after this, I had my editor remind me of the bits that I had skipped or missed and now the book stands at 150,000 words!
Since you are not a writer, what was your writing process like?
I started by digging into my memory and collating the key incidents. After I had finished four-five chapters, I went to my literary agent and it was she who told me: “Have you drawn up a list of chapters?” and I thought wow, that’s a damn good idea (laughs). So I learnt along the way, much like everything else in my life.
Your father pushed you towards music. Do you believe in doing the same for your kids?
As a parent I have never believed in pushing your child towards something. I did harbour a secret disappointment when they were not really going into music seriously but I knew they were going into something they were passionate for –– like design for instance, which was also something I had a passion for. Both my sons composed songs and performed them but niether of them wanted to do it full-time. I don’t know whether I did right or wrong but I know that I didn’t force them to do anything.
Picture: Rashbehari Das