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The Goan - The Great Goan Weekend - Kalaa

He now lives his childhood dream, at the young age of 52. It's a museum called Back in Time where Thomas Antonio da Costa, displays his treasures for the world to see.

As one delicately runs one's fingers along the ivory keys of a 1880 Schiedmier German Grand Piano, claimed to be the only known working Schiedmier German Grand in Asia, the beautiful sounds emanating from it are not just music to the ears, but for the soul as well. The words printed on the lid say 'expressly built for the climate of India' and 'sole appointed agents - Soundy and Co Limited, Bombay' along with the serial number 64527 that marks the year the piano was manufactured- 1880. Along with other vintage instruments (in working condition) like guitars, saxophone, an Indian sitar, tromp hone violins, the German Grand sits in the newly-opened museum 'Back in Time', the brainchild of Thomas Antonio da Costa, at Varca in South Goa.

"One upright German make piano, 113 years old is kept open so that students of music can learn how the piano works," says da Costa, whose passion for the rarest collector's items compelled him to collect artefacts from across the globe and bring them here to this small alley in Varca, where he exhibits them. Set in the San Thome Simplex in Chadwaddo, Varca, the museum is a vivid world of classic works in ivory, stone, wood, clay, ceramic, glass, paper, fabric and metal taking the visitors on a happy trip down memory lane. "My trips to different countries began in 1986 when I joined the ship as an electrical engineer," says da Costa, who after taking a long break professionally in 2009, has been working on his idea of opening up museum with all the rare artefacts he had collected across his 25 years of service.

A statue of Our Lady of Fatima mounted on a one-and-a-half metre tall whale bone rib is a work of art along with a Bible stand made out of the whale's spinal column, a picture frame made out of the snout bones of the whale, an image of baby Jesus painted on an ostrich egg shell, etc are all works of art.

In another room is a 3.3 tonne cast iron Anchor, a kerosene linen press (Iron), a zamindar's (bhatkar's) stick, Mangalore tiles, radar lenses, stamps, coins, lamps, lanterns, water filters, storage containers and cans, ancient pots and antique bottles, wine barrels, wall hangings, decorative items, perfume bottles, posters, paintings, dinner sets, crockery, cheers goblets, traditional measures of weight, clocks, showpieces in wood, metal and ivory. The collection of typewriters of various brands, models, sizes - neatly arranged on the shelves is a pleasant site. There are rare machines like Facit, Prima Godrej, Letters 22, Hermes Baby, Underwood Olivetti, Silver, Olympia, Brother Delux etc. "I have both, Remington 10 World War I era 1919 machine as well as an Imperial 58 World War II 1940 model. This black metal typewriter (Imperial 58 world war II 1940 model) was a standard public service issue machine. It is one of the only two remaining typewriters used in the National Museum of Victoria (England) during the 20th century. While the National Museum of Victoria possesses one, an identical model is with me," boasts da Costa pointing proudly to the little machine.

Yet another room houses innovations made in the field of music and films - HMV gramophone and LP record players, spool tape players, manual shutter cameras, still cameras, a silent movie projector and even a black and white movie and 16 mm projector can all be seen here. Print technology innovations and evolutions showcase typewriters of different brands, models and sizes as well as computers. The most admiring fact of all these artefacts and vintage collection is that they have all been repaired and restored and most are in working condition. "My father Joao Hipolito Arthur Da Costa was a watch and clock repairer and owned a watch shop, one of the oldest in Margao. I have devoted a section on time pieces as a tribute to his memory," says da Costa pointing to a section containing rare timepieces that are still ticking calmly away, even though once you feel as if time stands still in this little museum in Varca.

The 1940 model in the Varca museum is identical to the typewriter purchased by the National Museum of Victoria in 1940s and used by staff to type labels for cases in the Entomology collection store. Imperial typewriters originated in 1908 in England and were manufactured until personal computers became popular in the 1970s. The company was sold to Litton Industries in 1966 and the typewriters were no longer made in England by 1974.

Bharati Pawaskar / The Goan 08 February 2014
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