When Bacchus Met Apollo
By Samhati Mohapatra | Published: 01st June 2014 06:00 AM |
Eighty-one for many may be an age to retire, but not for John Carmo Rodrigues—professionally a microbiologist, but better known for his medicinal wines and yoga centre in Goa. Enthused with a zest for life and a will to serve society, Rodrigues is a polymath with a host of pursuits.
Well before you could think of clinking glasses at the mention of wine, Rodrigues corrects you in his amicable voice. “Medicinal wines are quite different from table wines. While the latter scores on taste and clarity, medicinal wines are made to cure diseases and are taken in moderate proportions,” says the octogenarian, who was born and brought up in Mumbai, but lives with his wife in his ancestral house in Goa.
A graduate in medical microbiology, Rodrigues started vinting when he was just 16. “The first wine I made was from jamun. There was a big jamun tree in my maternal grandparents’ property in Goa where I used to spend my summer holidays. The tree used to shed its berries in plenty, but cattle would make a mess out of it. Peeved with the regular nuisance, one day I decided to make wine out of the fruit. Being a microbiology student helped and surprisingly my wines turned out to be a hit. It gave a stiff competition to the wines that was imported from Portugal,” says Rodrigues.
The expert vintner today brews about 200 exotic varieties of wines including those made from jamun, curry leaves, onion, ginger, papaya, cashew, aloe vera, muskmelon, custard apple, mulberry, cheeku, guava among many others.
While one may be at awe with Rodrigues’ wines, which are made from anything but grapes, he says, “Vegetables, fruits and spices are a rich source of bioavailable essential nutrients. My wines are made from vegetables, fruits and spices containing essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates and amino acids, which can be used not only as a prophylaxis, but also as a curative if used at the right time.”
Rodrigues’ Kokum wine was acknowledged to be of international quality at the World Organic Conference 2011 in South Korea. “The wine made from Kokum (Garcinia indica) is difficult to prepare due to its high pectin content, but it is a solution to several health problems, especially obesity as it contains hydroxyl citric acid which cuts down on fat,” says Rodrigues, who has a PhD in Alternative Medicine.
Rodrigues enrolled in Escola Medica Cirugica de Goa, today known as Goa Medical College and Hospital to study medicine after the Portuguese sealed its borders in 1956 while he was on a holiday. “Later, I fled to Mumbai where my parents lived to evade arrest as I was connected with the Goa Liberation Movement,” he says. He stayed in Mumbai and worked with Hoechst India, then one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, for the next 30 years, which put a hiatus to his hobby of winemaking.
His salad days introduced him to yoga and its miraculous benefits. “A brief exposure to yoga made me realise that it has immense scope to treat stress related disorders. While science teaches us that diseases are caused by pathogens, yoga states that a disease originates in the mind. It is our thought and actions that affect our endocrine system and a compromised immune system makes us susceptible to pathogenic organisms. Thus, over 85 per cent of our ailments are pyschosomatic (involving mind and body) in origin for which western medicine has no treatment. Practice of Pranayama and Yog asanas cannot only be used as a polyphylactic but a curative therapy with wonderful results,” says Rodrigues who took a premature retirement and returned to Goa in 1986.
“The first thing I did upon my return was to open a Yoga Therapy Centre in Margaon to treat people with pyschosomatic disorders as well as start an NGO called ‘Konkan Sevadam’ to help landless labourers,” says the therapist.
His works under the banner of Konkan Sevadham was recognised by ‘GOA SUDHAROP’, Community Development Inc. US, an NGO based in California, devoted to the betterment of Goa.
His wines and jams under the tag of ‘Goan Homemade Tonic Wines’ have been awarded several times. Cheers to that.
■ John Carmo Rodrigues made his first wine at the age of 16 out of jamun.
■ The expert vintner brews about 200 exotic varieties of wines.
■ Rodrigues’ wines are made from vegetables, fruits and spices containing essential nutrients like vitamins,
minerals, carbohydrates and amino acids.