There was a time when Goa was India’s virgin territory. In the minds of many, that status of inviolate purity has never left the subconscious. Indians still want to see Goa as it was, as they remember it when the beaches were still pristine, the rivers pure, the hills laden with fruit, the land in all its virginal glory.
Sorry folks. That is a dream that got busted as far back as the eighties. The Goa that people mourn was the Goa they found when the Portuguese left in 1961. The adventurous few took a steamer from Bombay and chugged into Panjim port or a train on a narrow gauge track that went under the spray of the Dudhsagar falls. On beaches, non-Goans were amazed to see a Goa that resembled their own native villages and cities.. a century earlier.
Goans, for their part, have weathered the storm. We saw the coloniser leave. We hoped for a better life in free India. We got our state to statehood and our language among the 22 official languages of India. In the process our politicians learnt corruption. We learnt consumption. Land that was worthless suddenly became a rich asset.
In the early sixties Goa was still a virgin girl. By the 1990s the rape had begun. People who had a farm home in Haryana now wanted the “Goa home”. Indians flush with cash coveted the Goa house as a badge of new wealth.
Goans sold their homes and lands to eager, well-heeled buyers. By 2000, the end of innocence was there for all to see. The hillsides have changed. The waters are now murky. The beaches have been trampled with millions of footfalls. The villages clamour with a babble of voices instead of the lyrical Konkani. It was bound to happen. Progress comes at a cost.
If Goa changed in fifty years since the Portuguese were booted out, Mumbai and Delhi became pure living hell at the same time. But no one deplores that. The nation instead deplores the state of Goa. Unjust. Unfair, Uncalled for!
What is remarkable is how the Goan people adapted to the change. They did moan the “outsider”. But the fault is theirs alone since they sold out.
Who doesn’t bemoan
They do regret the loss of the days gone by with a depressing “saudades” or melancholic longing. Who doesn’t get wistful in today’s world? Parisians bemoan the Paris of today. Londoners find their city filthy. Old world Bombaikars find Mumbai traffic hell. Calcutta aficionados drown their sorrow at the Calcutta Club about what Kolkatta has become.
But look at the other side. Progress got us Goans tarred roads, the telephone and recently the internet. When I look at my village today, I see a wealthier Goa for sure... in terms of restored homes, new homes and better street lighting. This is far better than we ever had. When people mourn the loss of the Goa of yesteryears, I am compelled to look at the fact that Goans today are far better off than under the Portuguese. Wealth is one of the factors. Wealth in some areas. The rot of progress in others.
Since the last decade, Goa has been under the media glare for rape, murder and corrupt ministers. Accepted. As a Goan I agree that Scarlett Keeling did happen, that few ministers are not the best representation of most Goans and that Goa has lost its innocence. What I do not agree with is the shrill media noise that paints the new Goa as an unsafe place.
In every city in India and the world, there is an underside. A dark belly where crime is prevalent. Go to Paris and you have the choice to stay in the safe tourist zones or go under in the dark sides of Saint Lazare station. See Mumbai with children or see Mumbai by neonlight in the darker areas of crime. It’s a choice tourists and people make in every city. Are there not more rape cases in Delhi? Are there less murders in Shillong? Are there not corrupt ministers in Uttaranchal?
But when it comes to Goa, the entire nation wants the virgin Goa they knew. Indians just cannot accept that there are the occasional, very occasional murder, rape and theft in Goa. It’s all sweetly idealistic that the nation wants Goa to stay in that pure state of mind. But there lies the problem.
The non-acceptance that there is a minimum crime level in Goa. The non-acceptance that it “should not” happen in “our” Goa. By “our” I mean the Goa of every Indian who wants to claim Goa as a part of their own virginity.
The grand total
Sorry guys. That Goa disappeared. We are in 2010. In defense of my beloved Goa, all I can truly say is that this is the best state in India to live in. No matter the public and media perception, this is a peaceful, wonderful land. The beaches may be dirtier than before. But go a few kilometers into our neighbouring states and see the filth. And the rot. And the corrupt ministers. And the rapes. And the murders.
In the grand total of percentages, Goa must rate very high on cleanliness, low crime and less corruption. People come to Goa and are surprised to see bribery. But lets face the facts. If a lakh is under the table here, it is a crore elsewhere in India.
So, my fellow Indians, please accept this new Goa. This loss of innocence. This no longer blushing bride. She has grown. She has evolved. She is still the best part of the new millenium India,,,good and bad included!
(The writer is a well known fashion designer, who actively campaigns for issues concerning Goa.)