On February 4th, 2017, Goa, the smallest state of the Indian Union in land mass would be going to the polls to elect its special 40. Coincidently, February 4th is also the feast day of St. John de Britto, the Portuguese Jesuit missionary and martyr who evangelised in South India. I wonder if anyone on the election commission, like me, is an alumnus of St. Britto’s High school in Mapusa, Goa. Most probably this being a figment of my imagination, I’ll leave that out for later.
Since Goa became a full-fledged state in 1987 we have seen numerous governments take charge, each bringing with them their own ideologies and styles of governance. Hence in the last 30 years, and possibly due to the 30 styles of governance (thanks to the unstable governments), we have gone from a state having a fixed sense of direction to being completely directionless.
30 years ago, in 1987, Goa was a quiet beachside place where one could go to seek tranquillity. Today, being the de-facto party capital of Goa, it is a place where one goes to escape the blues, embrace the noise and to love, pray and karma (pun intended). Our underlying love for party (sic) is so great that we are unable to stop. Call it an addiction if you like. There is a party for every occasion and there is a (political) party for every issue. Adding up those who recently formed only to protest or support the MoI (Medium of Instruction) and casino argument, we have close to 20 political parties for a population of 2 million, which is probably a Limca record if not a Guinness record.
The question I would like to ask, and hopefully see answered is, does Goa have it what it is looked up to as – the party capital of India? I agree we have a culture of openness and hospitality, the latter along with tourism being the major revenue earners for the state. But is the culture enough?
The electricity supply, riddled with frequent power cuts and voltage fluctuations is horrible, to say the least. Our roads at night are lit with streetlights that even fireflies can put to shame. With no orderly management of traffic and enforcement of rules on our roads, our highways have become highways to hell. I shall stay clear of getting into the drug cartel, prostitution and our perennial parking issues. Enough has already been said and written about that. So the underlying question is, can cheap liquor, fuel and an easy-going way of life enough to negate the above points? I’m afraid not.
It’s not that I am against partying or having a good time. But common sense also says that Sehwag can’t play defensively like Dravid and Dravid can’t play aggressively like Sehwag. Both can be the other for a brief spell, but cannot dawn the role permanently. Goa, in my opinion, is destined for far greater things, where it can create a standing of its own. And being the party capital of India is not one of them.
When the Portuguese ruled Goa they brought something beautiful to this land that no one in Asia had. The printing press brought in 1556 gave wings to the lovers of the word and started a new chapter in the life of the simple Goan. It helped the missionaries spread the word of God, governments to notify policies and revolutionaries in the war for freedom. The soulful verses that flew from the pens of Francisco Luis Gomes, Orlando da Costa, Leslie de Noronha, Jerry Pinto, Pundalik Naik among others have moved people and continue to do so until this day. It is not common that despite its small size a state is strongly represented in the literature scene.
While the literature scene was bursting with emotion, few Goans took up to the next thing that touched one’s soul – music and art. Goans far and wide revel and swing to the beats of Chris Perry, Lorna Cordeiro, Remo Fernandes, Hema Sardesai and others. Not being far behind, the classical singers Kishori Amonkar, Mogubai Kurdikar and Dinanath Mangeshkar to mention mesmerised audiences with their range and melodies. Letting everything out on the canvas Antonio Piedade da Cruz, Angelo da Fonseca, Mario de Miranda, Vasudeo S. Gaitonde, etc added hues and form to the Goan life in a way no one thought was possible. This was the impact of the Goans, small yet powerful.
Why and then how, did we go from a state that took centre stage to one that quietly sits in the audience? Is it because we doubt our capabilities? Is it because art doesn’t pay much? Or is it because we want a quick buck and have lost the virtues of persistence and determination?
Goa as a premier destination for art would attract the high-end tourists and lovers of the craft. They would resonate completely with the Goan culture and propagate it through their work. This would help filter out those who in the lure for liquor and land lose their senses and linger on forever. Goa could dot its landscape and annual calendar with art exhibitions, literature festivals and free music performances. It has the potential, in terms of movies, to become Cannes; in terms of live music, Austin, Texas, in terms of literature, Jaipur and in terms of soccer, Madrid. We could be all this and more and not the silly party capital of India. For we would have much better things to get high on and raise a toast to.
I hope the candidates in the fray are listening.