Last week, I had traveled to Goa and Belgaum in northern Karnataka for work. Well, my day job takes me to interesting places. The hilly drive to Belgaum and back to Goa in a day was simply enriching. Goa is very interesting place for an ad-hoc sociologist such as me who is fascinated by the evolution of culture and its associated norms and values. Goa is 65 percent Hindu, although its Portuguese Catholic Colonial Cultural Legacy is over-powering. North Goa along the Maharashtra Border is scattered with Hindu Shrines and Temples plus a few statues of Shivaji Maharaj- the great Maratha Hindu King dotted the landscape making its symbolic power very poignant. Northern Goa is very Maharashtra-wadi or Maharashtra Centric as the Konkan Culture pre-dominates the region. The Panaji bridge divides Goa geographically and metaphorically in many ways. Christian and significantly Muslim South Goa has the best touristy locales- beaches, churches and the casinos by the river like Deltin Royale. Economically prosperous yes, but it has been also at the receiving end of an exodus due to reverse migration to its former colonial master- Portugal and recently to Canada as a lot of Catholic Goans work in the Persian Gulf and they prefer to migrate to Toronto rather than return to sleepy Goa. The declining birth-rates in Portugal are to contribute for migration from former Lusophone colonies such as Macau and Goa. Globalization shows up another shade.
The BJP government lead by IIT educated technocrat politico Manohar Parrikar has emphasized the importance of improving road infrastructure but then been conservative in its approach in making it tourism friendly which is the economic staple of the Goan People. Upholding the Maharashtrian Konkanasta Sanskruti, is more vital than bringing in tourism dollars for Mr. Parrikar and his cabinet colleagues as our friend Mr. Rajesh who took us around Goa and Belgaum reiterated many a time the importance of the political economy of livelihood rather than the Sociology of Religion. No one including the author of this post is disputing the Hindu Fabric of this Nation and to not exclude Goa taking in to account its unique political history since 1961 when it ceded to the Indian Union, but to make Hindu Identity as the bedrock of governance is a bit far-fetched as about 1/3rd of Goa’s demography is Catholic. During the last Parrikar administration, Good Friday was made a restricted Public Holiday! No wonder Parrikar lost; this time thankfully he has been more accommodating as the Catholics of South Goa voted for him. This is incredibly surprising as Mr. Parrikar has cousins in Angola!
Dona Paula with its Singham memorabilia was noteworthy although Miramar Beach could be improved a bit. The commodification of Goan Cultural Symbols seems complete whenever one I met was out to over-sell Goa in which manner possible, although paradoxically, the place did not seem that way.
Goa as a theatre of Culture War is real, as two distinct cultures are vying for centrality in an area of pan Maharashtrian Regionalism. May the Best of the genteelness and gregarious character of Goan Ethos prevail?
A poster of a passport photo studio in central Panjim said it all about the post-colonial redux in present day Goa.