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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Monserratian Mistakes

Giving the devil his due, let’s presume that Atanasio Monserrate Honorable Minister of Education, Hon’ble Minister of Archives and Archaeology and de-facto head of the Corporation of the City of Panaji, did not send his goons to carve his signature on Advocate Aires Rodrigues with a bonus effort on heritage activist Prajal Sakhardande. Monserrate is a husband, a father, a social worker who has risen to State Cabinet Minister rank with the education of Goa’s future citizens and vital title documents of every piece of property in state in his hands. Even though to all intents and purposes he has only passed his Seventh Class.

Let us presume his son Rohit has been trapped in a situation where his phone has been misused by some creep out to get Rohit in trouble with the law and destroy his reputation for good. Let us presume that Mr and Mrs Monserrate have brought up their children to be good, honest, compassionate, upright citizens they and the world could be proud of.

If this was indeed the case, why did Monserrate not move heaven and high-water to visit Aires and Prajal in hospital the night they were attacked and promise to find their attackers? Why did he not send his vast army of musclemen who locate his debtors with such ease, to scour the length and breadth of the state to hunt for the culprits?

Regarding his son’s alleged all-consuming libido, why did Rohit Monserrate not give himself up to the police to proclaim his innocence? Instead of going into hiding like a common felon? If Rohit has been framed he has to give a list of all who used his cellphone to the investigating agencies. But instead he ran from the law. Mistakes. Too many mistakes. Making bad worse. Or verse as the case may be. Brace yourselves, one feels a poem coming on:

Monserratian Mistakes

His mistakes are many
And really quite heavy
But what can you expect from a man
Who has sneered at what’s right
Sure that only his might
Will keep him from getting the can.

Let us trace then the messes
Made by Babush’s wrong guesses
We’ll start with the last – the assault.
If he really had nothing
To do with the hunting
Of Aires who told him to halt.

He should’ve screamed from the housetops
Giving cash and huge sops
To those who would expose the attackers.
Using all his resources
And formidable forces
Catch the goons along with their backers.

But instead Babush chose
To shut all his doors
And talk of a political vendetta.
‘Why point out at me
There were others you see
Who would chop Aires up with a koita.’

Mistake Number Two
Was one he will rue
When he flatly refused to admit
When faced with the printouts
And deafening shouts
That the lewd messages were sent by Rohit.

He could’ve thrown out the phone
From the Monserrate home
‘The cell phone was lost, yes siree!
Anyone could’ve written such trash
And your heads I will smash
If you quote “the apple don’t fall far from the tree”.’

Mistake Number Three
Was to think he was free
And was above and beyond the law.
He was bound to be copied
By his kids who embody
His genes, his looks and much more.

Mistake Number Four
And there are many more
Too many to write in this ballad.
Whether it’s Chill-Out CafĂ©
Or politics unfair
His mistakes are more mixed than a salad.

So if it is a conspiracy
Of state aristocracy
To tarnish your family and you.
Don’t use the judiciary
Or political machinery
Give the law the freedom it’s due.

©Bevinda Collaco 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Limbo Dance of Goa

What else can you call this thing that is happening to Goa? Everywhere else the general human tendency is to raise the bar. Pick yourself up after your mistakes and raise the bar. Aim higher. Here in Goa it’s remarkably different. We make our mistakes, shrug them off and make some more which were even more serious than the previous ones.

We don’t raise our standards. We keep lowering the bar and reveling in it. The only other situation where lowering the bar wins huge points is the Limbo Dance, where a horizontal bar is lowered and dancers wiggle their way under it to Calypso or Hawaiian music. If you drop the bar or fall over backwards you are out of the dance. It looks like the whole of Goa is doing the Limbo Dance. We’re wriggling like nobody’s business; we keep lowering the bar and we don’t drop it even once. We don’t even fall over backwards; no, we don’t even turn a hair. We Goans just keep lowering that bar.

As one gets older one looks into cause and effect or in layman’s terms, look for someone or something to fix the blame on. It’s all very well to say we, the people, are responsible for it; we are not. We were not always corrupt and we did not always suffer from this instant-gratification syndrome. We used to be nice people, warm, pleasant, friendly, respectful of Nature and each other. We were hardworking and honest. We had a rich life but not much money in the pocket. Our relatives who went abroad made fortunes for themselves but their quality of life was poor. What happened?

Did the rot start with the first “defective” elected body we had when the malaise of defections made Goan politics a by-word? Was it the Gulf money that poured into poor households? Was it the land laws that destroyed land holdings which were fragmented among various mundkars? Was it Manohar Parrikar who put Goa on the map and made it fashionable and then made a CD which frightened the pants of all who had not viewed it? Was it the hordes of outsiders both rich and poor who all wanted a piece of Goa?

We need to blame someone; who can we blame? How did we manage to vote into power a government that is so openly corrupt? Did all of us vote? Especially those of us who are loudest in our disgust of the condition of Goa?

Watching firebrand Aires Rodrigues and gentle Prajal Sakhardande broken and bleeding, there is a slow anger building up from deep within. All along the shenanigans of our 40 elected specimens were funny because it’s easy to see they have come into politics to line their own pockets. Yet they think they are fooling the people into thinking that they know what they are doing and that whatever they are doing is for the good of Goa. It is not only these 40 jokers, we have elected into the seat of power by voting or by not voting, it is also the pack of bureaucrats and corporates who advise them and share the taxpayer’s money. But still, they too are not wholly to blame. They are a bunch of rapacious, greedy less-than-average people who have lucked in on a gold mine.

We put them there, but again we cannot be blamed. We were faced with two options Efficient Communalism or Inefficient Corruption. At every service and every Mass this message was hammered home from the pulpits: be careful who you vote for; don’t vote for the “communal” parties. Parish priests visited their flock and campaigned for those who represented Inefficient Corruption. People who were known to be wicked and corrupt stood for elections. Money flowed among other goods and services. The Archbishop invited them to the Bishop’s Palace at Altinho for tea and advised them against corruption. Famous last words…

Even before the palatial tea had dried on their lips the elected representatives put together a scheme to sell Goa off as fast as they could. Since then, it’s been a running battle between a few worried voices trying to salvage what’s left of this tiny state and a feral government trying to destroy it forever. Goa is a state with an active media, hyperactive activists and a fair judiciary. Communalism may raise its head, but will never stand for long in Goa. Corruption is insidious like the sewage that creeps into our drinking water. We become aware of it only when we are dying. Who do I blame? I blame the Church. My request to the church authorities is this: when elections come round the next time keep religion and politics separate. One fears however that the damage is already done. This state is rotting physically, mentally and spiritually – the land and its people. Number One State? Uh-huh. In the lavatorial slang of primary school children we are definitely “Number 1” and “Number 2”.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The truth and nothing but…

I was having tea with my favourite anti-social and he was totalling up the daily take of protection money, interest from loans, and monies earned from various nefarious activities. His muscled goons trooped in happily, waited for their share of the profits and went off happily to home and hearth. “How do you know they haven’t pocketed any for themselves,” I asked.
“They want to live long and healthy lives,” he said simply.
“You are so organized,” I said, “Why don’t you run a legitimate business?”
“I am a poor uneducated man,” he said, “How can I run a business?”
“You are already running one, just choose a legal one,” I said.
“You are educated,” he said, “why don’t you do something with your life instead of this silly writing?”
“It’s not silly, I like to think I am making a difference,” I said.
“If you want to make a difference you should stand for elections,” he said.
“Who would vote for me?” I asked.
“That you don’t worry about, I will make sure you win,” he said.
“You will pull strings to pull my strings,” I said.
“I would help you,” he said. “You sit down and write your manifesto.”
So I sat down and wrote a manifesto:
“Friends, Goans and countrymen, I come to bury Goa, not to save it. I will take the land of our ancestors and sell it to outsiders. I promise industrialization of Goa because let’s face it, no one is interested in agriculture any more, and land which grows built-up area has more yield than land which grows crops. I will tell corporates straight off that they don’t have to employ Goans or even pretend to do so. I will raise the unemployment rate sky high while convincing Goa she never had it so good. I will erect huge buildings and invite everyone to buy a piece of Goa, so your children will have to live in slums. I will increase catchment areas for supplying water to all these people by allowing mining all over the hinterland. The exhausted mines will be used for storing water.
Education: we will do away with examinations because our children must not be unduly stressed. We will raise the salaries of teachers and increase school holidays to 200 days in the year and have only three hours of school every day.
Health: We will have state of the art hospitals with expensive equipment which will have to be replaced every month and I will use the kickbacks to build up a fortune for my descendants. A little of it will also be used to pay for the education of my children abroad.
Minorities: I will pamper the minorities and give them many more sops. They will be allowed to travel first class to places of pilgrimage any number of times. I will invite more and more to come and set up house in Goa, I will give them land and build houses for them.
Reservations: There will be reservations for everyone everywhere. Of course, each applicant has to go through my office.
I will be the CEO of the state and wind up this panchayti raj nonsense that has no merit at all. The unorganized sector will have no rights whatsoever and no legal recourse will be available to them.
Infrastructure: I will put in lots of buildings, roads and water pipelines. The work will be continuous and shoddy because more tenders will be floated to ensure a continuous flow of kickbacks.
Judiciary: The police and courts will be answerable to me and no one else. All transfers will be handled by me.
District development: I will turn the North against the South and as long as they fight each other, I will be free to do whatever the hell I want.
Fiscal Policy: I will increase local taxes, collect toll, excise and widen the tax net to levy taxes all sorts of things, dogs, cats, children, husband and wives. I plan a radical new ‘Air Tax’ where it will be calculated how many cubic feet of air a person inhales and fix a suitable tax for it. Overweight people will be taxed, because they use up more space and space is at a premium. Goans will be unemployed, but they can rob the rich outsiders to their hearts’ content because I will control the judiciary.”
I read it aloud to my anti-social friend who said, “Take out the “Air Tax” it might make you unpopular.”