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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”.

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