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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Goa is proof that all things don’t end

The T20 League ran and ended. Who remembers who won? The Cricket World Cup always cracks me up because the world, for cricket, is a handful of ex-British colonies minus the US. Well that ran across our TV screens for a while. Then the FIFA World cup took over and ended with Wimbledon running in tandem. We watched Rafael Nadal of Spain take the Wimbledon cup and the Spaniards waltz off with the FIFA World Cup. There seemed to be nothing to watch on TV until of all things – the Goa Monsoon Session Assembly.

It was so much like the FIFA World Cup, two teams locked in a lung-to-lung battle; sometimes the ruling team members got caught up in the precision of the Opposition’s game plan and scored several self goals. They turned against their own Captain when it came to transferring the drugs-cops-politicians nexus to the CBI. Worse, one of their best strikers Dayanand Narvekar grabbed the ball and kept hammering it into the ruling dispensation’s goal, with the Opposition even acknowledging that it took guts on his part.

The ruling team even had two main players missing. One red-carded by the judicial system and the Crime Branch and the other nursing probably a lily-liver in a Mumbai hospital. The ref Pratapsing Rane, mixed it up with the NBA and called a time-out twice.

Goans watching the games had food for thought when MLA Francis D’Souza stated that the government was driving a wedge between North and South Goa. Salcete constituencies he said were getting the entire pie with nothing left over for the rest of the state, just a few crumbs here and there.

MLA after MLA said the same thing that only Salcete is not Goa and Goa is not only Salcete. They said that the wealth of the state has to be equally divided among all constituencies. You cannot spend Rs 15 crore on one constituency in the south and not even Rs 2 crore on another in the north. D’Souza even said that with the exception of Water Resources and Forests Minister Felipe Neri Rodrigues, all other Ministers poured money only into their constituencies. And there was precious little to show for all that money spent. D’Souza said they were breaking the solemn oath they took when they were sworn in as Ministers that they would work for the good of Goa.

And as I would react to a foolish move in the game, I sniggered at Francis D’Souza. If I had a vuvuzela I would have blown it. Did the Ministers even know what they were reading when they took their oath? Do they even know what a solemn oath is? If they are non-matriculates, maybe not even Stds 5, 6 or 7 pass, how the hell are they expected to know what a solemn oath is? Yes I know ‘Hell’ is an oath…

They have stood for elections, bought, bullied and blarneyed their way into office because it’s true. They wanted to work for the people. Of course they wanted to work for people. Their people. Their families and in-laws and maybe a few good friends, never mind if those took the Ratol way out. But they know with just a Std 5 to their name there doesn’t seem to be much of a future for them. They could maybe, be a tailor’s assistant, or a motorcycle pilot, worthy jobs in their own way, but hardly making the big bucks they get with dipping their hands in the taxpayer’s pocket. They have the power to change existing laws; they have the power to make new laws. They have the Midas touch where everything turns into Swiss bank accounts. Why would they even bother about an oath?

But we watch the game being played and realize that indeed this is a very, very strange game. The Opposition wins every round hands down, but when they come out of the House, Goa declares them the losers. Because we the people cheer the ruling party on and turn our pockets inside out saying rob us, destroy us. That’s why we elected you and will always elect you. You are doing a very FINE job!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Wrong choices can be fun

Yes, of course Nadia Torrado made a whole lot of wrong choices and they ended up tragically for her and all those who loved her. So did the distraught lady who jumped out of a window of GMC when her doctors bluntly told her she was HIV+. Both Nadia and the HIV+ patient could have been alive and relatively happy today if they had some good commonsense counseling.

Counseling allows you to make the best of a bad choice. But here I wish to place before you, and I’m walking on eggs here mind you, that wrong choices need not be the bottomless pit of doom everyone is so afraid of. Wrong choices can be fun while they last, and when the fun goes, shrug it off, try and fix things, if they cannot be fixed shrug again and move on. No point in beating yourself up over it. No need to reach for the Ratol. Memory is short, even for those who have been hurt by your wrong choices. More than modern medicine, we can rely on Time to heal all things. And Time is the ultimate arbiter. Once your time runs out, like the Metallica song with the beautiful guitar riffs says: Nothing else matters…

Wrong choices lend colour to your life. They build memories, and once you cross 50, you realize memories are like a protective armour of laughter around you. So it didn’t work out. So what! That practical joke you played on a good friend and got them so mad at you. Falling in love with an unsuitable boy or girl, or man or woman... Taking a job and realizing you were totally unfit for it. Eating like there was no tomorrow, drinking like there was no tomorrow, partying like there was no tomorrow and then clutching your chest and gasping for breath in the emergency room as your life flashes before your eyes.

Bad choices… but they were so much fun when you made them. They seemed so right at the time and you have all those fabulous memories. Not reading an invitation properly, dressing your child up in fancy dress and then finding out he is the only one in costume. He would never forgive you as long as he lived. But he did, right? And you could both laugh over it years later.

Speaking from personal experience, I have made wrong choices all my life. Studying the problem for all of five minutes, I figured out the reason why. I invariably come to wrong conclusions about a given situation or relationship. I form wrong premises and based on wrong premises I make the wrong choices. But my general experience has been that they worked out just fine. Not perfect mind you, but just fine. And that’s excellent in my book.

You make wrong choices all your life. Sometimes, they turn out all right and you say things like, by the Grace of God, or what luck, or you dust your hands and say, well, we came through that mess all right. The trick is to go with the flow and when you come to the rocks, try to minimize the damage, sit on the rock and dry yourself.

So what happens when the wrong choices turn into a nightmare of unbelievable proportions? Then too you have a battery of choices, all you have to do is not panic. Calm yourself, study the situation, weigh the options and then make your choice. There is no problem which does not have a solution. So we make another wrong choice, which will also have solutions. Life is this big fat puzzle that we have to work through. We have a choice. We can choose to enjoy it, or we can choose misery. We can choose life or we can choose death. Me? Give me life any day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Migrant to Man of Means

He used to come to the corner store to buy tea-leaves and sugar every day. Tired, weary, but dogged in his desperation to get the job done. He used to carry a large metal container with a tap, which he used to sell tea to the hundreds of office staff in the hundreds of offices at Patto Plaza. There were a number of tea sellers like him, but he caught our eye since he used to stop by our local grocer every evening to stock up on tea and sugar and a few meagre odds and ends he needed for himself. I think the grocer said he came from Rajasthan.

A while later, a woman began to accompany him. Definitely Rajasthani style brightly coloured saris with her pullo covering her head and shading her eyes and nose completely. She used to sit on the Patto side of the walkover bridge. She used to crochet little caps for babies and had befriended the Kannadiga woman who had spread out inexpensive wares like brushes, combs and mobile phone covers etc on a tarpaulin for office goers to pick up in their headlong rush to the bus stand or to work somewhere deep inside Panjim city. The Rajasthani woman crocheted the baby hats and the Kannadiga sold them for a commission. A small side business while her husband sold tea to sleepy office workers.

The husband of course kept office hours and returned after 5.30. He would come to the small crocheting enterprise, give his empty metal tea container to his wife to carry and together they would walk over the little pink bridge to the grocer and buy tea, sugar, grain and some vegetables.

Still later we saw them with a whole bunch of Rajasthani women, all chattering loudly and marveling at this new planet called Goa. They sat down with the crocheting wife at her place of work, a small parapet next to the Kannadiga woman selling small stuff. All their heads were covered with their pullos, but our crocheting small scale entrepreneur had her face completely open to the elements and the incurious onlookers. That was what Goa did to her. She found she needn’t hide her face here.

Recently we saw a young man accompanying the Rajasthani couple. He was an import from their home town. Now he held the tea container in his hand and he carried on the tea business.

The Rajasthani man, the original tea seller had now bought a second-hand motorbike and we saw him riding into the city. Apparently he had a proper job as a security man at an office in Panjim. His wife no longer sits on the parapet crocheting her baby caps. It looks like she doesn’t need to anymore, since her husband has a good job and also gets a commission for his countryman who is starting up the same ladder. Any bets? The teenage tea seller will get another relative to take over supplying their tannin fix to hundreds of office staff, while he gets his benefactor’s security job, once the benefactor gets a better position.

It’s the same with the unending line of boys in their late teens and 20s who come in from Orissa, Jharkhand and Nepal. They wash cars and have the cars of an entire neighbourhood pretty much under their control. They charge whatever they like and no one undercuts them. We, who feel embarrassed to wash the same cars that we drive so proudly, pay whatever they ask and feel the price is worth the chore of carrying a bucket of water to the car and wielding a washcloth.

I don’t really have the moral right to complain about migrants flooding into Goa, because a very nice Nepali boy called Shibu, climbs uncomplainingly up 82 steps to my house, takes a bucket full of water and washcloth and washes my car, all done with a big smile. If he didn’t do it, I would have to (wash the car I mean, not smile) and I don’t like doing a Jack and Jill number down the hill.

But there’s hope yet. In the Rajasthani woman who does not feel the need to cover her face any more. She shows her face with the same indifference that any Goan woman does. We take a simple thing like that as our right. The Rajasthani woman had to travel down the country to free herself. Life will be tough for her, but she can walk free among others without fear. Here in Goa. That’s why she will never go back. That’s why she will bring more and more of her family and friends to share in what she thinks is Paradise. Can’t really blame her…

The only problem exercising the old brain is this: Where can Goans go? To Rajasthan? We’re not built for hard work.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The frustrated activist

We all like to feel like we want to do something to help. But when push comes to shove we find perfectly good reasons for sitting back in our balcaos and running the world from there.

I remember when I saw footage of the cops and the Goa Village Groups scuffling outside the Secretariat after the CM told the spokespersons he did not require their votes, I got all fired up and wanted to join an Organization. So I called up one of the early brains behind the Goa Bachao Abhiyan and said I’d like to join. She told me she was no longer on the committee, but gave me the number of one of the present committee members.

Slightly less fired up but still all eagle-eyed and crusader-like, I dialed the number and the person on the other side cut off my call.

There is nothing like a cut-off call to give you that What-the-Hell feeling. I looked at the phone moodily waiting for an apologetic or explanatory SMS to follow. What I mean to say is, there’s no need to be rude. One understands that the callee is a busy firebrand, surely a message could have been sent saying, “Sorry, bitng plicemn’s elbow”, or “Sorry @ meetng”, or “Busy now pls cll latr” ; the caller has feelings too.

I sent an email, no answer, which in my book, is the height of bad manners.

Called up another stalwart at his residence. Got his mother and wife respectively. They told me they were waiting for him to go “to buy bazaar”. I asked them to ask him to call me back. No call back. And there I was considerably less fired up, and with no place to go.

So it was back to the keyboard for me doing what I do best, rabble-rousing through the written word. Even started a website to do even more rabble rousing, not just in Goa but with Goans everywhere in India and around the world. That was and continues to be an excellent feeling. People send me news not just from Goa, but from Delhi and all over the world; as far away as Quebec about entering a Goan Float in the national Canada Parade. I write it and immediately it goes through the internet all over, the country and the state.

Still there is a feeling of incompleteness. Except for annoying Eduardo Faleiro, for me, the website has not hit the spot, neither has this column or the other one. Words do nothing to stop the wrongs being done to this land and to us. Wasteful expenditure, destruction of the land, marginalizing of the aam aadmi, pollution of water bodies we will one day die for…

There are too many tiny groups fighting with their backs to the wall, fighting against the mining companies, against mega builders, against politicians, encroachers, fighting against outsiders, fighting for validation, fighting for life itself. And the baddies just laugh and carry on regardless. We are the sheep and the farmer who is supposed to look after us, lets in the wolves and laughs over the fine sport.

Like the shoal of fish that frightens off predators, these small groups have to come together under one umbrella. Or failing that one civilian army should be set up. I would like to call it the new 3G. Goa Gheraoing Group. If anyone cares to start this group, I will gladly join as a foot soldier. It should be an amorphous group having no shape or structure, just a group that can be galvanized within an hour through yelling, smoke signals, telephone, SMS, e-mails any form of communication to help out the smaller groups with the sheer weight of numbers.

The only thing that turns the baddies’ knees to water is numbers and the threat of violence. This is the quickest way to exert balances and checks on them. If all of Goa has 4000 policemen there is a limit to what they can do with 500,000 determined people. Let the freedom fighters concentrate on Western culture and Portuguese names. We have to fight for our own survival and that of our children’s children.