You Want a Piece of This?

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I was recently greeted at the airport in Dabolim by a most unpleasant advertisement. “It’s time to claim your piece of Goa” read a large poster for Goa Paradise, a project by the real-estate company Tata Housing. I saw the ad and was immediately consumed with rage.


Querying my outrage, some friends suggested that there was nothing to get so mad about. “Why are you offended?” asked one, “it’s an ad meant to sell properties that exist. I would not read much more into it. Locals sold, others developed, now agencies sell.” To make matters clear, the problem with the advertisement does not rest with “outsiders” purchasing property in Goa. The problem lies in the manner in which the property is being marketed and sold. It is the rhetoric through which the property is sold that goes on to subsequently problematize the purchasing of this property.


Postcolonial scholars have pointed out that the problems with European expansion was located in the act of claiming that agents of European crowns effected when they reached the shores of America, Africa, and Australia. The problem with these acts of claiming, such as the claiming of Australia for the Queen of England was that these lands were not terra nullius or no man’s land, but territories populated by numerous groups with their own laws, sensibilities. This claiming subsequent to conquest disregarded the claims of these people, and completed and continued the act of conquest. The word “claim” continues to have those connotations, and it is this effective call to an act of conquest that ensured that I found the ad offensive. While conquest may have been a part of the game in times past, it is definitely not so in today’s post-colonial world. One is welcome to purchase property in Goa, but when this act of purchasing is converted into an act of claiming or conquest, and opens the path for the consequent disregard of the existing social fabric, it is transformed from a possibly quotidian act to one of colonial violence.


The violence of the advertisement was enhanced by presenting the apartments being sold as “a piece of Goa”. The phrase “a piece of this” is not without connotations. Advertisements work because they often tap into a deeper conscious or unconscious collective understanding. Indeed, another real-estate venture, Aldeia da Goa, seem to have attempted a similar reference to “a piece of this” with an ad line that ran along the lines “If you want a piece of Goa you should become a piece of Goa”. The sexual desire for a person, when expressed as “I’d like a piece of him/her/that” is considered offensive and sexist. It is considered offensive because the phrasing transforms the individual, a subject deserving of dignity, into an object that has no feelings, and can be possessed, used, and disposed of. This understanding is also captured in the slang “You want a piece of me?” Often used to challenge an adversary, in this case, the challenger is affirming that s/he is not an object, and will not stand for such treatment. The Aldeia de Goa ad was saved from substantial critique, only because it suggested that one had to become a part of Goa, a piece of it, not merely purchase one’s piece of the territory.


As scholars have pointed out, the act of claiming, or the act of any conquering power, is an act of patriarchal power. It sees territory as female, appropriate for exploring, dominating and consuming. It is, therefore, not surprising that Tata Housing clubbed the “claim” with “piece of”.


But Goa is emphatically not merely a piece of territory that can be claimed, or broken up into individual pieces. While an exotic destination for some, and alluring real estate location for others, it is also the home to hundreds of thousands of people. Having lived here for generations, they have evolved a certain lifestyle on the land. Purchasing property in Goa must mean creating an option to participate in this lifestyle, and in a way that is respectful of those for whom who live here. To set up the purchasing of property as an act of conquest that disregards the context in which this property is located, is an act of profound violence and disrespect to the persons who have lived here for generations, and for whom this is the only home they have.


Another response to my outrage over the ad argued; “When Goans ‘claim a piece’ in London or Swindon, Melbourne or Lisbon (including the official residence of PM) why should others not clam a ‘piece of Goa’?” This is a common counter to the concerns raised by Goans about the way their territory is rapidly changing. What needs to be underlined is that the relationship between purchasers of property in Goa, and average Goans is not one of equality. A good number of Goans cannot in fact purchase property in other locations where they migrate to work. Many Goans who travel to Swindon are most certainly not purchasing property there, but living in miserable conditions that approximate Dickensian descriptions of the labouring masses’ lodgings in Victorian England. Further, as migrants who move to other locations, they are not powerful actors engaged in conquest of these territories, but persons merely seeking a life that was denied to them in their natal territories. To equate the prospective purchaser of Goa Paradise with the migrant is an act of colonial violence perpetuated by local elites who have no reason to move from Goa, and see a possibility of integrating into the emerging socio-political order where Goa is seen as a location that can be conquered and dominated.


Further, thanks to the inflated prices caused by the big money chasing ‘their own piece’ of the place most ordinary Goans are in fact not able to purchase property in Goa too, nowadays. This is precisely the reason why the tribal activist Antonio Francisco Fernandes demanded that the government of Goa guarantee housing to all Goans from indigenous communities.


The advertisement of Tata Housing is sexist and profoundly offensive and it must be prevailed upon to withdraw this advertisement at the earliest.

See also ‘Rise of the Villament: The New Investment Buzzword that will Hit Goa’, here.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 22 January, 2016)

Opinion Poll: Choice or Compromise?

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A series of events are being planned to commemorate the historic Opinion Poll whose  50th anniversary was marked last week on 16th January. Second to the territory’s merger into the Indian Union, the Opinion Poll is perhaps one of the most significant events in the history of post-colonial Goa. The Opinion Poll was a referendum held to decide whether to retain the Union territory status of Goa or merge it with the neighboring state of Maharashtra. The majority of Goans voted against the merger and thus Goa retained its status as a Union territory, putting an end to any possibility of the merger with Maharashtra.

Goa-Opinion-Poll-ballot-paperCurrent tellings of the history of the Opinion Poll are centered around two prominent figures, Dayanand Bandodkar, the then chief minister, and Dr. Jack de Sequeira, the leader of opposition. While on the one hand it was Bandodkar’s Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) that rooted for the merger with Maharashtra in post-colonial Goa, on the other it was Dr. Sequeira and the United Goans Democratic Party (UGDP) who mobilized the anti-merger sentiments successfully. But such a reductive understanding of a complex historical moment ensures that the grey areas that marked Goa’s history and the reasons which prompted as well as averted the possibilities of merger are obscured. Recent historical analysis, such as that contained in Parag Parobo’s book India’s First Democratic Revolution (2015), hint  that Bandodkar was not keen on merger after he tasted political success. Also, the initial demand for merger dates back to late 40s, much before Bandodkar came onto the political scene. Hence to nuance our understanding of the Opinion Poll, we need to shift away from the sources that only emphasize Bandodkar and Sequeira, and write a history from below.

I was recently recounted an anecdote of a volunteer conducting the proceedings of Opinion Poll in Curtorim. After the polling ended in the evening, the said volunteer visited a nearby cafe where he overheard a conversation between two Catholic gentlemen. One of them reportedly proclaimed that “if Goa gets merged with Maharashtra, I will not stay in Goa anymore. I will move to Bombay”.

It might seem ironic that, in order to escape the threatened merger with Maharashtra, he wanted to escape to a city that was now claimed to be an integral part of Maharashtra. The city of Bombay had become the capital of the newly formed state of Maharashtra in 1960. However, if we assume that it was not so much the merger with Maharashtra that the gentlemen wanted to escape, but the possibility of further marginalization in a Hindu dominated polity his claim begins to make more sense. For him, the cosmopolitan big city would have perhaps offered hope to escape Hindu dominance. But since the late ’60s, spurred by the logic of linguistic nationalism that organized Maharasthra as a Marathi state, cosmopolitan Bombay was also transforming to become the migrant hating ‘Mumbai’ claimed by the far right Hindu outfit Shiv Sena.

This situation illustrates how marginalized groups are compelled to compromise in order to negotiate their existence with a larger dominant community. Such compromises often come in the guise of political choices wherein, despite making a choice, the marginalized is destined to suffer. The Opinion Poll was one such compromise disguised as a ‘choice’. Whether to merge with Maharashtra or to remain as a Union territory were restricting choices. The Indian union never offered Goan citizens the possibilities of self determination. Instead, it obliged them to negotiate their political future within the narrow frames of Indian nationalism. This nationalism, which in hindsight has revealed itself as, in fact, Hindu nationalism has steadily led to the disenfranchisement of Goan Catholics as legitimate subjects of the republic. The recent berating of Catholics as lacking in Indianness due to their leadership of the demand for grants to English medium schools is evidence of such disenfranchisement

If the Goan Catholics wanted to escape Hindu majoritarianism by voting against the merger, the Hindu bahujans wanted to escape Brahminical dominance by opting for the merger. In retrospect we realize that just as evading merger wasn’t a remedy to escape Hindu majoritarianism, merging with Maharashtra wasn’t a solution to escape the Brahminical dominance. To escape either of these evils, one must challenge the dominant discourse of Indian nationalism which is inherently infused with Brahminical Hindu notions.

It is only in hindsight that one can feel relieved that Goa did not merge with Maharashtra and was saved from being party to the hyper-masculine Maratha nationalism. However, Goa is far from escaping the ills of Hindu majoritarianism and has seen several native forms of Hindu majoritarianism breeding in the state. One can cite the movement for the official recognition of Konkani wherein the cultural legitimacy of Romi Konkani and the Catholic communities which utilized this script were systematically marginalized as lacking in Indianness as an instance of Hindu majoritarianism at work.

The Opinion Poll could be seen as a mixed blessing; a choice for freedom and independence that was structured upon narrow linguistic nationalism – thus restricting the very freedom and independence that it promised. While we celebrate Opinion poll as a triumph, we should also be aware that it restricted the lives of many Goans.

(First published in The Goan Everday, dt: 19 January, 2016)

Whose Culture, Whose Ethos?

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There are times when one wishes Mr. Naguesh Karmali was right. A member of the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), Karmali was recently reported to have accused the Catholic Church of being out to suppress Indian culture and ethos, with this suppression being “much larger than the way Portuguese suppressed it in the 16th and 17th century”. This was naturally seen by many as reflective of the increasing anti-minority vituperation being spewed by members of the BBSM, and also as completely bizarre.

Because, what exactly is this Indian culture and ethos? India as a country is just 70 years old, very far from existence when the Portuguese conquered the Bijapuri port of Ela. But we are expected to believe that Indian culture and ethos existed despite this, since nationalist rhetoric of Karmali’s persuasion requires that the Portuguese suppressed them. What was this Indian culture? The culture of Bijapur? Or of the Catholics in 16th century Bardez? Or of the Velips in Sanguem? Or of the Dalit communities on the Canara coast? Or of the Garos of Meghalaya? The BBSM would like us to believe that South Asia was some monolithic Hindu region, when in fact there were hundreds, if not thousands, of very varied cultures here at that time.

Karmali was speaking in the context of the demand by Goan parents for salary grants from the government for primary schools with English as a medium of instruction; the BBSM accuses the Church of backing this demand. The reasoning of the BBSM (if one can call it that) is that despite its use in South Asia for at least two centuries now English is a foreign language. They do not seem to be aware that, being similarly born outside South Asia, this argument makes Sanskrit foreign as well.

What is even more important to note,however, is that the BBSM has not opposed private education in the English medium; their vituperation is reserved for government grants to English medium. In other words, asking for government support for English-medium education is against Indian culture and ethos, while patronising expensive private schools which function in the English medium, as is done by many rich and upper caste people of all faiths – including family-members of stalwarts of the BBSM itself – is apparently not.

And, in one sense, the BBSM is right. If rich and privileged caste children enjoy the right to posh education in English, giving them a skill vital to do well anywhere in today’s world, while Bahujan children are forced to learn in Nagri Konkani, which, being unable to support even one single newspaper, is certainly not a help in getting good jobs outside the miniscule number in the Goa government – what is this if not a continuation of the hierarchy of South Asia’s age-old caste system? Perhaps this is the aspect of culture and ethos that the BBSM would like to preserve – where knowledge and good earnings was the sole preserve of the brahmins and other dominant castes? For this would be certainly threatened if high quality English-medium education were to be subsidised by the government, and thus made available to all.

Let’s not forget that fluency in English is increasingly becoming second nature to everybody, especially in a place like Goa, thanks to its ubiquity all over the popular media. So upper caste children going to private schools will breeze through their studies, since they are learning in a familiar language. While Bahujan children – especially Catholics and Muslims, since Hindus escape to Marathi – will struggle and suffer, and begin to hate their studies, as they try to cope with the unfamiliar, recently-invented, and Sanskrit-inflected Nagri Konkani, foreign even to most Konkani-speakers in Goa. But isn’t this again part of the culture of caste – for upper castes to have an easy time, while the burden of ‘safeguarding culture’ falls on bahujan shoulders? And, as always, burdens which belong not to them but to the upper castes, especially the minuscule GSB community, for it is key figures from this community who are determined to force this baman bhasha down the throats of other Goans.

So yes, the Nagri Konkani project spearheaded currently by the BBSM is indeed deeply connected to South Asia’s culture and ethos of caste. Just as the English language is a threat to that culture and ethos, as has been pointed out sharply by the noted Dalit thinker and writer, Chandrabhan Prasad.

So we hope that the Catholic Church decides to prove the BBSM’s charge correct. The Church is in fact already responding positively to the egalitarian demands of FORCE, the parent organisation demanding English as a state-supported medium of instruction. But it would be great if it seriously took up cudgels against, not just the enforcement of the Nagri Konkani medium, but many other unpleasant aspects of contemporary Indian culture and ethos that are making life difficult for Catholics as well as the rest of us. Instead of backing the Nagri Konkani lobby, as it did in the past, in an unnecessary attempt to prove its ‘Indianness’.

See also, ‘The English Language and Denationalisation’, here.

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 14 January, 2016)

A response to ‘Archbishopancha Sermao’

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The Catholic communities in Goa have been at the receiving end of a vicious hate campaign spearheaded by the Bhartiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM). BBSM’s vocal activist Naguesh Karmali recently made a statement saying that the ‘Church is worse than the Portuguese’, while Uday Bhembre urged the ‘75% majority population of Goa to rise up against the domination of 25% minority’. Reflecting on this hate campaign against the Catholic communities, Archbishop of Goa, at the annual Christmas civic reception held at his palace, remarked that newer forms of intolerance can be seen in the state today which are polarizing the majority against the minorities. In response to this speech by the Archbishop, the resident editor of Marathi Daily Lokmat, Raju Nayak, wrote a special editorial titled ‘Archbishopancha Sermao’ (Archbishop’s Sermon dt. 30th Dec. 2015) which claimed to analyze the Archbishop’s speech as well as the Church’s role in the crafting of Goa’s secular fabric.

Nayak’s first complaint was over the Archbishop choosing to address the gathering in English. Nayak writes that there was no need for the Archbishop to speak in English as, except for the Governor Mridula Sinha, the rest of the guests at the reception were Goans. Thus, Nayak feels that the Archbishop could have spoken in an Indian language or Konkani [sic] as it would validate the ‘Indian’ness of the Church in Goa. Nayak is implying that English isn’t Indian, a position that largely stems from the Hindu majoritarian discourse that accepts only upper-caste Hindu cultural forms as Indian, and regards the rest as foreign. Such parochialism slyly suggests that the Church (and hence Goan Catholics) are lesser Indians for not abiding by the expectations set by the Hindu majoritarian discourse.

Nayak claims that the Goan Catholics have been abandoning Konkani from their households. He alleges that the Archdiocese and the Diocesan Society were never in favor of imparting education in Konkani. They were instead compelled to convert their schools to Konkani medium as a result of the uncompromising position taken by the then Education minister Shashikala Kakodkar on giving grants only to primary schools with vernacular languages as the Medium of Instruction; and adds that schools run by Diocesan society and Archdiocese have killed Konkani education [sic]. But Nayak must remember that the Goan Catholic communities were jn the forefront of the people’s struggle during the official language movement. That were it not for the support of the Catholic clergy, right from the 1960s, the very idea of Konkani education would have been a dream. Despite all of this, the demand of the Catholics for granting of official status to Romi Konkani has not yet been realised. If the Hindu Brahminical leadership within the Konkani camp hasn’t been receptive to this demand of Goan Catholics, why should the Catholics now feel any commitment towards shouldering the burden of ‘safeguarding’ an Antruzi and Nagari-scripted Konkani that is in fact foreign to them? Rather, the existent pro-Nagri Konkani groups should be left on their own to safeguard the language which they concocted up for their own benefit.

Nayak further exposes his communal biases by arguing that the queues to avail Portuguese citizenship would compel anyone to conclude that English education is not only inadequate to create ideal citizens, but is also responsible for the sin [sic] of creating a generation of selfish and narrow minded individuals who have no sense of belonging towards the [Indian] nation. By Nayak’s logic, all English-learning Indian citizens will be regarded as anti-nationals. Why single out the Goan Catholics? Nayak further adds that the Goan Catholics are ‘disrespecting the core values that define Goa and are turning their back on the Indian nation’. According to a recent report published in (dt 28th Dec 2015), 65% of individuals who availed Portuguese citizenship were Catholics while 25% were Muslims and 10% were Hindus. These statistics show that though the majority of those opting for Portuguese citizenship are Goan Catholics, a significant number of Muslisms and Hindus too are availing the Portuguese citizenship. Moreover, the queues to obtain Portuguese citizenship are not Church-sponsored initiatives as Nayak seems to suggest, but are surely a product of the dominant Hindu nationalist discourse. If members of a particular community are surrendering their Indian citizenship at an average rate of 6 persons per day, accusing the entire community of turning their back towards the nation is not going to resolve the situation. Instead, one must also assess the implications of Hindu nationalism which treats non-Hindus as misfits within the Indian nation.

In essence, Nayak’s article suggests that to fashion oneself as Indian, one must abide by the diktats set by the Hindu majoritarian discourse. Such positions are not very different from the hardline Hindutva professed by far right groups such as RSS and VHP. Such a stance not only subjects the minorities under constant validation against the majoritarian standards, it also denies the minorities the agency to make their own life choices. Nayak also expresses his concern over religious organisations posing a threat to Goa’s plural character. But by espousing the lines of soft Hindutva, Nayak seems to contradict with his concerns for plurality. Instead of berating Goan Catholics as unpatriotic, perhaps we need to broaden the definition of ‘Indian’ness to encompass cultures that are not necessarily Hindu.

(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 5 January, 2016)

Selected Passages from “Archbishopancha Sermao” by Raju Nayak (Translation by Kaustubh Naik)

Why did archbishop speak in English? Except the Governor Mridula Sinha, rest of the attendees at the gathering were Goans. Had the Archbishop addressed the gathering in an Indian language or in Konkani, it would’ve suited the occasion. Also, it would have validated the ‘Indian’ness of the Church. The reason why BBSM members are dissatisfied with the Church is due to the attitude of distancing itself away from Indianness exhibited by the Church. Church’s support to English medium schools as well as disregard towards local languages and cultures are results of such attitude. If the Catholic community had taught their kids in English medium schools and taught them Konkani or Indian languages at home, it would’ve been fine but the Catholics have been systematically erasing Konkani from their households.

Goan Church organizations say that this [support to English medium] is not related to the Higher orders of Church but we are merely under the pressure of Catholics as well Hindu majority for the same. But there is no iota of truth in such position taken by the Church. The truth is that the Diocesan and Archdiocese were demanding for English education since beginning. The decision to give grants to regional languages was taken under Shashikala government but these two organisations created many hurdles for the said policy. Finally, when they could not do anything to influence this grant policy, they obliged to run their schools in Konkani medium. However, they never implemented the Konkani medium and these institutions literally killed Konkani education. This wasn’t only a disrespect towards Konkani but contempt of the Indian constitution and a government decision. That parents want English education for their wards is a myth and it is only the senior priests and leaders within the Church who chiefly arguing for English education. As a result of this, we know what kind of citizens the church has created. If one sees the queues to avail Portuguese passport and citizenship, one can conclude that the English education is not only inadequate to create ideal citizens and skilled service class, but also responsible for the sin creating a generation of selfish, narrow minded individuals who have no sense of belonging towards the nation. Cunha referred to this attitude as ‘denationalisation’ because the Church strengthened the colonial power in Goa and continued a colonial legacy after that. Portuguese and other such religious groups not only robbed Goans of their ways of being but uprooted them completely. After Goa’s liberation, several cultural revivalist movements were taking shape that helped blooming of Goan identity but sadly, that too has been stifled and religious groups have been active in spewing venom. This is alarming and especially, church’s involvement in education is unpardonable. It has never so happened that the Archbishop has pulled the ears of his children who are planning to leave the country.

We have always respected the ‘Goemkar’ feeling that the Catholics have nurtured all these years. We have undoubtedly asserted that the Catholics are on forefront to safeguard Goa. When the Gram Sabhas have called out for ‘Saving Goa’, we have always championed their cause. But on the other hand, when the Catholic community is disrespecting the core values of Goa and turns its back towards the nation, we are deeply saddened and our heart mourns. This saddening should’ve been reflected in Archbhisop’s address who took the BBSM head on. Naguesh Karmali often become over-extremist. His nationalism is so narrow that it seems vicious and a hurdle to our plurality. But forces that hamper Goa’s vivid and plural character must be condemned. We can’t have second thoughts about it and Lokmat too has respected this need to condemn. BBSM’s agenda is political. Some interpret their ‘Bhartiya’ as only limited to Hindus but no one should doubt their commitment to safeguard Indian languages. In the wake of the sad state of political parties, minority appeasement and the overall depressive state of the society, must we sit quiet and witness Indian languages being sacrificed? Actually, even the Church should participate in this movement of shaping human beings. The Church is supporting the English medium schools whose agenda is to burry regional languages, especially Konkani, and this is known to everyone. Church shouldn’t forget this.

(First published on 30 December, 2015 in Lokmat (Goa Edition))

How to Read Monuments

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In her lecture titled ‘The Introduction to Ancient History’, delivered in August 2014, historian Romila Thapar – current D. D. Kosambi Chair at Goa University– suggested that there is a conceptual difference in imagining the past through historical monuments as compared to reading about them in historical texts. ‘Texts’ are abstract concepts, she explained, which must be ‘read’, their meaning understood, and only then can one locate their content in the historical context. In comparison to such abstraction, historical monuments have physical presence which can be seen, touched and felt. But one cannot simply visit a historical location and expect to be enlightened by the experience. An architectural appreciation of monuments requires meaningful engagement with their history and context. It is here that a well-researched guidebook can make a difference. One such book relevant to Goa is the recently released Portuguese Sea Forts: Goa, with Chaul, Korlai and Vasai (2015), by architectural historian Amita Kanekar.


In Goa, there seems to be a general disregard for, and the resultant mismanagement of, monuments, be they churches, temples, mosques or forts.There are many reasons for this, including the failure to see architecture as symbolic of specific colonial history, which is a point I shall return to. In the meantime, I’d like to suggest that what might help fill this lacuna is well-researched and accessible information about these monuments.


It is in this exact area that the Deccan Heritage Foundation, the publishers of Kanekar’s book, have identified their niche. They seem to bridge the gap between serious academic works and coffee table books, having commissioned established research scholars to produce popular guidebooks on the architectural heritage of the Deccan region. These books highlight the historical context of monuments while also being lavishly illustrated with photographs. This invariably helps in attracting readership, but also can help visitors to have a more informed engagement with the monuments.


Kanekar’s book is an effort to present a reliable historical narrative of the many Portuguese sea forts on the Arabian Sea coast of the Deccan, as well as the role of these structures in empire-building. This guidebook is not merely a pictorial one, but has a solid dose of history, both architectural and political, which helps the reader understand the role of these forts contextually.


In the introduction of the book, the author reminds us that “[t]he real Portuguese conquest was less of land than of sea-borne trade. Albuquerque is himself supposed to have reassured the Malabar ruler that the king of Portugal did not build forts to ‘take land’, but ‘to keep his goods and people secure’” along the coast (p.14). It is precisely because of the coastal nature of the Estado da Índia, that Goa’s cultural hybridity was further influenced. Kanekar points out that the Portuguese were never more than a small minority in the Estado enterprise. It becomes obvious, therefore, that most of those who manned the Estado ships, populated its towns, and fought in its armadas and militias, whether they were free or enslaved, might have been part-Portuguese, local Catholics, local non-Catholics, Deccanis, Bengalis or Asians and others of mixed backgrounds. This, Kanekar’s book posits, is still visible in the Luso-Arabic-East African-Asian traditions of the Roman Catholic communities living near forts of the erstwhile Estado today. Of the forts documented in the book, apart from those in Chaul, Korlai, and Vasai, the rest are located in Goa.


In terms of architectural appreciation, one of the important observations to be drawn from reading Kanekar’s book is that what sets the Portuguese sea forts of the Deccan apart is that they were designed with a special emphasis on geometry. While speaking at the launch of the book in December at the Goa Arts and Literary Festival, George Mitchell, another architectural historian and member of the Deccan Heritage Foundation, informed the audience that the other forts in the Deccan were different from the Portuguese ones, as they had high walls that skirted around the group of internal buildings, without much emphasis on geometric design. The Portuguese sea forts on the other hand, evolved with a special emphasis on geometry, explains Kanekar. Forts are essentially architecture of walls – articulated, elaborated and reinforced for the purpose of defence. However, the arrival of cannons in the fourteenth century resulted in a change in the design of forts, originating during the Italian Renaissance. Along with an emphasis on geometry, there was now a greater use of earth ramparts, ditches, and earth slopes. While appreciating the history of Portuguese forts that survive today in Goa and elsewhere, we must remember that they are distinctly European examples of offence and defence that were adapted for local conditions.


While the book is successful in describing the many forts it has featured in great detail, its limitation lies in the fact that it is a victim of its format as a guidebook. It is unable to give us the layered politics of forts in history, nor how these monuments (and other Portuguese period architectural heritage) are perceived by Goans in contemporary times. Take for example the way in which temples from colonial times have been completely modified or rebuilt as part of revisionist efforts to bring Goa in line with a perceived sense of an ‘authentic’ Hindu-Indian past. Where deliberate disregard allows for the erasure of history and its architectural markers, the vacuum is too readily filled with fabrications. Nevertheless, books like Kanekar’s are useful in underscoring the past in the face of dereliction.


(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 3 January, 2016)

The 2015 to be Grateful For!

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Gratitude is a way of affirming what we are thankful for. It can also be about putting the spotlight on what we need to take forward, about foregrounding repeat-worthy actions. Given that the end of the year is often a juncture when we take stock of the previous year, what did 2015 offer?


A feast for the eyes and ears through the surfeit of movies shot in Goa or partly in Goa that brought out the nuances of life in Goa and broke free of the traditional projection of Goa as a land of wine, women and song. Whether it was Nachum-ia-Kumpasar, or Enemy? or the remake of Nirmonn.



A set of strides at different paces, in the demand for dual citizenship for Goans that will unmuffle many a voice. Just now Goans migrating with Portuguese citizenship out of sheer compulsion, lose their voice back home. What failed to get addressed in 1975 can still be addressed now. History hasn’t ended, as Jason Keith Fernandes pointed out in a recent article. It can evolve and be shaped by the needs of the times.


A pickle of beef ban policies and new recipes on the politics of food. Nothing about our food, without our livelihoods. A politics of food where food cannot be conceived of if livelihoods are lost, where the food you eat or stock cannot be the basis for exterminating people or communities.


A resilience of local cultures that continue to be rooted and yet refuse to be bogged down by the dead wood of tradition or burnt out by the mass fertilisation of modernity.


A highlighting of the need for due process that came out of a certain realisation. If we let due process slip when it comes to appointments of friends to positions of power, the slope is steep and you slide away from the rule of law towards the dark abyss where the rule of might is right prevails.


A valiant struggle by the people of Goa to make sure that human rights defenders do not become an extinct species. Fr. Bismarque’s death in suspicious circumstances had various streams of people to ask: what, when, where, why, and how? Not to take anything for granted.

An affirmation that planning is not about adhocism and arbitrariness but a demand for putting in place proper frameworks within which the planning is evolved. So Government, chart the Town and Country Planning Act, on the drawing board of the Constitution of India, with due participation from all people. To borrow a phrase, nothing about us without us.


A call from the people of Tiracol blazing the quarta corrente (the fourth stream) of thought with their land struggles and working at teeing away the proposed golf courses into the history hole.


A conscious peoples’ effort to switch from Swachh Bharat to Sustainable India, where cleanliness is not measured by the spectacle of a Prime Minister and government functionaries sweeping, but by possibilities of land adjoining the houses for the construction of toilets and maintenance of hygiene. Also grateful for a naming of issues so people’s concerns are not swept under the carpet.


To people of the fourth estate who did not stop at exposing the acts of sexual harassment by people in public office, but turned inwards to interrogate the acts of their colleagues. It prompted the Collector to query the media establishments on their compliance of setting up Internal Complaints Committees under the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2005.


To colleagues who did not simply lap up what seemed like a shifting of the trial courts at Panjim, to swank and comfortable premises at the Complex ‘Spaces” at Patto Plaza, but sought to put the lid on the stinking transaction.


To the National Green Tribunal for halting the progress of destruction of Goa’s environment.


To the Supreme Court of India for standing out as an arbiter in dark times. Section 66A of the Information Technology Act was being used to silence free speech even as hate speech was being wantonly encouraged. The Supreme Court declared section 66A unconstitutional. Further, a Constitutional Amendment had proposed the appointment of a National Judicial Appointments Commission for selection of Supreme Court Judges. This would have dissipated the doctrine of separation of powers. The Supreme Court declared this Amendment unconstitutional.


To all who stood up to the challenge posed by the State to the freedom of speech and expression in no uncertain and wishy-washy terms, and interrogated the imposition of Section 144 Cr.P.C. in the name of curbing national embarrassment.


For the range of sincere, untiring and maligned activists who dot the villages and cities of Goa, and hopefully on connecting the dots, new worlds will birth and berth.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 31 December, 2015)