On Goan Culture

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By ROBERT S. NEWMAN

 

I’ve always liked Indian pudding.  This is a sweet cornmeal dessert often served with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It does not hail from the subcontinent, but rather descends from Native American cuisine.  I also like bagels, originally from Eastern Europe, but am not a great fan of pizza, from Italy or of American Chinese food, though it has its moments.  “Soul food” is just another term for African-derived cooking, found throughout the South and often beyond.  American food encompasses a lot more, including tacos and burritos, clam chowder, apple pie, and of course hamburgers and hotdogs.  When people eat any of these items, do they think in some hyphenated way as in “Italian-American”, “Chinese-American” ?  No, I would argue, they don’t categorize their food very often, they just eat it.  If they think about it at all, they would think, “Yes, I’m American so I eat American food.  All those things are what we eat.”

 

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How to Read Monuments

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

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.

 

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Car-Free City!

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

Indisciplined parking and a substantial increase in the numbers and sizes of cars have resulted in the choking of streets in most Goan cities. The result of which is that there is hardly any room for pedestrians. In Panjim, pedestrians have been further strained by the new plan for one-way vehicular movement, which has led to an increase in vehicular speeds, making it dangerous for pedestrians to cross roads. In ideal cities the pedestrians are supposed to rule the road, but in our cities they are forced to risk life and limb every time they step on the street.

 

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“What is the City but the People?”

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

The quote above from the Shakespearean tragedy Coriolanus aptly sums the problem in envisioning the future of Panjim today. While hectic activity is afloat to garner ‘opinions’ of what needs to be done to make the capital a Smart City, one wonders if we have forgotten the meaning of ‘smart’ today, or for that matter what is meant by a ‘city’ itself.

 

The biggest problem of the ‘smart city movement,’ is that the promoters of such an approach tend to repackage the city in a generic global form without understanding the historical significance of the existing city (both the form and the people). The Smart City concept largely harps on using digital technologies to supposedly improve the quality and the performance of urban services. The issue is really which services? They normally mean roads, flyovers, parking, digital communication, etc, while what we in Panjim actually need are services like mass housing, wider pavements, barrier-free designs, shaded pedestrian pathways, reliable public transportation, and so forth.

 

Speaking at the event of a high level meeting on smart cities, organized by the European Union in Brussels in September 2014, architect and professor Rem Koolhas pointed that in the projection of the smart city concept, values of liberty, equality, and fraternity have been replaced by comfort, security, and sustainability. These values that the Smart City movement promotes are clearly of contemporary upwardly mobile and elite groups today. Reinforcing these values will have serious consequences for the poor who do not have access to ‘smart’ resources. As I have reflected in earlier columns, Goa is already facing the onslaught of the demands of elite groups that use Goa as a pleasure periphery and a getaway from the problems of India. It should not be that rather than addressing the livelihood issues of locals, the Smart City concept with its pro-elite values becomes just one more vehicle for appropriation of the city from the locals. In her article Is India’s 100 smart cities project a recipe for social apartheid? (The Guardian, 7 May 2015), Shruti Ravindran highlighted similar concerns. Ravindran questions whether the emergence of hi-tech prototype cities in India will override local laws and use surveillance to “keep out” the poor. One of the first designated smart cities in India is the Gujarat International Financial Tec-city (GIFT), in Gandhinagar. Ravindran notes that the beating heart of GIFT is its “command and control centre”, which keeps traffic moving smoothly and monitors every building through a network of CCTVs. She observes that in the country where more than 300 million people live without electricity, and twice as many don’t have access to toilets, GIFT city’s towers are like hyperthrophic castles in the sky.

 

The entrepreneurs of digital technologies have made the city their domain especially by referring these designated cities as ‘smart.’Often unnoticed is the fact that the metaphor of ‘smart’ in the concept of the smart city evokes the smart phone as a comparison for the development of the city. Such an approach is problematic, for it renders the city as a commodity, and a ‘generational’ one at that. This is how one thinks of technological developments, where preference is given to new generations of phones and computers, and the trashing of older generations.Rather than working with something, the existing object is rendered obsolete even before its time in favour of something shinier and newer.Following this logic, just because Panjim is designated as ‘smart’, are the rest of the cities in Goa condemned to being stupid?!

 

What is the need of the hour is the concept of ‘good city’. The good city is the ultimate memorial of our struggles and glories: where the pride of the past is set on display (Kostof:1991, p.16). The pride of Panjim as in other cities of Goa lies in the architecture of the city: in terms of the scale, the extrovert forms of the buildings, their unique architectural styles, and the sheltered spaces for pedestrians. We therefore must show extreme sensitivity in managing these assets and initiating pro-public and egalitarian infrastructural development. The city of cannot be designated as smart global city merely to push newer developments that do not pay respect to the historical context. Instead what we need is to build on Panjim’s past to make it even more open, accessible and friendly to its people.

 

(First published in The Goan Everyday, dt: 8 November, 2015)

The Hypocrisy of Goa’s Protesting Awardees

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By JASON KEITH FERNANDES, DALE LUIS MENEZES,

AMITA KANEKAR, VISHVESH KANDOLKAR, and KAUSTUBH NAIK

 

In the context of a number of Sahitya Akademi awardees across India returning their respective awards in protest against the growing intolerance in India, in Goa around fourteen Sahitya Akademi awardees together with Padmashri awardees Maria Aurora Couto and Amitav Ghosh came together and issued a joint statement on 15 October, 2015. One would be struck by the hypocrisy contained in their press note released were it not for the fact that their politics of intolerance is so blatantly displayed all over the same note.

 

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‘CASI-NO’: Graffiti as Public Art

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

The word “CASI-NO” is painted on a wall next to the Panjim-Betim ferry bus-stop in the capital. This is not the only location where the graffiti exists. The choice of the ferry wall in the city seems to be an excellent location for the purpose of any protest art. But considering the context, it is surprising that this stenciled piece of art continues to sit right under the nose of the giant casinos which it is opposing. This piece of graffiti is an example of public art and more such works are needed to reclaim the public space from the unabashed domination and bombardment of consumerist commercial hoardings and signage.

 

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The Rise of the Villament: The New Investment Buzzword That Will Hit Goa

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

Villament has already become a buzzword in Bangalore’s real estate lexicon (Anshul Dhamija, TOI: 2011). It is a concept that is gaining popularity, writes Dhamija, with those who want the luxury of a villa and yet crave the comfort and convenience an apartment affords. A villament is a large duplex apartment, usually with a double-height living room, large balconies and, most importantly, a terrace with a garden which gives the feeling that one is on the ground despite living in a high-rise building. Although the Goan real estate market is still rife with villas and apartments as separate building types, one can wager that the arrival of villaments is not too far off.

 

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Fala Farsi? Notes on Multi-Lingual Practices for Goa

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES & VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

The indefinite hunger strike of Savio Lopes and members of Forum for Rights of Children to Education (FORCE) for government grants to English as Medium of Instruction (MoI) have exposed the shallow and undemocratic language politics – under the guise of ‘mother tongue’, ‘Goan identity’, ‘Konkani’, ‘Marathi’, etc – in Goa. While arguing for a robust multi-lingual outlook as well, we would like to open up the conversation to a host of other languages that Goans can profitably engage with.

 

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Charles Correa: The Nehruvian Architect

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

Writing in The Guardian (19 June, 2015), architectural historian Joseph Rykwert hails Charles Correa as the “premier architect of India whose authentic modernity superseded stale colonial imports.”  Of the many tributes that have followed Correa’s passing away, Rykwert’s seems most problematic. Nonetheless, it allows us to reflect on the nature of Correa’s work.

 

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Local Identity, Global Architecture

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By VISHVESH KANDOLKAR

 

A thorny question faces a number of parishes in Goa where the congregation has outgrown the existing churches. Some are more than willing to tear down, or drastically modify, their old churches to build bigger ones. Others are horrified at such proposals and argue that these churches, like the one in Nuvem, are part of the unique architectural heritage of Goa.

 

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