After almost two years, this week’s newsletter is my farewell missive, so I suppose I should go out in coruscating style.
It has been an extraordinary time living in Goa, a place I first visited more than 25 years ago, a fact that I tried to deny for all the time I lived there. Of course, things had changed, but so had I; there was no point in looking back.
But towards the end of my stay that was all I was doing. I missed the tranquility, the lack of cars, the clean and empty beaches and the easy interaction with local people. I wanted my old Goa back, not this Modern Goa that was moving so quickly and destroying itself.
Naturally, Goa isn’t like the rest of India. My family and I visited some extraordinary places such as Sikkim, Darjeeling and Dharamsala that were still as pure as the first waters of the Himalayas. That beauty hadn’t been despoiled.
Goa, however, had and it was probably the fault of the earlier travellers such as myself, young and dumb; looking for a party.
When a Goan teenager realised that he could make more money in a day working with tourists than his fisherman-father made in a month, it was no surprise he dropped out of school and failed to complete his education.
There is nothing worse than ill-educated people with power, so the consequent rise of gangs in North Goa in Chapora, Vagator, Calangute and Anjuna who vied with each other to put on ‘raves’ led to the present state of non-governance where nobody knows who the power really lies with.
The Police are obvious targets. Rapes and high-profile murders made them look like bungling idiots who were in cahoots with goondas and politicans. Some of this is well-founded, but a recent experience of a near-lynching changed my mind about that. They really are trying to clean up the state. I’ve met them, it’s true.
It may take some time. There are some great people in Goa. The community I was part of (my ex-pets as I now like to call them) included some amazing people from all over the world, from Goa and other parts of India.
But here is a huge underswell of resentment against ‘foreigners’ who have settled in Goa and it is the under-educated who are responsible. Talk about biting the fucking hand of people who have fed you.
Again, nobody knows who to turn to. I know of people who have to pay bribes for ANY transaction they make and it is the local panchyat (village-leader) who is to blame. One personally oversaw the beating-up of a friend because his business was doing so well. I spit on their graves.
As for the politicians, there are not enough words in any language to describe their involvement in the disgrace of Goa. Every time I saw yet another tanker bringing iron ore up the river it was like watching a rape take place. They’re all on the make, all taking bribes, all responsible.
In my time there I wrote a piece about the ‘Golden Age of Goa’ for the Times of India but I take it all back. It is not a Golden Age, it is more like the Stone Age. Actually, the amount of garbage strewn around makes it even more primitive than that.
So, sitting in my friend’s safe European home after leaving Goa three days ago I will probably come back some time, not for the place, but for the people; my friends.
I’ll be reading the papers and staying in touch, but like feelings for an ex-girlfriend, I have no love left for Goa, no love left at all.