In Goa for ‘THiNK’, the coming together of people from across the globe with ideas to share. As this union territory, a wonderful patchwork of idyllic looking villages, grows into a haven for those wanting to escape the horror of Indian metropolitan cities, its special texture and character are beginning to change. On the surface, concrete blocks of apartments are damaging the landscape. There seems to be no adherence to any architectural norm, and the new aesthetic, box-like with glass and concrete, seems to have no connection with the old and traditional Goa and its special mixture of faiths and cultures. Traits such as the use of wonderful colours — blue, yellow, grey and beige — on the façades and walls of private villas, interspersed with the stark and pure white of the churches that dominate each village and town, tiles and terrazzo on the floors, shell windows to welcome dappled light, family pictures hanging from the ceilings, benches under the front porch so that residents can sit and watch the world go by, are starting to be replaced by cold and characterless living spaces.
Yet a new energy is palpable in all of this. A young generation, in its twenties and thirties, is returning to its unusual roots, attempting to restore the cultural ethos that made Goa different and hugely attractive. It is the ‘new’ hippie, unconventional and creative, who is now a member of the tribe of entrepreneurs and activists that is determined to conserve Goa. A young woman, Sacha Mendes, has a delightful shop in Panjim. She describes herself on her visiting card in the following manner: “stylist + shopkeeper”. There was a time when none wanted to be referred to as a ‘shopkeeper’. A new word was coined: ‘designer + boutique-owner’. This insecurity has given way to an infectious confidence.
An unexpected but similar situation unfolded in Thimphu, Bhutan, where a young woman had conceived of and designed a bookshop that grabbed our attention as we were wandering through the inner lanes of a market. Nothing is more exhilarating than witnessing the passing of the baton to young entrepreneurs who are comfortable balancing modernity and tradition.
On the other side of the coin, the ‘social politics’ that has invaded and debased Delhi has begun to intrude upon quiet and languid Goa. Fierce, polarized positions are being adopted on every issue. Value judgments are rigid, discouraging discourse or consensus. An arrogant, superficial and immature veneer is defined as ‘local activism’. The activist is ‘right’ and everyone else is ‘wrong’. Such an attitude drives away a large section of the people from the cause, sooner than later, thereby diluting the movement. Those who live in this slice of sheer beauty must conserve its ethos and aesthetics and abide by the societal rules that have governed its unmatched environment through centuries. The unthinking superimposition of alien norms and practices will mutilate the cultures and intangible ethos that make places like Goa unique.
I turned on the television to check the news about nature’s attack on the eastern coast of the United States of America and the devastation that it has brought upon the people living there. I came across the vile and disgusting speech of Narendra Modi that has reduced him to the level of an uncivilized individual who is devoid of any semblance of culture and dignity. He seems to be endorsing the debased politics that has overwhelmed India. Is this kind of abuse and personal attack the legacy that we would like to leave behind for the generations that will follow? Surely the men in the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Jaswant Singhs, L.K. Advanis and others, must have been appalled by Modi’s act.