FINDING BALANCE IN A CHANGING GOA
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa
Elections are all about numbers – data, statistics, analysis. The number of votes collected determines who will be the winner. In a multi-faceted contest, the contestant with the most votes is declared the winner. It is not necessary to obtain the majority of the votes, that is to say to obtain 50% or more of the votes in the constituency or of the votes received. But are elections only about numbers? It is not possible because there is human involvement and that is what makes the difference. It is never easy to know how a people will vote, especially in Goa. Besides, can the inhabitants of Goa really be grouped into a single entity, which thinks the same way? No people in any state can, and certainly not the Goans.
Let’s look at how many different Goas could make up the state. There is the postcard Goa of sun and sand beaches that attracts eyeballs across the world and the Goa of gaping mining pits and mountains of rejected ore. There’s the Goan of reddened ‘vindaloo’ and blackened coffee plates served in beach shacks and the Goan of patal bhaji with mirchi and fish curry rice served in the village cafe. There is the Goa of rave parties and electronic dance music festivals where tourists flock and the Goa of zatra temples and church parties where locals celebrate. There is the Goa of super highways that will get you to your destination in minutes and the Goa of slow ferryboats and long winding queues of vehicles waiting their turn. There is the Goa of gated complexes and high-rise buildings which are small enclaves in a bustling neighborhood and the Goa of quaint tile-roofed houses with pretty gardens in front of them where neighbors talk over the low fence of the garden. There is the Goa of rap music, psychedelic lights, night parties with deafening sound that makes speech difficult and the Goa of fugddi, dhalo, mando with languorous conversations under the moonlight sitting on the angan. There is the Goa of brightly lit offshore casinos where dice are rolled on green felt and the Goa of football pitches where the ball is tossed on the green grass of barren rice paddies.
Which of these Goa is the real one? Is it Destination Goa that is being promoted across the country and the world that is the real Goa? The Goa that the tourist sees and experiences, whether racing fast across the state or on a leisurely vacation soaking up the sun on the beaches. Or is the slow-paced Goa of nostalgic memories still ensconced in the countryside that is the real Goa? The Goa that the original residents of the state who toil on the same sand have come to love and claim as their own. Better yet, is any of them the real Goa or is our land an amalgamation of all of these and many more that make this compact strip of red earth so beloved by its inhabitants, admired by others and perhaps envied by some?
As the call goes out to save Goa this February 14 – and there have been many such calls – which of these Goas do we want to save and for whom? Essentially, what, not who, will Goa vote for? Just shrug your shoulders at this question. There’s no way that crunching the numbers can give any idea of how an election will turn out. Each voter has their own reason for choosing a particular candidate or party. Also, there are so many different Goas.
Yet all of these Goas blend together almost effortlessly to make the land what it is today and its people what they are and have become. They can all be so different, but they’re all so similar too. All of these Goas together create the identity that Goans once claimed as unique and which still remains so. What other state can claim such diversity in such a small area wedged between the Arabian Sea and the Sahayadri mountain range? This diversity is best seen when reflected in the campaign for an election and will be confirmed when the votes are counted as all people, who identify with the Goa with which they are most comfortable, will vote for the candidate and party of their choice. , and one way or another, except on rare occasions, the ballot takes a particular direction. There may be nine parties and 301 candidates for 40 seats, but the result will show the binding agreement that exists in everyone’s mind, but no one knows which direction it will go.
Goa this election stands ready at a crossroads, pausing for the moment to consider where the path it is taking will lead. He has a week to think about the choices and decide. When he votes, will he need the state and the people to push forward the change of Destination Goa, or will he go the other way and try to salvage what he can, or merge all the Goas into an acceptable fusion of one land and one inevitable people? In a changing scenario, where there can be no speed bumps on the development highway, Goa must merge the best of all worlds to make it happen.
From the perspective of six decades ago, when Goa was liberated from colonial rule, the land has changed, as have the people, whose aspirations are very different from those of the Goans of the 1960s and 1970s. Vivid Mandovi and Zuari may have diluted the strong positions that most Goans once took on the issues. Goa has changed since that time until today. From a largely agrarian economy where the people had all been local residents for centuries, it has become increasingly cosmopolitan, leaning heavily towards the service industry to keep the economy going. The cultural identity of Goa has been impregnated with others and changing times to enrich itself, but when it goes to vote, it must measure the consequences of too much change and find the balance.
Alexandre Moniz Barbosa is Editor-in-Chief, Herald. He tweets at @monizbarbosa