Monday, March 10, 2014

The Goan Paradies

When external agents such as wind and water remove soil and rock from the surface of the earth we call it erosion. There are different types, splash, gully, sheet…. Geography explains this for us.  But what geography fails to recognize, are the new kinds of erosion that are getting added to the list, erosion of the culture and values of a place, of course not geographically but through a much more tedious process -  the  growing ignorance of the human mind.


That ignorance was hogging the limelight when I visited home this one more time. As I took in the salty fragrance of the sea shore and felt the comforting breeze from the swaying palm brush against my face, I knew I was home. But then I made my first mistake – to open my eyes. The sight that greeted me pushed away that feeling of being home away into oblivion. Its place was taken by horror as I painfully watched the glittering sands losing its sheen as the piling mount of Bacardi bottles hid their rendezvous with the sun and screwed my face to the ghutka flavours that now adorned the squeaky clean streets. Yes, erosion was in its best form in the tiny state of Goa.

However short this trip was, I meant to travel. Reacquaint myself with the beaches I grew up along and explore what I could of the coast line – All that was my childhood and all that so many across the country create a hullabaloo about.  This was the second mistake I made.

Was it Miramar and Colva or Chowpatti that I visited? It was hard to make them out anymore. Covered with people all over, if there were no feet, the space was covered with litter. From the corner of my eye I could see the locals shying away from the crowds and enjoying a quiet moment along the outskirts of one beach, but at others they were driven away completely.

Russian menu boards are a common sight
(www.goan-net.com)
Tourists dared the savaging high tide waters, turning a deaf ear to the warning calls from the lifeguards. After much fun, dipping around, the sight changed over to the public toilets. Clad in towels and accessorized with beer bottles, there were people everywhere, trying to wash of the sands from their bodies but ignoring the filth they created all around. But what stood out the most, to etch more horror on to my mind was watching a five year old inch into the deep waters completely unaware of the dangers that lay ahead. After all, he was but a child… born to ignorant parents who just looked on. It took five desperate warnings from the guard to make the father lift his lazy behind and make his son return. Five calls where there should have been none. Waters, be they Goan or any other, need to be respected and feared. As much as they soothe and calm the soul, they can turn the fury on and swallow you down. A simple fact usually ignored. Lady luck had been sitting right next to those parents, only if they knew enough to appreciate her presence. That day the water looked angry and not as serene and friendly as I remembered it to be. Was it the growing disrespect that had come its way that made it so? I can only imagine but truly never know. I looked away, that was all I could do.

Then I committed the third and probably the worst mistake of all. I decided to discover the Anjuna Flee Flea market. As we crossed Saligao and headed towards Anjuna, it felt like entering a different world. The Goa I had always known seemed to be left behind, and the Goa I saw emerge was nothing but new to me. More than locals, I came across foreigners on the roads, in the cars next to us and all around. No they weren’t tourists, not anymore. We had slipped into that role. As we drove around in those areas, we came across shacks which the Goan beaches are known for. But these were different, on the boards outside each shack the menu was written in English, and Russian. Yes, you read me right. If only it had stopped there.

Anjuna Flea Market
(www.siliconindia.com)
We finally reached the flea market, the anticipation which had tapered down, suddenly shot up. I had heard about the origin of the market from my uncles and aunts, the bazaar that took place when home bound foreign tourists would sell the stuff they couldn't take along for the lack of space or money. With that image in mind, I entered the hustle and bustle. The market was huge and the stalls countless. I strained my eyes but found it hard to find any tourist selling their wares, instead there were tribal’s from “they-only-know-where” to be seen all around. Slightly dampened but nevertheless eager we waded through the shops only to experience what it must feel like to be an outcast in life. It was not just us; anybody with a slightly brown skin was ignored. However politely we spoke to the hawkers, we were ignored. If any of us were privileged enough to receive their attention it was to be glared at or be cursed. Most domestic tourists seemed unmindful of the treatment meted out to them but then they were too busy enjoying their new found “freedom”. Only the white skin was welcome with greetings written as well as spoken in Russian. It was a shocking experience, watching the tribal's speak fluent Russian and accented English as they sold tiny figurines worth no more than Rs 300 for thousands of rupees. No wonder we were not wanted. There were a few locals who managed a few stalls, all giving us helpless looks when asked about what was going on. To cut a long story short, we were the strangers and heavily outnumbered.

Subdued but angry I returned home to the news of illegal encroachments on beaches by hotels and illegal purchases of land by celebrities. Real estate honchos gaining back door entry to build their “villas with a serene and majestic view” without any consideration for the landscape that provided the serenity or hotel chains illegally claiming land and beaches within no development zones - It wasn't a particularly bright day.

Erosion it was, of a beautiful place known for its squeaky clean beaches and abundance of nature. Erosion it was, of the the respect it ought to be given and of the culture inherent to the place. Erosion it was, of its soul and mere existence.

Random incidents these; but all adding up to a rather worrying future – one that is being created not only by ignorant tourists but also by greedy politicians and illegal immigrants. There is a lot being said and beaten around on this topic, but while the debates and discussions exhale the frustrations built within, Goa continues to be smothered. While we spare a few moments here and there to wonder over the ifs and buts, the condition of the state deteriorates, hoping for relief but losing the race.

My vacation was finally over and I headed back to Bangalore with heaviness in my heart and a wave of homesickness washing me over. Nauseated by all that I had seen, I now worried about what would await me the next time I went home. How fast would its identity fade away? Would I transform into a stranger in my own home?

I left Goa, knowing I would be missing a lot more than just my family while I was away. 

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55 comments:

  1. It's the dark side of tourism isn't it ? If it was up to me, I'd make every tourist undergo an orientation before they set foot in any location. IT's not enough to pay heed to their customs and traditions, but also keep the environment intact as it is meant to be. Sadly I've never been to Goa (yes, people like me still exist) due to various things always coming up at the wrong time. But I can understand how it feels. Let's hope future generations can still see the natural beauty that our country and the world has to offer in its truest form.

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    1. Absolutely and like you said its probably true of most tourists places... right now the way things are going not much will be left for the next generation :|

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  2. Sad to learn of this wanton destruction of this beautiful gift of nature. Commercial tourism is indeed a bane. I had been to Goa couple of years back - looked ok to me maybe because I have not seen how it was earlier or I am not observant enough.

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    1. Oh its bad, and politicians are equally to blame for the current situation... like you said if you were able to observe it over the years you would know how the state is deteriorating.... esp. being a local I can see it at its gory best

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  3. Nice pun on the word paradise seeta... I havent been to Goa yet.. but all I've heard from people in last few years is goa isnt same anymore, plan someplace else!! This is true for all tourist places that were must-visit 10-15 years back...

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    1. No it isn't and I hate to say it many of those people are responsible for it as well...

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  4. This is sad. Although I don't hail from Goa, I wasn't impressed by it when I visited it twice in last couple of years. Unfortunately, my friends and family are mesmerized by this erosion....may be it's because we haven't seen the real Goa as you have mentioned!

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    1. Goa does tend to make many feel like they are in another world... which is great and exactly what the place has to offer.. but it doesn't mean the place should be disrespected right??..... thanks for stopping by Pankti :)

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  5. You know, Seeta! I have been going to Goa for many years now, mostly the pristine South Goa beaches. Last year, April, we decided to go to the happening North Goa beaches. And I was taken aback. I felt like an outsider in my own country. It is teeming with Russians. Like you mentioned, the menus, the shop names, signboards are in Russian. Is it a systematic takeover of the place? And the beaches are so dirty with half naked men and women prancing. I saw a foreigner breastfeeding her baby, topless. My kids started gawking. I mean, what is this rubbish? The shopkeepers also suck up to foreigners and ignore Indians. Tourism has completely spoiled Goa, sadly. Yes, I went to Anjuna flea market and while coming back had to pay a hefty sum for a cab, were totally fleeced. I understand your pain. I hope Goa administration does something. Some locals I spoke to said their kids are taking to gambling and drinking due to the influence of foreigners.

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    1. Thats the state all over Rachna.. its really sad.. actually there is so much to see in Goa beyond beaches,.... i think I should pen it down one day.. and about the takeover.. yes it sort of is... i'll do some more reading on it and try and work it into a post...

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  6. It makes for very discouraging reading. I have never been to Goa and had such a beautiful image of it in my mind ..

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    1. Too much of anything is not good.... its still a beautiful place, just that people need to learn to respect it a lil more...

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  7. I visited North Goa once and that was enough for me!

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    1. North is infested with the foreigners.. south is relatively better.. its a sad thing you know.. people are attracted for that natural beauty.. but that very beauty gets tainted with the excessive flow of admirers :|

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  8. Can feel your pain clouding over your nostalgia. What means home to us is very precious, and being 'sullied' by foreign influences - cultural, physical or emotional - will hurt. Like how you use 'erosion'.
    Well-written!

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    1. True.. you would feel it too right? I am sure Dehradun must be experiencing similar episodes... having seen Goa as I have, it hurts all the more....

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  9. Completely agree with what you've written.. I have been to Goa only once but could see the stark difference between regions, the influx of foreigners who have almost taken over the place... Sad..

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    1. Yup and its getting out of control..

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  10. Very sad to read this. But then this is bound to happen when place gets developed as tourists spot. Have seen changes in Goa very closely. Feel very sad about it. I would like to share my recent personal experience of another fastest developing tourist spot. I was in shock when I visited Ganapatipule Beach, The beach was full of tourists, Various types of Water sports were available. I spotted Chat counters, Gola counters and what not.. I thought as if I was visiting a beach in Mumbai. Now it has become more of a tourist place than a religious place in the time gap of 7 years. 7 years ago (when we visited after my Board exams) the same place was very clean and neat and only few people were there. The changes due to tourism are really shocking.

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    1. Absolutely! its bound to happen.. Didn't know Ganapatipule had also commercialized... too much of anything is bad :(

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  11. Tragic. Truly Goa goa gone.... :(
    Precisely the reason why I have stopped holidaying in Goa since the past decade. Hate to be looked down upon in my own country.

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    1. I understand your feeling completely... Its my hometown so i go back, each time to a slightly more worn out Goa

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  12. I can relate to the pain that is found in this post. Inspite of not hailing from Goa, it irks me to see the tourists, dirt and the influx of Russians and I can imagine how you would be feeling being a resident. The South seems relatively calmer and cleaner and I guess I should not complain snce I live here. I haven't been to the North much but the little of what I have seen makes me cringe with displeasure. My husband and I find it quite amusing and irritating in equal measures to watch the behaviour of tourists who seem to have nil respect for the place and people. Speeding on the highway, drunken driving, ogling at locals, and what not. Insptite of everything, I like living there.

    Seeta, we did not meet :(

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    1. I knew you would relate to this Susan... I so know what you mean about feeling amused and irritated in equal measures..

      Btw, really sorry about not being able to meet. had been home after 6 months, so there were too many personal appointments to keep :| Next time i'll plan it better so that we can catch up :)

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  13. with so much industrial revolution,globalisation,economic reforms,its a very big task for people to stick to basics or to their roots which defines their original culture.people are easy going,so on any day they can give up values or morals for comfort and money.

    this erosion happens to every city and every place in india,but the erosion is lil bit low when it comes to chennai.when i was in adyar,chennai..there was classical music and dance school opposite my apartment and loreal studio behind my apartment.i used to watch many young girls still learning classical music and dance ,its a beautiful sight when you look at people sticking to their culture.many people say that its very difficult to survive in chennai coz they speak only tamil and they are narrow minded..actually tamil people want to preserve their culture and they don't want migrants to invade their culture or lives.being a telugu guy,i appreciate chennai more than hyderabad coz there is lot of peace and discipline in chennai compared to hyderabad.

    in hyderabad,you don't find any trace of my culture,its just english and hindi speaking drunkard hooligans.i dunno whats wrong with people,they feel shy to speak in telugu and they converse in english even if the guy knows telugu.in india,whenever someone does wrong and when you confront him/her, they think that speaking in english will undo their mistake.when i go to imax to watch a movie,i find english speaking hooligans who even dunno how to sit in their seat or what cinema etiquette is.they think flashing iphones and ipads makes them superior though they have hooligan character.hmm am not a oldie but a 25yr old like them,but my parents never taught me to behave such a way. i think parents of this generation are highly corrupt in every aspect of life and they blindly dream of better india or CHANGE IN INDIA..

    every educated knows why uttarakhand tragedy happened and its resultant of doing things against nature.going against human nature or any nature will only bring sadness and tragedy into people lives. anyways people are going to become worse and they are not going to change.i can give simple example how people changed drastically in the name of development.

    when i was kid,there were no multiplexes in hyderabad,i used to watch in single screen theatre in hyderabad and it was peaceful experience.today we have lot of multiplexes in the name of development but movie experience is disgusting and scary coz multiplexes are filled with english speaking mannerless flashy hooligans.

    people say climate change or asteroid hit will end this world but its not true,this world will end coz of characterless people.

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    1. That's a very interesting perspective and one that I agree with. Having lived in Chennai, I have also found it to be a beautiful place unlike what people who have never been there think. And you are right, at first glance it might seem like Chennaites push you away but all they are doing is preserving their culture, something that we have failed to do.

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    2. hey,i do like writing on any social issue or anything which tests one's intellect.your blog provides me topics to express myself better. :-) hmm i appreciate your approach.

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  14. I felt really sad reading this, and I feel the same for Hyderabad too. There are tall and ugly glass buildings, so many cars, people being impatient, pizzas and burgers and what not all eroding what the city used to be.

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    1. Interesting the comment above echoes similar thoughts as you... looks like most Hyderabadis share the same feeling Karthik.

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  15. very nice post on giving a perspective on growth of ultra modern society. The modern developments have led to the death of our natural and beautiful history of our cities.
    Keep writing.

    Catch me on my creative space: http://poemsshortstories.blogspot.in/

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  16. Unfortunate tale told beautifully. I can feel your pain. I felt the same when I went to Nainital and Mussoorie, my childhood holiday destinations. Kurkure wrappers strewn all around, smell of smoke, loss of green cover, lack of cleanliness.... Hurts real bad.

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    1. I guess its true for all tourists destinations.. the reason they are known for cause their downfall :(

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  17. OMG! That was such a disappointing thing to read. I visited Goa more than a decade back, after reading this I am not sure if I want to visit. :(

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    1. Oh no, Goa is still a place to visit, just that it cries for better treatment and some respect.

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  18. I had been to Goa in 2007, 2008 and then last month. There's been vast difference from the Goa I saw back then. It seems, it's the same case with almost all tourist destinations. People do not think twice before throwing an empty Bisleri bottle, a beer can or a Lays Chips packet anywhere in the city. Isn't that because they consider it as 'not their place'. And about the 5 year old kid and his parents, there are plenty of such people who do not value the luck that they have had so far. I am just praying that she be with them always considering how ignorant or irresponsible they are.

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    1. You would have seen how it has progressively deteriorated.. I come across so many such parents, it hurts to see the child's plight :( Infact just today, in my own apartment I came across a 4 year old taking the lift alone.. his mum had sent him to play outside.. he was totally oblivious of the doors closing, thankfully I was around to hold them open for him and help him go down.

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  19. Very well written, Seeta. I feel your pain, Goa is a little more changed (and not for the better) each time I go home. My heart aches and longs for the good old Goa of our childhood :(

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    1. Yep and we can feel it a lot more than those who visit... completely get what you mean when you say the Goa of our childhood :) those were the days!

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  20. Feels terrible, Seeta. You have sincerely expressed & the anguish is deep in our hearts. And it is not just Goa... Look at our beaches & tourist-spots....All suffering similar fate. If not beer bottles, plastic-bags/filth of different kind.
    Flea market really seems like flee market. Imagine us being ignored here in our own country...

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    1. True, its of all tourist spots.. I guess since Goa as a state is engulfed by tourism, the effect is not localized and spreads its tentacles far and wide

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  21. Mindless development to encourage commercial tourism has no other consequence but this. Sad indeed.

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    1. True.. but Goa if you ask me is a bit different. Given its size and landscape fortunately or unfortunately Tourism happens to be one of its main sources of income. Now that Mining is facing the heat, you can say it is almost the only source.... the question is how within that boundary can you ensure the place doesnt loose its sheen....?

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  22. Ouch!! It is quite true that now people go to goa not to be mesmerized by it, but to drink and dope and forget were the hell they are.
    In the process,bottles are thrown, things are done and the place is ruined.
    I wish people had some effing sense!

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    1. Yup the idea people have of Goa is booze, party and dope... its really sad... I have seen how people behave there... perfectly normal people otherwise, turn into hippies when they go there.. no respect for anything or anyone

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  23. This is the outcome of commercialisation. Nice that you took up the issue. It deserves serious attention. Tourism is good and necessary; but limits need be drawn.

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    1. Yes Sir! I wish I could do more though to further the cause...

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  24. Indians seem to have lost all respect for who they are and, now, seek respect in how much they have. Angst like this strikes me when I see the erosion of all respect for the culture that we are inheritors of - and, as it seems, the destroyers of as well. I normally keep it off my blog but did express it a couple of times http://jambudweepam.blogspot.in/search/label/IndianCulture

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    1. Yup, read your page and I so agree with it. This erosion seems to be everywhere, soon we will be left with nothing

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  25. Erosion of values is all pervasive in our country but it is starkly visible in our
    beaches.Compare it with beaches on the East coast of US,they are spic and span.Dust bins are kept and people walk to throw bottles and lunch box wrappers in them..Civic sense is high there.Your post made for a sad reading
    Thanks for visit to my blog.

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    1. Very true Sir. I fail to understand why Indians take the place for granted and forget any civic sense they might have learnt.

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  26. Sigh! side effects of growth. Sorry to read it.

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    1. yeah, of growth in some ways and sheer negligence otherwise... a trademark of us Indians isn't it?

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  27. I visited Goa around late 1990s and was awestruck by its pristine beaches, cathedrals and the old world charm. It is sad to note that people don't observe the etiquette required when they use a public property...any hint of following the unspoken rules of cleanliness are often ignored...and then the government is blamed for not keeping the cities clean. Perhaps this isn't the right forum so to speak but I've been to a beach in New York which is facing a similar state of affairs but its certainly not as bad as the beaches you described here.

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    1. Absolutely relevant, wherever the beach might be.. but its interesting to note such things happening in the US, I would expect them to be a lot more conscious of civic sense

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