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URBAN GAONKAR 

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URBAN GAONKAR

Margaret Mascarenhas

Plus Áa change

First published in Goa Today Jan 2008

 

Although I was geared up for this season, having spent the last two in a mad-writer-anti-social-hermit state, I was unable to conquer my fear of crowds and tended to stick with intimate dinners. Anything over six seemed like a mob. I decided the only way to confront my crowd issue was  to take the leap. First I threw a party of my own, next, I hitched a ride with a family friend to Vasco for Austria Day. We were there at the invitation of Dattaraj Salgaocar, Honorary Consul of Austria, and the Salgaocar House lawns were heavily peppered with glitterati, literati and politicos. I asked Goan Observer editor Rajan Narayan who the Penpricks were; he told me. Then I found myself caught up in a conversation with the Power Minister regarding electrical fires on power lines in the middle of the night.

 

 “I will not answer your call in the middle of the night,”  he said definitively, but with a smile, so as to soften the blow.

 

“But, your predecessor did,” I  said. “The line was crackling and sparking and then snapped and burst into flame. It looked very dangerous. I tried the electricity department, then the fire department, both kept passing the buck to the other. I finally called Mr Kamat at about five in the morning. And he attended to the problem immediately.”

 

“I don’t answer the phone at five in the morning,” he replied amiably.

 

“Okay,” I persisted, “What if I were to come in person to your house at five in the morning with an emergency?”

 

“I might give you tea,”  smiled the Power Minister, who, I discovered later, is also a cousin.

 

I must have started rolling my eyes wildly at this point, because Commodore Venugopal diplomatically  took my elbow, said I looked like I needed a drink and steered me towards the bar, where I picked up a glass of white wine.

 

I’m a barefoot village bumpkin most of the time and my shoes had begun to hurt and I felt I fully understood the torture of Chinese foot binding. I sank gratefully into a chair  next to cartoonist Mario Miranda, who is one of my favourite people.  “What has happened about your ancestral house?” he asked.

 

“Still under inventory proceedings,” I said. A total dead-ender as conversation topic.

 

 “Let’s go get something to eat,” I said brightly and stood, wincing and limping in my pretty shoes. We tottered arm in arm towards the buffet and, somewhere near the mutton, I lost Mario. Some women beckoned and I joined them. They were discussing this designer and that. And I slunk away, because, at the rate I’m bleeding money into my latest house renovation, I’ll be lucky if I can afford new pajamas this season.

 

After a majority of the guests had left , about ten of us hung around drinking cognac, smoking cigars (yes, sometimes I do that), and talking about FN Souza, and how he used to hang out on the sofa of Pandit Miranda in New York.  

 

In the rush of attending to a continuous stream of house guests, it seemed like about a minute had gone by before I was at a CII bash hosted by  Pallavi and Shrinivas Dempo. Besides me, there were some Goans who were not CEOs. We greeted one another, and then I was grabbed in a bear hug by industrialist Subbhu Subbiah, the father of two of my girlfriends—Sivu and Walli. He has never let me live down the time over 20 years ago while I was working in Bombay and accidentally boarded the plane to Madras, instead of the one to Goa. “Ha, ha, her father was ready to send out the army to look for her when she didn’t get off the plane in Goa; I sent my daughter to pick her up at the airport and told him I was hanging on to her,” he said jovially to Mr Jaywant Chowgule, who was distracted by the acrobatics of the entertainment troupe in the background.

 

Mumbai gallery owner Pheroza Godrej and I went off to a quiet table to talk about art funds and then I went up to the buffet. Once again found myself face to face with the Power Minister. He was standing with the Finance Minister. “How come it takes more than four months to get an electricity bill transferred in one’s name? And, by the way, I’m moving to Aldona and I hope you guys aren’t planning any SEZs over there,” I started off….They grinned at me affably.

 

Talking to politicians is just like talking to my contractors who tell me what I want to hear, which generally has nothing to do with reality.

 

“Do you know,” said another friend during a jazz night at the home of Armando Gonsalves in Campal, “we have actually had to join with Babush to stop the Habitat project in Dona Paula. It’s absurd, but even if he’s doing it for the wrong reasons, he’s on our side in this.”  Talk about strange bedfellows.

 

By the time IFFI rolled around, I had gotten pretty good with crowds. But IFFI was much better managed this year, and not over-crowded at all. And anyway, I had so overcome my crowd phobia that I had even begun to write potentially crowded events down in a notebook (I have never owned a diary)— concerts at Kala, public meetings, book launches, assorted lunches, dinners and weddings, the Parmal issue release, Shireen Mody’s exhibition, the Wendell Rodricks fashion show, Goa Sudaroop Awards, the Saturday night market… And suddenly it was Christmas and I was calling the cops on my neighbor for playing music on loud speakers without a license. And then it was the New Year, and I was jumping out of my skin because of all the illegal cherry bombs, and getting enraged about all the seasonal garbage, and all I can say is: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

 

If you haven’t seen Alex Fernandes’ photography exhibition at Literati yet, do so.

 

 

 

 

 

URBAN GAONKAR

The Art of Destruction

Margaret Mascarenhas

First published in Goa Today May 2007

By 1938 the Nazis, in a frontal assault on the avant-garde, had stripped museums throughout Germany of works by masters such as Klee, Chagall, and Kandinsky, whose works were vilified and labeled “entartete kunst” (degenerate art). In acts of Talibanesque turpitude, thousands of masterpieces were desecrated and burned. India is not Hitler’s Germany, but it might well become if Modi’s Gujarat is permitted to set artistic standards for the rest of the country. The Hindutva thugs of Modi’s Gujarat, as penalty for their illegal intimidation of artists, should be forced to memorize the Kama Sutra and receive guided tours of Khajuraho from renowned historian, Dr Devangana Desai.

Involvement by ideological groups and self-appointed guardians of virtue in deciding which ideas are fit for public consumption, rob individuals in society of their basic entitlement in a democracy to make that decision for themselves. When we defend freedom of expression, we are not automatically defending the content of that expression, but the fundamental right to express a view. No one is obliged to love what the artist creates, no one is required to buy the creation, no one is even bound to look at it, especially when it is housed on university or museum premises. But the right to disagree with the artist’s view, does not, in a democracy, imply the right to take away her right to express it.  When uneducated political thugs, out to impose a narrow and boorish world view, are allowed to assault a place of learning, rough up and threaten artists, and generally abrogate the rights of everyone with impunity, and apparently, with the blessings of local authorities, the artists and every civilized advocate of democracy in the country need to stand up and resist it. And so they have, except in Goa.

For days following the arrest of Chandra Mohan, I watched and waited for our Goan artists, academics, gallery owners, to react, prepared to lend full support to any action they might initiate in defense of their fundamental right to artistic freedom. Nada. Finally, I received an outraged note from art historian and artist, Apurva Kulkarni, wondering, like myself and several others who are not artists, whether we are living in a separate universe. After a bit of prodding, one gallery decided to hold a solidarity meet to address the issue of creative freedom. Better late than never.

 It is true that the artistic community of Goa resides in a bubble.

Recently I was called upon by a colleague who didn’t agree with my objections to the manner in which the Aparanta exhibition was executed, the exclusion of major artists, and the inclusion of self-promoters in the organizational structure, to “step into the ring” in matters of art. Actually, I’ve been in the ring, privately, for about 25 years. My decision to go public was twofold: (1) I am a taxpayer who believes that when public money is used for government sponsored art galas, to commission heavies such as Ranjit Hoskote, to send invites to major gallery owners and collectors from Delhi and Mumbai, to produce expensive catalogues, the government has a duty to use a fair and merit-based process of selection of Goan artists by a panel of experts rather than by a couple of pals of the MD of the GTDC who have their own agenda; and (2) there is a difference between promoting Goan art and promoting the promoters; the Goan art community is extremely vulnerable and therefore open to the worst kind of exploitation. The broad-brush, who-cares-about-the-details-as-long-as-it-looks-good, approach will prove detrimental to the promotion of Goan artists in the long run.

Most Goans are complete greenhorns when it comes to understanding art as a business, and unable to tell the difference between an art patron and an art predator, much less analyze the function of art as a status symbol among the elite. For centuries, the elite have used art not only to decorate their surroundings, but also as a display of status. Beyond those who can afford to purchase works of art themselves, it is the knowledge of art that shows status. If art were understood and fully accessible by the masses, then knowledge of art would not serve its vital status function, and consequently the ‘market value’ of art would not be a factor in its production. It is precisely this market factor that allows art predators with a little knowledge, to pose as art patrons to the public, and even to the art community itself, particularly if the community has been largely isolated for the past couple of decades, as is the case with artists resident in Goa. Such a vulnerability is what allows an art predator to, for example, pretend to have ‘discovered’ Fonseca to the lay person, when in fact Fonseca is quite well known among the knowledgeable, and the NGMA has a collection of his work. It is ignorance that allows art predators to create the impression of make-or-break ‘discovery’ power in the minds of both the public and the artists, and to determine, based on their own choices rather than on merit, who will receive recognition. In their own interest, artists should bear in mind that collectors who constantly buy and sell are in the art business and this means that their agenda is to enhance the value of their own purchases. In this day and age artists cannot afford to be in a bubble; they need to learn to become self critical, to identify from whom to accept patronage, to become market savvy but not obsessed with the market, to understand their place in history and society, to know their rights and defend them vigourously, and to eliminate, as far as possible, too many middlemen.

As much as our artists need to break out of the bubble, the rest of us need to encourage, value and protect these artists; for they, like our poets, are the expression of Goa’s soul.  And a Goa without a soul is a dim and barren Goa indeed.  Goa Bachao.

 

 

 

Urban Gaonkar

Homophobia vs Human rights

Margaret Mascarenhas

First published in Goa Today Nov 2006

 

Sometimes, not always, I read the publications to which I contribute. Last month was one of those times, and I was appalled to read an article by Avertanus D'Souza, whose views I most always endorse, titled "Gay rights versus Human Rights". In the course of his discussion, D'Sousa lamented the lack of experts on Indian public forums on the subject of gay rights, then promptly posed as one himself. He bemoaned the "wild and unsubstantiated assertions" and lack of logic among gay activists, claiming that there is no such thing as gay rights because the Catholic Church says so and because two billy goats cannot produce kids. And although I am neither gay nor a gay activist, I beg to differ.

 

Perhaps while studying the history of the world, D'Souza missed the part about separation of Church and State. There are very good reasons for the separation of Church and State, and some of the reasons have to do with the fact that the Roman Catholic Church does not represent a majority of the world's inhabitants, nor does it function democratically, nor does it have an unimpeachable record in the upholding of human rights. Therefore, the presumption cannot be made that the Church is or should be the final arbiter of which rights are "inalienable" for all of humanity, any more than it can be made on behalf of the Ku Klux Klan (which also presupposes divine authority, and considers blacks and Jews to be animals, and therefore unworthy of rights).

 

In civil society, human rights and legal rights of the individual are in fact conferred not by Vatican or any other religious sentiments, but through the seeking of legitimacy from the State and within society. It is often a lengthy process. Yet, according to D'Souza, "human rights are not conferred by the State or any other human authority" but rather, he implies, by some unnamed superhuman authority that is recognized exclusively by the Catholic Church. And I would like to suggest here that a Church that has repeatedly sought to cover up the criminal pedophile activity of its priests and which has only been brought to account through the intervention of the State, is hardly in a position to presume the moral high ground on the subject of human sexuality. Another skewed argument relies on the premise that "there are no rights without obligations." Whoops, there go children's rights, since children can hardly be expected to understand their obligations within society. "We should not confuse sentiment with reason," D'Souza says in a bizarre tangent with regard to animal protection and whether or not animals should have rights. I agree. But (a) gay people are not animals and (b) we should not confuse religious sentiment with moral imperative.  Nor should we should confuse bigotry with truth and justice.

 

D'Souza is at his most homophobic when he equates the granting of equal rights to gays with granting criminals the right to be criminals. Women's rights, children's rights, civil rights, and sexual orientation rights, all fall under the umbrella of human rights. The right to be a criminal clearly does not.

           

In a few countries, based on the religious sentiment of men, it is considered criminal for a woman to walk in public with her head uncovered. In some countries, also based on the religious sentiment of men, women still do not have the right to seek a divorce, to claim custody of their children, or to vote. In many countries interracial marriage used to be illegal, the US Congress didn't pass the Civil Rights Act or the Voting Rights Act until 1964, and apartheid was legal in South Africa until 1993. In Germany the extermination of Jews was legitimized under Hitler. In many countries children were and, in some countries still are, considered the property of the parents with no rights of their own. The conferral of equal rights to women, to children, to blacks, and to gays has been evolutionary, and what is or is not considered aberrant or criminal in the eyes of the law and in the eyes of society, still varies from country to country. However, in what we refer to as civil society, one of the fundamental principles of human rights is the right not to be discriminated against for activity which is not criminal, i.e. activity which does not impinge on the rights of others. In this way, same sex orientation, and the desire of same sex couples to have the same legal rights as heterosexual couples (to live together, to marry, to raise children, etc) in no way impinges on the rights of another, any more than a person of one skin colour seeking to marry a person of another skin colour does. Moreover, contrary to D'Souza's contention otherwise, it has been fairly well documented scientifically that sexual orientation is not a "preferred behavior" or choice, but indeed, in most cases, a genetic predisposition. In fact, the same day that I read D'Souza's article, a National Geographic documentary presented scientific evidence of a 'gay' gene. But even if being gay were a choice, surely it is neither insane nor morally bankrupt to concede that people who are not Roman Catholics should have the right to choose with whom they sleep, provided the significant other is a consenting adult.

 

Today, in majority of countries of the world, numerous rights, universally considered to be human rights, have in fact been conferred on gays through the judicial process or by way of amendment of old laws/enactment of new laws. India is not yet one of those countries. This hardly means that the societies of those countries that have expanded their view of human rights are "insane" or immoral. It means that India has yet to get with the program on this aspect of human rights.

 

In the UK, on Nov. 18, 2004, the Civil Partnership Act was enacted, allowing same-sex couples to enter civil union with all the rights of full marriage. In the US several states allow same-sex marriage, or civil union as an alternative, and in some locations, gay people are now permitted to adopt. Opponents to advances in the American gay rights movement have been, in general, the Christian Right, which includes the Catholic Church. In Canada, as of Dec 2004, same-sex marriages are legally recognized in Ontario, British Columbia, Quebec, Manitoba, Yukon, Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, encompassing about 85 percent of the country's population. In Canada's House of Commons, all political parties endorse gay rights to varying degrees, and there have been five MPs and one senator who openly identify themselves as gay or lesbian. In Ireland, homosexuality was formally decriminalized in 1993 and laws have been enacted  forbidding discrimination in employment, advertising, vocational training, collective agreements, provision of goods and services, etc. France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and Holland recognize same-sex marriages. In France it is illegal to make homophobic or sexist speech, and perpetrators face up to a year in jail and/or a fine of around 65, 000 Euro. Turkey, Cyprus and Israel recognize Common Law marriage of homosexuals. In Australia, the Federal Police extend spousal rights to same sex couples. Brazil allows homosexual couples the right to inherit each other's pension and social security benefits. Homosexual Brazilians who can prove that theirs is a "stable union" are treated by the National Social Security Institute no differently than a married couple in cases of retirement or death. The policy also allows people in same-sex relationships to declare their partners as dependents on income tax returns. The National Social Security Institute's policy change is the result of a recent court ruling. (See box for a list of countries that are beginning to follow suit in the decriminalization of same sex orientation and/or conferral of rights.)

 

The United Nations now seeks to include the right for gay people to be gay in a resolution. U.N. Commission on Human Rights Resolution on Sexual Orientation and Human Rights is the first one in the history of the United Nations that specifically, and unambiguously, spells out that abuses on the basis of sexual orientation are human rights violations.  It has so far scuttled by Islamic states based on religious sentiment, rather than on logic or principles of justice and equality.

 

Personally, I agree with Tony Blair, who said, "People are entitled to think that homosexuality is wrong, but they are not entitled to use the criminal law to force that view upon others….A society that has learned over time  [to accept] racial and sexual equality can surely come to terms with equality of sexuality."

 

     

Box

The following countries have no sodomy laws, the age of sexual consent is between 14 and 21 for homosexual males, and 14 and 21 for lesbians and heterosexuals. In many of these countries various rights beyond sexual consent have been granted to homosexuals such as the right to cohabit or marry, be in the military, receive health care benefits, inherit, adopt children, and laws have been implemented banning discrimination based on sexual orientation:

 

Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comorros, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Dutch Antilles, Ecuador, El Salvador, Falkland Islands, Finland, France, French Guyana, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Honduras, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Iraq (prewar), Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhistan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Leshtho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macao, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands/ Netherlands Antilles, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niger, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Suriname, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK, Ukraine, Uruguay, US, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam.

 

 

 

 

           

URBAN GAONKAR

Media Whores, Penpricks, and a lot of hot air

Margaret Mascarenhas

First published in Goa Today, October 2007 issue

 

I would be willing to bet that the only person in the whole of Goa qualified to solve the landslide problem along the approach to the Mandovi Bridge is my dad. Why don’t you take them out of their misery? I ask, referring to the government engineers. Are you kidding? he replies, if I tell them to do one thing, they’ll probably do another, try to take shortcuts, mix too much sand with cement, whatever, and the whole thing will collapse, and everyone will say, see what the big geotechnical engineer has done.

 

He’s probably right. But it is so very tedious to cross the Mandovi bridge these days.

 

So, I was driving to Luis and Co. with my carpenter, when I saw a bunch of cops along the side of the highway, scanning the passers-by intently, and I naturally assumed this must be part of the manhunt for the eleven escaped convicts. But clearly, catching murderers is not high on their agenda because, out of everyone driving past, only I am pulled over. Meanwhile, beltless drivers, motorcyclists without helmets, vehicles that obviously could not have cleared pollution control, are whizzing by.  My blood is already boiling by the time the young traffic cop approaches my window, and I start yelling “how come you only pull over women?” I’m extra peeved because my doctor, who is the wife of a judge told me the same thing had been happened to her just the other day. “Why are you shouting?” he asked, taken aback. “Because I’m tired of being stopped while all the criminals go scot free.  “I only want to see your license,” he said, backing a few feet away, as if from a dangerous game animal.

 

And how come the media isn’t all over this escaped convict story? Maybe it’s because such stories have become so run of the mill, so been there, done that. Or maybe it’s because the mainstream media in Goa is just a whore, if we are to give credence to an alleged “group” of allegedly “professional” journalists who on their blog-site so claim. One English daily in particular ( http://penpricks.blogspot.com/2007/09/big-one-cash-for-editorials.html) is, according to them, charging money to anyone who will pay to cook stories and editorials. “Editorials For Sale at a whopping three lakh per piece,” scream the teasers. It’s a nice try at a Tehelka-type sting, but falls short of actually proving that the email exchange it claims occurred between one Mr Mann (who allegedly implies that reportage, bylines, and editorials can all be readily purchased), and the investigative reporters, has anything to do with the newspaper in question.

 

The creators of the watchdog blog-site call themselves Penpricks, and you can take that to mean whatever you want it to. Posing as guardians of journalism’s soul, implying that their contributors are all professional journalists, and conducting “sting” operations on their own colleagues, they indulge in some pretty dubious journalistic practices of their own. Some of these practices include: allowing innuendo and opinion (without bylines) rather than facts and sources to comprise the bulk of their “investigative reportage”, and  “reporting” in such colloquial language as to make it exceedingly difficult to determine whether they are trying (and failing) to write satire rather than “deep throat” inspired news scoops.

 

Though the concept—that of taking the predominantly lazy, illiterate and corrupt Goan media to task might be a good one—PenPricks have made a rather unfortunate baji-puri of it all and have ended up sounding like some pathetic wannabe, a poor desi knockoff of MotherJones . They also attack dead journos, which seems pointless, given that the targets are, well…extinct, and unable to either defend themselves or change their ways. But the grossest journalistic faux pas the Pricks commit, is to refuse to write under THEIR OWN NAMES. Maybe they should call themselves PenPansies instead. Maybe they should do an exposť of themselves next.

 

This weekend, one of my friends left her seven-year-old daughter with me for a day and we entertained ourselves by writing and illustrating a children’s book. We agreed that the story had to have a villain to be interesting. After discussing all manner of possible fiends, we settle on every school-girl’s nemesis—the fat school-girl bully.  Except ours is already grown up, at least fifty years of age (“or even a hundred,” says my young charge), but still spoiled, and huge, and a bully who gets a kick out of giving all the children in her neighborhood ear-aches. She does this by sitting on her balcao and singing loudly, bellowing, actually, in one key, while strumming her guitar in another key entirely. But there is nothing anyone can do, because it’s not a crime to be tone deaf, and there’s no law against making a racket as long a you stop by bedtime. One day the mothers of the neighborhood come in a delegation to ask the bully very politely to please singing, but she just sings louder and louder, until finally one brave mother takes a hat pin and pokes her in the bottom and all the air just whooshes out of her like when you let the air out of a balloon, and the air is very hot. And when she is finally emptied of hot air, she is almost flat like Olive Oil in the Popeye cartoons, and her voice tiny. And then a monsoon breeze just blows her up and out of her balcao, and away, just like a kite. And the mothers are happy, and the children can take the cotton out of their ears.

 

Would that it were so simple to get rid of villains in real life.    

 

 

 

 

 

URBAN GAONKAR

Destination: Tivim

Margaret Mascarenhas

First published in Goa Today Nov 2001

 

For me, the whole point of Goa is to live in the village, in an old house—not too big and not too small—with a large veranda (preferably L-shaped), a view of the fields, a garden with fruit trees, and clean well water (this last, an ever decreasing commodity in Goa). Also, good neighbors. The other criteria is that it should not be more than a 20 minute drive to Panjim, I have to own it, and it has to fall within a well-known- but- not- rich writer’s budget.  Hence, my two-year search for the ideal home.

 

After I scoured Bambolim, Chorao, Salvador do Mundo, Reis Magos, Sangolda, Saligao, Parra, my friend Michael Lobo at Homes and Estates called me and said, “I think I found you the perfect place. Only minor renovations will be required. It’s in Tivim.” Forget it, I said, Tivim is too far. But Michael persuaded me to go and see it. I went with Antonio, who has been driving me for ten years and has helped me with all my moves. The house was located in a part of Tivim known as Madel, which is at the beginning of Tivim. It is literally a 3-minute drive to Mapusa and a 20-minute drive to Panjim; we timed it. The house had all of my other prerequisites, and I made an offer to the Scottish owner within 24 hours, which, to my delight, was accepted.

 

Friends who had already made the transition warned me that the process of shifting residence from a city to a village would be alternately exhilarating and nightmarish. You need to go with the flow, they said, knowing my low-level of tolerance for red-tape. They weren’t kidding. One day I would be sitting in my garden, sipping tea in the company of birds and butterflies or with my lovely neighbor Philu, thinking I was the luckiest girl on the planet; the next day I would be sitting in some office with high blood pressure and a compelling desire to commit bodily injury.

 

First, there was the RBI, Mumbai, which mistakenly assumed that the term “garden” on the Form I and XIV referred to an agricultural land.  Maharashra has a different sort of form, and so the RBI officials in Mumbai, misread the information, and rejected the initial application on the basis that foreigners cannot purchase agricultural land (although they may inherit it if of Indian Origin). I have a US passport.  Since the RBI would never cop to a mistake, and given their predilection for long-drawn-out correspondences over non-issues, one was required to “prove” that the garden was not an agricultural land. This involved taking aerial photographs of the plot, and getting a “Goa government authority” to authenticate the claim that the garden was simply a garden. And never mind the fact that the RBI had already given the Scottish owner the permission to buy the property in the first place. I wanted to ask them whether they don’t have better things to do with their time than invent obstacles about a 650 metre plot of land. And also whether they preferred I take my hard-earned foreign exchange to another, more dollar-friendly country.

 

Then there was the move, for which I hired a supposedly professional outfit based in Panjim. I say “supposedly” because the reality was something quite bizarre and unexpected. Although the boys who physically moved the furniture, did their jobs quite effectively, the driver of the moving van was smashed when he arrived at 9 am, and continued to get progressively more smashed as the day continued, probably because he liberally partook of the booze he flicked from one of my boxes. Later, he was in a tearing hurry to leave; “Just dump the stuff and let’s go,” he kept on urging the moving boys. Then he wanted “money for tea”, clearly a euphemism for more liquor. Then he got into the moving van and proceeded to crash into the car of my friend who had come to help out, and speed away. When contacted, the proprietor of the moving van and employer of the drunk driver, refused to reimburse the damage costs, suggesting blithely that we file a complaint with the police. Later, I discovered that, besides the booze and other items, my answering machine had been pinched. To date the moving company has done nothing to rectify the matter. If you’re moving and have some questions, I’d tell you to contact me, but that’s all tied up with Nightmare Number Three: getting a phone connection.

 

While I may love the village, I am working girl whose work largely depends upon connectivity. I don’t even have the energy to describe the entire process, but, in all fairness to Goa Telecom, once I figured out what it was, I did obtain a connection in record time. 

 

Here is what makes everything worthwhile: the day after I moved in, I was invited to attend an evening Novena at the chapel of Saint Anthony right in front of my house. The Novena was being given in thanks at the request of a local Hindu woman whose daughter had received a government position she wanted. All the neighbors participated; irrespective of their faith. All the children from the local orphanage run by the Sister Adorers attended. We lit candles and it was beautiful.

 

 

 

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Flavours of the month, Dec 2003

On death and writing (2005)