BY ABIGAIL CRASTO
Our ideas about people and places are so often formed on the basis of what we've heard or read about them.
We tend to form a lot of opinions based on how things are portrayed in the media, be it films, books or the news. And, very often, these perceptions tend to be unrealistic.
For a Goan, the portrayal of his beloved state in Hindi films is often disappointing, not only because it’s mostly a misleading generalised outlook, but also because the far reach of the films has concretised these stereotypes.
Even before planning or packing for a Goa trip, they shape our views on how reality is expected to be.
Here are a few popular false narratives that are repeatedly reinstated as facts but are not exactly true.
Myth: Goans are party animals, alcoholics, substance addicts and prostitutes.
Reality: You can’t make generalisations about the entire Goan population.
One popular reason why tourists flock to Goa is because of its nightlife– the beach parties, the availability of booze and other substances, the nightclubs, the casinos, etc. But not every Goan will find themselves at these night parties.
Very often, going to these social events requires a Goan to seek prior permission from their parents, which is a massive deterrent in itself. They need to make enough money to spend on these weekly outings and might also have to consider skipping work thanks to a hangover the following day.
Moreover, Goans have different ways of having fun, which don’t involve partying or alcohol, like relaxing at home, watching football matches, doing some reading or simply spending time with family.
Partying is great to network and form social connections, and dancing to some funky music can help you escape the stresses of life sometimes. But overindulgence of any kind has consequences.
The negative side of tourism has led to Goa being considered ideal for the availability of substances and cheap alcohol, which is a huge matter for the state, especially with youngsters turning to these vices.
Myth: All Goans are God-fearing “Marias”.
Reality: Christianity is not the major religion of Goa.
The Hindi film industry often portrays a stereotypical Goan character who is a devout Catholic. Usually a Maria with her rosary, midi-floral dress and broken Hindi, or a drunkard happy-go-lucky Anthony wearing a cross around his neck.
Although Goa is perceived as a Christian state, in reality, however, Catholics make up only the second major religion in the state, the first being Hinduism.
People from different communities live in harmony in the state of Goa. You will find a Goan celebrating every festival, regardless of which religious community they belong to.
Visiting Hindu brethren during Diwali, sharing sweets during Christmas, eating at Iftars, playing Holi – everyone celebrates and feasts at festivals held throughout the year without considering any religious barriers.
Myth: Goa is not a place for vegetarians and non-alcoholics.
Reality: We serve all kinds of cuisine.
Goa is indeed famous for its non-vegetarian options. If you’ve ever tried Goan non-veg food or are a Goan who's been away for a little while, what you often end up craving is Goan chicken cafreal, sorpotel with sannas, pork vindaloo, Goan chouris pao, prawn curry, chicken xacuti, rava- fried kingfish, crab xec-xec and some exotic sea-food.
But Goa does go beyond its non-veg platters. You definitely have missed out on the Goan experience if you haven’t explored Goa’s delectable vegetarian specialities.
Moreover, as a community, Goans tend to have certain days where we abstain from having non-vegetarian meals and, hence, vegetarian options are popular too.
Many restaurants specialise in vegetarian thalis and dishes like rajma, mushroom xacuti, parathas, palak paneer, breadfruit sabzi, ambadd curry, solkadi, Goan khatkhate, to name a few. Nowadays, there are even healthier plant-based vegan options available at Goan cafés and restaurants.
Myth: Goans are susegad people.
Reality: Not anymore. We're trying to adapt to a fast-paced life.
We, Goans, are often picturised wearing ganji’s and three-fourths and sitting with a chilled beer in shacks by the beach. We do this occasionally, but the rest of the time, we slog at 9 to 5 jobs.
The blissful nature of Goa’s beaches and surroundings – the blues of the sea, the soft sand beneath the toes, the delicious seafood available, lush green fields and pristine springs – are a very clichéd image of Goa, attributed to Goans being laid-back people.
But with jobs that have tight schedules, we can’t always make the time to slow down and take spontaneous vacations, because we reside at a holiday destination. Goans hustle to provide for their families, stress over their careers and tackle life challenges like most populations in the country and the world.
Myth: Goans are open-minded and progressive people.
Reality: Goan women hardly have a role in the state’s decision-making.
Despite the portrayal of Goans as progressive, especially in Indian films that make a comparison between Goan women having a clothing choice with westernised outfits and being bold, we wish we had gender parity in every sector.
Political action plays an integral role in improving society, and women in Goa don't share the same opportunities as their male counterparts. Currently (2023), there are only 3 women MLAs of the 40 seats, a mere 7.5%.
Unfortunately, we have been regressing in recent years. Case in point: male politicians who so often make sexist comments, telling protesting women to stop getting tanned under the sun as none will consider them a suitable match, and the constant policing of women as to what is culturally appropriate.
Listening to such conservative talk from people expected to lead - we aren’t even at the starting line to attaining real modernity.
So, next time you visit Goa, look beneath the veneer of false ideas and let your perception be inspired by the truth. Enjoy Goa for what the state and her people truly are.