The reprint of Katharina Kakar’s book, Moving to Goa, first published in 2003, is an outsider’s view of meeting a cross-section of people, living and visiting Goa. It narrates diverse aspects of Goa, and for those reading it for the first time, it seems like a current scenario.
Quotes from the book, “It is narrated by my limitless curiosity to explore, and love for the people and the bhailie (outsiders), as Goans call us, and doesn’t shy away from looking into the darker side of Goa’s culture and history and life. My quest is to understand how they live, and forces that shape their identities.”
HOW GOA HAPPENED FOR THE KAKARS
In 2002, her husband Sudhir and she decided to move to India from Massachusetts, USA. Sudhir had a house in Delhi, where they spent the winter. But, they wanted a different life, grow new roots, exchange the buzz of city for a place with air connectivity, the ocean and an intellectual hub, and Goa seemed just right.
They found an old, Portuguese house in the village Benaulim, in South Goa, which needed restoration, and appointed a contractor, Eric, who assured them that clearing the undergrowth, and other exterior work would be completed in the time frame required.
The books begins with the train rolling into Margao station after a twenty-seven hour journey from Delhi.
Their housekeeper, Kailash, his wife, their two sons and the dog, pile into two taxis as they set out for their new house, which they thought would be ready to occupy.
Quote, “We did not expect every screw in place, but it was a shock to see it in the same state it was earlier, unfit to be habited! The workers camped and cooked in the garden, and also used it as a toilet. Sudhir suggests they move into a hotel.”
“Work moved very slowly, the monsoon was scheduled to arrive in a month’s time. I complained so vehemently and so frequently, that Eric started to run away as soon as he saw me.”
Architect Dean de Cruz, with a sensitive eye restored the oyster-shell windows, ceiling with rafters, balcao, large veranda leading out to the garden. And, the house shaped up into what they wanted.
Katharina explored the coastal belt, villages, and spent time meeting people from various strata of society and professions, checking local fruits, vegetables, flora and fauna, beaches, social, religious culture, environmental issues, the numerous churches and temples and deities in every village, diverse customs and festivals celebrated by the Hindu and Christian communities, the tribal inhabitants, the Goan way of life, and the ‘anytime drink’, feni.
HIPPIES AND MORE
The book is peppered with inputs from Damodar Mauzo, Subodh Kerekar, Habiba and Mario Miranda, writers, shack owners, waiters and entrepreneurs with second homes, and keeps the reader engrossed.
The hippie cult and neo hippie era, (part of history now) cover two chapters. Goa’s reputation as a land of free sex, and endless parties began in the 1960s when hippies began to come to Arambol and Anjuna. They attracted only a cursory look from the local fishermen and toddy tappers. A few whites zonked out on hallucinogens (not illegal back then). Compared to the authoritarian Portuguese rule of 451 years, it was no big deal.
She writes, “They were a bunch of confused self-absorbed idealists, uninterested in local culture, history. Although the villagers disapproved of their skimpy clothes and casual manner, they housed them and took their money. Hippies should get credit for starting Goa’s beach tourism, as sensational stories in Indian newspapers about half-naked foreigners dancing through the night acted like a magnet to hundreds of Indian ‘hippie watchers’ who travelled to Goa for a closer look.”
Casual sex was not confined to tourists or young waitresses from the North East working in beach shacks. The book mentions, “The charm and methods of beach boys and waiters attracting young girls and sixty plus women travelling alone, the older women is simply an entry point into their own sexual life to gain confidence to interact with younger ones.” Some fell in love, some got married, went abroad, and soon returned totally dejected.
Festivities during Christmas and Hindu festivals, the charm of the countryside with the onset of the monsoons, ethnic food and methods of preparation, the slaves in Goa, the nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ of the Portuguese Raj, the Mhadei Tiger sanctuary, mining mafia, corruption in the government, workers migrating to Goa from UP, Orissa, local youth going abroad to work, the impact of Goans selling their land to buyers from other states, globalization and tourism, were among issues prevalent; only crime and rape was not as common as it is now, Katharina says in her book.
Other quotes from the book include, “Goans blame the bhailies for anything that goes wrong, especially the rapid cultural and social changes.”
“There is a pattern to daily life, combined with leisure. Nothing happened in a hurry, there was no need to have action all the time, and, time and work ethics have a different meaning. To equate Susegad as laid back is a mistranslation, the Portuguese word means “quiet implicit peace of mind.”
Humorous antidotes intersperse effortless reading in Katharina Kakar’s Moving to Goa.
Katharina Kakar’s Moving to Goa is available on Amazon and is priced @ ₹ 399.