Chief Minister Pramod Sawant's recent remark on wiping out all things Portuguese lacks any clarity or direction and was certainly made to appease a few. He was playing to the galleries or at that particular moment had nothing better on his mind to say.
This is not the first time that Sawant has made an anti-Portuguese or regressive comment. Sawant certainly needs better ideas to steer the state on the road to happiness and peace, and stop fuelling thoughts or ideas that are divisive, to say the least.
Let us assume that Goa was never colonised by the Portuguese. In what ways would it be different today? Would it be more Hindu? This debate is irrelevant in the present time and context. And why?
First of all, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who Sawant never fails to eulogise in his speeches, is projecting himself as a global leader, always tom-tomming about his country being an epitome of "unity in diversity".
If that's so, Sawant's statement is quite contrary to the idea of his supreme leader, who will never miss an opportunity to meet his counterpart, the Prime Minister of Portugal Antonio Costa, over high tea and talk trade.
I am sure despite nurturing anti-Portuguese sentiments, Sawant will also be duty-bound to meet Costa if the latter happens to visit Goa, the place of his origin. I am sure Sawant will serve him snacks made of chillies, cashews and potatoes – the Portuguese gifts to Goa and India.
I assume our chief minister being a Goan loves fish curry, one of the staple diets of Goemkars. I wonder whether Sawant has ever thanked the Portuguese for the gift of chillies without which the Goan version of fish curry would never be possible.
Sawant's belief may sync with the religious ideology of his saffron party, but will distance him from people – irrespective of their religious affiliations – who believe that the world is a global village where cultural exchanges matter more than anything else.
Wiping out signs of Portuguese rule may be akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. Since 1510, when the Portuguese first set foot on Goan soil, until they left, Goa's culture has evolved into something beautiful, carving out its own identity.
Now, to entirely give credit to Portugal for this cultural endowment will be completely wrong. Post-liberation, Goan culture and food have metamorphosed by absorbing the Goan or Indian influences of the time.
Take for instance cashew feni. The Portuguese gave us cashew, but we made feni, which today is sharing shelf space with the best wines made in Porto in Portugal. The Portuguese gave us potatoes, and we made batata wadas, which when inserted into the Goan pao becomes the poor man's burger.
The 450-year colonial rule of Portugal in Goa is considered one of the longest in history, compared to British Empire's 200-year reign over India. How did the Portuguese manage to rule for such a long period? There must be something that kept them here so long.
Chief Minister Sawant must be aware that several youths from Goa have migrated to Europe for better job prospects only because Portugal allowed them the benefit of the Portuguese passport, giving them direct access to the European Union.
If not for Portuguese passports, our youth, who have always been sore about the government not creating enough job opportunities, would never be able to go abroad and send foreign remittances back home to keep the state GDP in good health.
So here we are now, in the 21st century, where such talk of wiping out signs of an earlier rule sounds insignificant. Sawant must realise Goa cannot dwell on its past when it suits him and his party the most.
Goans are perceived to be very hospitable people in the country. Now, could this be attributed to their colonial masters? It's hard to say, but such a long colonial rule should have left them vicious and angry, but that doesn't show in their nature.
If Sawant believes that he will succeed in erasing the Portuguese culture that Goa and Goans have imbibed over 450 years of colonial influence just by making a statement, then he has more work to do than he thinks.