BY MITA ARORA
We are all a part of some kind of group. In addition, it may be work or school-related or involve friends or family. Not many people are aware, but Goa also has groups that resemble communities, formed with a view to business, networking and other objectives.
One such WhatsApp community is called NRG (New Residents of Goa). Eddie, aka Pradeep Chandran, started this group in August of last year after a few members of the Facebook group called Offbeat Goa asked to connect and form a community.
Not only has the group expanded over the past year, with some of its subgroups having more than 600 members, but it has also aided many in settling down and obtaining services and information more quickly.
The group's founder Eddie, who also runs an artist management firm called Exchange4Artist, says, "The group is made up of the people who are members. I enjoy seeing and meeting new people and wanted to help others feel the same way. On Wednesdays, we visit a variety of restaurants to scope them out, have dinner, and socialise with other NRG members. More than 25 people turned up at our last meet that was on September 26 in Anjuna.”
North Goa has emerged as one of the strongest subgroups in this WhatsApp community's total of 19. Interior designer Joy Arora, another of the group's founders, established the subgroup to aid North Goa's small and medium-sized businesses.
"When I first arrived in Goa, it took me a long time to get to know the locals and learn how to conduct business with them. Learning Konkani is crucial if you want to communicate with the locals. We provide all of our members with the chance to share details about their companies on specific days,” Joy informs us.
He adds further, "We plan get-togethers where people can network. Our most recent one was held on September 2 to commemorate the group's first anniversary. More than 80 people signed up for it, and over 60 showed up. Such figures are heartening, and it is satisfying to give back to society in this way."
Is it challenging to lead groups that include strangers? Yes. Does it occasionally get crazy? Definitely. So why do people participate and are willing to set aside time to chat, interact and engage with total strangers?
Robbie, one of the co-admins of NRG and also the creator of the Patiala Cheers YouTube channel, explains, "Most of us are separated from our loved ones. To escape the crazy race life, we moved to Goa. Through networking, we have found our own small group of friends who share our desire to live in peace. I look for stories in people and places in Goa and try to recreate the impact through the videos that can be seen on YouTube.”
Even so, these are advantages of WhatsApp communities. According to a study published in January 2023, India currently has 487 million WhatsApp users, the most of any country.
The alarming annual growth rate of this number is 16.6%. Although India's population is largely to blame for this. Since the creation of this app, the decision to use it has always been up to the user.
How can one then strike a balance between gathering reliable information, making new friends and networking without becoming overly dependent on WhatsApp groups like NRG?
"It is difficult to resist being drawn in. There is a strong pull to respond, share opinions on things like restaurants, where to find specific services, like cabs, mechanics, and carpenters, and to share personal experiences,” says another NRG community member, Sonia.
She continues, “I believe it's simpler to share information or ask a question in the group because someone will probably respond. I put the group on mute and see it when I need any input or am bored and feel the need to just check."
Among many others, I too am co-admin in both the NRG and the North Goa group. I've occasionally questioned why I'm involved in this and what I gain from it. I've made a lot of friends, some of whom have served as my family and my support system.
I feel compelled to share and let others know that Goa is home to those who treat it like a home, especially those who are trying to make a name for themselves here, trying to avoid being alone, looking for suitable employment or housing, or simply sharing their writings or poetry to express their feelings/turmoil’s/hardships, have potlucks, book clubs or to promote their businesses for their means of livelihood.
The secret to establishing a good network lies in one’s ability to interact with people, comprehend them and accept their respective worldviews.
When you can, try to help those who are in the greatest need, as this is what Goans do too. Respect the people of Goa, its history and the locals to appreciate how beautiful life can be here.