At the age of 13, I lived a very carefree life, not worrying much about what the future held. As kids, we lived a very different narrative of life – always looking forward to summer because that's when we could freely play on the beach close by.
School holidays in Goa were more about playtime – scouring for wild berries in the forests in the first half of the day, and, in the second, tiring ourselves on the beach by having unlimited fun in the seawater.
These two activities were our tonic for a good night's sleep, only to wake up the next day and repeat the same routine. We felt happy and satisfied. This was in the late 70s when Goa was immaculately green and wild. We were hooked on nature and its wild offerings. Every day was an adventure!
In those days of kerosene lamp illumination, we feared venturing out of our houses past 7 pm because of wild animals, but that's not the case anymore. Life rolls on 24x7, and there's fear of thieves and murderers.
After dusk, I would tug at my mother's frock and never let it go in the night. But when the day broke, I would become Lion King again, and roar out to my friends calling them out for another day of playfulness.
The images of those good old days are stored in old family albums. The events that unfolded in my childhood are locked in my mind, never to go away. I am always grateful for Goa's bountifulness.
And now as we stand on the cusp of a new era, with the world progressing at a fast pace, everything has changed and nothing looks the same. Gone are those clean roads and beaches.
All that we see is filth around, and the same does not bother our conscience in the least.
Both demographically and topographically, Goa is changing at a rapid pace. We have grown by leaps and bounds – wider roads, more vehicles, bigger buildings, more industries, etc. The towns are now growing into cities.
This rapid urbanisation (in many places, it's going unchecked) the state is witnessing, however, has its perils. The foremost is the availability of water to feed a growing population. To date, there has been no reality check on the state's carrying capacity.
Post-liberation to date, Goa's landscape has undergone a sea change with the quality of life deteriorating gradually. The sore sight of garbage-infested roads, increasing levels of pollution in cities, contaminated wells and so on are disheartening. Also, let us not forget our depleting rivers.
Goa's infrastructure has not kept pace with its growing population. We certainly have wider roads now, but that doesn't add value to the state. What is happening, in reality, is that we are only adding more vehicles and polluting our air.
I am from that generation that got to see the best of Goa, and also go through the pain of seeing it going from bad to worse. As I look back, I am still coming to terms with what I see around me, and my home state’s prospects appear dismal.
So, along the way, when things were good, who failed us? Our politicians? The local leaders? Was it greed for money that led to these consequences? No. We all failed because somewhere down the line we forgot our fundamental duty to save our natural and cultural heritage.
Let us look around Goa and ask ourselves whether what we are seeing is the right picture. Don't deceive yourselves into believing that everything is alright when it is not. It is time for introspection for each one of us.