There was a time when traffic could be heard passing through the Dayanand Bandodkar Road in Campal early in the morning, and it then indicated that the novena for the feast of St Francis Xavier had begun. Those were the days when Panjim was a laidback city, caressed by a beautiful river and shaded by vibrant greenery.
Walking from Panjim to St Tome, one could observe friends chatting, peering out of their windows; neighbours would volunteer to help carry each other’s shopping bags – depending on whose was heavier – and lifts were offered on cycles. The Panjim of those years could have been defined as a personification of innocent camaraderie.
The children’s park in Campal; the Don Bosco grounds with three football playing fields; the Goa Medical College along with the hostels for doctors and nurses; Marietta Bar and Restaurant; the garden opposite Geeta Bakery and the one near the church; the two clubs – Clube Nacional and Clube Vasco da Gama, and the many restaurants around the garden; and the jungle in Altinho with its enticing wild berries formed the framework of the capital of Goa.
Things started changing with time, and change is important. But as Panjim changed, its citizens became complacent and allowed unmitigated deleterious change to take its own course. From being guided by the citizens of Panjim, the course of change began to be guided by casinos, leading to the Panjim of today, a far cry from the Goan capital of the past.
Panjim has become a nightmare that evolved from unchecked ‘development’. From parking to pedestrian safety, there is not much about the city that remains appealing to its inhabitants, whose smiles have been replaced with tears and disbelief.
Perhaps Panjim’s exploitation is to some extent the result of the apathy of the people. However, quite a few senior citizens have decided to take up arms against this convoluted issue, leading to the emergence of the Save Panjim Group.
Citizens spoke of some members of the Save Panjim Group meeting the Panjim MLA and having been assured by him that the Waste-to-Art park slotted for Campal will be shifted to another location. But assurances of this sort must be taken with a grain of salt because they mean as much as the promise made to citizens before the elections that the casinos would be shifted from River Mandovi.
There is not much time left to rescue this once beautiful city from the casinos and builder lobby, but rescue it we must, before sepsis sets in with imminent death in sight. Once the parking problem is resolved, the win might invigorate others to take up causes that will benefit the city. It is a matter of small steps of change at this point.
Once a sanctuary to us, let us repay Panjim by abandoning our slumber and becoming vigilant, proactive citizens.