By Nandkumar M Kamat
How many realities exist in Goa? Does Goan “reality” exist like the famous Russian Doll? The Goa which Goans see and media reports is different than what the “others” see- mainly the foreign tourists and among them a new, dominant class of Slavic Russian tourists. Russia is not an ordinary country- it is a great land with harsh winter and of simple, hard working people which has produced some of the most powerful writers, philosophers and thinkers in modern history. Love of literature flows through the blood of every Russian.
The way “others’ experience and globalize Goa, especially the Slavic Russians is virtually beyond comprehension of Goan politicians, police, writers, journalists, intellectuals and religious leaders. Some examples of that “other side” of Goa would be given in this article. We should thank Russian ‘nirvana’ seeker Vasiliy Karavaev (details at www.vasiliykaravaev.com) for writing a courageous, volatile and surrealistically realistic autobiographical novel on his global and local experiences. I was lucky to purchase one of the 500 printed copies of his novel “Goa Confession of the psychedelic oyster’, 530 pages illustrated tome, translated by Polina Tikhonova and edited by Nicholas Whit. In style and narrative this novel cannot be put under any known genre of literature but it would come as powerful cultural and political shock to local readers and students of sociology, law and literature. The structure of the narrative is classified in 55 chapters with each chapter subdivided into two parts- Inside and Outside. The issues and controversies on which Goans are seen to spending a lot of social energy appear to take place on some distant planet when we see the “other’ side of Goa painted by Vasiliy.
Settled in Goa since 2004 this 43 years old expert on psychedelic culture, runs a restaurant and introduces himself in the blurb as “An ordinary Russian guy living in the north of Indian state of Goa, having a beautiful wife, a smart daughter and his own restaurant on the shore, where you can have a taste of hash cake and wash it down with real kvass-an old Russian beverage-for just 100 rupees”. Explaining his motive behind this “confession” he clarifies- “for six years I have been under investigation for a criminal case, although I consider myself innocent of the charges against me. I was locked up for one and half years in an Indian prison and then released on bail, which means I can’t leave India for a few years. I wrote the book in order to make a living.”
Perhaps the traumatic experience in jail that provided him the impulse; the protagonist of the novel while offering his impression of Goa to wife Lena writes- “My dear , you were in Goa and Goa is not India. The Goan Indians consider themselves more to be Portuguese. And they are all clean, compared to rest of India. To consider Goan Indians is the same to consider Tajiks Europeans”. The protagonist buys charas in Pokhara , Nepal, hides it in non operational empty laptop. What he does with Nepali charas in Goa? “Having crossed the border with a kilo of charas, for the first time in my life I really felt like someone.
Back in Goa, I rented fifty square metres of beach for the whole season for 500 bucks and began to build a restaurant. Selling charas little by little, I used the money to buy bamboo, boards, plywood and tools. Hiring two assistants for the hard work, I toiled with them from dawn till dusk. Periodically rolling joints with my charas, I sawed, dug, and hammered nails.
Working on the beach was fun and not taxing. In a couple of weeks, the first restaurant in my life was finished- the first Russian restaurant on Arambol beach.” To Dennis and Ilka, his first tourists he advises- “Goa is a magical place, where all wishes come true; the main thing is to have a clear idea of what you want” . When Lena questions- “isn’t it dangerous to sell drugs?” the response is striking- “Everyone sells psychedelics in Goa. Here in impoverished India, the most serious problems with police, for which the punishment can be up to ten years, can be resolved for as little as one thousand dollars. The police recently raided a Russian drug-dealer, and he had a hundred grams of MDMA in a pile on the table. He gave the police one thousand dollars, did a line with them, and it was all worked out. In Russia, he would have been very lucky if the cops had demanded fifty thousand dollars. It’s more likely that he would have been sentenced for at least ten years. If India’s police start putting Europeans into prison, who is going to come here?”
The protagonist moves all over Goa and writes- “I was already known to the Russians who had lived permanently in north, from Arambol to Anjuna. I sold my fellow countrymen LSD, mescaline, MDMA, ecstasy, charas. I didn’t just sell psychedelics; I was a psychedelic preacher. When I arrived at a party, I chose my victims and worked on them the whole night. Sometimes they were loners, sometimes a whole crowd. I was interested in watching their transformation, the transformation of their perception of the world. I watched as within two weeks, notorious Russian gangsters turned into ordinary nice guys and ‘new Russian’ businessmen who were previously unable to talk about anything but money, started discussing the meaning of life. On their departure home to Russia many people thanked me for their awakening.”
Goa familiar to us doesn’t know the depths of psychedelic revolution in this tourist belt. Vasiliy’s protagonist writes- “people like me, psychedelic preachers, explained to people the difference between good and bad drugs, telling them the things that society tries to conceal, as society considers all drugs unequivocally bad. People who embraced the faith of psychedelic religion, refused to return to their place in society. Having realized the futility of endless pursuit of Golden calf or happy future, people threw away their expensive clothes and cell phones burned their passports and return tickets, preferring the simple life of a fishing village to hectic life of a big city.” (To be continued).