By Ajay Kumar
Former British Prime Minister Harold Wilson had famously said that a week is a long time in politics. In the life of an “expat” in Goa, 69 and a diabetic, a week is a life time.
This time, last Sunday, we were on the edge of despair. Vegetables were running out; social media was suggesting foraging in the jungles, complete with images of indigenous edible plants; and elected representatives of our small vaddo in Pilerne, entrusted with ensuring door-to-door delivery by the sage state government, were, well, found only on lament-filled WhatsApp videos from soulmates.
Then the good samaritans came. Tony, the legendary bushier half of the famous Mafia Cocktail eatery (Rosie, the ‘Sister Cook’, being the by far better half) called up to ask if we wanted any of their signature dishes: choose from beef, pork, fish. Did we!!
Prakash Pereira, owner of Delfino’s, also chose the same day to say thank you for my shared insight that Modi would sweep last year’s General Elections. Dusk was falling as he swept up the dirt track in front of the house with a bag of fresh vegetables. Being paid for it was of no consequence compared to the urgency of delivering the car load of similar packages to other elderly customers. “This can only happen in Goa”, went my WhatsApp to him. “Proud to be a Goan” came his response. “Me too,” I said, though I’m not sure if eight years of living here meets the domicile requirements of the state.
Meanwhile, the series of notices from the state government, promptly shared on social media, continued to give much food for thought. There was the Civil Supplies Department threatening general stores with retribution if they were not open. But there was also an unrescinded order from the North Goa DM, threatening more dire retribution if vehicles were seen on the road. Were the hundreds of grocery stores all expected to arrange home delivery?
The state government made it repeatedly clear that its delivery model for ensuring essential supplies relied on elected representatives. Michael Lobo, Calangute MLA and much else, stunned the social media with a series of nine beautifully crafted notices, detailing mobile numbers of Mr Lobo and Ward members and sarpanchas and for ensuring home deliveries for gas, food, medicines and medical emergencies for pets and food for stray dogs, food for the needy, of urgent maintenance services like electrician, plumber and AC repair! Did Mr Lobo stand out and was he not the only one among the 40 MLAs to think this through and line up the local administration?
The Director Health Services called for passengers who had travelled with a Covid-19 positive case by a Vistara flight to come forward and get tested. But, in the days following, you scoured in vain for any news in the media on how well that contact tracing went. Or, indeed, how well had contact tracing gone for all six positive
cases till date.
Under the health umbrella again came the notice for temporary vehicle pass for the essential needs of “senior citizens, differently abled, pregnant women and other medical emergency situations of citizens”. But there was nothing in the notice to indicate whether the temporary pass would also be extended to a companion of the above categories, without whom their ability to avail of it would be severely compromised.
Fresh vegetables came roaring back to Goa’s streets on the day that the Chief Minister tweeted that 50 trucks had entered the state. Vegetables, indeed, were abundant through the week, and with a randomness and uncontrolled consequences typical of times when you end up executing Plan A, B, C and D, we ended up with supplies that could feed most marriage gatherings.
Fresh produce supply chains are typically more local than distant, and can be revived almost instantly if labour is not an issue. But, you wonder, will the Union Government advisories on ensuring that supply of essential and non essential goods are unhindered, prove to be as elastic and robust in their implementation by the state government ?
And then Delfino’s opened up on Friday, with suitable safety caveats, and came the worry if the good-hearted Prakash had placed too much faith in the good sense of his customers and possibly risked a law and order situation. To Goa’s credit, business was brisk but orderly and the news of its opening even made it to the local papers, complete with a picture of customers maintaining social distancing as they waited outside. There was reason to be optimistic that the store’s diktat that social distancing would also be maintained inside the store was similarly followed.
Positivism was, by now, dominating the blood stream, despite the gathering global doom as brought home by the continuing horror show on the TV. Even Donald Trump had finally smelt the coffee and America was safer for that. Then the governor of Georgia state, Brian Kemp, even publicly admitted that he had just realised that the virus was also spread by the asymptomatic and you realised that the residents of that state, which includes our son and his family, are also safer.
And then the Prime Minister held a video-conference with the Chief Ministers and in his briefing to the local media, Dr Pramod Sawant shared that he preferred not to speak since the PM was focused on the states with higher incidence. But a report in this paper offered comfort in quoting Dr Sawant to the effect that on the key health-related exigencies the PM had exhorted the CMs to ensure in the days ahead, Goa was already ahead of the curve.
And then yesterday came the news of the sixth positive Covid-19 case, a visitor who had stayed in a hotel which is part of a strip mall in nearby Porvorim. And suddenly you felt the shivers of a contagion in the neighbourhood. Life has a way of coming around in circles!
(The writer is a veteran national journalist living in Goa)