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Selling out on our roots

Frederick Noronha

We were just hanging around near a village road around dinner time the other evening, when someone seemed to be looking closely at an unoccupied house. A group of three to four males seemed intent on observing it from all angles. The old house seemed to be neglected, as some homes in the outmigration-oriented parts of Goa tend to look.

You find fewer such places now than in the past, as such homes often get quickly bought. Side by side, there are so many not-for-sale signs put up on houses too. And some of those buying such homes argue that they’re doing Goa a favour by keeping things in better shape.

“This place has been bought by four different buyers, and yet not one has stayed in it,” my friend who’s well informed in these matters told me. I couldn’t but help wondering about the implications of what I was being told.

On returning home, a couple of hours later, Facebook was pushing me to catch up with neighbours and friends who were “visiting” cities in North America. Life there does indeed look glamorous from afar, and undoubtedly it is better in at least a material sense. Obviously, such reports do have their demonstration effect, and keep influencing our views of the grass on the other side of the fence. This is something that parts of Goa have had to long live with.

On Facebook, again, just some minutes later, I ran into a service that offers Goans living in Canada assistance to “sell their properties in Goa”. The write-up highlighted the financial and regulatory travails our part of the world is going through. It added: “As you also know, in Goa, when houses are closed for a long time and land is not taken care of, it provides temptation for antisocial elements to encroach on such properties and claim as their own.”

It’s your guess as to how much of this is a true reflection of reality, and how much is a slant meant to encourage distress sales. As they say, if you believe you’re lost, you well and truly are.

I couldn’t resist adding a comment below the post saying: “Also helping them to become strangers in their own land. Their grandchildren would wonder where the heck they came from!”

What surprised me even more was the OP (original poster) of that message replying to politely agree with me and simply say: “So true…”

For some of us, this might not be an unusual story. It increasingly happens these days in parts of Goa. Migration out of Goa tends to be like the waves out at sea: sometimes steady, sometimes high and choppy. Depending which way the wind blows, we make up our mind. You could call it flexibility, or you could see it as a form of opportunism as well.

Of course, everyone has that right to opt for a better life for their children and themselves, however they define that. But, at what price? I know someone who quit a perfectly productive life in Goa, a job in the family, and two small businesses that ran well. And all this was for the “children’s future”.

In the 1960s too, many found it tough to cope with the new reality and political changes, and turned pessimistic about the fate of Goa. By the time the 1970s came around, the situation in East Africa had taken a sudden, if not unexpected, twist for the worse. A section of the Goans based there had no option but to return back to Goa. At around the same time, many English-speaking Catholic Goans also returned from other parts of India, sensing the opportunity here. Suddenly, our villages were lively and booming.

But, in no time, by the early-to-mid 1980s, many children of families of the East Africa returnees themselves left Goa. They made it to places like Canada, the US, the Gulf, or Australia and New Zealand.

One sharply recalls the 1990s, when Goa suddenly became a globally-recognised tourism brand. Of course, everyone knows that tourism ‘fashions’ don’t last. But, at that time, as everyone spoke about Goa specially in Europe, so many Goans around the globe suddenly turned proud of their ethnicity and played up their connections with home.

In today’s globalised world, migration is indeed a complex issue. We hate it when others migrate into our regions; but we are ourselves migrants in some other sense. Likewise, one can never be too sure about the hidden costs, the lost opportunities, the unexpected twists and turns coming our way.

Again, by some bizarre set of coincidences, I ran into this insightful video (You never know if it’s some algorithm, which understands your own pet peeves better than you do yourself!). It’s called ‘The State of Denmark: Understanding Denmark’s Growing Anti-Immigrant Stance’. If you get a chance, do watch it on YouTube.

As its name suggests, migration is turning into contentious in that part of Europe too. While some Danes see their actions as merely protecting their lifestyle, the way they treat immigrants can make them seem to be insensitive, deliberately provocative, or even racist themselves. The documentary is by Journeyman Pictures’ Hamish Macdonald, who was known for his two books called ‘Ambani & Son’ and the even more hard-hitting ‘The Polyester Prince’.

Back home in Goa, the issue remains a complex one. Are we doing right by selling out on our roots? Is there no option to doing this? Does the system actually work against those who opt to keep their homes shut?

Urbanites from bigger cities find an old home in Goa an easy place in which to park their surplus money, pushing up costs of housing. Those leaving the place couldn’t bother too much, and will sell out to the highest bidder, obviously. On the other hand, the debate over ‘special status’ has, as expected, come to nought. Or at best it has remained just a bargaining chip for Goa to try and claim more funding from the Centre.

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