After living in Delhi for the last 11 years, I shifted back to my hometown Goa to start a new chapter in my life. Sharing that I am from Goa is always an instant conversation starter. Responses range from rapt admiration and envy to post-retirement planning, and every now and then, downright condescension. But three responses really stood out to me:
I was chatting with an upwardly mobile professional who considered himself to be well-travelled, savvy, successful. He asked me where I studied. I shared that I had completed my graduation from St. Xavier’s, Mapusa in Goa. He said a bit too casually for me, “Really, Goa has a university?”
Yes, Goa has a university established in 1985, though some of the prominent colleges were established in the 1960s. Fun fact: Goa University building was designed by Satish Gujral.
The founder of a contemporary business who always knew me as a Delhi resident expressed bewilderment when I said I am now remotely working from my hometown. “Merril, I really want to understand something. How are you working there?” I have been asked, playfully and in zest, many times about how one can work here.
I’m used to this reaction. But in this particular conversation — she was genuinely trying to wrap her head around it. There have been others like her, too.
Basic clarification: People in Goa are engineers, doctors, electricians, plumbers, teachers, entrepreneurs, fisherfolks, tourism service providers and so on and so forth. People work to earn their daily pao.
A millennial guy from Delhi was talking about how he loves to travel. He finds partying in Goa “just wild”, but he will go for a cultural experience, to Pondicherry. I mentioned that Goa also has a cultural side that many don’t know about — we have a local theatre and film industry, a rich heritage of music, architecture, cuisine and stories.
“No, Goa is only for partying. Pondicherry is for culture.” He was keen to visit Auroville. “Do you know who inspired Auroville and what it stands for?” I asked. He hadn’t the faintest idea. His views were based on hype, ignorance, perhaps, a lack of self-awareness.
#THREAD: Infamous for ‘horse-trading’ and president’s rule, #Goa is gearing up for a very interesting assembly election once again! #DemocracyAdda is here with 5 things you should know: pic.twitter.com/ZWCwBJ1MB3
— Youth Ki Awaaz (@YouthKiAwaaz) November 27, 2021
I don’t fully blame him; consecutive Goan governments have allowed our tourism industry to take on a skewed tourism identity, where human trafficking, environmental degradation and other evils are hidden in plain sight.
Goa is now at a critical stage in its evolution and is highly threatened by illegal construction activity, lack of access and opportunity and communal undertones. But Goans are speaking out for sustainable development, livelihoods, basic amenities like water, women’s safety, accessibility and peace and harmony as a core value.
I invite travellers to take an interest in this aspect of Goa. When you say you love Goa, mean it. Read up and amplify as grassroots movements in Goa gain momentum. Your favourite holiday destination needs your support.