View from my Balcao – Liberty Port

View from my Balcao …my Dad blogs from Goa

Visitors, and they will descend in hordes come October, to this island in the sun, make the rulers of this tiny state genuinely believe that commerce & vice go hand-in-hand. Maybe true of the rampant mining over the past decade and more. Not entirely true of tourism.

Goa is certainly not a twilight zone of drugs, booze & sleaze, as is currently being made out – Bombay & Delhi score higher, for sure. Its just a fun-place where richie-rich kids from Bombay & Delhi (and lesser cities) come to have a spot of merriment. Beer, nay any booze, is ridiculously cheaper than other cities, so why not indulge in an extra tipple when on holiday. And why traveel all the way to Pattaya when Goa is round the corner.

The social-service wing of the ruling government has grabbed headlines for their enthuisiastic attempts to curb night-life. This middle-class anxiety about hedonism could change the perception of Goa forever, making it a dull and boring beach-state as against the carefully nurtured halo of being a free-and-easy one. Their puritanism appears naive at best. Bombay & Delhi too have rocking night-life, so why single out Goa ?

Goa serves a singular purpose of allowing young (and old too !) folk, engaged in stressful lives of today’s money-changing world, to chill-out and get a taste of Goa’s famed laid-back (sosegaad) lifestyle.

Goa’s night-time avatar is unknown to many – hot-spots at Baga/Anjuna/Calangute or any of the casinos moored in the inland-waters, that start rocking by 9pm and shut shop around 6am, and why not. Partying is the sole purpose of holiday-makers to Goa. Goa is not just the gateway to India but also a rocking paradise for the foreign, and increasing now, the Indian tourist.

Lest their prudism turn Goa into the least sexy beach-town in Asia and allow a more strident Pattaya to turn the tables & turnstiles, it must beg the question as to what is good, bad or ugly.

Across the icy gulf of time from the swinging 60s to today, Goa has been India’s best-known secrets among all foreigners.

The ruling Government’s collective anxiety about keeping a clean image of Goa’s beaches must perforce go hand-in-hand with the image of a state that has had 11 CMs in the past 12 years, excluding the previous Congressman, and one that allows the mining-casino lobby as much freedom as the beach-bums of yore.

Putting a check on both is certainly advisable, given the burgeoning mining & casinos scams, & increasing number of rape cases, but lets not overload it to cause it to tipple the other way and take away the charm of Goa’s liberty to all its visitors. The present CM, who has a blue-blooded engineering degree to his name, will have to find the correct balance, a middle-path as the wise Buddha said of life.

Christmas in Goa

My mother Dr Laura Nayak blogs from Goa:

In the past 27 years I have always spent Christmas in Bangalore with family and friends apart from once or twice in Delhi or Mumbai. But this time, with our son’s Hotel in Goa, my husband and I decided to experience Christmas in Goa like true Goans.

We reached here on18th December to a really chilly morning (most unlike our earlier Goan experiences where the weather was hot and sunny) On the 19th of December, Goa celebrated 50 years of Goan Liberation. We spent the day reading the whole story of Goan Liberation in different papers and then watching all the schools in the neighbourhood take out parades with drums and slogans in different directions. The Government of Goa also organised several programmes, among them the honouring of the famous architect Charles Correa – the world renowned son of the soil whose fame has spread far beyond the shores of his native state of Goa. Following which, there were several musical events and speeches.

Slowly the city of Panjim is getting dressed up for Christmas – the old heritage houses and hotels are painstakingly decorated with stars, Christmas trees and colourful lanterns. Lots of Santas and people singing carols in the church square.

When I was young, we youngsters used to go carol singing in Delhi from one Christian/Catholic house to another and to the Embassies as well. We were always offered plum cake, “kuswar” (a traditional Goan/Mangalorean sweet), sweet wine and given money which went for a charitable cause – Our reward was a lovely picnic after New Year.

In Goa, they have a different tradition. People of all ages dressed in Santa caps and stoles and carrying colourful lanterns walk the streets singing christmas carols to spread Christmas Cheer in the neighbourhood of Fontainhas, for both Christians and Non Christians alike. They warmly welcomed me to the group and I must say I really enjoyed reliving my childhood experience.

Most Christian households in Goa are busy making “kuswar” (with some just buying from the nearest bakery) and cakes, putting up the crib and Christmas trees. Apart from the regular stores selling Christmas decorations, several makesift ones have come up across the neighbourhood of Fontainhas. Stars of different sizes and colours have come up. And of course everyone is making the rich plum cake and different wines to share with friends and family. One old neighbour even asked me whether I’ve got my new dress ready!!!

Tomorrow we get ready for the open – air midnight mass, in front of the Church singing lots of christmas carols (the choirs have been practising seriously for the past few days) and after greeting each other come home for cake and wine.

Then to get up on Christmas Day and enjoy the festive feeling, exchange sweets with neighbours and friends and settle down to a hearty Christmas lunch.

Merry Christmas to All!

Museum of Christian Art, Old Goa

Tucked away in a quiet road near the majestic Basilica of Bom Jesus is Asia’s first and only Museum of Christian Art.

Inaugurated in 1994 by the then President of India, Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma, the museum, which has enriched the cultural heritage and history of Goa was originally set up at the Seminary of Rachol in Salcette, Goa.

However, for the convenience of the general public and tourist visitors to Goa and with the support of the Archdiocese of Goa, the Museum of Christian Art was relocated to within the precinct of the Convent of Santa Monica, Old Goa, in the vicinity of the World Heritage Monuments. Most tourists only visit the World Heritage Monuments, leaving the few tourists that trickle in to the Museum of Christian Art enough space and time to look around.

I join a few tourists who have managed to make it past the World Heritage Monuments and are walking slowly, almost solemnly, toward the Museum of Christian Art. Before we get there however, we pass by the Convent of Santa Monica.

Th Convent of Santa Monica, built in the year 1627, has considerable architectural and historical significance. The Convent was at one time extremely important on account of royal patronage and was known as the Royal Monastery. I dislodge myself from the group and take a look inside. Past a few scaffoldings, I enter a large Church which is in the process of being restored. As I look around, I come upon an old cross hanging in the centre of the Church. I read a faded inscription next to the cross stating that sometime in the 17th century (I forget the date), this cross actually wept blood. Millions of pilgrims came from all across Goa and South India to witness this miracle. Now the cross hangs forlorn and forgotten in an old Church. 

The Museum of Christian Art in Old Goa itself forms the other half of the Church. Thanks to an entrance fee and efforts by the Archdiocese of Goa and the Goa Government, the Museum of Christian Art is much better preserved than the old Church.

The Museum of Christian Art houses a number of beautiful old paintings, sculptures and statues dating back to the early reign of the Portuguese in Goa. However, the Museum of Christian Art is unique in the fact that it houses a selection of objects on display that are the Hindu contribution to Christian Art in Goa and India.

Before visiting the museum, I wasn’t aware that many Hindu artists and artisans were involved in the building and creating of Christian artifacts during the Portuguese colonial rule.

At the time, images and paintings could not be dispatched from Portugal fast enough to meet the rising demand in an increasingly developed Goa. Hence, the Portuguese authorities were forced to use local Hindu artists and artisans to complete this religious work. The permanent requirements of producing images of the myriad of Hindu deities coupled with the existence of hundreds of Hindu temples and shrines in Goa was the shining proof of a well established and highly respected Goan School of Art.

Later, Hindu artists even sold images of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary and many Christian saints door to door, thus depicting their ability to move from traditional Hindu backgrounds to sophisticated forms of European art steeped in venerable Christian traditions.

The Museum of Christian Art in Goa is thus a unique testimony of the close bonds of interdependence, religious understanding and mutual acceptability between Sacred Christian Art and its traditional Hindu artisans in Goa !

While there is a fair amount of silverware such as crosses, chalices and mass plates, my favourites among the items on display are the richly embroidered priestly gowns and a portable Mass kit for priests who had to travel to distant villages to say mass.

Stay Romantic!

Mihir