KENELM SANTANA LOPES | There is much said about saving Goa. No one seems to have a clue as to how to go about it. Even fewer of us get around to doing anything about it.
I heard about a Ghumtachem Fest today and decided to show up there with my wife and mother-in-law, more out of curiosity than any other reason.
When we got there – just an hour before the scheduled time for wrapping up the event – we were greeted by a bunch of people merrily singing songs of and from Goa. Many of them were Goans, many were not. Many played instruments well, many sang well but even the few who did not made up for it with their enthusiasm.
On the side was a vendor selling traditional Goan earthenware, where the clay rooster used for storing water, the clay lion and the colourful clay dogs watched with an unblinking vigil for people to take them home.
A little ahead, a group of artists were sketching and painting. An accomplished caricaturist was manipulating a person’s profile to better represent his personality.
Loaded on a side table was a brilliant display of local produce like kanknam, dried prawns, locally grown vegetables, cashews and other “interest inspiring” items.
The busiest section, of course, was a mouth-watering buffet of the once staple – now treasured – food items such a boiled rice, bilimbi pickle, ladyfinger curry and other delights from the rustic kitchen.
It seemed like a picnic where hundreds of people were laughing, dancing and making merry all around a collection of the traditional Ghumott, the theme of this event. We regretted we has missed many interesting performances and dances that had been held earlier in the day.
As I left I reflected on the stark contrast between the Carnival parade the day before and this little event. It’s a pity that so many of us gravitate towards finding enjoyment in watching Brazilian dancers, poorly crafted floats, a city decorated in prints of masks stolen off the internet and loud music, mostly from artists and people with little to do with Goa.
When we speak of saving a unique Goan identity, do we do so by aping the West or by promoting music, art, dance and food that is part of our history? A history that is flavoured by the kunbis, the gaudis, the saraswats, the bhandaris and others, in addition to regional influences from Portugal and other parts of India.
A thought comes to mind, that when we package our tourism (IF we do, that is), what are we trying to position ourselves as? A beach destination that gives easy access to the drugs and rave parties? A gambling destination where multiple casinos suffocate our rivers? A drinking destination where you can get hopelessly drunk in celebration of the fact that excise duties are lower here? A honeymoon destination where men from rustic India get their newly-wed sari-wearing brides to try on dresses that they keep tugging at to cover their knees as they ride bikes across Goa? A food destination where you pig out shwarma and butter chicken?
Or did we somewhere forget that in addition to our natural beauty we have food, dance, music and culture that can rival the best in the world; that different parts of Goa can host festivals that celebrate this, thus enriching the locals and not the outside restaurant and hotel chains?
It is time to live and participate in the Goan-ness we talk about; and the Ghumtachem Fest was just one of many such events that we must swear to participate in.