My Country, My People

“I lived in Goa for five years. No I don’t want to ever go back.”

This is my usual response when someone suggests we visit Goa for a holiday. I don’t usually bring up the subject, but when I cannot control my vehemence, I have to explain its root cause.

Don’t get me wrong: Goa is a beautiful place. I met many wonderful people there, who I love and cherish to this day. I am also unfortunately met the scummy kind of people who insist that anyone from the rest of India is a “migrant”.

Now, this is a nuanced debate, and I am convinced of their broad argument. Wealthy Indians buying up real estate in Goa as their second, or sometimes third, home causes the market prices to shoot up. Therefore, ordinary, salary-earning individuals are pushed out of the market. Either that, or they are forced to take on astronomical debt and receive a cupboard-sized home in return. I understand, and agree.

However, this leads to the out and out vilification of every non-Goan in the place. Like me. I wasn’t rich when I moved to Goa. (I’m not rich now either, but that’s neither here nor there.) In fact, I moved there out of a sense of frugality. I was contented living alone in an apartment in Pune, and visiting my parents off and on in Goa.

My parents aren’t from Goa either; they moved there because my dad got a job there. Why did he take up that job? Because he wanted to cheat an equally qualified Goan out of the job, and laugh maniacally whilst teetering precariously on a tower of gold coins? Nope. He took the job because he was 60+, he didn’t have very many choices, and he had to feed his family on something other than love and air.

We stayed in a house, rented out by a Goan, who is ironically working in Mumbai – where we are from. We couldn’t afford property after all, and our rent headed straight back out of the state. Our fault? According to some of the Goans I am unfortunate enough to encounter online, apparently so.

I wanted to move to Mumbai, to the broken down flat that is under litigation and leaking from every crevice, rather than stay in Goa. I felt stifled in a place that had no opportunities for growth. I would have to travel out to have a successful freelance business, and I would rather stay in a place where I was assured that I could buy dogfood easily with some degree of regularity. Plus, I’d rather not be called a migrant in my own country.

The second issue is of paradise being paved over, to paraphrase a popular ditty. Again, the mainland Indians are blamed for this. Granted, the developers are from the rest of India. Who are the sellers though? Goans. Who are the people who complain? Goans. Hm. The same group of people. Mightn’t their issues be resolved if they perhaps spoke to one another?

The issue with Goa is not one that is unique to them. Many places face the influx of migration – some from the same country, and others from outside. Although I grew up in Dubai, my mother was born and brought up in Mumbai. She remembers quiet neighbourhoods and tree-lined streets, and was afraid to let me travel to Andheri for work because in her mind, it was still a jungle circa 1970.

The fact is that people move around for various reasons. Some for work, like my family; some for health reasons, looking for a slower pace of life after a heart attack maybe; some for adventure in a different culture. There are many Goans in Mumbai, and they’ve carved their own spaces in this large city, and the city in turn has let them, nay encouraged them. They have not brought wealth and growth to the city in any measurable way, yet no one calls them migrants.

I hope I never have to go back to Goa. I tell a lot of my friends, hardworking, affluent, young people with moral compasses, to avoid Goa too. Go to Gokarna. Go to Kerala. Go to Mangalore, Kashid, Ganpati Phule, wherever. Don’t go and spend your money in Goa, where they’ll take the money but curse you in the bargain.

[Note: Like I said before, some of my favourite people in the world are Goan. This is meant for the rest of them. Oh, and in case an outraged Goan cares to leave a nasty comment, I’ll just delete it. I don’t owe you squat.]

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