The suggestion by the Consul General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai Alexey Novikov that the State Government ought to start Russian language courses in schools considering the huge number of Russian tourists visiting the State has upset several Goans. While the implications of the suggestion may be that it will help better interaction between the tourists and the local people, there is scope for misreading it as a demand that Goans should learn the tourists’ language instead of the other way about. In the colonial days, there was very little attempt by the Europeans to study the local languages and understand the social ethos of the place. Arrogance had preceded sane thinking. A society which was at the receiving end of such a pattern of behavior will be justified in reading a similar tone in Novikov’s suggestion.
What really encouraged the Indians in general and Goans in particular to learn English, French German and Portuguese, and Dutch to some extent was the work of missionaries from these countries in learning and using the local language to communicate with the masses.There was a warm reciprocation and sincere attempt to understand each other. Fr Thomas Stephens was an English Jesuit in Portuguese India who mastered Konkani and Marathi and was even known as a Marathi poet. Then there was Fr Hermann Gundert who gave Malayalam its first dictionary. We have had German groups who have managed to put together Konkani and English dialogue and their German counterparts into travel assistance leaflets or booklets. Had a similar effort come from serious Russian tourists to learn and understand Konkani, and in the process learn the social norms of Goa, the interest in Russian language would have been kindled as a natural offshoot of that.
Job opportunities had facilitated the learning of French and English. Diplomatic careers opened up the learning of foreign languages in Chennai, Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. In any event, simple etiquette requires that a visitor to a new place demonstrates interest in understanding the local language and culture. Such attempts are warmly reciprocated by those interacting with them. Even during the British colonial rule, there were many White officers who were fluent in what they called Hindustani.
Surely, Goa is not desperate in seeking Russian roubles. Since the Russian Consul General has charged the State Government of defaming the Russians by throwing up false claims of mafia operating in the coastal parts of North Goa, it is the bounden duty of the State Government to clear the air. There is little doubt that Russians , like Israelis , have sought to dominate locals, creating colonies of exclusivity, where non-Russians are unwelcome. Use of local hospitality to enjoy their sojourn here is one thing, but abusing hospitality to subsequently dictate terms tamtamounts to overstepping limits of decency, bordering on rank interference.
Of course, not all Russians or Israelis can be painted with the same brush, but the misdeeds and abuses of a handful, even those operating business with Russian nameplates is enough to trigger animosity. This has to be clearly understood. Would Goan businessmen be permitted to foist billboards exclusively in Konkani or debar Russians from entering such hotels in their own country? It rankles of racism. There have been shacks in Goa which have seen banners at entrance of shacks in the past which equated Indians to dogs, and not being welcomed.
Instances of Goans being cold-shouldered, even told to leave, at restaurants and hotels managed by Russian operators are not unheard of.
Whenever small time hotels are sought to be taken up for cluster booking of rooms by travel agents, the hotel owner is often faced with a rider that the hotel would be exclusively used by Russian clientele and non-Russians would not be entertained, thereby limiting his scope to accommodate non-Russian tourists. Though the local hotel owners are the eventual losers, such deals are entered into by travel agents -- no questions asked.
Racisim apart, the Government must come out clearly on the murder of a taxi driver some years ago who was shot in the head reportedly by suspected Russians. People ought to get to know the progress of the case pertaining to the murder of taxi driver Rohidas Atamaram Shetgaocar at Mandrem in 2010. Two Russians were reportedly accused of murder, but they jumped bail and have since disappeared.
Whether we like it or not, the story goes that one drug baron came to Goa 12 years ago, started getting involved in organizing rave parties, supplying drugs at such venues and eventually opened the window to other Russians visiting the State. Today, there are Russians in various trades, including running restaurants and shacks. Subsequently, the drug supplier got involved in building a hotel, but now it has bogged down in litigations due to FEMA and CRZ violations. The point is, do we really need such tourists that we need to learn their language merely to deal with them? Goa is not desperate for such tourist traffic at any cost.