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Retaining Goan identity and finding a place in a changing world

10 May 2017 06:32pm IST
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10 May 2017 06:32pm IST

Across the seas, and in the capital of Goa’s former colonial ruler, last weekend, Goans met to discuss Goa and issues that affect the State.

Across the seas, and in the capital of Goa’s former colonial ruler, last weekend, Goans met to discuss Goa and issues that affect the State. The best part of the day-long conference is that the Goans in Portugal admitted that the Goa of 2017 is far different from the Goa of 1961, the year when most of them left the shores of their birth place and made for Portugal. That admission in itself comes as a major breakthrough, that could lead to stronger ties between Goans in Goa and Goans in Portugal as the latter rid themselves of the nostalgic past that no longer exists and that discussions at previous meetings of Goans in Portugal would meander into.

As was pointed out at the conference, the Goan diaspora in Portugal is made up of people who are in the age group of 60 to 80 years, the first generation of migrants and their children. Past conferences involving the Goan diaspora would often turn to nostalgic reminiscences of a Goa that they left behind and no longer exists, and lead to a general resigned conclusion that Goa is not the same, it has changed, it is not Goa. Thankfully, this does not appear to have happened in Lisbon over the weekend, and the issues discussed were those affecting the State today.

Casa de Goa President Edgar Valles set the tone in his welcome speech by saying that the objectives of the conference was to inform the members, surprisingly they are just 570 in number, about the present situation in Goa, which is not the same as in 1961. But there is need to take it further now and it is perhaps best summarised by what Valles further said in the same speech: “It is not sufficient only to know the situation, it is also necessary to contribute to the solution of the problems affecting Goa. One can be a Portuguese citizen and at same time play a positive role regarding the place of origin, in this case Goa.”

The theme of the conference was – Sustainable Development in Goa in the 21st Century – an indication that the concern is the future of Goa. On the discussion agenda were garbage problems and possible solutions, preserving the environment, the search and preservation of Goan identity and its heritage in the areas of art, music, culture. All these discussions were initiated by presentations made by local Goans who travelled to Portugal for the conference. The keyword here, however, is ‘solutions’, some of which were suggested at the conference. 

The question is: If solutions have indeed been arrived at, or even discussed, how does Casa de Goa and the conference plan to take it forward? If it doesn’t find a way to present their solutions to the affected community, will the conference remain a mere talking shop, as so many others before it have become?

An interesting aspect that was pointed out at the conference is that the younger generation of the Goans, who do not speak Konkani, are looking at the broader picture and aligning with the Indian diaspora in Portugal in attempts to foster a horizontal network with their counterparts of the ‘younger Indian diaspora’. If a conference in Lisbon can seek to find solutions to problems in Goa, taking it forward would perhaps, best be entrusted to the youth who can connect with each other without the baggage of history weighing them down.

It’s been a start by the Casa de Goa, and perhaps can set a precedent for other Goan associations, elsewhere in the world, to seek to work with Goans in Goa in their quest to retain Goan identity and still find a place in the changing world.

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