11 Feb 2024  |   06:16am IST

The Carnival of togetherness is toasted each day in Goa. Say Viva to that

Goa’s heartbeat is all about inclusivity, let not greed & politics ever change it
 The Carnival of togetherness is toasted each day in Goa. Say Viva to that

From Rio, in Brazil, to Rua de Ourem in Panjim, the vibe of the Carnival is the same- let the simplicity of the heart rule

In the abundance of mirth and merry making witnessed on the streets of Panjim, Porvorim Margao, Mapusa and Vasco  and in the cocoons of villages, the Carnival is more than a celebration. It is a nostalgic high and embrace and an arm around the shoulder of nostalgia, of Goa that once was and always will be a place where hearts meet, before religions do.

It’s just the same. In the riot of music, costumes and revelry, one may not always carry on the same customs and traditions as per the rule book, but was the carnival ever about a rule book? 

And the Carnival is just one of the many reminders, Goans give to themselves of not just inclusivity and togetherness but even greater messages. Religion is a tool to reach out to be better human beings and make the diversity of religions a strength and not a divisive tool.

Every Goan speaks and embraces all of these festivals with the same emotion. Carnival, (Konkani: Intruz), São João (Feast of John the Baptist), Ganesh Chaturthi (Konkani: Chavath), Diwali, Christmas (Konkani: Natalam), Easter (Konkani: Paskanchem Fest), Samvatsar Padvo or Sanvsar Padvo, and Shigmo. There is a happy awareness of the community whose ancestors celebrated the festival, feast or occasion but the social community connected beyond the religious confines of one community had made Goa what it has always been- one of the biggest melting pots of humanity and human connect.

If Goa’s identity and resources are eroded, the temple and the Church goer are equally affected. When the South Western Railways decides to expand the railway track in the pristine South Goa coastal villages and the expansion cuts through the boundary wall of the age-old Arossim Church, it pains everyone  in the area, and not the community that goes to Church. In the historic people’s peaceful candle-lit vigil in Chandor, on November 1, 2021, Goans of all ages and places converged, to give one the strongest people’s responses against a project that has cut through the heart of villages and people’s  homes. The Railway Police decided to retaliate and file against the protestors, among other police stations.  The Railway police charge sheet named, among others, Abhijit Prabhudesai, Diana Tavares, Freddy Travasso and Vikas Bhagat. But charge sheets don’t scare them. Only political betrayals hurt them.

What do you sense when you see these names? Don’t you sense that a Prabhudesai, a Tavares, a Travasso and a Bhagat are brave extraordinary Goans standing firm for their land and people? And there are hundreds and hundreds like them.

Goa’s strength always lies in the unity of its people and the selflessness

Every time the land and its people are troubled, when injustices have to be countered or when the rights of traditional communities like fishermen are plundered, Goa’s strength always lies in the unity of its people and the selflessness that they fight for each other and their Goa. No politician or party has even managed to disrupt that.

At panchayat ghars, at government officers, on the streets and in all courts of law, every door is knocked till people are heard. And while the list of issues to fight against gets longer, the will to fight never ebbs and never fails.

Responding to the summons, from the railway police, Abhijit Prabhudesai, echoed this succinctly when he said, “We and the people of Goa had all descended on the battlefield two years ago with the sole purpose of protecting the State’s environment for posterity. And, we will continue our battle."

They were not there as church or temple goers but as pilgrims- for Goa’s progress.

These are all street fighter heroes. For them, (in a line used in an earlier INSIGHT) “any number of monuments and memorials during their active years will not be enough” to truly tell future generations, what they have done for Goa and the children of the future.

But, (to quote another line from a previous INSIGHT) “One question plays on the minds of all these heroes. How many politicians have stood with them and have faced cases for protesting with the people?"

To quote another paragraph from an earlier INSIGHT “On another side of the state Rajendra Kerkar, writer journalist, and green warrior waged a crusade with his pen and his voice to protect the forests of the Mhadei and the River Mhadei itself. His writings and his legal interventions have worked towards a more robust debate on the diversion of the Mhadei waters and the protection of tiger habitats in conjunction with reducing man-animal conflicts. At the peak of mining violations, Kerkar’s ground investigations exposed many mining illegalities. If Claude Alvares is Goa’s crusader against illegal mining. Kerkar has been a very able and accomplished ally.”

 The need to recall these stems from the need to re-acknowledge and underline, what ordinary Goans know and understand intrinsically. In times of festivity and merrymaking, Goans are together. In times of adversity, they come together even stronger to fight for their homes, their lands and resources their rivers and forests, their places of worship and their lands.

There will be times when this unity is tested, only by the weak who don’t know better. A spark may be lit in Bardez, Mormugao or Salcete. But it is the maturity of Goans who reserve their strengths for more genuine battles to protect Goa, who always take the lead so that these sparks of attempted tension get buried as soon as they are born.

 The Carnival will move from Panjim to Margao, Vasco and Mapusa. But importantly look for tradition and togetherness in the village carnivals where the joys of simplicity and old customs leave a warm glow in everyone’s hearts.

The religion of togetherness is celebrated each day in Goa. Let’s say Viva to that

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar