BENGALURU: Throughout my childhood, I was taught and oriented to hate colonialism. Through stories, folklore, and books, I learnt that the colonisers were evil, crooked and the money-minded. If you think about it, the idea of colonising another country sounds absurd. Like something you’d expect from dinosaurs and rhinoceroses; not the smartest creatures on earth.
However, as I grew up, I found arguments that supported the British. We were told that they gave us most of our institutions, the railways and the use of English – that helps us to communicate, and helps me to earn my living. However, if there is a soft corner in the sphere of colonisation, it is for the Portuguese, for colonising Goa. In many ways, Goa keeps a billion people sane.
Goa has been sold to us as the magical land of love, magic, lust and fun. Films depict Goans to be jolly, God-fearing people who speak with a strange English twang. Songs are picturised here, life-altering road trips begin and end in Goa.
And yet, we have made Goa our own. We have taken this ex-Portuguese colony and Indianised it beyond recognition. While the number of foreign tourists has seen a distinct dip in numbers, rising disposable incomes and a middle-class that wants to travel – have meant that Indians have taken to Goa with a fervour. Right next to night clubs are Gujarati hotels. Restaurants display their menus in English, Russian, Israeli and Bengali. We have come up with our version of the swimsuit – one that reveals the right amount of skin for our sanskari morals.
Temples and churches play hide and seek with each other throughout the stretches of the state. But perhaps the most important part of Goa are its animals.Cows are on a permanent holiday in Goa. They couldn’t be bothered less about grazing, or chewing, or going about their holy lives. But the true champions of Goa are its dogs. Amidst the tourism boom that Goa has experienced, the dogs have truly made themselves a part of the eco-system. While most dogs in India ‘report for duty’ on the streets after the sun sets, Goan dogs give you time till 2 am, after the clubs shut down.
And then, it’s truly their territory. Nearly every house and establishment in Goa has a dog. And when you set out on your bike to enjoy the tranquil night, you get spotted. What follows is a Mad Max chase that ends with you reaching home safe, or getting barked at all night. They are a stern reminder that we are still in India.
I was pleasantly surprised to notice that one of the towns in Goa is called Vasco Da Gama – after the Portuguese explorer who first sailed to India. If Vasco da Gama was alive today, he’d probably smile. For Portugal colonised a part of India, but we colonised it back from them and made it our own.