Tuesday, 4 April 2017

A traveller’s take on Goa

-Brian Mendonça

Numerous travellers come to Goa. What do these travellers think of Goa? Travelling in outbound and incoming trains to Goa one often hears travellers’ tales of Goa. Some speak about the people; some speak of how they got ripped off; others lament the absence of tasty vegetarian food; still others prattle about what they did when they were here.

The internet is full of sites which advise you about what Goa is and how best you should immerse yourself in the Goa experience. The travel portal Lonely Planet proclaims ‘GOA is Sun, sand and spices.’

We learn that Reis Magos fort, Verem was built in 1551 by the Portuguese and fended off the Marathas in 1737. It was under British control from 1799-1813, turned into a prison in 1900 and abandoned in 1993. The fort was restored in 2011. It now houses an exhibition of Mario Miranda’s cartoons.* On Sunday evenings you can even learn yoga from its ramparts. It is fascinating how the fort space was used over 450 years, serving different needs, and continues to be relevant today.

A sense of Goa’s history hovered over the hall at a vibrant conclave titled ‘Goa Through the Traveller’s Lens.’ The one-day seminar organized by the Department of English of the Goa University on 30 March 2017 was peopled by historians, anthropologists, academics, mariners, litterateurs and at least one traveller-poet.

A traveller’s life is a charmed one. The work of Portuguese botanist Garcia de Orta (1501-68) who lived in Goa was highlighted. Several gardens including one in Panjim have been named after him. Though he died, before the Inquisition in Goa (1560-1812) became effective, his remains were exhumed and burnt. This was on the basis of a confession extracted from his sister who was burnt at the stake a year after his death.  

A fascination with Tagore brought José Paz Rodrigues, a professor, all the way from Spain to spend time in India, in Shantiniketan and in Goa. His collection of 34 slides titled, ‘Percepçao e influência de Tagore em Goa e no Mundo Lusófono’ is available on slideshare.net. It gives a vivid account of how Tagore influenced writers in Goa and Portuguese-speaking countries and inspired them to translate his works into Portuguese. These include Telo de Mascarenhas (1899-1979), Cecilia Meíreles (1901-1964), and Wanda Ramos (1948-1998). Tagore himself also comes through as a traveller who made several journeys across the world. One of the earliest food critics on Goa was the French navigator François Pyrard de Laval (1578-1623).

Goa is becoming a world space. Contemporary accounts include blogs by travellers to Goa and expats living in Goa. In social media travellers can be caustic and even use cuss words. Digital nomads – those who work on a beach out of a laptop – despair of the poor internet connectivity in Goa.

Living in Goa one could also look at Goa through a traveller’s eyes. That would make one more aware of the surroundings and its plenteous gifts.
*www.lonelyplanet.com; Published in Gomantak Times Weekender,St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 2 April 2017. Pix of Garcia de Orta on Portuguese coin; courtesy numisgaia.com

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