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Mark Rocha - Official

A Goan on Stranger Tides

Note: This article appeared in a Goan weekly titled, 'The Goan on Saturday' on the 12th of April, 2014, as an Op-Ed

It’s strange being a Goan, looking at Goa from the outside, while you’re in Goa. It’s stranger still being looked at by others who are Goan, who think that you’re strange when you don’t look Goan on the outside – if that makes any sense whatsoever. But that’s what happens to me on a regular basis, and though I think I should be used to it by now, I’m not. Being born and raised outside India and then coming back ‘home’ was a surreal feeling, and then getting a chance to re-live that surreal feeling was welcomed, after coming back home post a four year stint in Bangalore.  It’s allowed me to discover and re-discover Goa in so many ways, and if anything, explore the differences in culture, both nationally and internationally. 

While in Bangalore, I realised what it was like to be a celebrity based purely on account of my ‘Goan-ness’. For those of us who have never lived out of Goa, you’re really missing out. When you introduce yourself to someone in a place like Bangalore and tell them that you are from Goa, you become an instant hit. Doors open for you, seats are rolled up to you, and you are spontaneously interviewed to find out where you live, where you party when you are in Goa, how big your house is and if alcohol is indeed ridiculously cheap. After a few photographs and the shaking of hands, you are then asked for your number, Facebook account details and if they can make ‘friendship’ with you. It’s truly an amazing feeling. 

Likewise, finding fellow Goans out of Goa is worthy of a scene from ‘National Treasure’, and you hold on to that person who you’ve met with the promise of fish curry, rice and a smuggled bottle of Feni. Because in Bangalore, it’s very difficult to be Goan. You can’t call someone ‘baba’ and get your job half done, nor can you expect the people on the road to be civil in giving you way or waiting at the traffic light without honking. Even shop keepers are strange and tell you that if they don’t have what you are looking for, then no one else will – it’s these little thing that make you really miss the Goa that we know and love. 

When I had come to Goa many years ago, I didn’t realise what being Goan was, and how special it was. I didn’t even know how to identify the Goans in the market from the ‘outsiders’ because I thought then that if they are selling stuff, they must be Goan. I still can’t tell the difference, but I’m learning it from my dad. This unique Goan-ness that we possess - the warm, friendly, slightly relaxed, but ardent ethic that is intrinsically ours, cannot be easily replicated, and for a thoroughbred Goan like my father, it’s easy to feel that magnetic positive to positive reaction. But not for me – not yet. I’m still learning the language. So when I go out to the market with my dad and I watch him interact with the fruit and vegetable vendors, what I observe are two very different sets of mannerisms for two very different types of people. There are those that will discuss pricing in Konkani, and my dad will happily reply in Konkani, and then there are those who will discuss pricing in Konkani, and my dad will reply in Hindi. When I ask him why, the answer is very simple – “Konkani is our language, and he’s not from Goa – so I will speak to him in his language. Why should I speak to him in Konkani and make his Konkani better?” I may not look and sound Goan, but it gives me hope that somewhere inside me there is a piece of pao with my name on it, and now that I’m back, I’m ready to feast on this amazing culture that we have, and that I would not give up for anything. But first I need to learn Konkani.

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