Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Booking a Trip to Goa 4: Once Upon A Time In Aparanta

Once Upon A Time In Aparanta

In case you’re contemplating picking up Once Upon A Time In Aparanta for that definitive and authentic telling of the tale of Goan society, then put that book down at once! The book is no authentic teller of the society. It serves only to retell with some aesthetic merit the tropes of the Goan community already made familiar by third-rate Bollywood films. Thus you are treated to the murderous syllables that pass off as the English of a Konkani-speaking community, and cultural conventions that some Goans will have to search hard for. What this book does effectively do however, is present to the reader a pretty good telling of current conflicts by one of the many Indian flotsams that have drifted on to Goan shores. Sudeep Chakravarti, a neo-Goan with a history of journalism behind him, has used his talents to weave a story of what some are already describing as a low-intensity civil war taking place in Goa.

Aparanta has been hailed by some local activists as the story of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan, the social front that was at the forefront of the opposition to the destruction of the Goan environment. As such, the book captures some of the dilemmas faced by Goa; of the inevitability of the sale of land that will soon end the magic that nature is able to weave in this space; it draws attention to the sins of the mining industry that daily rips at the belly and life-force of Goa, threatening drought with every passing day; and the anger “directed at everyone and everything—‘political worms, ore-sons and un-real estate developers’ and other conquistadors of Aparanta’s land.” This book highlights the injuries that have wounded Goa and Goans, an injury that increasingly manifests as xenophobia, but is really the confusion of a people being pushed steadily into poverty and uncertainty. While doing all of this though, Chakravarti has also managed to insert into his telling of the Goan story the bitter animosities that underlie Goan society, whether it is anti-Portuguese, anti-Konkani or pro-Marathi. While doing this, Aparanta also captures the fatality that is part of Goa’s ethos, that there is no future, all that is Goa was in the past. It is this fatality that is at the root of the many nostalgic writings one finds on Goa.

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