Museumizing the Coconut Tree

Image Source: The Guardian

The call for a museum of the coconut tree by some self appointed business men posing as farmers is a clear indicator that our society is descending into the quicksand of decay. The fact that they are asking for the hastening of the enactment of the bill on the declassification of the coconut tree and in the same breath ask for the museum of a coconut tree reveal that they do not intent to protect the coconut tree but seal its fate as an artefact that will remain as a relic that would narrate the story of Goa, Goans and the coconut tree. The call for a coconut museum is certainly the last nail in the coffin of our living coconut tradition as it already visualizes Goa without its pristine coconut cover. The anticipation of the loss of the Goan coconut tradition and the suggestion of its museumization are insensitive to the sensibilities of Goans of all walks of life. Coconut tree is not merely a tree for Goans but has become part of their identity, cuisine, religion and culture. It has multiple meanings and intimate connotations that collectively form part of the social archive of our society. That is why the declassification of the coconut tree has been viewed as a regressive act and attack on Goanness. Hence, it is difficult to dismiss the struggle that resists the declassification as hyperbolic. If the Government construes it as a mere quarrel of some Goans, it will commit a grave error.

In several ways the act of declassification of the coconut tree doubled up to signify everything that is anti-Goa and Goans. It has the power that summons every right thinking Goan to stand up for Goa and its future. In the bargain the Government seems to have lost its centre of gravity (the people of Goa) and appears to be brokering the interest of Goa and its people in the garb of development to the highest bidders. Even the export tax holiday by the union budget to bandage the so called ailing mining industry in Goa does not appear to convince many. Several voices are already whispering that it is the Government’s way of assuring that its election campaign of 2017 is supported by the beneficiaries of that tax holiday. Almost all it’s development initiatives have invited resistance and have acquired a negative content that leads many to view it as a path of destruction and ruination of Goa and its people. As these negative contours carve a profound space in the psychic and material life of Goan people, the declassification of the coconut tree became the panic button that triggered anxiety, anger and resistance among the people in Goa bringing politico-seismic tremors in our society. This means the issue of declassification of the coconut tree seems to capture every other issue that produced discontent and ill-ease with the reigning BJP Government. That is why the coconut issue has become explosive much to the embarrassment of the Government and its cronies.

The coconut is not only a tree for the Goans. It belongs to all the elements that collectively form what we may call ‘Goykarponn’. Through the unfortunate declassification of the coconut tree, the Government has almost pierced the heart of ‘Goykarponn’ and those who want the Government to build the coconut museum have rubbed salts into these wounds. Hence, the coconut issue somehow came to sum up the ongoing active process of ruination of Goa to almost all in Goa to the extent that its proponents stand isolated and look to be bearers of interest that is anti-Goa and anti-Goans. Thus, the coconut tree entangles every form and shade of vested interest that is out to destroy Goa and as such cannot be dismissed as merely politicized by some sections of the political community in Goa. While Goans will certainly fight to reclaim the lost space of the coconut tree, it will be almost next to impossible to reclaim the lost face of some of the politicians entangled in declassification of the coconut tree. The destruction of the coconut tree seems to have already become costly as the issue is juxtaposed with the lust for the promissory notes flowing through a liquor industry that required the destruction of tens of hundreds of the coconut trees. Therefore, it is crystal clear that the coconut tree has become a site that evokes the sense of loss and virulent dispossession of ‘Goykarponn’ . This sense of disenfranchisement generates an intense imperative to fight back and recover the lost and dislocated ‘Goykarponn’.

The desire for a museum of the coconut tree pictures a debris of the destruction of ‘Goykarponn’. It somehow points to the final destination of the decaying and ruining process of death of ‘Goykarponn’ set in by the present regime. While the last rite is yet to be done, the decaying future seems to be already anticipated with demand for a museum of the coconut tree. Although the future is uncertain, the Goan spirit is far stronger than those of the builders turned agriculturalists. Goans are not going to let ‘Go Karbonn’ die. De-Goanaization has been sent in but Goacide is yet to occur. Goans with self respect will not allow this blatant destruction of Goa. The museum of the coconut tree can become an evocative metaphor with a critical purchase that can awaken us Goans to take responsibility for the rising ill-fate of Goa and Goans. Hence, the process that is set in to bring ruin upon Goans has the power to unite Goans across Goa. All divisions that were enforced by converting our legitimate differences as conflicting dissociations can melt down and bring about a new association of all Goans irrespective of their religious, caste, north/south divides. Bias of every kind always views the other through the lens of a corrosive difference and constructs self sameness of the insider group by covering up fluid differences of its members. Thus, the majority is bundled as uniform though it is far from it at the same time is contrasted with a minority whose difference is highlighted, although every minority is also made of fluidly different individuals. Goa is not free from such construction of difference to create divides that can be then used as vote banks. The issue of the coconut tree has the power to dismantle this active construction of difference to keep the Goans divided. Indeed, it can unite Goans and set them on a mission to save Goa and Goans.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao