The Goa Question and Its Erasures – IV

The term semiotics may be new to some people. It has been defined as the science of life of a sign in a society. The Goa question does evoke a profound semiotic importance and cannot be easily erased. Goa being a tourist destination it is employed as a sign that has become globally a semiotic resource for a tourism industry. Goa as a sign has a social life and has become a resource for making meaning to promote leisure and enjoyment . The exploitation of Goa as a semiotic resource has meuseumized Goans and translated Goan-ness in the avatars that are acceptable to the market. Thus, Goan food, folk art, music and festivals are marketed to attract the tourists. This selection of some of the cultural forms of Goan-ness has left behind the non-marketable aspects of Goan-ness. This means Goan-ness is left to deal with market driven survival. This means social Darwinism of the market will decide what kind of Goan-ness will survive. This might become clear if we reflect on what we have made of intruz or carnival depicts a metamorphism triggered by the market forces. We seem to have declared the death of traditional intruz and a market driven avatar of it is now promoted even at the village level. There are good sides to these changes but there is also significant loss of tradition that linked carnival to the Shigmo of our Hindu brethren. Robert S. Newman, in his book Goan Anthropology: Festival, Films and Fish clearly demonstrates this loss.

There are grave dangers of this market selected Goan-ness. Already market driven architecture has destroyed our tradition of Indo-Portugese architecture . Goan food is slowly replaced by Chinese cuisine in our homes. Our traditional bhands of chikol are steadily disappearing and concrete and cement structures are taking their place on the banks of our river. Our land is viewed merely as an economic resource and is sold to the highest bidder. The market driven semiosis has down sized our families and we Goans seem to have reached a point of extinction. These and other similar developments suggest that market selected Goan-ness is putting a last nail on the coffin of authentic Goan-ness. We seem to have surrendered to the norms of market-selected Goan-ness and therefore have to urgently intervene to arrest the death of Goa and Goan-ness.

The texture of Goan-ness has rapidly changed on the wings of tourism. Paradoxically , with the coming of enclave tourism like the enclosed one of the Russian and Israeli tourists , we can see that host and the guest binary does not exist and what we have is host hosting themselves . This form of tourism is treating mainly the natural resources of Goa as raw material to produce hybridized touristic experience and circulate the economic pie within the enclave. This form of tourism has very little to offer to Goans. Besides, Goa is imagined as another India by our own Indian tourists who flock in large numbers and wish to escape from the stranglehold of the strict tradition in their homes. A sense of anonymity felt by these brethren is visible in the kind of dress code as well as in the indulgence in alcoholic splurge that they exhibit. This demonstrates that Goa and Goan-ness have a huge semiotic potential and there is always surplus and a semiotics driven by the market cannot fully capture it. This surplus dimension can assist us to recover the lost aspects Goan-ness. This aspect might become clear if we consider that a new house built as a traditional matie ghor has a market and one such house (in Diwar )is said to have been sold for crores. This suggests that genuine Goan-ness can leap ahead of the market and we do not have to adapt Goan-ness to the market. This is a case where the market adjusts to Goan-ness. Maybe we have to work for tourism where the market will have to adapt to Goan-ness and not vice versa as it is today. This new imagination of tourism is the need of the hour that will benefit both Goa, Goan-ness, and Goans. Only when we reject market determined Goan-ness, will we understand its true value. This approach promises to change the semiotic field. But to succeed, we have to give up the quantitative approach to tourism and embrace a qualitative one. This is why we will have to resist market framing Goa and Goan-ness. Goan and Goan-ness cannot be allowed to be the maid servant of the market. We will stand united and convert the market as the maid servant of Goa and Goan-ness. But this is not easy. We have a long way to Goa. Will Goa determine its tourism or will Goa be determined by the market forces? The choice is ours.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao