Colonizaton , Memory and Erasure

How can one wipe away traces of 450 years of Portuguese rule in Goa? Can we erase all memory and history? The fact that our CM Pramod Savant said that all signs of Portuguese in Goa have to be erased smacks of a lack of true understanding of Goa as well as our history. Such a demand appears to be arising from a colonized mindset. It only manifests that colonization has come full circle with the colonization of our mind in our post-colonial Goa. This is because it is directly against dharmic thinking. Dharma and Karma are intertwined to time whereby the law of Karma determines the present depending on the past. Within a dharmic worldview, one cannot erase the past. Hence, a desire to erase history cannot be indic nor Goan.

It is true that our past is written in stones and monuments. It is written in the food, music, dress, culture and our life. Even the very idea, geography, as well as political reality of Goa, is embedded in the colonial rule as well as outlived it. Therefore, we have to note that post-colonial Goa is not reduceable to colonial Goa. Goa, Goans and Goan-ness have evolved and metamorphized/ hybridised over time. Traces of the colonial are in the post-colonial reality of Goa. Postcolonial theorists like Homi Bhaba teach that the colonized resisted the colonizer through mimetic hybridization. This is why it is difficult to simplistically use the purity/pollution principle of our caste-laden society to mark the colonial from the non-colonial or pre-colonial.

Goa, Goans and Goan-ness have evolved out of colonization and are outliving it. We are mid-night’s children as Salman Rushdie might describe us but are growing into adulthood. This means we are not simply silent objects of colonization or even our present condition. We are subjects who resisted colonization through what feminist Luce Irigaray says mimesis. This imitation is best visible among politicians. Earlier we had the Bharmin and Bhraminical culture as a standard of excellence. Everyone wished to have the life of Brahmin. Even our local God’s were born again and were Sanskritized. But with the coming of the Portuguese, it became the white man as the model of excellence. We now have brown skin and white minds. The white man is our model. If the white colonizer was corrupt, we have them imitated by our politicians who are said to be allegedly more corrupt than their colonial counterparts. This is why we may have to accept that coloniality has not ended with the end of colonization. Coloniality remains alive with neocolonialism and we are actively resisting or supporting it.

Neocolonialism can be economic as well as cultural. V. S. Naipaul in his book, Mimic Men, tells a story of a third-generation Indian from the West Indies. The hero who had made sufficient wealth migrated to England and nostalgically remembers his days in West Indies when he gave apples to his teacher. In the same breathe he says he could not have given apples as there were no apples in West Indies. He says he has edited oranges for apples and declares himself to be an edited person. Colonization, therefore, was not simply passively suffered by the colonized. Master/slave dialectics of Hegel might explain us how colonizer/ colonized produced colonization. There was active editing by the colonized. We can see this how in place of the British holy book (Bible), the Sruti tradition that accepts revelation as that which is heard accepted scripture (that which is written ) when it took Bhagavad Gita as the holy book in the nighteenth century. We may also say — just like the colonizer had a language, religion, holy book, and civilizing mission — that there are those that have mimetically hybridised and are also having language, religion, holy book and civilizing mission. The desire of the erasure of signs of the Portuguese in Goa is result of that civilizing mission.

We, therefore, need decolonial options. Walter Mignolo, a critical thinker from Argentina advocates decolonial options that are diversal and pluriversal. Colonization is a heart of darkness that afflicts us even today. Even today we are thinking ideas travel from place to place without any marks of the place from where they came. The universal pretensions of colonial ideology was unmasked by Franz Fanon. Universal is only a local . What we have is a pluriversal. We are still thinking that diversity is a contaminant and prefer homogeniety of sameness under the garb of the universal. This is also what the colonizer did . He erased diversity. We do not have to mimic the colonizer. The demand or the desire erase signs Portuguese in Goa actually is an act of coloniality. We cannot erase the memory of Portuguese in Goa. But we can remain enlightened, awakefully aware of wrongs of the Portuguese,.lest we become thier shadow images with all our Good intentions.

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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao