Happy Birthday: St Britto's, which is 60 years old. Celebrations at St
Jerome's Church Mapusa 11 am on July 30, 2006. Football match Loyola's
vs. Britto's 11 am on July 31, 2006 at the school grounds.

Troubled Global Village: Nervousness On Both Sides Of The Divide

Goa's multiculturalism is now
raising an ugly head, laments

It's Foundation Day at the Mater Dei Institute in Saligao,
Goa’s second-oldest English medium school, and a smiling
quartet of 11-year olds whirls and bobs to the classic
Konkani pop song, 'Juliana'.

Their show is part of an annual ritual dating back to 1909,
almost a full century of neatly uniformed students strutting
their stuff and being rewarded with treats.

But examine the picture a little closer, and it's apparent
that there's something new happening under the Goan sun. One
of the twirling little girls is local, another from North
India. The third is European, from Portugal, and in the
middle of things is Patharpron (Noon) Kong King, Thai-born,
Goa-raised, just one of hundreds of foreign children being
brought up and educated in a Goa that's suddenly morphed from
sleepy getaway to global tourism hotspot.

          Cleta Lobo became headmistress of Mater Dei in
          1968, at the age of 19, appointed after the death
          of her father (and school founder), Anicleto FX
          Lobo. She recalls that there were always one or two
          foreign students through the hippie era of the
          1960s and '70s.

That trickle has turned into a flood in the last decade, and
storied Mater Dei's student body is now nearly 50 per cent
international, with 22 nationalities represented.

Lobo used to be charged with instilling conservative values
in an almost entirely Goan Catholic student body. Now she
deals with problems like racist behaviour directed at a
Nigerian student by his European classmates.

It's a formidable challenge to integrate students from all
over the world into an academic environment that prepares all
of them to take the demanding ICSE board exams. But Lobo is
unfazed. "They come here because we can manage, because we
are equipped to deal with them."

Goa has surfed the waves of globalisation before. European
colonialism kicked into action here first, in 1510, and ended
here last, with a chequered 451 years in between. At the end
of the sixteenth century, the port capital of Estado da India
was bigger and much richer than Paris, London and Lisbon.

It attracted travellers and traders from every corner of the
known world, bestrode the richest international trading
routes ever established, and ruled as capital of a vast
maritime empire stretching from Japan to Africa.

That heyday faded as fast as it developed, but connections to
the outside world remained. Goans poured out of the
economically stagnant colony to find employment abroad -- in
Portuguese and British Africa, the Far East and Latin

          Mater Dei owes its existence to global Goan
          aspirations. It provided reliable English-language
          education to entire generations of Goans with
          parents working abroad; its graduates include civil
          servants in every country in the Anglophone sphere.

Noon Kong King's parents have no doubts about Mater Dei’s
cosmopolitan credentials. Henry Pfeiffer, a German, adopted
Noon and her younger sister when he married their mother,

"We are very happy with their education here," he said. "It
is a better, happier and more mixed environment for them to
grow up in than Germany or Thailand." Pfeiffer believes that
the girls’ prospects are better in Asia, that an Indian
childhood provides a future competitive advantage.

Goa offers his small, tight-knit family the twin advantages
of great business opportunity and idyllic surroundings. "I
moved to Goa to retire, actually," he said. "But when I had
spent some time here I could see that there was money to be
made, almost lying there on the ground all around me. It
seemed lazy not to simply pick it up." The couple now
operates Oriental, a well-established Thai restaurant in
Candolim that’s developed a loyal following and a solid
reputation for meticulously prepared Thai food.

But Oriental is now on the move as a new cadre of moneymen
and entrepreneurs have descended on Goa over the past two
years. The contract that Pfeiffer had with his landlord has
been discarded, and the new owners have plans for serious
expansion that don't include him. He's scouting for a new
location in a highly constricted marketplace that includes
real hordes of competitors, each looking for a piece of the

          As Goa's prospects have risen sky-high, so have
          accompanying tensions. There's great nervousness on
          both sides of the insider-outsider divide, feeding
          a jittery, vitiated atmosphere that’s now spilling
          over into violence.

In the last month alone, two businessmen from Delhi have been
murdered in murky circumstances. The first, Anuj Joshi, was a
long-term resident and owner of a popular bar on the tourism
strip in Calangute. His friend, the writer Sudeep Chakravarti
wrote searingly about the murder in a local paper: "I do know
why Anuj died. The stakes have become too high here. His
death is a symptom of Malaise de Goa."

Chakravarti continued, "Piece of the action is ...driving Goa
to the edge," and writes movingly about tears at his friend's
funeral marking "a sense of loss for a Goa we pine after but
can no longer recognise."

It's a sentiment that’s nearly universal in 2006.
Long-stayers, relative newcomers and locals all describe a
sensation of being under siege.

This feeling is particularly strong at the fringes of Goa's
burgeoning tourism marketplace, in the decades-old
long-staying communities that developed from the hippie
phenomenon of previous decades. On the heels of a series of
directives from the centre, officials from half a dozen
different state agencies are turning up at people's
doorsteps, checking the ownership and legal status of homes
and businesses, and denying licences and permissions required
to et up shop in Goa.

Lisa Camps, American-born proprietor of the Anjuna landmark
restaurant, Bean Me Up, has lived in Goa for almost three
decades. "This is home," she said. "I’d get a green card if
India offered one, I don’t want to leave and I won’t leave
unless I’m forced to."

Her restaurant is renowned for its "soya station", an
all-vegetarian menu based on tofu, tempeh, organic vegetables
and salads, and soy milk. It's a rare family-oriented
establishment in an area that's often hostile to newcomers
and outsiders to the scene. Bean Me Up hosts famous Halloween
parties, and a carnival-like "Tribal Revival" at year end.

But Camps believes that a certain turning point has been
reached in Goa's trajectory, that unscrupulous new investors
and local politicians are "stirring the hate pot" against
foreigners. There's lots of proof in the folder in her hand
-- dozens of clippings from the Goan papers, editorials and
articles claiming "invasion" and "land-grab".

It's an old story that’s played out every time an avowed
paradise falls prey to rampant development, as openness and
tolerance ebbs away in face of mistrust, moneyed newcomers
and a sharply increased demand for property. Gaston Eyben has
seen it before, and knows how bad it can get.

"Many years ago, I bought a house in the countryside near the
border of Wales," the Belgian said. "The locals felt under
threat from the second-home phenomenon, just as they do here
in Goa. Houses were burned, there was violence and lots of

The situation in Goa is bound to come to a crisis, Eyben
believes, because there is such increased pressure, and
because Goa is living off a reputation that does not stand up
to close examination. Still, he has no plans to go anywhere,
after building a marvellous, secluded retreat on the ancient
island of Chorao in the Mandovi River.

Goa is still very attractive, he says. It offers easy access
to the world, as well as escape from it.

"I've learned a lot, and find myself increasingly attached to
the culture, and now involved in protecting it. I live here
entirely out of choice."

But even behind the thick trees, and surrounded by his own
acreage, even on the island of Chorao, Eyben "cannot ignore
the context in which I live". Goa is under stress, its people
and media are displaying ugly xenophobic tendencies, and the
political leadership has buried its head in the sand about
the threats and opportunities involved with becoming one of
the world's top tourism brands.

Back at Mater Dei, the bouncy Konkani music faded away to be
replaced by a beat-heavy, trance-inflected dance track,
chosen as signature music by two wiry teenagers in hip-hop
style shorts crossing the knee.

Silently, unsmilingly, they danced back and forth in rhythm
with each other, an Indian and a foreign student. Their eyes
never met, though at one crucial point it looked like they
would link hands and swing in unison. But it was illusory,
they swept past each other without touching, and went on
dancing alone.

Vivek Menezes is a long-time Goanetter, who was inspired --
in part by Goanet -- to return to Goa with his family while
in his thirties. He has survived the first year, and writes
often in the local media, under the penname of VM de Malar.
He wrote this article for TimeOut Mumbai.

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