Monday, April 12, 2010

Cast Away.....

Hello everybody. I am back after a short hiatus due to mid-semester tests which is in fact the peak period for getting ideas which are totally non-academic. My last post was quite a lot of myself pouring out, so now its back to what I had started off with. The important memories of my life. Well, I would like to take a big jump from my childhood days to the beginning of a whole new life in college. I feel most of you would identify with the situations and emotions that would be described in the following passages. Hope you enjoy it!!!!!

Lying on my back on the topmost berth in the train, I was furiously reading through 'The Bone Collector' which I had to finish that day as the book had to make the return journey back to Goa, unlike me.
"We would be arriving in Allahabad in 5 minutes." The attendant in the train informed all the passengers in the compartment. Luggages were being scraped out from underneath the seats, people yelling at each other to be ready to get down, etc etc. Mom nudged me in the ribs.
"High time you got down from there. We are almost there now."
Sighing, I descended from the berth and sat next to Dad. In the aisle, people had already started crowding with their luggages, a some sort of rat race to see who would be the first person to alight from the train. Most of them were going home. Not me though.
The euphoria of getting selected for admission in a National Institute of Technology (NIT) was slowly draining away as the realities dawned on me. This was the first time that I was going to be all by myself in a totally unfamiliar place, supposedly hostile environment of UP, a totally different culture from what I had been brought up in and all this with no relatives or family friends within a thousand miles. For the next four years, this was going to be my home with some vacations in between to my actual home. I was somewhat sad, but also excited and filled with anticipations about what lay ahead of me.
"Hostel life would be tough, but it is an experience that you would cherish throughout your life." One of my Uncles had told me. Sharing a room with three other guys, keeping up late hours, eating whatever you felt like.....well, that kind of sounded blissful. But then, life had its ways of bringing you back into reality from your dreams.

This struck me first when I entered the hostel room where I would be staying for a year. The door creaked open and for a couple of moments I could see only darkness inside, even though it was around 5:30 in the evening. Somehow in the darkness, I managed to locate the light switch and switched on the dim bulb. There were four beds, metallic frame with plywood randomly "arranged" inside. Thick cobwebs lay all over the room and I somehow managed to fill the whole room with dust when I tried shifting one of those beds. I glanced over at my parents. Both were equally shocked at the state of matters in the room.
"So, what say?" I asked.
"Hmm. Nice for a hostel room. It was much worse in our medical college. The room here is quite spacious and comfortable for four people to stay in." said Dad, though not very convincingly.
No use grumbling over the room, i thought. It reminded me of a 'popular' quote, "Jab naseeb hai g***u, to kya karega Pandu" ("When fate itself is screwed up, what can you do"). Somehow we managed to catch a night's sleep in the room though it was quite tough considering the creaking fan which just about managed a faint blow of air in the room which was still filled with the dusty smell.
The next morning, I was escorted along with other newly admitted students to the college campus to complete the formalities of admission. We were taken from the Tagore hostel to the college in the college bus (which ironically was the first and the last time that I got a chance to have a ride in it) by a couple of mean looking seniors.
"Enjoying your first ride in the campus??" one of them asked me.
"Yeah, sure. Its great." I said, giving one of my broadest smiles, hoping to make friends with the senior guy.
"No need to smile so much kiddo. Don't worry, all these smiles would disappear as soon as you have your 'interactions' with the seniors." he replied curtly.
Not a very impressive first encounter with the 'senior' class. Well, I would do better next time, I promised myself.
After some time we were taken to the Institute's Computer Center where we were made to fill online forms as a part of the registration process.
"These are the new freshies." another senior remarked when he saw the lab filled with others like me filling out forms. "I like to see fresh meat coming here. Can't wait to get started with the 'technical intro's'." Now that was menacing. What did he actually mean by 'technical intro'? I would find that out soon after the classes started.

I joined my parents back in the hostel after the formalities were done with and we left the campus. We had decided to rather stay in a hotel for our last night together in Allahabad in some place decent rather than a dust-filled godown like room. We checked into a hotel after some shopping in the markets. Moving around in market was very difficult that day as the rains were pouring in like hell, and the streets were flooded with muddy greyish water. A shower in the hotel room was a welcome offer and a heavy dinner followed. Later that night, I went close to Mom and hugged her tightly.
"It's going to turn out fine." She patted me reassuringly. "Everyone gets this feeling initially, but once you make friends here, and the classes start, there would be hardly any time to miss home."
I didn't say anything, my throat was choking anyway. I just stayed like that for several more minutes and then slept away. I wasn't very sure whether I had taken the correct decision in coming to Allahabad to do my engineering when all the colleges in Goa were lying open for me (including the Medical College) after my very good performance in the state entrance tests. I knew I would be having trouble in adjusting to the food, the climate and more so, the language of this region. The Hindi that we had been taught in school was totally unlike what was being spoken here. As far as the food was concerned, all around I could see Poori's, pakora's, potatoes.....all of them dripping with thick mustard oil and it wasn't really an appealing sight for a coastal person like me, who had spent the first 18 years of his life thriving on sea food. The weather was very dry but I found it a tad more comfortable than the humid air of Goa.

The next day was going to be a tough one. Reluctantly, I had to face up to the fact that now onwards I was going to be alone without parents (wasn't independence what you always wanted?, Dad asked me). My throat was literally blocked as I hugged both of them goodbye and ran up fast into my room balcony to see them go. From my second floor balcony, I watched them go further and further away and then disappear into oblivion. I stood silently in the balcony for about an hour, just looking out into the horizon, holding back the tears. Finally, here it was. A life away from home, away from the protective presence of one's parents (which we only tend to realize when we are away from them) and a whole new challenging life awaiting me.
I went into the bathroom and splashed some water on my face, and took the opportunity to drain some tears away with the water. I roamed about a bit in the hostel and found a group huddled together in the courtyard with the sound of a guitar emanating. Maybe life wasn't going to be all hell, I thought and went over to make my first friends in Motilal Nehru National Institute of Technology, Allahabad, India...................

to be continued in the next post.............

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Being a Goan outside Goa

Hello everyone
I know it has been quite a long time since my last post (about a month I guess). I have been a bit busy these days, so couldn't update. Also I am getting a writer's block. The stories of my life that seemed damn interesting when they happened, no longer seem interesting once i wrote them. So this post is gonna deviate a bit from the original idea of this blog. In this post, I am not writing any story or fictional work. These are my thoughts regarding certain facts that do exist even though we might try hard to ignore them. One of my more serious posts, but I hope you would like it. As soon as this block is cleared, I would be back to tracing the events of my life.

The title states "Being a Goan outside Goa". I got this feeling first when I left my beloved state to pursue my Engineering degree in MNNIT, Allahabad. Till then, I had never as such "lived" outside Goa if you discount the occasional vacations we had and those were also mostly in Maharashtra and Karnataka areas which are geographically and culturally similar to Goa. And then arrived one of the biggest decisions I have ever made for myself, accepting the admission letter during the counselling at NIT Surathkal.
It was 11th July 2006 when I first landed in this very unfamiliar place called Allahabad. Supposed to be one of the better cities of Uttar Pradesh. There were no apprehensions that the college would be good, but regarding the place, well we knew for what reasons U.P was in the news most of the time. It had taken quite a lot of me convincing myself that I could survive in a place where violence is not uncommon, where the culture is very much different from the environment I had been brought up in. And till today, I don't regret that I took the decision to leave behind the seat in Goa Engg College and a readily available and coveted seat in the Goa Medical College to pursue my education here.

Now let's get back to the point. A Goan outside Goa. NIT's are a place where you get to meet the real India. I say real India because there are students here from literally every nook and corner of the country and I believe India is all about the cultural diversity it holds. So during the initial introductions with the people, there was that typical look on everybody's face when I said that I came from Goa. The same fantasizing look that dog's have when you place a bone in front of them.
"Goa......wowwwww. Gosh, you are damn lucky man!!" was the most common reply.
"Am I really?" I would ask.
"Seriously dude. So many things Goa is famous for....the beaches, the tourists, and what do you call that cashew liquor thing.....ahh live in heaven out there and you are asking if you are lucky. I could do anything to live in a place like that!!!!!!!"
"Well, the beaches all tend to look similar even though they are really scenic. Now about the tourists, if you mean females strutting around in bikini's, then yes you do get them at some places but 90 percent are overweight ones with flab hanging all over them, so if you find that appealing then suit yourself. Regarding the Feni, I never tasted it so I really dont know. But it comes under the category of the "Desi daaru"."
The look I got in return for these statements was that of utter surprise. I did not appreciate my own homeland. One person once told me that for them, Goa is all about the three B's; Beaches, Babes and Booze. However the question that took the prize was,
"Have you ever been to the nude beaches in Goa?"
Now I actually didn't know what I was supposed to say.
"Are there really?" I would ask. "I have lived there for 18 years, but have never managed to find one."
"Man, you are such a loser. You live through your puberty in Goa and haven't yet been to a nude beach there. What the hell do you do there huh? No nude beaches, no girlfriends, no alcohol. You should be staying in a hermitage."

So that was what a Goan was supposed to do. That was the identity associated with any person who hailed from Goa. Drink all day long, party at night, lay around naked in the sand and "enjoy" with girls. You try to explain what actually Goa is all about, and you are shunned away as a loser who does not know how to enjoy life. Why?????????????????
When you see anything about Goa on T.V, what is it that they say?
"Goa, 365 days on a holiday!!". That tagline may have worked somewhat for the booming tourism industry, but what does it convey in reality? That Goa is just a place where you can "enjoy", and for majority of the people this "enjoyment" means booze, drugs and many times a chance to evade the law. And I don't deny at all that this is what my beloved hometown is turning into. Though the tourism industry is one of the biggest contributors to the state's revenue, what it has invited is trouble. The night parties at the sea-side shacks have turned into an easy opportunity for drug abuse. Also the recent cases of sexual assaults during these parties (some of them on minors) have been hogging the limelight on national news creating a very negative image of Goa. Any girl who's a native of Goa is assumed to be easily "available" and in many cases, having a "loose" character. This may sound far fetched, but it is the reality that I have seen.
-- Alcohol is considerably very cheap in Goa as compared to other states.
-- Whenever Goa is shown in movies, its always white ladies sunbathing in bikini's on the beaches.
-- You move on any 2 kilometre road stretch in the state and you will find at least 3 "Bar and Restaurant"'s.

When we ourselves want to portray out state like this, what can you expect the others to believe? And the famous politics of the land do not help matters. An Education minister who is not educated, a Health minister who is not "healthy", Governments that change more often than seasons.
Since I have been highlighting mostly the negative aspects of Goa, that does not mean that I dont appreciate what has been bestowed upon us. I am a proud Goemkar (Goan) myself. Some of the facts I am proud of ---
-- Goa has been voted as the best place to live and work in this country.
-- We have one of the richest history (including the pre-Portuguese rule era, of which very little is known to the masses) and cultural heritage in the country.
-- Among the highest percentage in terms of education.
-- One place that has never witnessed religious riots or disturbances.
-- One of the few places where a mosque can be owned and maintained by a Catholic.
-- We have a biological hotspot in the Mhadei wildlife sanctuary which has the highest biodiversity in the whole of Asia.
-- A place where women have equal rights as men especially where inheriting property is concerned.
-- And lastly, a place that welcomes everyone irrespective of color, caste, religion, region to have a share in the wealth bestowed on it.

Frankly speaking I don't blame the rest of the country for looking at us in this way, because that's the way we have been portrayed always. Finally it is up to us how we want to be viewed by the public. So the ball is definitely in our court, whether we want this to continue, or do we require a drastic makeover or a facelift??

Expecting everyone's views on this. Do comment.

Adios till the next post!!!!!