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The Indian Arcadia

It is turning into a tackier Costa del Sol


BEYOND THE HYPE: Presence of a few writers or artists from outside scattered all over the place does not change Goa's essentially provincial nature, says Kakar

For psychoanalyst, social commentator and writer Sudhir Kakar when the hour of reckoning arrived, it was Benaulim in south Goa to which he debouched from Delhi. If it was solitude he craved Goa offered it to him in spades, with the perk of a proximate party should he ever want one.

What are your earliest recollections of Goa?

I am from north India. Holidays were in the hills. The idea of a beach holiday was a Western import of the '80s. Beaches were the domain of fishermen.

How did you come to settle here? Was it the upshot of impulse or epiphany, or perhaps long-drawn deliberation?

None of the three. We had been deliberating for long on moving out of Delhi. Indian metropolises were becoming impossible to live in: ugly, crowded, aggressive. The decision to live in Goa (he moved in 2003) was taken within a week, yet it was not an impulse since it had been in preparation in the unconscious part of the mind. All vital decisions should be left to that part of the mind. It is a decision I have not regretted for a minute.

Goa has, in the last decade, been settled by a cosmopolitan, global crowd. There were foreigners first, then Indians of a certain age and affluence, and more recently youngsters in their 20s and 30s who have come to reside here. Has this influx vitalised the local cultural and social landscape? Has it created more avenues for cultural exchange, and literary dialogue? If yes, what and where are these hubs? Do you frequent them yourself?

I am aware that this has happened. But all of this is in North Goa. I live in the quieter south. I came to Goa for the solitude, which I have, not for 'buzz' or 'hubs' or whatever.

People have been calling it the new Left Bank. The artists' settlement of the Left
Bank gave rise to a pulsating artistic culture, with districts like Marais, Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter rising up to be crucibles of creative enterprise. Is Goa too turning out similar hotspots of artistic intensity?

I am afraid such comparisons are a part of the Goa myth-making. It is purely hype, like Mumbai being New York, Shanghai or whatever else. The presence of a few writers or artists from outside scattered all over the place does not change Goa's essentially conservative, provincial nature.

Bucolic, beach-strewn Goa holds up a utopian ideal for many settlers. Is it, in reality, the Arcadia people imagine it to be?

It is an Arcadia, but an Indian one, with corruption, garbage strewn all over, and unplanned, ugly construction that is turning the place into a tackier Costa del Sol. Despite all that, it is still a pleasant place to live in.

What's a day in Goa like for you?

Most of my day is (spent) working at home, then (taking) a walk on the beach in the late afternoon, and ending with a sunset drink at a beach shack. Mingle with the neighbours? No. Dine out often? Rarely, much less than I did in Delhi. Spend a day at the beach? No, Almost every evening at the beach for a couple of hours is enough food for the soul. All the above are out of choice.

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