Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Ethics in Indian Media: Print versus online news today


When Henry James signified the birth of a ‘newspaperized world’ as a catalyst of modernism, he may have been unaware of the forms this medium would morph into. Indeed as TS Eliot alludes, we need our fix of the morning newspaper with our toast and tea.  Nevertheless most news today is manufactured. Dailies howl out headlines one day and suffer complete amnesia the next. Each newspaper competes with the other to make the stories more racy, more spicy and more gory.  Throwing ethics to the winds, media sensationalizes murder and mayhem, downplaying or foregrounding a story as it best suits them. Several cases involving minority groups and marginalized people have been ignored with the cry for justice blowing in the wind.

As a backlash, social media platforms (SMP) have become alternate sources of information today. Existing in a digital space ethics is a luxury few can afford. In all this, news is a casualty. Print media which has (or had) the responsibility to offer hard news and crisp commentary has capitulated to soft news and often soft porn. Newspaper barons backed by powerful industrial houses dictate the nature of news. In this vicious climate sans ethics, alternate media is stifled, and, as in the case of Gauri Lankesh, eliminated. The conspiracy of silence which turns a Nelson’s eye to the hacking of bloggers in Bangladesh, or women editors in Bengaluru spells doom for independent media. Regional media often runs entirely different stories which the mainstream English media ignores, forcing us to read another India.

This paper will probe the dumbing down of the Indian media in the absence of ethics and its impact on making us morons in a culture without conscience.
National conference on ‘The Role and Relevance of Media Ethics in Contemporary Society,’ 20-21 March 2018, Department of English and Department of Philosophy, Dhempe College of Arts and Science, Miramar, Goa. Pix of Dr. Brian Mendonca presenting the paper, and at the venue on 20- 21 March 2018. 

AIR Live Recording on World Poetry Day 2018

It was a thrill to be recorded by AIR, Panaji today on World Poetry Day. This time I trialled a number of poems from my forthcoming collection Jasmine City: Poems from Delhi. 

In an ably anchored session by Mr. Jog the multilingual readings of poems from four languages in Goa, viz. Hindi, Marathi, Konkani and English captivated the meagre audience. The invitation came from Savio de Noronha, Programme Executive, AIR Panaji.

I read the following poems:

Quila Mubark
Sleeve of Care
Jasmine City

The poems will be broadcast at a later date in the respective language programmes.

The Poems

Quila Mubark

-Brian Mendonca

4 Bihar strikes 9
As a myriad pigeons
Guard the Peacock Throne
Bagpacks and suitcases
Sweep on inexorably
-400 ears
in the blink of an eyelid.
Gujaratis, Goans, Japs and jeans
Hamin ast, o hamin ast. o hamin ast
Trope of a nation
With access denied
-wisps of poetry
line sepoys' barracks.
The 'Stream of Paradise'
Connects with 'The Palace of Mirrors'
As a basement seraglio latices Vathek.
Eyrie of Emperors, axis mundi
Vestige of Eternity
on a grain of rice.

(Lal Quila, Old Delhi

4 Bihar: The regiment guarding the Red Fort
400 ears: 400 years since the red fort assumed prominence
Hamin ast o: If ever there was paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.
Stream of Paradise: lyrical descriptions of the opulence of the fort precincts
Vathek: Romantic figure in literature
eyrie: turret of the fort perched like an eagle's nest
axis mundi: centre of the world
Vestige of Eternity: from Blake
grain of rice: Just outside the fort visitors can have their names written on a grain of rice.

Sleeve of Care

-Brian Mendonca

The homeless
can sleep anywhere
in the night city . . .
-A young boy sprawled on a pavement
oblivious of the early morning traffic.
-An exhausted ice cream seller
atop his ice cream cycle box
(two boys atop another cart beside him.)
- A family living life on a road divider.
-or a youth curled up
in a discarded metal frame
of a traffic signal monitor.
The homeless can sleep anywhere.

(New Delhi

Sleeve of care: taken from lines by Shakespeare where sleep is referred to as having the ability to 'knit' up the 'ravelled sleeve of care,' i.e. forget your worries.

Jasmine City

-Brian Mendonca

Last evening
as I headed home after a swim
-I usually take the route
where the road curves by the place
where amma sells Jasmine flowers
in the April night.

-a stone's throw away
from Purana Quila
I asked her
where she was from.

She beamed from
her ebony visage
and said 'Chennai'
through her off-white teeth.

I paid her Rs 5
for two gajras
and another Rs. 5
for the other day
when at the traffic light
the auto had lurched forward
leaving her payment pending.

I felt touched
and humbled
by amma's humanity,
-'Mehnat ka paisa, kabhi nahi jaata.'
She had said.-
the soul of the South
and by the memory
of your voice.

(New Delhi


-Brian Mendonca

I'm dependent
on your pride of place
as the swell of the South
meets the arch of the North
in your dusky hue.

Her dark eyes
a milling cafetaria
as she whispers 'thank you'
to a zealous bearer.

I pause
for a mouthful
and then
you are gone

Pendant -

(Andhra Bhavan
New Delhi


Brian Mendonca

India awakes
to Bismillah Khan
as the shehnai subsumes
the pain of the nation.
Notes quiver
towards refuge unyielding
as Bairagi laments
the stench of burnt flesh.
Dagger to the soul
virgins disembowelled . . .

'Lagta heh abhi bhi kuch zinda heh
is desh mein.'

(AIR, New Delhi
2002, after the Gujarat riots)

The poem 'Bhairavi' was not read on AIR Panaji, because I did not find it.  I include it here. Pix of Brian Mendonca being presented with a memento by Mr. Damodar on behalf of All India Radio, Panaji at AIR Panaji studio on World Poetry Day, i.e. 21 March 2018.

Through the Eyes of a Traveller-poet: Goa, Yesterday and Today

Dr. Brian Mendonça


Travel-writing has usually been confined to prose. In this inquiry, I place my poems on Goa written during my sojourn so far as a traveller-poet.  Though identifying with the larger matrix of India, the Goa poems have nimbly yielded a collection of a book of verse by itself. The last decade from my debut volume Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa (2006) to my blog writings today have tried to mediate what it means to be a traveller in Goa. In this pursuit I have shifted genres from poetry to prose, reviews to reportage.  Always the subject has been the shifting signifier - Goa.  The first poem, ‘Requiem to a Sal,’ (1987) lamented the hacking down of a tree, a horrific reality even today, thirty years on. Similarly there are poems which are descriptions of the places I have spent time in like, ‘Good Friday in Cuncolim,’(2003) or the march of the tides in ‘May Queen,’(2004).

This is a poetic documentation of a rapidly changing Goa, of a landscape under erasure. The prose narratives are more based on incidents, like the killing of a man by villagers in Pernem, or the vast untamed outback one sees when one travels in Dharbandora taluka for example. Along the journey several social oddities of each place are noted and merged in the creative canvas. These minute observations give a sense of rootedness to the reader with that place. This paper will explore the terrain of my published writings on Goa and attempt to theorize Goa through its lens. It will also consider in its purview critical studies on my work so far.

 i.                    Documenting Goa

Living away from Goa for most of my life, I have been fascinated by the way Goa was /is configured. In so many ways it defied description. One way to set about understanding its projection was to write about it. Though I primarily write about Goa now in prose, through my weekly column in the Gomantak Times Weekender, I begin my foray in poetry with my debut collection of poems titled Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa self-published from Delhi in 2006.

To document Goa’s social reality in verse was something new. There were no takers, in terms of publishers, and whoever I approached was inclined to bin it. When I decided to self-publish the work, I was drawn more intensely into my poetic practice, since I was the author, the editor, the publisher, as well as the salesman for my own work. The canvas, however, was not Goa initially. The canvas was India, written during my years in Delhi from 1997 to 2010. From those poems I culled out the Goa poems for a volume on Goa with which I made my debut as a Goan poet. The enterprise came to the attention of an aide to Menino Peres, then Director of Information and Publicity who was travelling to Delhi on the same train as me, the iconic Goa Express. Mr. Peres later released an advertisement by the Government of Goa, which was featured on the back cover of the book.

As has been mentioned in the theorizing of this seminar, this seminar seeks to look at the ‘curious’ perceptions of ‘outsiders’ about Goa. In some ways, as Sushama Sonak observed, I am both an ‘insider’ as well as an ‘outsider’ to Goa. This vantage point has enabled me to distil my experience of Goa and offer it up on a palette, as if it were, a unique slice of India.

The years since the publication of Last Bus to Vasco (2006) were the years of rapid change in Goa. However the volume contains poems on Goa from two decades earlier. My title poem ‘Last Bus to Vasco’ (1986) was written when the bypass was being built at Agassaim to Panjim. In it I described the quaint road the Kadamba bus used to take as it laboured on from Panjim to Vasco. It was also the year that there was a move to rename Vasco-da-gama as Sambhaji Nagar. Even if that materialized, I thought, the name would be preserved in my volume of verse. It was my attempt to preserve the status quo.

‘Last Bus to Vasco’ the opening poem in Last Bus to Vasco exemplifies the themes which will underpin my later work. The opening itself is one of dissolution, a yielding, a melting away into the cosmic universe:

Cool zephyrs of night
Under the canopy of the western sky,
Everything dissolves,
Places, smells, memories, distances.

Interestingly, the volume takes it first breath with the ‘brooding Goa Velha cemetery’ in the second verse of ‘Last Bus to Vasco.’ It ends with the poem ‘The Bells of St. Andrews’ (2005) with fond remembrance:

Those whom we love
Sleep nearby.

Goans have always to mediate loss and they do so in elaborate ways. From the burial of the dead to the observances at the funeral and after, the deceased are always and memorialized.

The liquidity of the poem ‘Last Bus to Vasco’ comes across with the merging of the mighty river Jamuna from North India and the river Krishna from the South. As compared to these the ‘lambent Zuari’ from Goa, in an act of intimacy ‘receives the prow of the ferry boat in cosmic harmony.’ Goa evokes the image of ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’ the Sanskrit phrase meaning ‘All Creation is one family.’ Today though we do have souls who profess themselves to be digital nomads working on the beaches of Goa, at one time even for a phone call home to say you were going to be late was a trying experience:

Must call home. It’s late.
‘All-lines-in-this-route-are-busy. Please-call-after-some-time.’

Village rhythms are evoked in ‘Fr. Joseph Rowland Salema’ (1999) written at the feast of St. Anthony of Siolim. Through the persona of a priest, the poem comments on the historicity of the moment. There is a melding of the past and the present here, a hint of the colonial encounter:

Like channels of peace, the rivulets run by
As marigolds of saffron set aflame a wayside khuris.
The tulsi manch metamorphoses into a plinth for a cross
As an old man in kaxti walks with a stick on a bridge.

In ‘Sonya’ (2002) the quest for Sonya becomes a journey of discovery, retracing her steps on the sandy shore.  It is a poem which sees Sonya as a citizen of the world with no fixed destination. It is possible to cultivate the art of aimlessness in Goa:

Basel, Setubal, Goa, Madras
Homes of the self, anchor of the fugitive
Where are you going? Where are you now?

The construction boom in Goa has wiped out vast areas of green cover in Goa. At what price development? On my furtive visits to Goa from Delhi I summed up my lament in ‘Homecoming’(2000):

Gone are the trees
From the hillside green
As the sons of the fathers
Seek homes of their own. . .

Houses of Goa
Thy death-knell is nigh
As the axis shifts
From squat to high.

Though there are many poems anchored in Goa, there are almost an equal number written in transit. ‘Ei or ie’ (2005) tries to capture the incorrect pronunciation of names of places in Goa by migrants in trains coming in to Goa:

Trouble with the vowels
One the 2450 Dn.
‘Mud-goa comes before
Thi-VIM. Mad-goa is later.’

ii.                   Goa and India

Though I have self-published two books of verse to date, the other being A Peace of India: Poems in Transit (2011), the fact remains that the poems in the two volumes were written concurrently. I did not sit down to write the Goa poems first and then in another session do the India poems.

This binary between Goa and India, ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ has struck me as curious. Living more than a decade in Delhi which is culturally very inclusive, I am curious about Goa’s narrative of ‘we’ versus ‘them.’ A rail track does not change its complexion when it crosses the state boundary, nor does the river change its course as you travel over its bridges. Being in a third space like Delhi helped me to use my angst, my saudades to mirror Goa in my lines. The ache of leaving Goa and loved ones, was only made more bearable by forming a supportive community away from Goa – one that welcomed me as their own without distinction of caste or creed.

So my poetry is imbued with the spirit of India, while writing about Goa. There is a larger canvas out there, a different reality, with a different set of questions which need to be addressed. Some of these questions are the abject poverty of people in Jharkhand for example; the eerie silence of dusk in Srinagar, with its disturbed conditions, and the several instances of havoc along the coastline of Tamil Nadu due to the wrath of nature. All these moments have been enshrined in my poems across this country. And in the same breath, it is possible to see Goa as with its beauty, its peaceful living conditions and the many times a cyclone has passed over it, leaving this tiny state untouched – as devout Catholics believe, through the intercession of Saint Francis Xavier.

Sometimes for a poet boundaries melt away. All that remains is the immensity of nature. One’s destiny is bounded by the elements, viz. the sea and the land. We are all fugitives, travelling from one destination to another trying to find our meaning. Here is a poem written in Portuguese by me:
A cidade
Para o mar
O mar
Para a cidade
(Enroute Goa Express

The theme of the fugitive was expanded in an article I wrote from Delhi for Goa Today in 2001. When it was published I pressed it into the hands of family and colleagues in Goa and Delhi and was amazed at their responses. It also brought to the fore the disconnect between the capital of India and the nuances of Goa – or the poetic life for that matter. Like Breughel’s painting ‘The Blind leading the Blind’ each reader confronts his/her own aporia [blindspot] while engaging with the text. I sewed them all into a quilt and called it ‘On the Run.’

On the Run
‘It’s about the dialectics of self and location.’
‘Hmm. Colourless city.’
‘Carl Sandburg – is that a beer?’
‘Ravished – has my name on it!’
‘Who’s Souza Lobo?’
‘How can you talk about passion with a married woman?’
‘It’s in the clouds. Can’t you write like the others?’
‘You live in the past.’
‘It’s like Icarus being burned.’
‘Delhi, shitty of shitties?’
‘Did Pessoa have a PhD?’
‘I like the way you always write about Goa.’
‘Needs polish.’
Aapne Dilli aur Goa ko bilkul mila liya.’
‘It’s so lyrical – reminds me of Kalidasa!’
‘Mention of Saramago adds weight and beauty to your remarks.’
 (New Delhi, 2001)

My poems have in fact always been ‘on the run’. Whether in Goa or out of it, I am a poet in a hurry to write a poem to capture a moment as it were, as in a photograph. I have done several studies of places when I do a photo-shoot of the area. I then look at the pictures and then piece together the lines of poetry on the train on the way back. The impulse to travel is always there:

Yes I Will Go
Yes I will go
To see my ‘friends’
The rivers, the birds
And the trees
Where the wind calls
And the forests wait
In the stories of an India
Yet to be told.
(Delhi, 2007)

To continue to write is to begin to mediate the equation between Goa and India. People flock to Goa in search of nirvana. How they get it is anybody’s guess. As a traveller-poet I sometimes identify with those tourists who come hoping Goa will not disappoint them. But in marketing Goa, we seem oblivious to the treacherous trenches we lead our young and youth to. With new technology poetry is now being WhatsApped. On the occasion of the BRICS summit I WhatsApped these lines and sent them off ill at ease with the state of affairs in Goa:

Good Morning from Goa
Good morning from Goa
The land of bricks,
Where many are gallant
But others just pricks.
Where you can take a ride,
With time on your side,
Get stoned, get honed,
With nowhere to hide.
The hillside is barren
The workers disaffected,
No jobs, no food
Is it rhyme, wine or mine?
Come the pretty girls
Their allure holds sway.
When the night is done
Keepest thy deed at bay?
Enjoy the season
The charters have arrived.
It’s festive time, enGALFing times.
Goa’s greener – not anymore
Prithee, hark now, the rents do show.
(Goa, 2016)

The current vision of Goa, having moved to Goa seven years back is more pungent and hard-hitting. Gone is the romance and nostalgia. There is a new concern for Goa and its predicament.

iii.                Time / Space
Life can be looked at as existing on the time/space dimension. Both these realities are acutely experienced by the traveller. Whether s/he has to catch a train or board a bus, an awareness of time is essential to get you from one place to another. The sense of time is different in different places. In Goa time moves slowly – at least that’s what tourist brochures would have us believe. Life in Bombay – or Delhi – is different, and faster. Time is associated imperceptible with place. Like they say there are many ‘Indias’ in India, so too I would say there are many ‘Goas’ in Goa – each with their unique sense of time and space. The village road of Nagoa-Consua is not the same ascent as the six-lane highway from Old Goa to Panjim. With faster connectivity on land and on social media, space becomes surreal – because you are always in transit. Everything is happening at the same time.

The lens of the traveller is not single. There are many lenses. The first one is the humanistic – the traveller looks with a benevolent eye on humanity around her/her. S/he may not be able to do very much to lessen their burden, but at least a recording of their predicament or utter poverty will establish solidarity with their condition. The second lens is the practical. If one is too busy courting the muse one is likely to miss the train. The more a traveller travels, both inside Goa and outside it the more rarefied and distilled the lens becomes. The world indeed is his/her canvas. It is up to the traveller-poet to make his/her contribution to the world in his/her lifetime.

Primary Sources
Mendonça, Brian. Last Bus to Vasco: Poems from Goa.  Self-published, New Delhi, 2006.
----------------- . A Peace of India: Poems in Transit.  Self-published, New Delhi, 2011.
----------------- ‘A Peace of India: Narrative of a Nation,’ Tribune, Chandigarh, 22 January 2012; Uploaded on 22 January 2012.
---------------‘A Traveller’s Take on Goa,’ Blogpost. Uploaded 4 April 2017. 
----------------‘Saptah, Sonepur and Snows,’ Blogpost. Uploaded 13 August 2017.  
----------------‘Nagoa to Nerul: Thirty-six Years After School’ Weekender, Gomantak Times, St. Inez, Goa, March 2017.
----------------‘Dharbandora’ Weekender, Gomantak Times, St. Inez, Goa, 2017.
----------------‘Caitan-ya’ Weekender, Gomantak Times, St. Inez, Goa, 2015.
---------------- ‘Fugitive: On the Run’ Goa Today, Goa, August 2001.

Secondary Sources
Manjushree, K. ‘Interview with Brian Mendonça: A Popular Goan Poet.’ Ashwamegh.  August 2016.
Malik, Monica. ‘Dr. Brian Mendonca: Inspiring Journeys,’ 1 March 2014. Hosted at at
Anant, Ambika. ‘Poems of a Pan-Indian Itinerant.’  Book Review. Muse India: The Online Literary e-journal. 
Published in Goa Through the Traveller’s Lens. Ed. Nina Caldeira. Saligao: Goa 1556, 2018. ISBN 9788193423653. Presented at state level seminar on “Goa Through the Traveller’s Lens” organized by Department. of English, Goa University, on 30 March 2017. Pix courtesy Nat Geo Traveller Goa India

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Jeje seals it for FC Goa

-Brian Mendonça

One of the takeaways from the 2nd leg semi-final of the Indian Super League 2018 was Abhishek Bachchan in a mundu exhorting the fans in the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Chennai to cheer the Chennai team on. Abhishek as co-owner of Chennaiyin FC  felt propelled to rise from his seat to amble across in his summer wear to remind the crowd that they were there for a purpose.

He needn’t have worried. By halftime Chennai were two goals ahead and Goa was already gaping at defeat. True there were the whole of 45 minutes plus extra time to go but the body language of the Goa squad showed it all. They had given up. It was written all over their faces.

So it was only an academic exercise for Jeje to tap the ball into the left hand corner of the goal in the 90th minute to seal Goa’s fate.  This was Jeje’s second goal of the match (the first in the 25th minute), the other goal being a scorcher from Dhanpal in the 27th.

Goa goalkeeper Naveen never looked comfortable from the word ‘go.’ Kattimani his predecessor had the distinction of letting the ball go into the goal through his legs in the first leg semi-final. Compared to that Chennai’s goalkeeper, Karanjit Singh had a body that arched incredibly to make no less than six huge saves. He was my choice, hands down, for the player of the match. Goalkeepers seldom get recognized for their daredevilry.

Jeje with his easy going style and almost-sleepy eyes belied the fire within. His mercurial sprints up the flanks right to the mouth of the opposing goal were a coach’s nightmare. But Jeje Lalpekhlua is not Tamilian by any stretch of the imagination.  The striker from Mizoram is an invaluable addition to any side he plays for.

The Chennai side looked younger, more sprightly, and definitely more determined. It took them just 7 minutes to equalize against Goa in the first-leg semi-final at Fatorda Stadium  -- that too besieged by a crowd of around 18,000, most of whom were rooting for the home team.

I wonder why when Goa is losing, the game begins to get ugly. It is a sad comment on a side that sometimes only manages to cobble together a raid on the opposing goal but which peters out at the crucial moment. When you are angry you can’t play the game. It’s simple. Righteous indignation does not always garner sympathy. In fact the Goa team were booed for their behaviour in Chennai.

Pressure hung heavy on Coro. Lack of passing and displaying one’s own virtuosity at the expense of the team’s goals undid the side. They failed to combine after reaching this far.

I personally feel that it was the colour that made the difference. Playing in white they performed like ghosts, spiritless and often aimlessly. Their traditional colours are blue.  The dash and verve that signified blue was missing. Now the colours will help them nurse their blues.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 18th March 2018. (Top) Jeje exults after scoring for Mohun Bagan in the AFC cup qualifier in March 2017. Pix courtesy Deccan Chronicle. (Below) Mizoram fans at the Santosh trophy finals at Siliguri in March 2014. Pix courtesy

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Holy Anger

 -Brian Mendonça

How many times have we been angry? How many times have we said things that hurt – when it could have been said in a different way? You don’t have to shout when you are angry. Sometimes it is too late to say sorry, because the person goes away . . . ’

The laity was listening with rapt attention to Fr. Nevel Gracias, parish priest of St. Diogo’s Church, Guirim-Sangolda.* This was the homily for the 10.15 a.m. English Mass on the third Sunday of Lent.  The silent verdant fields around it, as far as the eye could see, enclasped the church in the embrace of nature. Only recently the relics of St. Anthony of Padua were displayed in the Alverno friary nearby for public veneration.  The main altar is dedicated to St. Diogo. He is flanked by St. Anthony and St. Francis of Assisi.

We were wonderstruck that St. Anthony beckoned to us, for we did not initially intend to hear Sunday Mass at St. Diogo’s church. On the way we discussed what we should wish for - this being our maiden visit to the church. Opinion was divided whether we could wish for one thing or three. Queenie settled the issue saying that you can ask for three but God gives you the one that is best for you. 

St. Diogo’s church rises majestically from the flat green plains and can be seen from afar. Founded in 1604, it has stood the vicissitudes of time and has been administering to its flock for over four centuries.

As I sat in my pew I was intrigued by the coinage ‘holy anger.’ How could anger be holy? But after reflecting on the gospel from John 2: 13-25 it became clearer as Jesus refers to the temple to signify his own body.

We are all prone to anger. Jesus, being God made man, also got angry with the merchants in the temple. Taking a whip with cords he chases them out admonishing them saying, ‘You have made the house of God a house of trade.’ 

The scene immortalized in the paintings of Giotto in the late middle ages (14th century), Giordano (17th century) and El Greco (16th century), accentuates our reverence for holy anger, where it is justified to show anger where it is due.

Anger or wrath was seen as one of the seven deadly sins. They were compiled by Pope Gregory of the early church in the year 600.  The others are lust, greed, gluttony, sloth, envy and pride. Fr. Gracias prayed on behalf of all of us for patience and the grace to control our anger.

In front of me a flaxen-haired child was tugging at the lady on the seat, hoping to pull her away into the outdoors, whilst the Mass was on. The woman never lost her temper even once. She tried to humour him, hold him in her arms, but he slid from her grasp. The devout lady was an example of virtue in practice. She triumphed over anger.
* Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 11 March 2018. Pix of congregation at St. Diogo's church and of Fr. Nevel Gracias taken by Brian Mendonca on 11 March 2018. Pix of El Greco painting of Christ driving moneychangers from the temple, courtesy leninimports

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The Service-Oriented Cadre of Unreplaceable Migrants (SCUM) of Goa

-Brian Mendonça

The service-oriented cadre of unreplaceable migrants viz. the SCUM of Goa have done yeoman service to the people of Goa and have not really got due credit for anything.
Let me spell out the word for some of our worthy readers who can commiserate with the lot of these despised and disparaged, but who nevertheless extract the most labour from them for the smallest price.

Service-oriented. The SCUM are service-oriented. Their altruistic bent of mind keeps them looking for odd jobs. They may be labourers at a construction site, mixing asphalt on a road-widening project, or unloading goods from trucks.

I came across Bhima from Ilkal (near Belgaum) and his men looking for work. I gratefully recruited them to carry my father down the steps from the second floor whenever he needed to be rushed to hospital. They never failed us. Even on the day of the funeral five of them sorrowfully carried my dad down to the waiting hearse for his final journey.

Cadre. Like the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) the SCUM are a cadre of their own. They have a fierce loyalty to each other and those like them who try to make a living in hostile conditions. They do their often blue-collar jobs with pride and are thankful for the menial wages they get.

Dipankar and his mates are from Guwahati. He and his bunch are security guards at a housing complex. Early morning around 6 a.m. he bounces up four floors switching off the night lights of the common areas. Dipankar is one of a horde of security staff who get shunted across the country at the whims of the agency they work for. 

Unreplaceable. The SCUM are unreplaceable. Because Goans will not touch their jobs by a barge pole. So however much misguided voices may rant and rave about their provenance, the fact is that if they were to be recalled, there would be no one to take out the garbage.

Jara satak-ke laga doh Sir,’ says Behera as I am grateful to him for watching my back as I reverse into a parking slot.  Behera has come all the way from the East coast of India, viz. Odisha to make a living in Goa.  His eyes soften when I speak about Konark but he hurries away to guide an incoming car.

Migrants. The SCUM move from place to place in search of work. They are always on the run, sometimes with their families, sometimes alone. Toddlers with faces full of snot play gaily on the side of the road as their mothers break their backs carrying stones. Having nowhere to stay they cook their frugal meals by the side of the heavy machinery and huddle together under the night sky.

Rehan is a barber from Haryana. When I went for my summer crop he greeted me with a big smile. ‘Jannat ka phool  he offers, when I ask the meaning of his name. It translates as ‘Fragrant flower of Paradise.’
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 4 March 2018