Manohar Parrikar was a selfless and incorruptible leader. His mission was a better Goa, and his vision was a vibrant Goa—socially and economically.
Growing up in the Middle-East I had a complete disdain for India and an even bigger disdain for Goa.
In my mind India was a stinking cesspool and most of my fellow Indians where content living in that cesspool-like condition because they merely traded their slavery from foreign invaders to homegrown corrupt political families.
My idea of India was Bollywood’s depiction of India. Beyond Mumbai, I rarely travelled and I never wanted to travel.
My childhood memories of Goa were fraught with images of darkness because of the recurrent power cuts, village like feeling and strange people who fought with their neighbors over small parcels of lands. I found the people of Goa petty but I thoroughly enjoyed the food.
I was never a child who enjoyed jumping into the well for a swim, though my father and his cousins did or go fishing in the middle of the night in the river with my uncles and cousins in Goa. I did however enjoy climbing mango trees and plucking raw mangoes.
Imagine some 35-years ago, I had to go for my morning absolutions to an outside toilet with natural sewerage treatment plant – pigs that my Uncle reared. I was scared shit to shit.
Never did I ever imagine in my growing up years that I would finally make India my home and love it for the very reasons, I disliked it before.
Even more stranger was my decision to come to Goa. It was a considered a miracle by my father who always wanted to build our ancestral home and retire in Goa.
I never wanted to be in India. I always wanted to migrate from Dubai to Canada or Australia. I never saw myself as an Indian for most part of my thinking life, even though I knew I was an Indian and was brought up as an Indian by my parents and grandparents.
India was a stirring that happened in 1999. I suppose it was the prayers of my grandfather, who once told me that it did not matter whether I considered myself to be a foreigner, there will come a time in myself when ‘Mother India’ would call out to me and I would come back to India, grudgingly but with a passion that I must serve India, somehow.
I often attribute the passion I have for India to the teachings and inspirations of my grandparents and parents; but I attribute my understanding of politics, social responsibility and most all my role as a citizen in nation building to my mentor the Late Manohar Parrikar.
I made Manohar Parrikar my teacher and took everyone opportunity to learn from the few but soul-stirring interactions with him.
My first interaction with Mr Manohar Parrikar was 19 years ago. I was a senior reporter with a hospitality and tourism brand of a leading national newspaper. I was in Goa to cover a hospitality conference. He was the Chief Minister of Goa. I had a brief but eventful discussion with him on Goa. I, being true to my intrinsic nature was highly opinionated in our discussion. Mr Parrikar left me with a thought that stayed with me for years. He said, “It is easy to lecture on what Goa needs to do be nationally and internationally competitive. If you want to make a difference as a Goan, come to Goa and work in Goa. That’s the first step.”
I was to meet him for lunch the next day in Panjim but that lunch appointment did not happen, even though I turned up at the CM’s residence, because Mr. Parrikar had some urgent government-related matters to deal with and I had to catch a flight back to Mumbai.
Being someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, I decided to turn my business focus to Goa. After all, at the back of my head there was this nagging and nudging inception of Mr. Parrikar that if you want to make a difference to Goa, be in Goa. Since that meeting in 2002 with Mr. Parrikar, I visited Goa numerous times for a holiday and I fell in love with the holiday spirit of Goa. I even came for my honeymoon to Goa. But I never wanted to live in Goa or do business in Goa.
But in 2010, I decided to relocate – lock, stock and barrel to the home of my family roots. I decided walk the talk I had with Mr. Parrikar. My decision shocked most of family all over the world. They assumed that my mid-life crisis came early. From Dubai to Mumbai, Mumbai to Goa – the varied facets of a culture shock. My father was thrilled.
Even after moving to Goa, politics was a subject I never wanted to comprehend or analyze. Fortunately, most of my political understanding and acumen had come from my interactions with Mr. Parrikar.
Every once in a while you come across a political leader that you admire, look up to and willingly make your mentor.
I have always maintained that politics in Goa is driven by charisma of political leaders not political parties. Manohar Parrikar was one such leader in my eyes.
Over the last decade and more Mr Parrikar had tactfully, ruthlessly and unflinchingly positioned himself as the political leader to fear and have hope in for a Better Goa.
But more than all his political acumen, it was his simplicity and humility that were endearing qualities to those who lives he touched with his mere presence. He was intelligent, determined and extremely focussed on his visions.
At most times many people, including his own people, did not understand the method to his madness.
Parrikar was not a man driven by money. He was a man driven by this innate desire to be remembered as someone who made Goa a world-class socio-economic destination.
Goa benefitted from a visionary political leader like Parrikar throughout his illustrious political career and would have benefitted much more had he stayed on, fighting fit.
Goa needed a leader who could set in motion a vision of a better tomorrow for Goa and not someone who is driven by a vision of better tomorrow for their coffers. Parrikar was that leader. He was selfless and incorruptible.
His mission was a better Goa, his vision was a vibrant Goa socially and economically.
He was an educated man who reluctantly donned the mantle of a politician and then decided that it was his duty to the state and its people to give his reluctant role his best.
Even as the Union Minister of Defence, he brought his systematic approach and logical thinking too the table and reshaped the operations of the ministry to instill in the personnel a fortitude and a confidence in matters of defence and taking tough decisions in the interest of the nation.
But most of all, what I admired and loved about him was that politics was not a means to a wealthy ends to him; politics to him was about serving the people unflinchingly and devotedly. So much so that at times the people he was doing it for, never truly understood his intent.
I am blessed to have lived in the era of a great leader like Manohar Parrikar, to have walked with him, shared ideas with him and break bread with him.
I am blessed that both Manohar Parrikar and I connected in Goa. It is the spirit of Goa that is imbedded in us.
The spirit of Goa is one of contentment with life. The often used words Sussegad’ is misinterpreted by many non-goons. It does not mean that the people of Goa are ‘lackadaisical’ it simple means that the people of Goa are content with their life, their homes and their Goa.
The people of Goa do not want Goa to become a Mumbai, Thailand or Shanghai. We want Goa to be Goa. We want to evolve sustainably not through voracious greed seen in most cities in India and across the world. Goa has never been divided on communal grounds. It can never be because in Goa, it does not matter if you are a Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The fact that you are a Goan matters.
Goa is the only state that has a Uniform Civil Code. A Portuguese Law that the Goa government adopted and has now become an example for the rest of India to adopt to be truly a nation of secularism.
Goa right now needs a leader that can step into the shoes of Mr. Parrikar and take forward his vision of a Better Goa. Our better still, work on a bigger national and global vision for Goa.
Goa must not be allowed loose it raw charm and simplicity. If Goa tries to compete with the rest of India to be a metropolis it will no doubt see growth but it will not be Goa.
The beauty of Goa lies in the simplicity of its people, its mesmerization of its beautiful culture and the divine aura of its natural environment.
Savio Rodrigues is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Goa Chronicle.