Park-ing in and around Panjim
Even innocent people don't want the police comingBy Cecil Pinto Most weekday evenings my paternal duties consist of taking my two young brats for a ride to one of their favourite 'spots', all within a three kilometer radius of our Miramar residence. During this time their mother gets quality time at home to herself to listen to FM radio, catch up on her TV serials, and clean up the apartment. Just to clarify.
The main purpose of Beatrice cleaning up the apartment is so that the maid who comes every morning to clean up does not think we are a totally messy family, which in actuality we are. It is important to create a good impression on maids else (a) they will leave, or worse still, (b) they will tell the neighbours what a messy uncivilized family we are. So every evening around six o'clock I set out on my Yamaha with Fabian perched on the motorcycle tank and Desmond sitting pillion, and talking to me non-stop. His absurd questions, opinions and assumptions would bewilder and appall the most hardened anthropologist. But we will leave those musings for another day.
The closest 'spot' is the riverside near the Sports Authority swimming pools in Campal; a lovely place to watch a spectacular sunset. But more often than not the magic of the moment is shattered by one of those stupid noisy cruise boats passing by, blasting Bollywood music at volumes that would waken the dead. I hear that a big time cruise boat owner damaged his hearing during an
underwater salvage operation. The deafeningly loud volumes are for his benefit.
Another favourite spot is Kala Academy. Usually there's some art or book exhibition to keep me engrossed while the boys enjoy screaming, while mindlessly running up and down the steeply inclined passage to the outdoor auditorium. The lawns are off limit but the mini-outdoor auditorium also provides nice spaces for fun. A
nd of course the picturesque wooden jetty, built before the 2006 IFFI for two crore rupees but never used except for film shoots, also makes for lovely sunset viewing. "Dada why we can't walk on the jetty? Why is this sign saying - NO ENTRY?" "They are afraid that tourists might come here and commit suicide by jumping in the river." "But Dada they can jump from the bridge, or Dona Paula jetty, or the promp, promin…""Promenade. I know Desmond. There are a million places better places in Goa where tourists can jump into the river for a guaranteed death instead of the shallow water here." "So then why Dada? Why do they stop us from walking on the wooden jetty?" "You want to know the truth? Top Secret?" "Yes. Yes!" "You know what are xinnanio? The fried mussels your mama made yesterday?""Yes!" "Well xinnanio attach themselves to rocks and anything solid in the low tide area. They are particularly fond of metal poles like the ones that hold up this jetty. There is a man named Deshprabhu who climbs down the poles every night, harvests the xinnaneo, and shares them with another guy named Rane. Between them they make sure that the jetty is closed to the public so nobody can else can harvest and eat the xinanneo." "I see. Selfish greedy fellows, no Dada?""Yes!" Another 'spot' is the Church of Immaculate Conception. From up there you can have a crow's eye view of Panjim traffic. The boys of course enjoy screaming and mindlessly racing each other up and down the steps. Once the spotlights come on after sundown, one can also make nice huge shadow puppets on the walls of the church.
The Children's Park in Campal used to be a top favourite but now attracts a very ill-mannered touristy crowd. The Joggers' Park at Altinho is uncrowded but has no playground equipment. The once bustling Municipal Garden is in a state of being repaired for so many years now that probably my grandchildren might enjoy it someday. The beachside park in Caranzalem, often referred to as Babush's Park, has a splendid colourful Multi Play installation that incorporates slides, swings, see saws, climbers, spiral scramblers and a whole lot of such stuff that the kids enjoy.
Every evening it's populated by noisy mirthful kids having a grand time. The parents and guardians either walk on the jogging track, send SMS to their friends, screech at their kids to be careful, or do all of the above Regardless of the political and legal controversies surrounding it, Babush's Park is a hot favourite with any kid who has visited it, and a nice place to meet interesting people from all social classes. Carry Odomos for protection.
The other day at this park, seated alone a few meters from me, was this mother of a cute little girl who was throwing sand on my Fabian. I never interfere in kids' fights unless they get really lethal. But the mother was of a different mentality. Keralite I think."Priya, you stowp throwing seind rait now!""Mummee he first kicking for me…!""If you naut stowping rait now police will come!" I grabbed the opportunity to take some proactive steps in salvaging the reputation of our corrupt and inefficient police force from 'outsider' attacks. "Hello!", I said, "It's ok. The kids will resolve their own problems. Why are you giving your impressionable young daughter a negative stereotype of a policeman as an undesirable person? Children then grow up with such negative concepts and are uncooperative with the police. Crimes that could have been kept in check escalate and witnesses don't come forth..." I paused mid-sentence as the look she gave me was of one who has just encountered an alien being from Mars."Priya", she screamed in panic, "chalo beti we goes home!" as she practically ran away from me to grab her daughter and disappear.
So much for trying to change mindsets. Was she being a bad mother? Was this a clash of cultural values? Was I being a bad father for not insisting everyone on the motorbike wear helmets? Is it unethical to complain about noisy cruise boats and allow your kids to scream at Kala Academy? Who does the jetty really belong to? Can you build a permanent structure like a park within 200 meters of the high tide line? How come other families manage to retain maids for so many years? Does anyone really ever want the police to come?
-----The column above appeared in Gomantak Times dated 27th March 2008 =====