By Sanjit Rodrigues
Finance has always been, and often continues to be, a delicate aspect of running the museum. Goa Chitra has run into extreme success as well as points of almost complete bankruptcy. Sanjit Rodrigues’s narrative, in sombre tones, perfectly captures the cyclical ups and downs of the project, the issues of its sustenance, and his own silent doubts regarding the success of Goa Chitra.
Circa 2000. Senhor Jose Francisco das Angustias Gomes [Victor’s father] was effusive as he led me to the imposing dining table at his home. As much as he loved his home and took in his stride the onerous task of its maintenance, he was proud of the restoration work my friend[Victor] was undertaking to see it sparkle once again, his time, effort and money notwithstanding. Over our large sopero of Sopa Grossa, the conversation veered from how the house has got a great make over, to whether the latest fascination of my friend to have his permanent ethnographic exposition would be a reality, to whether his daughter-in-law-to-be would approve of it. Over another largish helping, this time, I am even more affirmative. A quiet persists. I know what such a pregnant pause would bring. A swig of the local brew and am sternly reminded that my mumble is nothing different. I had said so of something called The Great Music Revival Concerts, The Goan Quest, and……the list would just elongate….just to show the fickleness, idiosyncrasy and the tumult of my friend. But with affirmations and questions in equal measure, the evening fades away gracefully as many such encounters I would have after a gruelling day at work in South Goa.
Encounters with the artist, ethnographer, event organiser, restorer, and an argumentative Goan are many. I am shown the area which would house his passion. It would start as an organic farm. Over pez and kharem on a harvest day, I dare not dishearten him. I have flashes of pessimism running high, but egg him on. We talk legalese: permissions, licensing, registration. It would be the longest haul he has undertaken so far, I mutter to myself, keeping a straight face. Days go by, we meet off and on. Work is drudgery at the site…workers, locals, the Mamlatdar, the Panchayat, finance….every meeting is an argument. I know there is no quick fix for this pestilence. I am just turning into a good listener for once.
It’s long that we have met now, the place is nearing completion. I visit it not knowing what to expect. It’s a revelation. I am speechless and stunned. He has just out done himself. His child-like passion, intensity of thought, and focus on his direction is just mind boggling. His creation opens up. Every one raises a toast. Reviews run riot. Promises are made. As the who’s-who trace their steps back and reality dawns, the humungous task of running this marvel is left to him alone.
He gets his pangs yet again. How does he get the foot falls? How does he sustain? How does he grow? Arguments again. An absolute no to what now is very Goan. No treats and freebies to travel agents. No commissions to touts, guides and taxi drivers. No to politician ribbon cuttings. No to commercial offers. You remain inclined and preferential but this marvel is for posterity and agnostic to all, I argue. But then only time would make one discover this institution. It has to be an experience centre. It has to get into your skin. Patience has never been his hallmark, but he better build it I say.
It has to grow. Governments pretend to recognise the effort. How does he realise that such missives normally do not see the light of day? That you cannot come trumps with a maze of rules, regulations, and notifications. He tries, only to get disheartened all over. Proposals are typed, statements are culled, calls are made, nothing works. Can’t they understand the need to record these treasures, the security of the artefacts, upkeep of the precinct to save something for posterity? How do I tell him it’s beyond comprehension and yet sound truthful? Instead discussions now veer towards how to institutionalise the marvel. People with such passion and resolve are few to come by. Who would immerse himself to take it forward?Trials and tribulations abound.A Trust needs to take over, he says…for it’s our child left to grow and needs to be looked after. Again he is his solitary self.
Days pass by. Calls I used to receive to let me know the count of visitors of the day have stopped since long. Counts are not possible any longer. It’s a pilgrimage to revere the past and enlighten our steps into the future. And when I see a Robert D’Niro or Kiran Desai, JayantNarlikar or VinodRai,OrhanPamuk or Gulzar quietly weave their way through its labyrinths; when I read it of it on my copy of theTime or see of it on BBC,whenNatGeoTraveller goes there and the RoughGuide, LonelyPlanetet al flag it, I know the time of this creation has come.
Sorry Victor, for once you have created something larger than you. Something’s got better of you. Goa Chitra will speak longafter we are all gone.
Sanjit Rodrigues has been a part of the Goa Civil Services, holding various positions relating to infrastructure, urban development, revenue administration, tourism and industries. He has been the Municipal Commissioner of Panjimand the CEO for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI). As Managing Director of Goa Infrastructure Development Corporation, he is spearheading large infrastructure projects across various sectors in Goa with a focus on speedy implementation and high quality. One of the deliverables on his plate is the third bridge over River Mandovi.