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A heritage personality

Sanjeev Sardesai

It is a well-accepted fact that you can get a Goan out of Goa, but you cannot get the Goa out of a Goan! As the adage goes ‘once a Goan, always a Goan’! This adage was customised for a personality, the late Manohar Gopalkrishna Parrikar, the second Chief Minister of this State who died in harness while being in the seat as Chief Minister of Goa. He has left a blazing trail of development, many a precedent and literally bridged the gaps in geographical and emotional arenas.

A handful of people will realise the vault of treasure which is Goa and its cultural assets, especially that generation that was fortunate to have journeyed the transit of being ruled by the Portuguese and then gliding into the freedom of Mother India. Parrikar was a result of the original ethos of this land and visibly carried with him, as his lifestyle, the facets of our culture, be it his culinary choices, his conversational attributes or his commanding proclamations, from a public platform.

His un-abandoned love for the Goan pao bhaji with a hot cup of tea at the oddest of hours bonded him to many a people of all strata. He was a photo-journalist’s apple of the eye, caught on camera many a time sipping a cup of tea. This portrayal of himself, with all guards down, even when he was at the helm of this beautiful state, speaks volumes of his down-to-Earth lifestyle.

His passion for Goan culture and heritage was a deep-rooted way of life, which may have found seed in his family upbringing in the verdant North Goan village of Parra. The Goan villages of the pre-liberation period consisted predominantly of well-bonded joint families, and this led to imbibing values and respect for local culture through family interactions and the supervision of elders.

Another facet of this individual, who has untimely departed behind the curtain of time, is that his friend circle comprised a cross-section of faiths, and with whom these relationships remained harmonious till the end.

Being a passionate football player in his childhood, this intangible heritage in the form of a passion for field sports led him to pursue the creation of world-class sports stadiums such as the Bambolim Athletics Stadium, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Indoor Stadium, Peddem Sports Complex, as well as many similar but smaller projects all over the State.

At the inaugural function of the new Panjim Gymkhana for which Manohar Parrikar was the chief guest, I was given the honour of presenting the brief history of the premises from inception till date. He patiently listened to the entire speech and during his address recollected and connected many incidents related to sports in Goa.

It was his wish that Goa should be cultivated as a ‘cultural circuit’, empowering the local students to be devoted to the museums, heritage literary institutions with Goan tangible and intangible heritage. The objective was to target the immense exodus of self-propelled visitors who arrive in Goa annually, with an aim to generate self-employment for locals.

Many a time, during his visits to various sites in Goa, however remotely connected to heritage, he would take time to veer off to appreciate an ageing brass lamp or a carved chest.

Understanding the importance of our rich Indian heritage based on the solar system, he pushed forward and inaugurated the mini-planetarium at Goa Science Centre at Miramar, with the intent to reinforce the budding talent in youngsters to make the sky their limit – in the literal sense.

He was known for his sharp and witty responses and when the issue of relocating the priceless artefacts of the Goa State Museum emerged, an issue that was pending for years; he decided to shift the same to the Adil Shah Palace, a heritage building constructed as a holiday palace in 1500, by the Adilshahi Dynasty. He was known to have said: ‘the issue which was pending for three years, I solved in three minutes’. What he had effectively done was pave way for establishing a new state-of-the-art display area by relocating the artefacts.

It was during his tenure in 2012, that the Reis Magos fort was refurbished and thrown open to visitors as a wonderful heritage asset of this state. Today this fort venue is the cynosure of all eyes, as hundreds of visitors to Goa, as well as many school children who make a beeline to see this historic structure.

His vision for Goa had objectives, though not initially understood by mere mortals, the outcome of his endeavours was viewed in awe. His indirect preservation of heritage and blending it with modern inclusions were appreciated, such as connecting the Aldona village to the historic Khorjuem island with two of Goa’s unique bridges – the cable-stayed bridge and the sliding concrete bridge towards the east that gave many Goans access to the Khorjuem fort and cut short the route to the heritage villages of Shirgao, Narve, Mayem and others.

Galileo was misunderstood and had to pay a price of his life for stating his mind. Similarly, a mortal who had a long-term vision for Goa and attracted the love of Goans has slipped between the sands of time. May his soul find peace!

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