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Idyllic no more

How the pursuit of solitude has led to the decline of Goa

A poet who recently spoke of the need for solitude as a precondition for writing said that solitude made life simple, for example in terms of how much cooking was needed to sustain the person. She added that only the very rich or those willing to shed all their accoutrements are able to access solitude and its corollary, simplicity.

Consider the case of Goa, which drew the hippy set in the 1960s. Goa was attractive because of its picturesqueness, unspoilt beaches, the simplicity of the local populace, the slow pace of life, and low costs. The secret of Goa spread farther each year and people began purchasing property, buying into what the hippies had discovered. Soon, the construction industry boomed, and an idyllic pace of life transformed into something far more frenetic. The Goans fought against the transmogrification of the landscape. The war was eventually lost but the skirmishes continue between the government and the people.

Why was this Pandora’s Box opened? Through the latter half of the 20th century, the professional lives of Indians became far busier. Many dreamt of walking away from a nine-to-five routine. A life that was cheap, unaffected by regimentation and unblemished by needless interactions was alluring. Early Goa was coveted because it offered this and more.

Some moved to Goa, others invested in property giving them an assured place on visits. Ergo, the image of Goa shifted from an idyllic getaway to a party town where beach, booze and boisterousness converged. Many prospered in this transformation, but the environment and Goan society suffered. Much to the dismay of those enjoying the good life that early Goa offered, their tranquil space shrank and was soon overrun.

Assuming everyone has within them a craving for some measure of solitude, it is inevitable that crowds will follow the early discoveries of new places of solitude. Yet what many perhaps forget is that their very presence vitiates that ecosystem. With an increasing population and incomes, very few places have escaped the human footprint. Today, this pursuit threatens the last vestiges of mostly untouched nature.

Goa is an example of the aftermath of finding this seclusion. Goa’s simple, idyllic life of the early years that drew the adventurous, jaded and those looking for a reboot has vanished. The desire for solitude and simplicity and its discovery has culminated in rancour and bitterness.

Goa’s decline proves that no frontier can remain an untouched outpost of nature. Solitude and simplicity do not spring from a place but from a state of mind and deliberate choices. The sooner we realise this, the better it will be for India’s villages, mountains, forests and for us too.

The writer is the author of 1400 Bananas, 76 Towns & 1 Million People

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 4:24:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/idyllic-no-more/article25735530.ece

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