CENTRAL: With its central location and river views the Mandovi is a good catch for any investor. Perhaps the casinos and consequent traffic chaos are off putting
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Maharashtra example may inspire Digambar Kamat to topple the Pramod Sawant government in Goa. For a Saturday following the week when the worst of the dozens of parties held every night during IFFI was that organised by the Press Information Bureau on November 26. For a Saturday following the week when the oldest and the grandest starred hotel in Goa, the Mandovi, located in the heart of Panjim, iss allegedly crumbling. For a Saturday preceding the week when the feast of St Francis Xavier is scheduled to be held on December 3 in a variety of languages. For a Saturday following the week when there was no progress on any of the promises made by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
INSPIRATION FROM MUMBAI?
And a few stray thoughts on the hope that Sharad Pawar’s googly in Maharashtra will inspire Digambar Kamat to topple the Pramod Sawant government.
As leader of the Congress Legislative Party, Digambar is Goa’s Chanakya. It may be recalled that entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the BJP MLAs to prevent them from defecting, he himself defected. In a night of high drama in early 2005, Digambar Kamat, immediately after a visit from the late Manohar Parrikar, drove down in a convoy which included me to the Ramada Hotel and joined the Congress. In the elections that followed in 2007, Digambar Kamat became the chief minister. He was one of two Goan chief ministers to complete the full term of five years.
Digambar Kamat should have become the chief minister after the 2017 election as the leader of the largest single legislative group with 17 seats as compared to the BJP’s 13 seats. Moreover there was an understanding that Vijai Sardesai’s GF and Independent MLA Rohan Khaunte would extend support to Digambar.
However, the Congress leaders are their own worst enemies. The then GPCC president Luizinho Faleiro and the high command observer Digvijay Singh sabotaged chances of Digambar becoming chief minister and handed over the top post to Manohar Parrikar.
The support of the Goa Forward was to Manohar Parrikar and not to the BJP. I understand that ten of the 12 Congress MLAs who merged with the BJP are quite willing to quit and re-contest on the Congress ticket. If the ten Congress MLAs and Vijai Sardesai and company reviewed their support, Digambar could establish a majority in the Goa Assembly. The probability is that Sudin and his brother Dilip Dhavalikar may also extend support to Digambar. There is no love lost between the BJP and Vijai Sardesai and Sudin Dhavalikar who were both dropped from the Cabinet by Pramod Sawant soon after he became chief minister. Even senior leaders of the BJP are disillusioned with Pramod Sawant. The other possibility is that Digambar himself may join the BJP and replace Pramod Sawant as the chief minister.
And a few stray thoughts on the parties that are held by various organisations during the course of IFFI.
The first of the parties is held on the opening day of IFFI and is sponsored by Minister for Information & Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar. The Director of Film Festivals holds a party for prominent directors and actors, which is the least popular. This is not because the people who attend are not interesting but because by convention the DFF, claiming to be a government body, does not serve booze.
This of course does not prevent the Union Information Minister or the state CM from serving daru at the parties that they sponsor.
The last day of IFFI is a farewell and thank you party by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. The CM seems to have a strange imagination as the venue of the party scheduled for Nov 28, the day of the closing ceremony, was the “white elephant” car parking block opposite the cruise boat jetty. We wonder whether guests will have to ride round and round the car park which has never been used though it has been commissioned several times. The original intention was that cars and tourist taxis which come to drop passengers at the cruise jetty and block traffic at the casino entry point, would be forced to park in the car park. Unfortunately the casino lobby is far too powerful to be forced to maintain any discipline.
I could not attend the party organised by ESG’s Vrundavan Raikar at the Taleigao Community Hall. I have a car but unfortunately all the drivers are hijacked by IFFI. I understand from friends who attended the party that so far it has been the best party, with premium booze flowing freely and Chief Minister Sawant himself joining the celebration. This is not unusual as Sawant is the chairperson of the Entertainment Society of Goa.
The party was special because it was organised by Vrundavan, the PIB manager of ESG, and only Goans know how to organise a great party. The deputy director of the PIB, Vinod Kumar, stuck to his promise or boast and delivered the invitation for the PIB party at home. I have never attended a PIB party in Goa in 15 years of IFFI where liquor has not been served. The excuse was that it was Constitution Day as well as the anniversary of the 26/11 terrorist attack. The PIB could have an alternate date for its party as media people look forward to drinking at the PIB party.
It is not that all journalists are alcoholics. On the contrary it is the big companies including government organisations who literally drown journalists in daru to get good coverage. Many journalists also have peg or two in the early days of their careers to stay awake, as normal journalist working hours can extend to 1 am or even later in the morning.
I also understand that the PIB invited journalists from Delhi and Mumbai, paying for their airfare, accommodation and all their meals, including drinks. It was a privilege limited to bhakts whose organisations historically support the Modi government. I am personally aware that several of them were put up in the 4-star Fortune Hotel where arrangements for lunch and dinner were also made.
The PIB dinner was catered to by the Taj Vivanta. Since there was no alcohol and no vegetarian food of my choice I had my dinner not at the PIB party but at the neighbouring Ritz where I was welcomed by the manager John who formally managed the Mandovi hotel for 21 years.
MANDOVI FALLING DOWN
And a few stray thought on the oldest, grandest and best hotel in Goa allegedly tumbling down like the London Bridge.
The oldest starred hotel in Goa was the Mandovi hotel. In 1979 when I came to Goa to promote the Public Issue of Fomento Resorts and Sesa Goa (now Vedanta) I stayed in its spacious suites. I had brought with me a party of top financial journalists and investment bankers from Bombay. We conducted both the investors conference and the press conference in the Mandovi, which at the time had the best ball room of all the starred hotels.
The Mandovi, started before Liberation, has hosted governor generals and top Indian leaders including Nehru and LK Advani. This was a time when neither Cidade de Goa nor Marriott had come up and Mandovi was the only starred hotel in the state. An unusual feature of the Mandovi was the large washrooms which not only had regular toilets for men but also bidets for women. I don’t know if any of them still remain.
Besides the Mandovi, the group also had a cakeshop, Pasteleria, in the hotel and a Chinese restaurant called Goenchin near Mahalaxmi Temple. I understand that due to fights within the family the hotel is on the verge of closure. Payments have not been made to the PF office and ESIS for a long time. Employees have not got their salaries. It is reported that barely two floors are operating. The cake shop within the hotel, which served the best cakes in town, has been closed down. This is the problem with family-owned business establishments. The bitterest fight is between the two brothers, Babu and Prashant, who reportedly has 70% of the share holding. Prashant controls the Mandovi Riviera which besides being a restaurant is also a popular party destination.
I wish some Goan party would come forward and purchase the property and renovate it, as the Mandovi is part of Goa’s history. Being located next to the Congress office it has been the hub of political activities, ever since Liberation. Prior to Liberation it was largely occupied by and entertained Portuguese aristocracy. The worst part is that some of their best cooks have left and the hotel cannot any longer pride itself on its superlative food.
And a few stray thoughts on the forthcoming feast day of St Francis Xavier, scheduled for December 3.
A unique feature this time is that masses will be held in half-a-dozen foreign languages besides many Indian languages. There will be masses even in Italian and Russian, besides the usual masses in Tamil, Kannada and other Indian languages. There will of course be a daily Konkani mass and the feast mass will be in Konkani and presided over by the bishop of Mangalore.
Though I consider myself agnostic I have a close relationship with Goenche Saiba. When I was very sick, consequent on being beaten up by the hired goons of a politician, my then boss in the Herald, A C Fernandes used to take me to Old Goa and offer masses on my behalf frequently. Never mind that he was very stingy and never paid any of my medical bills. In 1994 I had just come back from five months of detoxification from steroids in Bangalore. My weight had come down from 180 to 35 kgs in the course of five months as steroids cause a lot of water retention.
I was warned by my doctors that I should not undertake any activity which would cause tension. Since I could not live without writing, I took the opportunity to write a biography of St Francis Xavier using my old computer at home, assisted by a visiting tourist, Laxmi. The patriarch wrote the forward for the book which was also praised by the rector of the Bom Jesus Basilica. The book did very well and I was able to recover some of the huge costs I had incurred on buying medicines during the five years when I was on steroids, wandering from hospital to hospital.
The exposition is held once in ten years when the casket of relics of St Francis Xavier are brought down from where it is placed in the Bom Jesus Basilica and moved to the Se Cathedral across the road which is the domain of the Bishop of Goa. The body is than placed at ground level at the Se Cathedral so that people can get a closer view of the saint.
The legend is that though he died more than 400 years ago his body remained intact till recently. Even now you can see the bones and parts of the skin. The Church no longer considers it uncorrupted but refers to it as relics of St Francis Xavier.
That year Rector Fr Rego decided that people from all communities should be allowed to carry the casket containing the relics of Goeche Saiba from the Basilica to the Cathedral which is about 2kms. I was among the privileged lay persons who had the honour of carrying the casket. The casket was carried in relays by a number of people. I lent my then very frail shoulder from the sacristy of the Basilica to the entrance. Among other Hindus who took part were the then dean of GMC, Dr Reddy, and Dr Vinay Jindal, the HOD of Neurology.
And a last stray thought on the lack of progress on the promises made by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
Though the monsoon stopped more than a month ago, many potholes are yet to be filled and smoothed out. Traffic jams between Goa Velha and Verna continue. IFFI added to the traffic congestion in Panjim. There has been no progress in the Margao Municipality taking over the Sonsodo plant from Fomento. Instead, the MMC is involved in a war between supporters of Digambar and Vijai which has benefited the BJP, which captured the mayor’s post. There has been no progress in getting taxis to install meters. Fights continue between GoaMiles drivers and private taxi drivers. The airport authority has added to the burden of passengers by imposing a charge of
50 merely for dropping passengers or picking them up.
Worst of all ‘Nu Shi Nalini’ shows no sign of moving. The master mariners have come but have not yet floated the ship. In the meanwhile if you want to buy some adulterated naphtha you can purchase it from MPT for only10 lakhs. How the MPT allowed an unmanned vessel with a dangerous chemical to anchor in MPT is the mystery we have to solve.