MATOLI, GHOOMAT HIGHLIGHT OF CHOVOTH!

CANOPY: A matoli is a canopy which woven out of as many as possible (400 plus, plus) leaves, flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs, grasses collected from the wild from parts of Goa which are still forested. The biggest matoli bazar used to take place at Banastari on the way to Old Goa. Picture shows a ghoomat arti underway at a Ganesh puja

BY RAJAN NARAYAN

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the whole of Goa and Konkan shut down for a week or more to celebrate the arrival of Shri Ganesh. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court expressed severe displeasure against Jharkhand for the arrest of journalists. For a Saturday following the week when finally after two decades the Endocrinology and Diabetics departments in the GMC were converted into a special super specialty division. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court in a verdict over a talaq granted by a Muslim husband through his friend also raised the question of meher and how much it should be. For a Saturday following the week when while it took only less than three months for the Atal Sethu to develop potholes, the 400-year-old Ribandar causeway has only recently started some signs of wear and tear.

GOA AT HOME
AND A few stray thoughts on the whole of Goa and Konkan shutting down for a week or more to celebrate the arrival of Shri Ganesh. With the religious festival of Chovoth or Ganesh Chaturthi (in Maharashtra) officially commencing on Wednesday, August 31, 2022, Goa is likely to be deserted for a week or ten days. Even government officers are not likely to resume functioning at least till next Monday.
This is not because Goans for a change have decided to go on holiday to Bangalore or Mumbai. This is because all the Goans who have taken up temporary residence in urban areas, which are close to work, migrate back to their village ancestral homes for the ten days of Chovoth or Chavath celebrations.
This is one time in the year when all family disputes take a break about ownership of the ancestral home and property and are forgotten and family and extended family from Goa, neighboring states and in fact the country and world over come to Goa to pray for the blessings of Lord Ganesh, the wise elephant god of the Hindu pantheon of divinity.
For ten days the kin folk live together, eat together and pray together. This is best dramatized in the case of the Mahamai Kamat house in the heart of Panaji behind the Adil Shah Palace, where on an average 300 to 400 families come together to celebrate Ganesh. The families contribute collectively towards the expenses which may run into several lakh.
In Goa and the Konkan, Chovoth or Ganesh Chaturthi is the most important festival. While Lord Vinayak is invoked in every part of the country — as no new venture may commence without invoking Lord Ganesh in puja, in Goa, Lord Ganesh is the presiding deity of Goa and the Konkan.
As we may have mentioned elsewhere the highlight of the Goan Chovoth is the sumptuous matoli (canopy) woven out of as wide a range of grasses, leaves, flowers, vegetables, fruit, herbs, seeds, berries, barks and more. Most of these are collected from the wild places of Goan countryside. There are matoli and matoli varied and individually attractive across Goan homes and in fact, there are exclusive matoli shopping markets taking place across Goa where matoli and Lord Ganesh puja material may be bought by the people. The Banastari and Canacona matoli markets have acquired fame over the years. The only shortage Goa’s Chovoth season faces is a shortage of priests to perform the preliminary puja welcoming the idol of Lord Ganesh in each home.
In the normal course of life Goans do not need the services of a priest or bhattji for each day of Chovoth but the priest must be present on the first day to perform puja before the installed Shri Ganesh idol beneath his canopy. Priests are imported or invited from Udipi in Karnataka or Maharashtra to come to Goa to meet the huge demand for them during Ganesh puja.
Pressure and stress arises if any couple in the extended family decides to perform a Satyanarayan Pooja too which is commonly done by newly married couples. Another unique feature of the Goa’s Chavath festival is the ghoomat arti. The ghoomat is a drum made from the skin of the monitor lizard, although now the State government has banned any killing of the giant monitor lizard in the wild for the sake of commerce religious or otherwise. Ghoomat drum skins may be chosen from other material.
Apart from all this the ghoomat arti in which young and old play the drums is the highlight of every day of the festival as long as Lord Ganesh is at home before visarkan. A major controversy to do with environment pollution nowadays is regarding visarjan or traditional immersion of idols after the 5th day or the 7th day and increasingly only after the second day of Chavath. Visarjan day the Lord Ganesh worshippers have to be mindful about not contributing towards the pollution of the various water bodies in which Lord Ganesh idols are released on the due dates planned.

ARRESTING JOURNALISTS
AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court expressing severe displeasure on the arrest of journalists in Jharkand. The SC has strongly protested against the treatment meted out to journalists and the police looking upon journalists as if they are terrorists.
The Jharkhand government has arrested Arup Bhattacharjee, one of the directors of the News11 media group. In its observation, the Supreme Court pointed out, “This is nothing but State excess to harass journalists. You go to his resident at midnight and pull him out of his bedroom. This is not the way to treat the journalist or anyone for that matter.” The SC dismissed the appeal by the Jharkhand government against grant of interim bail to journalists. The bench of Justice D Y Chandrachud and Hima Kohli upheld the HC decision to grant interim bail.
The SC even threatened to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the Jharkhand government and police officials involved. The Dhanbad Senior Superintendent of Police Sanjiv Kumar and the investigating officer Deepak Kumar are required to be hauled up for contempt. The police arrested the journalist from his bedroom at home without issuing a notice under Section 41A asking for co-operation with the probe.
Jharkhand is famous as the home state of former Indian Captain MS Dhoni. It was part of former Bihar state and was converted into a separate state later. Jharkhand is also the home of the oldest and the biggest unit of the Tata group, namely Tata Steel.

GMC CHANGES
AND a few stray thoughts on finally, after two decades, the Endocrinology and Diabetics department in the GMC have been merged into a superspeciality department. The endocrinology department which specializes in treating diabetes patients has been managed single-handedly by Prof Dr Ankush Desai, who moved to Goa after spending 15 years in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi.
While diabetes as a medical condition is well-known there is not much knowledge about endocrinology and its experts. Endocrinology covers the functioning of all the important glands of the body like the pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, testes and pancreas. The human endocrinology system protects the immunity of the body.
The most common endocrinology problem is to do with the thyroid gland, a gland connecting the throat to the mouth and the brain and what happens when it is damaged. There are very few endocrinologists in the country. Indeed, there are probably less than a dozen endocrinologists in the country. I owe myr life to a very senior endocrinologist, Dr SS Shrikanta of Bangalore, who detoxed me from steroids — in the process of which my weight came down to 180kg to 30 kg (loss of 150 kg in 5 months, from sumo wrestler size to dwarf size). Unfortunately, the treatment also destroyed and took a toll of my gastrointestinal and its muscular and nervous systems.
Diabetes, however, is a better-known medical condition. It is primarily caused due to an excessive consumption of refined carbohydrates and nowadays many say also because of highly stressful lifestyles. When your blood sugar goes beyond 150 it is a matter of serious concern. Most doctors in Goa who call themselves diabetologists or diabetes experts or cardiology experts without having the proper qualifications, only want to promote the interest of pharma companies — particularly those who put out insulin.
In severe cases of diabetes, the patient has to inject himself with large doses of insulin every few hours. Here is a tricky regime where you have to keep track and check your blood sugar constantly to see the level of blood sugar – if you have been treating yourself to sugary foods, although sometimes you are advised to eat something sweet if your blood sugar goes too low.
Uncontrolled diabetes of whatever status affects kidneys and eventually forces you into dialysis or to start hunting for a kidney donor for a kidney transplant if you seek life. The more common disaster is that diabetic patients’ feet may get very badly infected with gangrene and eventually you may run the risk of having your legs or feet or toes amputated.
Unlike other doctors Dr Ankush Desai, being the only endocrinologist and diabetes expert in Goa, discourages patients from taking insulin. A former chief minister of Goa who had replaced Manohar Parrikar, when the latter went to Delhi as the defence minister, was virtually saved by Dr Ankush Desai. The concerned former CM not even weaned from steroids but also from heavy doses of medication and he still visits Dr Desai in the GMC every week.
We are all praise for Dr Ankush Desai, the son of a police constable of the Goa Police, namely KK Desai, who retired as police sub-inspector about a decade ago, and wish him well and our full support for we have seen him work closely over the years and our own many visits to the GMC for a host of complications and treatment.

TALAQ THROUGH FRIEND!
AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court in a verdict over a talaq granted by a Muslim husband, through his friend, which also raises the question of the quantity of meher a Muslim divorcee may get. The SC issued notice to a Muslim lawyer, who granted his wife an instant talaq. The instant talaq is a repeat of the word three times.
But in this case the lawyer concerned did not even give notice of talaq personally — but through a friend. While hearing the matter the SC bench went in depth into the marriage contract between husband and wife in the Muslim marriage. Traditionally, by way of compensation in the case of talaq, before the nikah or marriage contract, is decided and this can take the form of money or property.
In the case of both Hindus and Catholics there is no provision for deciding a bride price even before the marriage. Moreover, there is no criteria laid down for fixing the meher. In Goa, for instance, it is arbitrarily fixed at around Rs10,000 and irrespective of the background of the bride and groom.
Though actually the fixing of meher in Goa is totally illegal, as under the Uniform Civil Code the spouse whether husband or wife, are entitled to 50% share of the husband’s property. In fact, the wife is entitled to even 50% of her husband’s current income.
The negative part is that the wife is also responsible for 50% of any liability. We would like to stress that irrespective of whether you are a migrant or have settled in Goa for several decades, you must perform the civil registration of marriage before you do the religious ceremony. Fortunately, maulvis in Goa do not agree to conduct a religious marriage unless you produce the civil marriage certificate. So it does not matter in the long term.

ATAL SETHU POTHOLES
AND a last stray thought for the week, while it took only less than three months for the Atal Sethu to develop potholes –the 400-year-old Ribandar causeway has only recently been showing some signs of wear and tear. Roads, causeways and other structures built by the Portuguese engineers, were much better built than in post-Liberation Goa. Till the bypass roads from the bus stand to Old Goa came up the only link between Panjim and Old Goa was the Ribandar causeway. It is called causeway because it is actually a bridge over the Mandovi river which was built when the Portuguese decided to shift their capital from Old Goa to the Adil Shah Palace in Panjim.
The Ribandar causeway or bridge was constructed in 1600 and it is 422 years old. It is only recently that the causeway has been showing signs of stress. The old gynecological department of the GMC was built on the causeway and later the buildings converted into the old Goa Institute of Management (GIM).
The strength of other structures built by the Portuguese, and even those built by Adil Shah, are stronger then present day modern buildings. The Adil Shah Palace was built by the sultan and taken over later as the residence of the governor of Portuguese time Goa. Most of the buildings in Old Goa such as Basilica, the Se Cathedral and the Santa Monica Convent are part of Goa’s Portuguese architectural heritage and attract tourists from far and near. They deserve to be maintained and protected legally by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

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