UNDERNEATH THE RAIN TREE AT PANAJI. ALTINHO…

Abolianchem Fest… All-women ghumot ensemble delighted the hearts of many at the festival, they were led by master ghumot player Carlos Gonsalves.

The Abolianchem Fest with which the Nirmala Institute of Education has been celebrating Goa Day annually is in a class of its own…I just love it!

THERE cannot be another festival as agreeable as this one, the Aboliachem Fest of the Nirmala Institute of Education up at the Altinho of capital city Panaji. This year this prestigious secondary teacher education college established in 1963 was also celebrating its diamond jubilee year…on March 4, 2023, the fourth in the series titled Abolianchem Fest. Actually, the Goa Day celebration has turned into the Abolianchem Fest, so named after the lovely little blooms of the firecracker or crossanda or the Konkan coast’s coral red flowers – native name aboli. It has also become the official flower of Goa.
Many festivals come and go but the aboliachem fest continues to remain a niche festival and I always go and not just because I love to go up to the Altinho hill of Panaji and never feel like I want to come down home to Caranzalem in Panaji city! The aboliachem fest is a treat, in a class of its own, and takes place on the extensive garden grounds of the Nirmala Institute of Education. The garden sports a lot of the floral beauty with the aboli plants taking pride of place everywhere, it comes in other colours too but pure coral is predominant. I wanted to pluck one of the fresh blooms and tuck it behind an ear (like they do with the fragrant makhmali marigold flowers in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh mountains of the Himalaya)…the students had made little crepe paper aboli pin-up broaches which they offered every visitor at the threshold of the festival in welcome.
I was too late to catch principal Rita Pais’ welcome address. The grounds were already packed with visitors, students, staff, local Altinho residents with children along, a charming alumni of senior citizens…all one had to do was park oneself on one of the chairs beneath the cool shade of a grand rain tree and watch the entertainment of a 100 plus ghumot teacher trainees, drumming away lilting tunes under the guidance of master ghumot player Carlos Gonsalves.

ABOLIACHEM FEST GLIMPSES…at the garden grounds of the Nirmala Institute of Education at Altinho, Panaji, on March 4, 2023…celebrated abolim flowers, folk singing and dancing, cultural performances, traditional Goan food, senior citizens and just quintessential Goa of old.


There was traditional dancing by troupes including the mando dance, in various vantage places traditional games were being introduced to the curious, plants were on sale as were some very pretty water pots. This year’s theme was “Water: The Elixer of Life, Culture and Society” and so it is, we better get our water act together and not waste water like so many of us do in the urban arrogance of having water at the turn of taps in our bathrooms and kitchen at home.
Just about everybody who hears about this festival turns up for it include tourists and visiting Goans from Portugal, USA, London and wherever else, Pakistan! There is quite a community of Goans living in Gujarat. Old-timers and new-timers. A brass band played, since it was a hot day all chilled out with glasses brimming over with icy mint lemonade thirst-quencher; for the hungry there were lots of Goan snacks ranging from various ladoo, cutlet-pao, chutney sandwiches, sannam plain and filled with coconut-jaggery choon, puranpoli, samosa, batatvada-poie, Goan sweets, a host of non-vegetarian finger good too.
Some doting grandmama were filling up bags of snacks and sweets to take home for the family! A brass band conducted by Minguel Felipe Peixoto played, I chatted with tree-loving architect Tallulah d’Silva who is one of our very good tree guides and sometimes conducts tree tours; there was theatre man Dr Saeesh Deshpande; and very familiar festakar Marius Fernandes – the man who works over time to design festivals of Goa, he is the pioneering moving spirit and facilitator behind most of Goa’s spurt of festivals, celebrating Goan village life, culture and people.
The festivals spread the message of environment cleaning up, eco-friendliness, learning local skills like playing the Goan drum the ghumot, weaving exquisite green palm leaf mats and platters, making jadoo from scraped coconut leaf central ribs, lessons in Goan dishes…and so on and so forth.
There was a spread of terracotta water pots and I wanted to buy a rooster shaped water pot called “gurguret” (or is it “gurgulet”) in Konkani, (sigh) there was no way I could carry it home on my two-wheeler, another time. It’s been a hot February (the hottest in years we hear) and March is burning up – please, will the government of Goa put an end to cutting down of trees, forests and together with them the last of Goa’s rivers and water aquifers (as it is the Mhadei river headwaters are as good as lost to Goa and this will impact the river Mandovi majorly in the years to come)…
Global warming is catching up with us and we continue to live like we can’t make a single sacrifice for Mother Earth…worship water, respect water, conserve water, don’t waste water, bring back water in all the ways you can, drink only water (that too out of a terracotta pot). If your taps are leaking at home, fix them! If you want to drink only half-a-glass of water, pour out only half a glass from the jug! Don’t ask for water in restaurants if you are not going to drink it, or ask for just enough water that you are going to drink. Don’t chuck potable water.
In a myriad ways we can touch base with sustainable living in Goa if we want to, to set an example to the rest of India. It’s already later than you think, my dears, so hurry up. Be the change you want to see around you now!

AND ON TO… THE CMS VATAVARAN FILM FESTIVAL

LIFESTYLE FOR ENVIRONMENT! The Goa-SMS Vatavaran Film Festival & Forum took place at the ESG Auditorium and BITS Pilani Goa Campus in Goa on March5, 6 and 7, 2023. Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant inaugurated it. The 3-day film festival screened several environment documentary films to give viewers an idea of the earth’s environment, while some films made blood curdle, some were heart-warming! IUCN-CEC, Goa-CMS Vatavaran representatives from the world were present. This prestigious exhibition should become a part of IFFI so that more people would see the films which convince that life on earth is not just for human beings!

ALAS, I managed to catch just a few of the CMS Vatavaran Film Festival & Forum films screened at the ESG auditoriums from on March5, 6 and 7, 2023. Here are some of the finest documentary films in the world, for the cause of taking stock of our changing environment, global warming and the unsustainable lifestyles we human of the species. The majority of us are just living unhealthy lifestyles so that the good earth rapidly turns into a punishing earth…mostly the innocent poor being punished at the expense of the guilty.
Yes, the guilty being the rich and wealthy who think of prancing down a cat walk at fashion shows, showing of the latest garments, handbags, footwear, etcetera, made of honest to goodness real python skins – skinned from living pythons in Indonesia. One of the CMS Vatavaran films – The Python Code, Andrea Ewels, Germany, 2017 — depicted in graphic detail how pythons and other reptiles from the tropical wet jungles of Indonesia are trapped and skinned in sleazy workshops, the reptiles injected with chemicals so that they skins may be pulled off flawlessly….reptile entrails writhing for up to two hours, afterwards dead meat for sale at meat centres for those who have acquired a taste for python meat.
The lovely processed skins bundled and despatched via Turkey to European fashion houses where they turn into a host of products for the rich and cruel …who like to drape themselves in serpent’s skins in varied ways. Quite sickening and my skin crawled watching this documentary on how Indonesian and other in league businessmen flouted all laws to export say something like 5,000 python skins to Germany and USA, via Turkey. There are rules and regulations but all is fair when there is money to be made in obscene and illegal ways.
We, the human species are undoubtedly the most dangerous species on earth. The CMS Vatavaran films have been around since 2011 and their band of wildlife photographers and environment media professionals have produced hundreds of films, mirroring how we, the human species, is on the brink of a catastrophe. Climate change is real and as global temperatures rise so will the oceans and seas making inroads into earth.
Yet another film – Education On the Boat, A New Hope for Tomorrow by KM Taj Biul Hasan, Bangladesh, 2018 — portrayed life in the largest mangrove forests and islands of the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, here where water occupies 70 per cent of the land as the seasons come, the education of the children is a problem and so have come up a fleet of school boats, mobile schoolrooms parking for a few hours at the nearest water jetty and children living in remote villages come in for classes! These boats were equipped with computers and a host of modern day equipment and yes, this is one way to fight the good fight amidst fragile ecosystems.
A film on the life and times of snow leapards up in the stark mountains of Ladakh also reveals the nightmare of garbage and plastic litter left behind by holiday groups (something which is turning domestic dogs into gangs of wild dogs)! The earth is going under and disappearing and we, the people of land give a damn for our primary home…the primary home of all life on earth.
I think this growing bank of CMS Vatavaran films can and will do maximum to change our moribund mind sets from the bottoms up. If only the oligarchs at the top of the pyramid of survival showed more interest! I salute the passionate band of people who came from home and abroad to show us how near to the end we are as far as the good earth is concerned…we have to start drawing the lines of how much and no more as technology mod cons are concerned. Do we need 5G and more Gs of whatever higher denomination to make our lives more and more and more comfortable and easy till we become a good-for-nothing human race?
Given the sunlight, salt and time left to us as the most predatory and destructive species on the good earth, living off the earth and yet destroying the very elements which keep us alive? Urbanisation must become minimal, industrialisation must be re-defined, gross lifestyles brought down to earth to face the truth. The hard truths of our civilization! I don’t see why the CMS Vatavaran Film Festival, which has been gallantly travelling in India and abroad, cannot be supported to be a part of the International Film Festival of India in Goa? This is a far, far more valuable film festival with its theme of “Life & Lifestyle for Environment.”
Apart from the screening of some awesome films taking viewers into wild places which still exist, there were present filmmakers from around the world for panel discussions on deteriorating marine life, climate change mitigation, adaptation efforts, and much more. It’s all about how, we the people, must quickly learn to live in harmonious ways if we want to breathe clean air, drink pure water and eat healthy food to reap fitness instead of disease and death!
A salute to these CMS Vatavaran Film Festival & Forum roll-call of people dedicated to the most crucial cause of them — rescuing Mother Earth from the human race! We’re all in it together for the place to be happy is on earth and not Mars or Venus or the moon. On that note it’s avjo, selamat datang, poiteverem, au revoir, arrivedecci, hasta la vista and vachun yeta here for now.

—Mme Butterfly

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