By Rajan Narayan

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For the Saturday following the week when we saw the conclusion of two big Indian festivals. For a Saturday following the week about attendants caring for seniors sick and disabled in hospital. For a Saturday following the week when the report is out that it is Indians rich and poor who are migrating in large numbers to the rich developed countries.
AND a few stray thoughts on the conclusion of two big Indian festivals. The festival of Dussehra which is celebrated primarily in northern parts of the country and especially with fervor in Mumbai and Gujarat and Durga puja which is at the heart of worshipping the goddess Durga for Bengalis everywhere. Dussehra is also celebrated in the South but in a different fashion. The highlight of the Dussehra is the “ayudha” puja. In which the tools and instruments of your work and livelihood are worshipped and this may include weapons of soldiers and computers of today’s white-collar workers. Dussehra also means seeking the blessings of the Goddess Lakshmi who is the goddess of wealth and good fortune, as also Goddess Saraswati who is the goddess of knowledge, wisdom and music.
One of the four days of Dussehra is Bhai Bheej which is the male festival equivalent of Rakhi Bandhan. Brothers visit their sisters and renew bonds of relationship and good wishes for their sisters for they are the protectors of the sisters in Hindu tradition. The sister-brother bond is reaffirmed and strengthened with Bhai Dhooj prayers. Dhanteras is for buying a bit of gold jewellery. In the south of India there is this unique tradition called “kolu” which sees a lot of toys of not only gods and goddesses but household articles being kept on a ladder-like structure for prayers to indicate a life of plenty in thanksgiving or something akin.
We from south India primarily and recall that Dussehra is primarily a celebration of Saraswati rather than Laxmi. The counterpart of Dussehra in West Bengal is the grand Durga puja in which the goddess on a lion is recreated creatively much like in the Ganesh Chaturthi festival of Maharasthra and Goa and the colorful effigies of the goddess Durga are kept for worship at home and community premises for nine days until they are set off in rivers and the goddess Durga is sent back from her maike or matrimonial home to her in-laws or husband’s home anew with much tearful ceremony. Dussehra generally is a 10-day long celebration in which the goddess in all her many manifestations is evoked; some parts of the country it is only a four-day celebration.
For Bengalis Durga puja is the most important festival and during this time they become very emotional and bond with one another over performing various rites of the puja as well as enjoying the special bhog meal in which the best of Bengali “kichuri” and other dishes are served to all in culmination of the festival. During this period the darker, fiercer of the goddess Durga as Kali or maha-Kali (the warrior goddess) is also propitiated with slaughtered goats. This goddess Kali is a fearsome goddess, a bloodthirsty goddess of warfare and without her blessings you cannot win any war. The goddess Kali also the protector of all the other gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon, she buttresses the demons who may target divine beings or human beings to make their lives miserable.
Also in West Bengal the political parties play a major part in the sponsorship and celebration of Durga puja. Various politicians pay for the huge Durga puja pandal of sometimes exquisite creativity and scenes from the mythological legends.
We recall being in Calcutta now Kolkata or on one occasion during Durga puja time, when I was editor of “Mirror” magazine. I witnessed the absolutely devout and passionate frenzy with which goddess Durga devotees observe and celebrate Durga puja. Of course West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is the chief patron of Durga puja in West Bengal and the whole state shuts for ten days, as all offices are closed, including the private commercial offices. Everyone is busy with the celebration to woo the blessings of the goddess Durga at various Durgawadi or community places.
A smaller version of Durga puja is celebrated in Goa by the over two lakh Bengali community resident here. The Bengalis have a lively association in the Ganga-Zuari Academy which is a combo of river Zuari in Goa and river Ganga in Kolkatta, implying there is a lot of collective symbiosis is both Goan and Bengali cultures. The Howrah bridge over the Ganga river in Kolkata is one of the oldest, longest bridges and more stable than our Atal Sethu built by the late Manohar Parrikar.
The Bengalis in Goa have a good rapport with the Gaud Saraswat Brahmin community in Goa and also share some historical references. Reportedly, the GSB people migrated from West Bengal to Goa at some point of time past. The Dempo family has been the main sponsor of the community Durga festival in Goa. As in the case of the Ganesh festival the image of goddess Durga is also immersed in the sea at Miramar in a procession on the final day of Durga puja.
And finally in November there will be Diwali or Deepavali as called in south India and this is the most important festival in the country. The Dussehra-Diwali season is boom time for the business community indeed as it has been reported, there has been a huge increase in the sale of vehicles and particularly SUVs and even Mercedes Benz cars during Dussehra shopping.
The purchase of new clothes gives a boost to the garments business. Shopping is at its peak during this festive season and the economy ups to about 25% to 30% more and there are moments of joy and satisfaction that commerce is happening and so is social bonding and renewals for the new year being ushered in gradually in the country of Bharatdesh and India..

AND a few stray thoughts on nursing attenders or helpers who cater to the needs of senior citizens and the sick, disabled or handicapped ailing patients in hospital. This group of professionals or semi-professionals are very hard to find to fit one’s individual needs. They are also very expensive to hire for 12 hours or 24 hours in two shifts in Goa.
Most Goan families hire nursing attendants because the family members are mostly abroad. NRI children abroad prefer to pay handsomely to nursing attendants to watch over their ailing aged parents back home in their ancestral homes in Goa.
Speaking for myself this time around I was lucky to find an excellent caring attendant named Mohamad. He is one of the rare attendants hailing from the steel city of Salem in Tamil Nadu, a Tamil speaking Muslim who knows how to take care of seniors who are bed-ridden or semi-bedridden. Mohamad has been my attendant for over a week now and I am very happy with him. He has a decade long experience and shares with me that he has attended to many critical patients at home and in hospital.
Mohamad has no problem dealing with patients who use diapers and need washing up as and when required. He is patient and cajoling and caring in turns and speaks in my mother tongue Tamil with me. He is also able to lift me expertly from bed to armchair so that I may have my breakfast or lunch vertically instead of horizontally.
Mohamad is also experienced in some physiotherapy are and makes me do exercises for hands and feet in the morning counting out loud in Tamil and often saying to me “Very good!” He is very inventive and even supports me in the washroom when I need to go for a bath and tasks which I cannot perform easily now including brushing my dentures. He is heaven-sent for me particularly since I lost strength in my right leg after a fall over my walker one early morning while going to the washroom. I injured my elbow and got a bump on my forehead.
I cannot use my right hand at all so I cannot either input matter into my smart phone to send WhatsApp messages to my various doctor friends. I need help to hold on to what I am drinking or eating, coconut water or sometimes the soft hot Mangalore bun which has to be torn into pieces for me to eat like a senior baby. It is true that seniors often are reduced to being like babies as they grow older, health falters and new issues catch up with them. At such times it is very useful to have an attendant to help you.
However genuine caring attendants are hard to find, who have compassion and will go that extra bit for their patient and not watch the clock all the time. Unfortunately, for most attendants the task of looking after a senior citizen or a sick person is just another job. The most important quality an attendant must have is sympathy and also empathy for his patient who is often slow to do things and needs help.
A good attendant frees family members say a wife or hubby from doing tedious tasks and will also win their trust. I must say Mohamad are very rare to find and I hope I will be able to keep him as long as I am here.

And a few stray thoughts on the menace of stray dogs. Tuesday’s October 23, 2023 newspapers reported that a senior citizen and an eight-year-old child were both victims of stray dogs in Goa. There are stray dogs in every corner of Goa, particularly in Panjim city, in its not maintained or badly maintained parks and gardens. Dogs have been multiplying because many dog lovers feed them though they do not want to take responsibility for them.
The government started a vaccination program for dogs responsible for the largest number of dog bites. But the major danger comes from the ferocious species of pet dogs like the Rottweiler in big homes. Now we hear the government of Goa is drawing up a list of ferocious dogs which will be banned as pets or taking for walks in public.
It may be recalled that a child was attacked by a ferocious dog and died. The owner of the ferocious dog was arrested but the case against him is still pending. Meanwhile, he has transferred his Rottweiler dog to some other location where it is not supposed to be a danger to children or elderly.
Abroad as in the UK rules for pets are very strict in public. You may not take your dog walking the streets or public gardens to do their job if you do not clean up afterwards as required. The wife of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Akshata, who is the daughter of Narayan and Sudha Murthy of Infosys, was penalized for allowing her pet dog to roam free in one of the major gardens without a leash in London.
I too have a bitter experience of what stray dogs can do. Stray dogs are everywhere in Goa but not always rabid. If a rabid dog bites a human there is the chance of contacting rabies which is fatal if not treated with rabies injections in time. A close friend and associate of mine was Ashraf Hasanwale who died of a rabid dog bite. Ashraf was my Man Friday and looked after me when I was on steroids during my “OHeraldo” editorship years, when I was beaten up by goons hired by the former speaker Dayanand Narvekar. This was way back in 1989 when I was attacked with iron rods by a gang led by the present Santa Cruz MLA Rudolf Fernandes.
Ashraf worked for the National Institute of Oceanography and also managed a milk booth at Dona Paula when he delivered milk on bicycle. He was bitten by a rabid dog. When people are bitten by a rabid dog they start behaving like a dog themselves. hey undergo fits and conversion and even last stage barking.
I rushed Ashraf first to the Manipal hospital but the then-director of the Manipal Hospital refused to treat him. I then took him to the GMC and he was admitted to a special isolated room. But Head of Medicine Edwin Gomes insisted that it was not a case of rabies and transferred him to the psychiatric institute. I was furious and took Ashraf out of the psychiatric institute and took him to the Campal Clinic where doctors made every attempt to save him.
Unfortunately, because of the criminal negligence at the GMC, Ashraf died at the age of 40, leaving behind his wife Nalini and two children. All of us who were close to Ashraf and came in contact with him had to take rabies injections. If you are beaten by a rabid dog you have to take as many as four to six anti-rabies serum injections.
Normally if you have only remote contact and have not come in close contact with the rabid dog or rabies patient you can get away with two or three injections. After this experience of mine I am convinced something must be done about the stray dog population and even pet dogs, interestingly, the majority of dog bites from pet dogs, according to the Animal Husbandry Department. The problem is dog lovers are a very fanatic group. I have a friend who is a businessman and loved his dog so much, he literally spent a fortune on his dog when it was ill and after the dog’s death he has still not gotten over the grief of losing his best friend. He still mourns for his dog.

AND a few stray thoughts on the report that it is Indians who are migrating in large numbers to the rich developing countries. Indians are the largest non-residents in the United States, next only to the people of Mexico which shares the largest border with US. Most Indians are highly literate and have very good jobs in the US. Indian computer engineers are much in demand in Silicon Valley; indeed, both Google and Microsoft are headed by citizens of Indian origin. Microsoft is headed by Satya Nadella and Google by Sundar Pichai. But now are in a battle against each other as Microsoft is planning to set up a search platform like Google.
Indians are also found in large numbers in the UK. UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is of Indian origin from Africa. There are more than three cabinet minister of Indian origin in the UK government. Similarly, a large number of senior government official in the US are of Indian origin. The reason why Indians are doing good in the developed countries is because of their skills.
Education in the UK and the US, particularly higher education, is extremely expensive. Very few people can afford it. Unlike in the US and the UK, the Indian Institute of Technology and the Indian Management Institute are comparatively more economical for students. The Indian Institute of Science is another premier institute which turns out very highly qualified technocrats.
Indians are also much in demand for financial sectors and BCom graduates are as much in demand in the IT sector as engineers. It is a mistaken believe that IT companies only need engineers. IT companies like Tata Consultancy and Infosys people from social science background as they are entrusted with the job of managing the pension funds of countries like the UK. The IT companies have become the largest employers in the country.
Despite the slowdown in in formation technology in the country Tata Computers Services is planning to recruit over 40,000 freshers in the financial year 2023-2024. There are several Goans in the IT sector as there are job opportunities in Goa. In fact, one of the senior post personnel managers in the TCS is a Goan woman.
The only problem in jobs in the IT sector is that you have to work 12 to 14 hours every day. Narayan Murthy, Infosys founder, is widely quoted that Indians do not like to work long hours. It is only after the IT industry came and offered very high salaries that Indians have been willing to work for 12 to 14 hours per day.
No work, no pay is the belief on which the IT industry works. There are a lot of Goans particularly in the UK. They got into the UK by virtue of being members of the European Economic Community. All Goans born before 1961 when Goa was liberated are entitled to Portuguese citizenship. When Portugal joined the European community automatically Goans with Portuguese passport went to UK without work permit.
However, after the UK left the EEC Goans do not find it easy to go to UK. Portuguese visas are no longer recognized for UK residence or jobs or even education purpose. So India and Goa will have to face the return of Goans to their homeland, as there are no more jobs for Goans in the UK. UK already has the largest population of Goans, including at least three Member of Parliament. The oldest Goan MP in the UK is Keith Vaz who traces his origins in Goa and is a frequent visitor to Goa.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

+ 83 = 86