By Dr. Oscar Rebello
Goa loves its fair share of drama. The latest potboiler hitting the theatres near you is the new film: “Govind Gaude ko gussa kyon aata hai?”
For the uninitiated, the Kala Academy, the iconic masterpiece created by Charles Correa, is up for renovation. (Thankfully no bulldozers, the weapon of choice for BJP-style renovation!)
Govind, the art and culture minister, says this renovation was long overdue as there were inherent structural flaws in the building which, built at sea level, let water from the River (now sewage) Mandovi seep into the auditorium and corrode it.
On the flip side, the Charles Correa Foundation (CCF), comprising renowned architects and planners and captains of industry, believes that the government of the day cannot distinguish between restoration and renovation.
And KA needs restoration: a gentle, time-consuming, exceedingly intricate and complex procedure.
I knew Charles well during my ill-fated stint on the task force for RP 2021. A tough task-master, with an insatiable capacity to learn, reinvent, dream, create.
Cantankerous yes, but an unbridled genius even to my untrained mind. I knew Govind well, years ago when he was an activist and budding politician.
From a humble background to a leader of his community (the original Goans, the rest of us all invaders). Then he was an affable, jovial fellow with a genuine interest in the Arts (one thought he would be a breath of fresh air on the Goan political scene).
Alas, what l get to hear and see is that he has now mutated into an arrogant, abrasive, even abusive, character. His finger-wagging scowls at the media , recently on this issue is proof enough. Sad.
Another one bites the dust of power going to his head!
What Govind and the government of the day need to realise is that this is not about the CCF or Govind or Rajdeep Naik.
This is only and only about our shared heritage: the Kala Academy. Civilisations and cities are defined by their architecture and their arts. Every great city!!
Blessed are those who strive to preserve that heritage. And cursed are those who seek to destroy it.
Agree with Hindutva or not.
But a classic example of this is that petty Mughal tyrant, Aurangzeb, whose sole mission in life was to destroy a civilization and its inhabitants.
Deservedly (except for a few lslamist apologists and the deviant, perverted Owaisi brothers), he remains the most reviled little rat in Indian history. In the present context, Putin is the Aurangzeb of yore. Great perverse glee at destroying an Ukrainian civilization.
Conversely, you had Shivaji Maharaj. Forget how the Hindutva gang has hijacked him as a Hindu king.
He remains truly immortal because, with next to no weaponry in his arsenal, he built an army from scratch and challenged the monster with every act of unbelievable bravery to protect his civilisation. He belongs to all of us. In our present times, Zelensky is the modern day Shivaji.
Far less powerful than Putin and Russia, but brave enough to mount a fearless resistance that’s keeping the modern day Aurangzeb huddled up in Moscow. He is defending and preserving a civilization.
I am not implying that poor Govind is out to destroy the KA. Of course not. What I am saying is that the KA is our collective heritage and part of our everyday consciousness and we the people own it as much as the Government. And what happens to it is everyone’s business. Whether Govind yells or not at the cameras.
The best solution to this needless imbroglio then is for all the non-professionals to simply back off.
Govind should just keep quiet. Rajdeep should go back to talking to Vasanti. And let the government engineers, architects and consultants entrusted with restoring KA, put out all the plans in the public domain and address the press on all the inconvenient queries.
Certainly artists and citizens can’t be taken on a tour de force into KA. They are not the experts. This is how any democratic system works in any civilized country.
Heritage is heritage. Whether it is Hindu, Christian, Islamic, pre-historic or modern. We must seek to own it and keep it in our hearts and do all that we can to preserve it. That makes us classier, more noble Goans. (And no! Casinos are not our heritage).
The only reason that the government is well within its rights not to divulge any information regarding KA is if KA has to be converted into a nuclear shelter in the event that Goa gets hit by a meteorite or a nuclear bomb. That then has security implications.
Post script : I was on the CCF, but have since been eased out, so I do not speak for the Foundation.
And think about this, Cidade de Goa is another Charles Correa masterpiece. Auduth Timblo, could have easily pulled it down and put up some gigantic monstrosity in its place to make another windfall. He has kept the place as it is. Intact.
Because often beauty is sometimes more precious than wealth. And how one hopes that the priceless Mario Miranda murals still stand in the KA.