Along with hordes of tourists, whackos and weirdos, Goa seems to attract more than its fair share of creative people.
They come from around the world and are thick on the ground. Between my village and the next, if you chuck a stone, you are likely to hit a Booker nominee, another writer who is a Padma Shri, two published novelists, a published poet, a respected abstract artist, an innovative industrial designer, several columnists, a studio potter, many architects —and possibly Amitabh Bachchan, who recently bought a house here.
I moved to Goa with the firm resolve of writing the Great Indian Novel.
That continues to be a work-in-progress, but the writing has just got better over the years. As many creative people from around the world are discovering, Goa makes the perfect setting for creativity.
Stuck for an idea, I take long meandering walks by the river, with gulmohar flowers turning the path red in the summer, and loads of little frogs keeping me company in the monsoon. You can rest your eyes on a hundred shades of green in the paddy fields, or turn them to where smoke rises from evening fires and shrouds the trees. There is always the beach to lie on and think up stories in the sun.
During the many hectic years I spent in Mumbai, I rarely, if ever, knew when there was a full moon. Urbanites don’t raise their eyes to the sky too often. And if they do, they don’t see stars but the orange haze that hangs over big cities.
But in Goa everyone knows when a full moon is around the corner. The dogs howl all night.The cats stay out late. The crickets yell their heads off. Even the crabs grow fat. And writers find themselves sitting late at their computers madly trying to get down all that their frenzied brain is seething with.
I understood the link between the moon and creativity only when it was demonstrated for me cycle after cycle. Now I fit the full moon into my writing schedule.
Having chucked it all to become a hermit in Goa, you find that you are actually at a great creative intersection. This came home to me when I found myself at a dinner with Amitav Ghosh, Orhan Pamuk, Kiran Desai, Maria Aurora Couto, Mario Miranda and half the writers in town.
Two Booker-nominated novels were written in Goa (Ghosh’s Sea of Poppies and Damon Galgut’s The Good Doctor). I wouldn’t be surprised if more were in progress right now. A very supportive community exists and there are regular meetings, interactions and discussions.
This community draws on an established and vibrant tradition of literature.
The first printing press in Asia was set up here by the Portuguese. Goan literature spans 13 languages. The main language, Konkani, has four different scripts, and Goan writers are known for their contribution to Portuguese literature.
For such a tiny state, the literary output is tremendous. Now the Goan writer finds himself having genial discussions about the art of writing with counterparts from around the world. Over a measure of feni, of course.
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