I think one of the first words in Konkani that I heard while growing up was ‘susegad’ derived from the Portuguese ‘sussegado’. Though I knew it meant ‘relaxed’, I didn’t really know what it meant till I moved here in 2004, and found out that it took a month to get an internet connection, and two months to get a passport. I’m sure there were legalities involved, and that there were set time frames, but that got further complicated with the introduction of the OG of GST – Goan Stretchable Time. Taking it as a part of life, I got used to the elasticity of time lines, and actually made the most of it. It didn’t do much for my punctual upbringing, however when I moved to Bangalore in 2010, I had a rude awakening.
The fast life
I was warned about the fast life, but nothing prepared me for what I would encounter. Night shifts aside, I experienced a personal, borderline intrusive form of business where it was not possible to walk into a shop without being pestered by sales people. This is in contrast to shops in Goa where the sales folk are more likely to be having an animated conversation about how Maria (name changed on request) is refusing to get married (even though she’s already 21) – not realizing that they have a potential customer. I was introduced to a place that stayed open for that last customer, as opposed to a Goan hair dresser at 7pm saying “now we’re closed – you come back tomorrow.” And if that wasn’t enough – the concept of road etiquette doesn’t even exist there, and I guess that’s where susegad really becomes a plus point for Goa, because here we take the time to let people cross the road, and seldom honk unless it’s really required, right? In Bangalore on the other hand, the lack of traffic etiquette is so bad, people would honk in line for communion if they could. But the lines are slowly blurring, and Goa is not as susegad as it used to be.
Goa is, in fact, cheerfully joining the fast lane in various aspects. Lines are getting smaller, and shop keepers are becoming more attentive. I even managed to get paper work at a government office recently in two days instead of the regular thirty days. But what’s not entirely welcome, is in the quest to get things done faster, people have started driving faster as well. Every day on my way to work I find myself rattled to my bike spokes by people zooming by in their cars, honking as they pass by. I don’t have a bumper sticker that reads ‘honk if you’re happy’ – in fact I don’t even have a bumper, but I’ve realized that the road etiquette that we used to have is slowly dying. In Mapusa, I was appalled to see a young boy in a car blaring his horn at a mother walking her daughter across the road from St. Mary’s school. What’s getting in to people these days? Could it be the newer generation’s need for speed that’s compelling them to put fancy gear on their two-wheelers, or it could be that Goa’s once empty roads are more alluring now that fast bikes and fancy cars are easier to come by? I know I get frustrated with people on the road these days, something that would never happen 10 years ago (#10yearchallenge). Honestly, it’s great that we’re speeding things up, but not on the roads, because if you’re not an abusive person now, your driver’s license comes with a dictionary of free expletives.
If we’re going to lose our ethic over maniacs on the road, we lose the very essence of our Goan nature that people have come to identify us by. Also, is it just me, or do you feel that Goa is starting to look a lot like the South Indian cities, vis-a-vis fancy flyovers and four lane roads? We may call it susegad, but the honest truth is, life in Goa is not slow anymore, we’re just about as fast as everyone else – at least on the roads. Concepts like traffic and traffic lights which were alien to us is now the norm. Speaking of traffic lights, I think it’s going to be a while before we get completely used to it. Just because Goa is a party destination, that does not mean that we install disco lights at junctions as well. The colors mean something and we need to abide by them. For starters, I suggest that if we can’t go red and stop, we should at least try going orange and slowing down because right now, going green on the roads is too much to handle.