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Herald, 7/5/08

By Augusto Pinto

Dears,

It was the May Day holiday and I was sitting at Happy Man’s Shack in Candolim, praising the work of the greatest installation artist of our generation, Anil Salgaocar, to Viggy the vegetarian who wasn’t really listening. Anil’s masterpiece The River Princess sat prettily in the Arabian Sea before us. I said, “There’s no doubt it’s a great work Viggy, but I think that Anil believes too much in ‘Art for Art’s Sake’. In my opinion the greatest art must have a utilitarian aspect to it.”

Viggy, who all this while had been in his own world, stirred for a moment and muttered, “Utilitarian?” “Yes,” I said, “Art should be useful. Like our great temples and churches. They’re great architecture, no doubt, but what makes them even greater is the fact that people use them.” Viggy snarled, “Sure, to give the masses their dose of religious opium!”

As you might have guessed by now, Viggy is a Marxist philosopher, and a votary of a secular Goa. I pattered on, “Personally, I think he should have installed it somewhere in the middle of the Mandovi river, between the two Panjim bridges say, and then set up a casino on it with go-go girls and all.” I thought that this practical idea would have pleased him, but a look of contempt flashed across his face before he resumed his own meditations.

Then an extraordinary thing happened. Viggy, the pure veggie, called Shiri, the bald-headed owner of Happy Man over, and ordered a bottle of beer… Shiri shot me a quizzical glance, for this was the first time he had seen Viggy break his vow of abstinence.

Why did he do this? Well, Viggy apparently had just had an epiphany, a sort of euphoric, ‘Eureka, I got it’ kind of moment, for he cried excitedly, “Marx had it all wrong! OK… maybe a wee bit wrong.” I said, “What did Marx get wrong, Viggy?” He said, “Marx, or was it Engels, had said: ‘Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains’.” “What’s wrong with that Viggy?” I asked. “Don’t you see Gus? He should have said: ‘Villagers of the world unite!'” “Viggy, I think a spectre is haunting you,” I said, getting tired of his gibberish.

“No, no, I’m serious Gus.” said Viggy, “Marx had too much faith in the working class. How could he even have dreamt that the workers would save the world? He should have realised that workers were just the slaves of the big business barons. There was no way that they would stand up and fight against the same men to whom they say ‘Yes Sir! Yes Sir! Three Bags full!’ day in and day out, would they?” “So what’s new, Viggy; Christopher Fonseca could have told you that ages ago, or he would’ve been the Sarpanch of a village Panchayat at least by now,” I replied, alluding to the trade union leader whose favourite pastime is to lose his deposit at every election he stands for.

Viggy gushed on: “Have you seen what’s happening in our villages? Have you seen the way the villagers of Siridao and Benaulim and Carmona and Aldona and Moira are rising up and smacking the noses of the land sharks and big builders? The workers couldn’t do that… they’ve already sold out to the capitalists.”

Then, all of a sudden, a new brainwave struck him. “I know what. We must attack the symbol of all capitalism and corruption in Goa.” I asked, “What’s that Viggy?” “The River Princess,” he replied. “The villagers of Goa must all commandeer fishing vessels, speedboats, ferries and whatever, capture The River Princess, and plant the Red Flag of Progress on it.”

I groaned. “What next,Viggy?” I asked, “kidnap Anil and keep him hostage on board?” Quite typically missing my sarcasm, he said, “What a brilliant idea, Gus. Yes, that’s it exactly. I’m going to rally secular Goa to rise and fight to regain our lost pride once again. I’m going to issue a press note right away.” Ignoring the beer which Shiri had brought, Viggy rushed out to find the nearest cyber cafe. And I was left to pay the bill…

Till next time then,

Cheers!!

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Herald, 16 April 2008

By Augusto Pinto

Dears! The other day I was at Ashok’s, the place located between the Post Office and the Herald Office, which serves the best chicken masala this side of the Mandovi, as the taxi drivers who frequent it will tell you, sipping at a glass of some so-so stuff, while across me sat a bearded professor sort of chap named Viggy (pronounced vee-jee). Viggy likes to read Marx and question everything, and when he isn’t ranting about communalism, he’s whingeing about the condition of the poor.

Being a teetotaller, and tea being a beverage that is not looked upon with favour in Ashok’s, and he being a vegetarian to boot, Viggy had nothing better to do, but to hold forth on his latest obsession.

How could they do this?” he thundered, waving a newspaper in my direction. “Do what, Viggy? And who are you referring to, may I ask?’ I drawled as I dipped a piece of bread in my chicken gravy. He said, “The High Court.” I asked, “What have they done?”

“They’ve banned the people from P-ing and S-ing!’ he replied, visibly upset. “What’s P and S, Viggy?” “Do I need to spell everything out man? Number one and two!” said the exasperated man, continuing, “They say that if you’re caught P-ing or S-ing at any public place in Panjim you may get fined 50 bucks.”

“Seems like a good idea to me. Why should anyone want to do their jobs out in the open? Why don’t they go to a WC?” I queried. He snarled at me, “Well if there aren’t any toilets, then where else are they to do it?”

“Then the answer is that the government should build some more, I guess,” I said. He retorted, “Do you think anyone’s going to give up their land for the government to build toilets on? Do you know where the price of real estate has shot up to?” I asked, “What about those Sulabh affairs?” referring to the pay public toilets that the government runs.

“How many of those are there? And in any case, when people don’t have money to eat, when they don’t have a place to sleep, do you think they’ll have the money to spend on pay toilets?” he screeched at me. So I asked airily, “Then why come to Panjim?” I meant this as a joke, but Viggy missed it completely. He flung some of the deadliest slurs ever invented by the Commies at me: “You’ve sold out to the Elite, you Running Dog of the Imperialists,” and he stormed out of Ashok’s, much to my dismay. “There goes another friend,” I sighed. ` t|

Later that night, sitting in the smallest room of my house, I was reading an old issue of The New Yorker, where I came across an article that got me thinking. It seems that in Manhattan, USA, a certain Professor Wanchoo Im used Googlemaps, a tool available on the internet, to map out all the public restrooms in the city. So anyone in an urgent need to P or S could just use his internet-enabled mobile phone to find the nearest loo (restroom, in American) to relieve him/herself. “Technology!” I exclaimed to myself excitedly, “Technology is the solution -though not exactly the Manhattan model. Mobile…mobile is the key word! First, the public must all have mobile phones. The government can provide these free of cost to the poor. Then the Corporation of the City of Panjim (CCP) must acquire mobile toilets. Every time anyone is queasy she just rings up a central control room that instantly dispatch a mobile loo to the spot. This will bring relief all around. First, to the mobile phone companies; then the ministers -they will get kickbacks from the rnobile phone companies and service providers; and last-but-not-least, the city fathers, who will get kickbacks from mobile loo makers. The poor will be able to P and S, and the rich will be spared the ugly sight, without having to give up their land for Sulabh toilets. And maybe Viggy will start talking to me again…

Cheers!

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