Alberto Pinto Kyoon Hasta Hai? Aur London Gora Kyoon Rota Hai? *


The Blowback for the Colonial Occupation

By Kollengode S Venkataraman

Translation of the Hindi Title:  Why Is Alberto Pinto Laughing and the London Gora Crying?

I remember the title of an artsy 1980s Hindi film Alberto Pinto ko Gussa Kyoo Ata Hai? — Why is Alberto Pinto Getting Angry? — with Nasruddin Shah as the lead. The film revolved around a good Goan auto mechanic (Nasruddin Shah) in Mumbai who keeps his affluent customers happy. He gets angry at workers who go on strike since he believes that if you work hard and emulate the rich, one day you too will be rich. Towards the end of the film Alberto is still angry, not at the workers, but at the exploitative Indian capitalists.

Now, all Goans like Alberto Pinto born before 1961 have a rare opportunity not only to smile, but also to have their last laugh at the twists and turns of history and globalization that they could now exploit to their advantage.

Goa, along the balmy Arabian Sea in India, was a Portuguese colony since 1510. The Portuguese colonial occupiers in Goa, under the leadership of  Francis Xavier, the Catholic missionary born Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in Spain, unleashed the atrocious and well-documented Goan Inquisition on Hindus living in their occupied colonized land. He was later canonized as St. Xavier, after whom the upscale and very fashionable college in Bombay is named.  After independence in 1947, India militarily liberated Goa in 1961.

Understandably, the Portuguese, calling it “invasion,” determined that people of its occupied territory were forced(!) to take Indian citizenship involuntarily. So, Portugal declared that Goans born before 1961 and their children were eligible for Portuguese citizenship.

Several Goans did take up the offer and went to Portugal — about 80,000 of them are in Portugal by one estimate, and many are doing very well. But for most Goans used to their balmy Konkan weather, easy-going lifestyle, food, and Goa’s syncretic culture, the idea of living in Portugal had no appeal. After all, Portugal is Europe’s poor cousin, its economy worse than India’s in the European context. And most younger Goans were unfamiliar with the Portuguese language and culture.

But since 2011, there has been a sudden surge in the number of Goans applying for Portuguese citizenship —some 2,000 every year.  This has created consternation not only in Lisbon, but also in London.  You may wonder why. Here is the reason:

Portugal joined the European Union (EU) in 2011. For these Goans seeking a Portuguese passport, Lisbon is only a stopover. Their destination is further north, London, to be exact. This is because the EU rules allow citizens of member-states to live and work anywhere in EU. The EU is like India — polyglot, multicultural, multi-ethnic, and multiculinary—and Goans will fit right in with their pheni, vindaloo, and Konkani too.

That is where the rub is for the Brits. The Brits are afraid. They know that the Goans applying for Portuguese passports are heading to London via Lisbon. And once they are in London with their red Portuguese passports, they are eligible for the UK state benefits. The Deccan Chronicle reports that in one small UK town, there are 8000 Goans with Portuguese passports having their Church services in Konkani. “This loophole must be closed,” declared Migration Watch, a Right-leaning UK think tank.

Indians who don’t exactly have complimentary feelings towards The Empire Where The Sun Never Set until it collapsed under its own weight, can smirk at the discomfiture of the Brits. After all, situations like these are the blowback not only for Britain, but also for other erstwhile European colonial powers — France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, and Portugal — who were trigger-happily colonizing the whole of the Indian subcontinent and most of Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Even the Portuguese, being the poor cousin in the EU, can join the Indians in laughing at the Brits’ discomfiture.

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