As Panjim turns 175..

Fascinating piece in Scroll on completion of 175 years of Goa’s Capital – Panjim.

Panjim occupied a key position in the Portuguese empire – it was the urbs prima, the primary city, in the Estado da Índia Portuguesa (Portuguese state of India) from 1843. Its rich history has made it a melting pot of cultures and identities, and bequeathed it a unique socio-cultural fabric with “wonderful dualities”.

It is to celebrate this complex heritage on the occasion of the city’s 175th anniversary that the Serendipity Arts Festival is hosting an art exhibition titled Panjim 175. The exhibition, curated by Menezes and Swati Salgaocar, is being held at the old Public Works Department complex near the old and new Patto bridges in Sao Tome.

The theme of confluence runs through many of the works. The iconic mermaid that “represents Panjim in many ways” figures prominently in the works of Nishant Saldanha and Shilpa Mayenkar Naik. A poster by Saldanha, in vivid colours, shows the mermaid surrounded by Goa’s tropical flowers. Naik’s work is an azulejo (a painted, tin-glazed, ceramic tile), in which the mermaid is seen in front of one of Panjim’s most iconic buildings – the old Goa Medical College.


Menezes describes the old Public Works Department complex as a “keystone crossroads”, connecting the new as well as old parts of the city. This over-100-year-old structure on the banks of the Mandovi opens up to the Latin quarter of Panjim – Fontainhas – and has an old-world charm. But it is now possibly going to be pulled down in a bid to make Panjim a “smart city”, a move Menezes describes as a “cultural crime”.

“The early map of Panjim looks like Manhattan, as it is built on the grid, [it had] place for sidewalks for people to walk,” said Menezes. “They [the city planners] were aware of the European drainage system – they had a very advanced, state-of-the-art thinking. It is particularly a galling, upsetting movement that in the 21st century all this is destroyed in the name of the ‘smart city’.”

Not just Smart cities. Anything with the name smart as a prefix – smart phone, smart shopping, smart banking etc – is anything but smart…


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