Friday, May 13, 2011

Thesis is Done!!!!

As of twenty four hours ago all my obligations for my Masters thesis are done!!!  I am a well educated Master's holding woman.  And when I get a job (if I ever get a job that is), I can complain that I'm underpaid and over-educated.  Although, I don't know why I would ever complain that I would be over-educated. 

Attending Sarah Lawrence College was the greatest experience (but not quite of my life, I have had a very exciting life).  I really feel that I have honed my analytical skills in a way that I never understood before.  I always wondered what was so great about these super liberal arts schools, and now I understand.  There is a very high level of demand from this institution that I have not experienced in other places.  

I have talked a lot about my thesis and I thought that you, my readers might be interested in what I wrote.  So without further ado, I am passing on the transcript from my oral presentation.  I did not have any family attend, so you are my family, and I hope to get some positive feedback. 

Rebels in Paradise: an Oral History of the Goa Expatriates

Rebels in Paradise is about the expatriates in Goa, India.  This group is very unique for their wild ways.  They are known for the drugs, parties and general disregard for all rules of society.  In many ways this is true, but it is not the whole story.  This is also a community of people who care about each other and their home, Goa.  

Goa went through many changes over the thirty to forty years of Western “hippie” influence.  At first it was a secret place for only the most daring hippie travelers.  In the late seventies and through the beginning of the eighties, it became a haven for drugs, especially hard drugs.  In the nineties, Goa was known for its all night raves with electronic music, LSD and Ecstasy.  By 2000, the Goan government placed a curfew on the rave scene which dramatically decreased the number of parties as well as the number of Western tourists.  Today the state is advertised in Indian periodicals as a destination for domestic tourists, and it has become popular with Russians as a vacation spot.
One of the most rewarding parts of doing this research was that I had the opportunity to learn about my own home, its beginnings and how it developed.  What I learned was that the village where I was born was found by the famous Eight Finger Eddie, but he, and a woman named Mary settled in Goa together.  

Eddie and Mary lived just south of Mumbai (then Bombay).  They were just friends.   They were content, it was on the beach and it was a good place, but Eddie heard there were better and more secluded beaches south, so he went down to Goa.  Once he saw the beaches in Goa he immediately went back to Mary’s house and told her she had to travel down there with him.  The two of them started the whole community in Goa.  They settled in a village called Calangute.  Eddie established a sort of resting house for weary hippies.  He fed everyone and didn’t require they pay for their room or board.  But he did accept donations.  (I find it fitting that he once had a shelter for hippies because in his last years it was those same hippies who supported and him, when he was too old to take care of himself.)  

One day Eddie went exploring.  He walked up the beach from Calangute, found Baga, where Mary eventually settled, and then over the hill to Anjuna, my home.  Anjuna is widely recognized as the center the expatriate community in Goa.  It is also the home of the Anjuna Flea Market, which is a whole other story.  Edie found Anjuna and he never left.  Mary settled in Baga.  Both are gone now but their lives are remembered by the members of the Goa expatriate community.   
That was the beginning of the expatriate community in Goa but it is not the end.  The Goa expatriate community is made up of people from all over the world.  It may have been started by two Americans but people flocked to Anjuna and Baga for the next forty years.  They came from every nationality imaginable.  Many Europeans went to Goa, but there were also people from Japan, South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Australia.  The beauty of this community was that it is a group of people who came together not because they were from the same country, or had the same background but because they shared the same desire to rebel against the world, and to try to create a better place. 
In the early days, the expatriates really did make an attempt to make their own society.  They embraced practices that were frowned upon by the rest of the world like taking drugs and bathing naked on the beaches, as well as experimental personal relationships, but there were some social structures from the West that they did not abandon.  One was the patriarchal social structures of families.  Many of the expatriates I spoke to felt that it was easier for them to maintain the traditional gender hierarchy.    As Pippy, an Australian woman, articulated, it was just easier that way.  She felt that women were made to be the caretakers of the home, while men made the money.  Others just did not think about it.  

The way I understand this is that there is only so much a group of people can do that breaks the norm.  At some point there must be a level of comfort that comes with the community, and the expatriates found that level in their traditional gender norms. 
In the end I think there is something to be learned from this community.  These people broke away from the structures of their homes and created something new.  Just like all the other hippies in the sixties they were dissatisfied with the way the world worked, so left, and they made something better.  Or at least, what they saw as better.  They lived for forty years without police, government, or any formal authoritarian figures telling them what to do, and they lived well.  In my opinion, the Goa expatriates were happy, they lived their lives as they wanted, and were not controlled by outside structures dictating their lives.  They were not trapped in the structures of traditional society but free to live as they saw fit.   

This topic is huge.  Even in my own research there were topics and stories I could not include.  One area that needs further study is the racial tension between the expatriates and the Goans.  What I found when in Goa was that on a personal level the locals are very kind to the expatriates, but in the wider India and in the media this is not the case.  Due to colonialism both in India by the British and in Goa by the Portuguese there must be some resentment toward outsiders, but this problem seems to go deeper than that.  

I have only touched the surface of the Goa expatriate community, but I hope in some way this thesis will educate the world about a community that has never before been fully understood.  

There you have it, a short synopsis of my thesis.  This does not really give the whole paper its due, but it is a little pallet wetter.   Hope you liked it. 


  1. congratulations on finishing your thesis, that is a huge accomplishment. i had no idea about goa, and about it's hippie origins. no police, and no government-so what was the crime rate like? do you touch on this in your thesis at all? how special to be able to write about the place you call home.

  2. fantastic intro to your thesis. I look forward to reading the whole thing. good work Chandeen...


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