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The Meaning of Anniversaries

And Congrats to Goa Streets for Entering Its Not-So-Terrible Twos!

If you speak in English, look it’s anniversary. If you speak in an Indian lingo, dosage it’s usually aahniverserry.

Until some decades ago, the fact that you were born involved a celebration on the day you were named, incorporated into your religion, got married and in your memory sometime after you died. For dear departed (Hindu) ancestors, males only, there’s a collective anniversary celebration called Shraadh. Anniversaries came and went unnoticed.

Party times were at traditional festivals or when you built a house. Promotions were rare, changing jobs rarer still and yes, at retirement your department hosted snacks and balloons for you and gifted you a watch for the forty years of effort you’d put it at chair and desk. If you were somehow linked to a senior post, you may have had ‘official functions’. Anniversary was a word in the dictionary, understood and comprehended, but not a part of an Indian’s life.

Then began the birthday parties. (Birth anniversaries.) Cousins were guests, some neighbours and classmates, later their parents joined in. Food was cooked by the women of the house. Presents opened and discussed after everyone had left. Outsourced menus came later.

Wedding anniversaries, in my memory, got noticed after a certain watch company decided to nudge out an existing public-sector one (HMT, whose watch section ‘died’ just a few weeks ago). Advertisements declared that you were entitled to a watch as gift for your first, ninth, seventeenth, whichever anniversary.

We Indians love celebrations, don’t we? The anniversary seed grew like the beanstalk in Jack’s story. If Facebook posts are indicators of social change, today we have anniversaries for ‘the first time we saw each other’, ‘the first time we met’, engagements and weddings of course, ‘the first job’, ‘the first day of the current job’, ‘first trips out of the country’, and getting the ‘first car’, ‘first mobile-phone’, ‘first computer’ and so on. I have no doubts that where memory is concerned, Indians have the best and strongest. It’s in our genes. And in the by-rote education system we grew up in.

When it comes to politicians’ deaths and births, anniversaries are very, very important. Big banners, posters, pamphlets and full-page advertisements declaring bronze, silver, gold, platinum, ruby, emerald and diamond death/birth anniversaries add to the general litter on the streets.  And to the coffers of food and beverage companies.

It’s not just in India. Internationally, there are ‘anniversaries’ which are special. So we have world kidney /heart /spleen /wrist /earlobe days for those concerned about their bodies. And world save the trees/dogs/medieval music/aboriginal art days for those concerned about things non-human.

And then we have magazine anniversaries.

When Editor Steve G (or Steve-jee, which might sound the same but is a more respectable ethnic version of his name) phoned to say his (and Marisha’s) baby was completing two years, I thought, Goa Streets has entered the era of the Terrible Twos. Human toddlers at that age graduate from crawling to standing to taking steps, assert their independence and are curious about every and anything. They take risks, they break norms (vases and curious, too), they learn faster than ever and are full of energy. Goa Streets has reached that (st)age.

The night it was born, over rum and coke and a delicious dinner hosted by the publisher-printer-editor-writing-marketing-do-it-all team of Steve and Marisha, I had wondered what this periodical would be about.

Over the next many weeks, which later stretched into months, I read it regularly to educate myself about where I could eat Italian, French, Greek, even Goan food. Though a local, I didn’t know which restaurants employed musicians and which music could be enjoyed on which days and where.

Later, for some time in that lovely old-style Portuguese house in Sangolda which houses its office, I worked quiet summer afternoons, editing articles on night-life in Goa. It was my virtual entry into a world I’d never been in.

Anniversary conversations in the corporate and personal world are about ‘what have we done/achieved’. Steve’s email from the Goa Streets office was different: it wanted to discuss, at the anniversary, how to move forward, with novel ideas and original thoughts.

Considering that this magazine has covered dance, music, art, literature, mining-problems, rape in children, education, monsoon woes, sunsets, fishing-problems, fashion-designers, antique furniture shops, scuba-diving, luxury homes, transport and 48 x 4 issues, I’ve no doubt that Goa Streets has already made its mark on this coast.

Happy, healthy returns, I say, and may Goa Streets have many, many more anniversaries.