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In a Goa beyond visitors’ eyes[continued]

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Merging streams:

Neither Greg nor Bernie grew up in Goa. Bernie was born in 1955 in Andheri, Bombay, one of seven children of a post office superintendent. She remembers herself as a rebel and something of a feminist even at a young age. Going through college, she held many part time jobs-- at a stone crushers for instance. She may not have been actively aware then, but her mind had begun to store away inequities in society. She was the telephone operator at Almonard when a workers' strike occurred. She was appalled by the management's callousness. "I would leak information to the workers and take messages for them," she says with a chuckle. That spell at Almonard made her want to go away and see how 'India' lived. Bombay seemed a poor place to find that out.

Greg, though born in Goa -1951- was taken away to Bombay when he was six. He was a studious, inward-looking young man. Family moved again to Ahmedabad when he was 13. It was there that he was impelled to become a priest. He was a natural teacher and mathematics was his favourite subject. It seemed education as a mission would be served by his becoming a priest. After high school the promising scholar entered a seminary in Ahmedabad. In 1981, he was ordained a priest in the Society of Jesus. The church nursed great ambitions on his behalf and sent him to Vidya Jyoti, a centre for higher studies run by it. His reputation as a teacher grew and he was marked for great responsibilities within the church.

Bernie meanwhile saw her first 'Indian village' in Bihar. As a Bombay girl, she was astounded how different, life was in a village. How much they endured with cheer and resignation. Workers at Almonard for whom she had raged, had been in clover by comparison. They at least knew what laws entitled them to. She saw in the villages around the ICI explosives plant and the Tenughat thermal station in Gomiya, Bihar the environmental degradation that unaccountable development brings.

Her true shock was yet to be. She and a few idealistic young people saw the transformation of well integrated Santal villages into a mind-blown, disrupted community losing all its self-esteem. All because of the rising Kushmandu dam near Alirajpur. For five years between 1988 and 93, Bernie and her small band of friends lived among the villagers and tried to form them into a unit fighting for its rights. They had little or no money, but they were full of passion and grit. They failed.

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