Expat Voice: Alice in Goa
Alice Surya Minelli speaks two Indian regional languages, Konkani and Hindi, and cannot shake off the “foreigner” tag that people identify her with. Minelli, who was born in Italy, has been living in Pandolem, South Goa, since she was two years old.
Her parents, Claudia and Giovanni, moved to India 18 years back, without giving it a second thought, and set up an Italian restaurant on the beach in 1999.
Minelli tells Little India about growing up amid the sun and sands of Goa.
Going to School in India
I went to a local school in Pandolem for primary education, where barely anyone spoke English. I found myself quite out of space there. But middle school was better, since a lot of children of expats and NRIs attended it. The school was only open for six months of the year, since most teachers were volunteers from different countries and there were only a few permanent teachers because the school followed the Waldorf Education system. Our Hindi teacher was the only one available throughout the year since she was a local resident.
My high school was much bigger and there I met people who I could relate to. I lived in a small village with a closed community, so people were not very open minded. So joining that school came as a relief.
Whenever I and my other foreigner friends walk on the beach wearing shorts, we hear people whisper. Many times, I find people staring at me and I end up feeling uncomfortable.
People also want to take advantage of you only because they think you are an outsider. Recently, my boyfriend and I were driving on the highway, when a man bumped his car into ours. He blamed both of us, just because I am a foreigner and asked for a large amount of money. My boyfriend belongs to Goa but whenever he travels with me, people tend to exploit the situation because he has a foreigner girlfriend.
When I heard about the incident in which an Irish girl was found murdered near Deobagh beach in Canacona, I was terrified, thinking that something like that could actually happen to me too.
The place where she was murdered is very close to my house, which made me very cautious of what I do every day. I got more self-aware and alert and noticed many things that seemed okay before, such as men trying to touch foreign woman, and staring at me constantly even when I am fully covered.
Even though some terrible incidents take place in India against foreigners, we cannot change it. We have not come to change India. I become friends even with the person who would be considered having the lowest status in the Indian society. I want to set an example in the area I live in, even though I don’t know if I am in a position to do so. But I still do it with a good heart.
Life on the Beach
There are many things I am grateful for in my life in India, and one of them is being able to stay next to the beach. In Italy, you need to be a millionaire to live near the beach. European people “live to work” because you need a certain amount of income to survive there but in India you can still manage to eat a cheap meal for Rs 20.
The interview has been condensed and edited.
Expat Voice is regular column on expats in India. Email us at email@example.com to nominate yourself or another expat for the column.