In Goa, where campaigning for the 2022 polls is set to kick off next year, the first election promise has been made: “imposition of compulsory siesta hour”.
Speaking at a press meet, Goa Forward Party leader and former BJP ally Vijai Sardesai said that if made chief minister, he would ensure a compulsory siesta hour anytime between 2 and 4 pm.
It was an off-the-cuff remark, but Sardesai, whose party has been aggressive about its push for ‘Goan identity’, later told The Indian Express that he was serious about the need to preserve “sussegad” — that typically Goan characteristic that lies somewhere between being laidback and indolent.
“Sussegad is derived from the Portuguese word sossegado, which means a relaxed, carefree, chilled-out attitude that’s associated with Goa. The word sosseg means peace. And mind you, an afternoon nap is an integral part of sussegad. It is clinically proven that a short nap or siesta boosts your memory, improves job performance, lifts your mood and makes you more alert,” he says.
The siesta hour is sacrosanct for most Goans — any attempt at any of kind of engagement between the afternoon hours is considered without grace and lacking in concern. Most shops pull down shutters and professional appointments don’t get done, with the general consensus being that lunch should be followed by siesta, before returning to work around 4 pm.
While many associate the afternoon nap with laziness, Sardesai wouldn’t hear of it. “Instead of being part of the rat race, Goans like to take it easy, which should not be mistaken for laziness. Even though we are sussegad, we still meet our deadlines. It is the culture of Goa. Everyone needs to learn from this and respect this,” he adds.
He says the need to preserve sussegad is tied to the fight against bigger changes sweeping across the state.
“Sussegad doesn’t mean we are unresponsive or not pro-active when it comes to contentious social and environment issues that affect us. Look at the state today. You do not have to overload a small place with too much of huge infrastructure. I am not against connectivity. But what is rail connectivity and who are trains for?”
Goa today is seeing work on at least three big-ticket infrastructure projects — electricity, railway and road-widening — with deadlines set for 2022.
“If a guy is coming by train to Goa and the train suddenly slows down at the Ghats, what the big deal? Let it slow down, no. You are coming to Goa, after all. If for the sake of speed, you bring down homes in Cansaulim, then why ask for such a fast life, why do we need such trains? All this is basically to turn Goa into a corridor. This doesn’t suit our way of living,” he adds.
Political commentator Cleofat Coutinho Almeida says this is probably the first time sussegad has come up on a political platform, and says Sardesai’s promise can’t be taken seriously in today’s age.
“My father, I recall, would take his siesta very seriously and so did the older generation. But these are different times, and I personally feel we should all work now. You see the difference in how Goan establishments remain shut between 1.30 and 4.30 pm while their counterparts from Gujarat and Rajasthan remain open through the day.”
However, Sardesai, who was in the NDA government for as long as late Manohar Parrikar was CM and who has struck strident positions in the past against “outsiders” in the state, says, “Look at our markets. They are slowly being taken over by Marwari traders who like to work even on Sundays. They keep shops open 24/7, which may make a tourist happy, but frankly, no one is happy.”
Meanwhile, Sardesai isn’t losing any sleep: he takes a compulsory siesta for at least 30 minutes every day.
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