Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fifty years of the Goa annexation

Fifty years ago, five centuries of Portuguese dominion in Goa was brought to an end by an Indian invasion, at the cost of less than sixty lives, divided more or less equally between Indian and Portuguese forces. My uncle (father's elder brother) was a young air force pilot at the time, and, years later, he told me of his role in the operation.
He had flown a transport to Goa to evacuate Indian soldiers after the battle. News from the war zone was sketchy; there were reports the airport had been shelled. From the sky, the airstrip looked badly cratered, except for the first third of it, which appeared normal. My uncle aimed for the verge of the airstrip and hit the emergency brakes as soon as the aircraft's wheels touched the ground. He managed to get the machine to stop before the battle-scarred zone.
My memory isn't perfect at this point, but if I recall right, my uncle said there was a problem getting the plane to restart because of the emergency procedure he'd employed. It took him nearly as long to get to the building where armymen were waiting, as it had to fly from Bombay to Panjim. The victorious Indian soldiers appeared to have emptied Goa's liquor stores. Each soldier was carrying crates of rum, whiskey and feni. Once the men and booze were on board, the plane took off from a state that was now part of India.
The emergency brakes had been unnecessary. What had appeared to be damage from artillery shells was just asphalt patch-ups on a concrete runway.
When I land in Goa these days, I notice they still use asphalt to repair the runway, and the strip still looks battle-scarred when viewed from the air.


JSV said...

Goa airport is probably the worst of all in India. Can be compared to bus stations! Considering how popular it is as a tourist destination, it's a shame.

Girish Shahane said...

I agree, having flown to Goa multiple times in the past two years. The problem is that it's a military owned complex; civilian flight timings are restricted, though the band's been relaxed in recent years. The bunching up of flights is more than the small terminal can handle, which leads to chaos at security, and delayed departures.
Also, they've continued the old quasi-monopolistic leases. There's just one restaurant with expensive food and slow service (actually, I *do* have a plane to catch); and the snack stalls are dreadful, too, serving dry sandwiches for absurdly high prices.

Anonymous said...

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