Death of a hippie and rise of high value tourism in Goa

October 28th, 2010 - 1:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji, Oct 28 (IANS) The death of 85-year-old Yertward Mazmanian aka ‘eight finger Eddie’, arguably Goa’s first hippie, curiously comes at a time when the state is on the verge of a strategic shift in its tourism approach.

A day before Mazmanian - called eight finger Eddie because of two missing digits on his right hand - died Oct 18, tourism officials stressed the need for bidding goodbye to hippie and backpack tourism at an international travel mart held here. The same hippie culture had helped put Goa on the international tourism map in the 1970s.

News of the death of the American-born hippie of Armenian descent created a lot of static on social networking site Facebook, where over Rs.100,000 was pooled from his fans the world over towards his cremation.

It was Norwegian freelance journalist Oystein Krogsrud, who shuttles between Goa and Norway, who gave Eddie company during his last few days in the hospital and the final journey to a local crematorium where Eddie was cremated with Hindu rites.

“I think all hippies who have died here have been cremated. The hippies have a much stronger connection to Hinduism than Christianity, even though Eddie often pointed out that he was not following any kind of religion,” Oystein, who also broadcast Eddie’s funeral through live internet across the world, told IANS.

Oystein had been following Eddie closely for over 10 years and had last interviewed him four days before he died. According to him, Eddie had left his biological family behind in 1963.

In a video interview to a researcher a couple of years ago, Eddie said he first came to Colva, a beach village in south Goa, in 1965.

“Some people let me stay in their house at Colva beach. Those days you didn’t have to pay rent unless you yourself wanted to contribute something. Sometimes people were sceptical, but then they realised you did not want anything,” Eddie said.

Eddie was also responsible for starting the now famous Anjuna flea market back in 1975 — a place for hippies and other foreigners to just hang out or to barter goods. The same market is now a vibrant hub of trade, starting from food to clothes, junk jewellery, and loads of trinkets found in virtually every stop on Goa’s popular tourist circuit on Wednesdays.

“Only freaks came to the first flea market then. It wasn’t a regular thing. Then we’d make another one on some other auspicious day. People gave things away, or it was only free…it was like a party,” he said.

But the brand of tourism Eddie came to represent is not what the tourism industry is keen to promote any more. Officials and tourism captains are looking to move Goa away from backpack, hippie to ‘big bucks’ tourism. Seven offshore casinos, more than a dozen onshore casinos, 25 five-star hotels and a planned marina and a golf course is Goa Tourism’s new ‘big picture’.

Hugh Gantzer, a tourism industry expert, said hippie tourism gave Goa a bad name.

“They have outlived their usefulness. Goa has to say goodbye to them. Tourism in Goa has moved on. Hippie and backpack tourism inevitably is associated with drugs and does not make a healthy spectacle,” said Gantzer, an award-winning travel writer, who was a resource person at the International Travel Mart-Goa, which concluded Oct 17.

However, despite his death, Goa’s first hippie will continue to live in the consciousness of travellers coming to Anjuna for years to come thanks to a unique initiative started by Oystein.

“We have emptied Eddie’s house and plan to make a museum out of Eddie’s personal stuff at this year’s Anjuna flea market when it resumes in a few weeks, coinciding with the beginning of the six-month tourism season here,” Oystein said.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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