Maya “Bush”: Goa Sting Operator Who Gave Up Anonymity

The multiple exploits of Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, the journalist who exposed Goa’s paid news racket, pulled off a prank by planting a fake Nazi story in several well-read dailies, and has held up a mirror to the media in other ways. He is known in Goan media circles as Bhushan, or The Bush. He has written an hilarious article titled  ‘Pimples on Paradise’ about the various corrupt activities of media in Goa in newslaundry.com:

“Bhushan gives the home minister too much tension. He gives the chief of police too much tension as well. He is too straightforward.”

Mayabhushan Nagvenkar

I live in Goa. In a small corner in that paradise.In that corner, where I live, there aren’t any dancing virgins. There’s only journalists. And crimson trails of torn professional hymens.

And the story I have to tell is not new. It isn’t even a big story.Like the one which spilled out with the Nira Radia tapes. There’s no Barkha Dutt. There’s no Vir Sanghvi. Not even a relatively low-brow, shrill Prabhu Chawla.

The story is about a small place. The heroes here are a lot smaller in scale. So are the villains. But the stories from this small place are as interesting as the ones which come from the big cities. Trust me. The sweet, warm smell of purification reeks the same everywhere.

As the author of this piece, I will reserve stories involving me for later.

The first story’s a comparison between two opposite journalistic poles.

This is the story of Ash. And the story of Pats.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa.

Ash has been a journalist for nigh two decades. He’s conscientiously worked on the newsdesk and reported extensively in Goa. He’s anchored newspaper editions for all three local newspapers in Goa. But then he went on and did three things over the last few years – not necessarily in the order listed. He became a founding member of a newspaper employees union seeking fair working conditions. Later, he contested civic elections after putting in a legit leave of absence. Third, he befriended me.

Result: He has been virtually unemployed for the last four of the eight years. There are four daily English newspapers in Goa. One monthly news magazine. And several other news, feature and lifestyle magazines. But no jobs to be had for him. In my honest opinion, he has the professional wherewithal to fit into any newspaper set up across the country.

The one reason which editors and newspaper managements in Goa give him for rejecting his job application, is his ‘voluble’ support and perceived involvement in an anonymous media critiquing blog I ran by the name of Penpricks. And he wasn’t even part of it.

Directorate of Official language organized a book release function on 31st May 2010 at Maquinize Palace, Panaji at the hands of Shri Digambar Kamat, Hon’ble C. M./Minister of Official Language in the distinguished presence of renowned music director Shri Ashok Patki, following three books were released in the function, one of which was “Vikas Khara Khota” written by Goa’s most prominent, resourceful, respectful and seniormost journalist, editor Shri Raju Nayak (extreme right) in Marathi
(note: This picture is not suggestive of any imaginative character in the article. It is only published here to show how Goa governments has been encouraging prominent literary personalities from all walks of life to promote art & culture.

Now, Pats has also been around a bit. He’s on the vernacular end of things. His honest cherry popped early and was perhaps replaced by a big red plum. He was caught using a ruling Congress politician’s credit card for wardrobe shopping. Took paid-news suparis regularly. Bought a few mining trucks. Started real estate projects. Until one fine day he was asked to leave by his newspaper management, when they discovered that he hadn’t withdrawn from his salary account for several years. Within a month he was snapped up by another vernacular newspaper and his cycle of corruption renewed once again.

The second story has no central characters. There were just too many of them during the run-up to the assembly elections in March this year, for any one in particular to take centre stage. Early during the campaign, both the Congress and the BJP came in with war chests to cultivate the media. Well, there’s still no confirmation of the exact monies doled out to the media here. But then there’re things you see for yourself. While one political party offered journalists covering the polls tablet phones along with money, another party simply offered cash on the barrel. So if you see media folk in Goa who suddenly flaunt a tablet phone and tell-tale signs of a sudden flush of cash, chances are you may have just spotted a bad egg.

The deal struck between journalists and newspaper managements and poll contestants these last elections was relatively uncomplicated, but also had a sheen of innovation.

Conventionally, the concept of paid news involves payment of money for publishing of favourable content. During the March elections however, the paid-news deals involved not just writing favourably about one candidate, but also blanking out news involving his opponents. Paid-news emerged as an evolved and a matured entity this time round.

Those interested in looking up lop-sided reportage, could scan the poll coverage in the Herald for a comparative analysis of assembly constituencies like Fatorda, Curchorem, Quepem, etc, where the coverage has been extremely ‘unusual’ to say the least. There were other newspapers who did it too, but none with the élan of the above-mentioned newspaper.

And then there’s this little story about me.

I’ve been a working journalist since 1997. I have worked for The Asian Age in Mumbai, Herald in Goa, Tehelka in New Delhi and have also been part of a band of journalists who produced investigative news software for television channels. And then I’ve done some writing on and critiquing of the media in Goa over the years. There’s the story about editorials for sale. Then there was the fake story about a holocaust varmint Nazi being arrested by a fictitious secret German police unit floated by me which was published in several newspapers across India and the globe. Then there was another story about newspapers publishing sex advertisements promoting prostitution, where instead of listing the pimp’s number, I inserted phone numbers of the same editors whose newspapers published these lewd and solicitous adverts. There was also the story of how the Goa Editor’s Guild (GEG) set out to gag the media critique blog, by listing the item on the agenda of an official Guild meeting. And then another one establishing paid news in these assembly elections in Goa.

Result: I’ve had to do my bit of scrounging. I have been at the bottom of the barrel for a spell. In the course of exposing the above-mentioned stories, I’ve been out of a job for a long while. There was no money coming in so I resorted to all sorts of odd writing jobs, since writing is the only paying skill I possess. I did some cheap sweatshop commercial-writing by pitching to postings on craigslist. I’ve written and rewritten about yoga mats. About turd-cleaning devices, which help you clear dog poo off the floor, without leaving stains. I’ve even written tasty little descriptors for websites hosting porn films and sleazeclips, sometimes making $2 for 500 words.

All this, until a friend and fellow journalist Fredrick Noronha voluntarily and graciously gave up his job writing for a news agency from Goa, so that I could pitch for it.

So now every story told through the ages has had its morals. And I am still looking for the morals in mine.

But like I said earlier. The story is the same everywhere. Journalistic corruption is not special to Goa. Dammit, it’s not even as big as the big metros. So why did I do the things I did and say the things I have over here?

Things come across a lot clearer in smaller places. There’re fewer people. Fewer buffers. Fewer layers of camouflage. There’s lesser intrigue. The smaller journalistic microcosm of Goa is representative of the profession’s ills and helps one understand the depravity of the broader journalistic setup in India in an easy way.

A shot of Goan feni in a Goan tavern works as well as the finest scotch in Delhi’s tony, well-heeled clubs. But what would cost you ten bucks here could cost you a few hundred quid in Delhi, with perhaps a Bangkok junket thrown in for good measure.

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Goan names: Bendro(parasite), Poko(empty), Bodvo(angel),Kochro(trash),Bokdo(goat), Kolo(fox), kan katro(cut ear)

‘Land of the Sal: Tree’COLOURFUL ‘FAMILY NAMES’, A PART OF THE GOAN REALITY

Land of the Sal Tree: Personality traits also played a part in earning families a
nickname

Street names might be alien in Goa, and house numbers hardly
get used.  But family nicknames — literally by the dozen —
are liberally deployed in parts of the State.

A new book on the Bardez village of Saligao lists
six whole pages of nicknames deployed locally —
mostly in Konkani, and bequeathed from father to
son, across the generations.

This centuries old tradition came up because Catholic
converts might have ended up with identical names, and needed
ways to distinguish themselves from each other, suggests Fr
Nascimento J Mascarenhas, the author of ‘Land of the Sal
Tree’, a just-published book on Saligao.

So, households were given nicknames “that reflected either a
peculiar physical characteristic or a personal trait of the
homeowner”.  This led to an abundance of “colourful” family
nicknames, which have also been taken overseas by some who
migrated there.

Some names are unusual — like ‘bot modi’ (broken
toe), ‘kan katro’ (cut ear) or ‘fujao’ (chicken
pox).  Some families got described as ‘caulo’
(crow), ‘goro cul’lo’ (white crab) or ‘cauo cul’lo’
(black crab).

‘Pinglo’ (or, blonde) was the nickname given to a household
with light coloured hair.  Some families got nicknamed after
animals, birds and fish “presumably because of their
perceived resemblance to their non-human counterparts”.

There was the ‘bokdo’ (goat), ‘tal’lo’ (sardine), ‘combo’
(rooster), ‘bebo’ (toad), ‘manko’ (frog), ‘dukor’ (pig),
‘kolo’ (fox), ‘vagio’ (tiger) and ‘soso’ (rabbit).

Personality traits also played a part in earning families a
nickname.  Such as ‘Sourac’ (hot curry), ‘Saibin’ (Blessed
Virgin), ‘Godgoddo’ (thunder) and ‘Kochro’ (trash).

“The deportment of some villagers didn’t go unnoticed either.
There was ‘Dando’ (rod), ‘Raza’ (king), ‘Girgiro’
(propeller), ‘Bodvo’ (angel) and ‘Devchar’ (devil),” notes
the book.

Villagers got named after the work they were
involved in — as hatters (Chepekan), florists
(Fulkar or Fulkarn), lawyers (delegad), evil-eye
removers (dishtikan), ginger-man (alekar),
candlemakers (menkar), coconut climbers (madkar),
among others.

Then, there was Munkoto (firewood), labelled thus because an
ancestor used a piece of firewood to chase away kids whose
game of marbles disturbed his siesta.  There were also some
inexplicable names like Bendro (parasite), Poko (empty) and
Porque (‘why’ in Portuguese).

“A few other nicknames wouldn’t be appropriate to
use in a family-oriented publication.  But they
were used quite freely, and without malice, by
villagers,” says the book.  It adds that a nickname
was never viewed with derision, but instead was a
prized symbol of a family’s recognition and
acceptance as an entrenched member of the village
community.

The book also describes a range of Saligao village issues of
yesteryears, among which are some quaint and rustic
traditions, customs, folklore and even superstition.

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