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

2010-10-28 12:30:00

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 u nique 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.




From: A. Papazian