Goa: Where everyone has a story to tell

OK, so in my last post I said that Goa is the equivalent to Benirom or Daytona. I wasn’t far off the mark, but it’s not entirely accurate either. It’s a bit like one of those Greek island resorts where the tourism is aimed at the middle aged and families with young children. There is a certain attraction for hippy types, or those that simply want to get out of the rat race.

We are staying in an area called Calangute, which the tourist book describes as the armpit of Goa, over commercialization, young indian men off their faces, hawkers, fruit sellers the lot. But actually, it’s really not all that bad – and anyone who’s been to a Spanish resort will know how bad it can get! As you walk down the road towards the beach, you go past the tourist shops all selling the exact kind of thing – it does beg the question, if they are all selling the same stuff, how do any of them make any money.

As a foreign tourist in Goa, you are a magnet for the hawkers, but unlike other places, although they share the same desperate persistance, they are also extremely polite. From the 10 year old girl who has perfect English and asks for 10 rupees to have your picture taken with her (and on a very serious note: there really needs to be some education to the kids about talking to foreigners), and claims that there’s “no school” today, to the much older, and more experienced hawkers selling you their wares from a coat hanger – yes, really!

You really have to keep your wits about you, and in most cases, be exceptionally rude – because if you are polite and give them the time of day, they will stick with you like glue until you buy something – all the while being very friendly, chatty and inquisitive though! If you are anything like my Mum who will try and be nice and give non-commital answers, expect to come off the beach loaded up with so much cheap tat that you could very well start hawking yourself!

If you have to buy something, or can’t bare to see the 8 month pregnant lady selling her wares (which is the same as everyone elses) in the blistering heat, it’s important to remember to bargain. The hawkers will start very high, so you should start very low. It’s amazing how a cheap bangle which they swear blind is solid silver (but leaves a suspicious green mark hours after putting it on) can go from 500 Rupees to 50 Rupees. Use the classic bargaining technique that you already bought something and it cost 20 rupees, and watch how quickly the price tumbles.

At first the hawkers are ok, but pretty soon it becomes tiresome and bothersome. There are two effective ways to deal with it though!

First, don’t answer, don’t reply, and don’t even look at the person. Even if they ask you questions, don’t reply, or if you do say anything, say a firm “No”. If they place a shawl around your neck, don’t touch it or feel it, continue walking and ignore it at all costs.

The second advice if ignoring them doesn’t work, is to head down to the sea and go in up to your knees! Works a treat every time, none of them will follow you in 🙂

Anyway, the highlight of the hawkers in Calangute is Rodney and Del Boy. Everyone gives themselves Western names, so Deva becomes David, Sandeep becomes Sandy etc. So we weren’t too surprised when one hawker told us his name was Rodney. The penny dropped when we met his mate “Del Boy”. The two guys could be attractions within themselves as they quote lines from Only Fools and Horses in their everyday language. They even tote their wares around in a big suitcase. I can’t imagine what’s going through their mind, or why they decided to model themselves on Del and Rodney, but it will keep you amused for some time as they tell you all their wares are “pucker” and how the other day Rodney was such a “plonker”. Asked where Uncle Albert was, and you are told he’s looking after their shop.

The other thing about the hawkers is that they all have a sob story to tell. Now depending on your level of naivety and compassion, you can make up your own mind whether to indulge the stories or whether to dismiss them out of hand. Sticking to my cynical self, I think that the stories are just that, stories to tell the tourists to get some more money out of us.

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