From the archives

February 6, 2007 at 10:33 pm (Uncategorized)

In December 2004 I travelled to Goa to write a book. I didn’t but I did write one or two half-decent paragraphs. Hope to improve productivity next time :0)

… vegetarians are like monks who take a vow of celibacy. In fact, they are even more resolute – it is easier to tempt a priest to the flesh than it is a herbivore. In Goa, fish greet you at every turning. Religious Icons do too: crosses on plinths vying with Hindu swastiks at roadside altars. Every yellow three-wheeler auto-rickshaw, every four-wheeler mini-van cab has the name of some god emblazoned across the dashboard and windscreen. Faith in divinity certainly sums up the driving around here. People pull off without indicating – Laxmi or Jesus had better be on the case or you’ve had it.

In the back of one cab a small picture of Ganesh, the elephant god, is decorated by flashing LED lights: green to red and back. (Deities flash here, not traffic signals.) A rather large plastic lobster dangles below the driver’s mirror. He pulls up to a shop and a portly skin-headed English man on a stationary scooter shouts: “Oi! That’s my foot,” followed by obscenities that he’s mastered in Konkani, the local tongue. The driver says nothing. The verbal abuse continues, but still the driver, who does not appear timid, chooses to say nothing.

I slide the door of our car open and looked at the scrawny man who’s learnt a few insults for his trip. “If he’d driven on your foot,” I say in his local tongue, “you’d know about it.” He grimaces not willing to engage with the English accent. Why didn’t you say anything, I ask the driver, as we drive off. “There would be a fight,” he says calmly, confidently.

So?

“We could get him in his hotel room – but we have already fought our fight.” The lobster continues to swing. He adds: “The local economy will take a hit if we beat up the tourists.” I ask where the lobster is from. He explains that an aunt of his brought plastic “prawns, crabs and lobsters” back as gifts from a trip to Europe. He didn’t like other crustaceans and plumped for the lobster. I tell him that a friend of mine serves lobster at his restaurant in Goa. How much does it cost? he says. I don’t know, I tell him.

Tourists have caused the price of seafood to go up such that many locals can only afford sardines and mackerel. This I learned when talking to my friend Baw, who runs a restaurant, about the price of fish. We do that often, and on this occasion, there were actually fish involved.

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