When Anjuna was teeming with foreigners, Rohidas Phadte was selling omlette bread, pakoras and tea on the roadside along the then famous Starco Restaurant.
Life then began in the evening and ended at dawn, devoid of the riff-raff prevailing now. Having seen the good times and foreseeing change, Rohidas decided to open a small eat place next to his house and today runs the best fish-curry-rice restaurant in Anjuna and Vagator. It’s the best because the food is homemade.
But, serving authentic Goan lunch is not what cuts apart Rohidas from the rest. It is his ability to distinguish right from wrong and his tenderness to all things living, which includes animals. Rohidas is one of the few locals that still respects his own.
In the morning he ensures that lunch is ready and in the evening he sets off looking for and after abandoned animals. Cows, cats, dogs – any injured or abandoned animal – meets a good soul in Rohidas.
“There have been times when I have been signaled out by tourists for giving preference to locals in my restaurant. When that happens, I tell them I am here because of the locals, that it was they who looked after me when I started seven years back,” says Rohidas as he pets an injured cow he has been nursing.
The ‘Home Made Fish Curry Rice’, that’s the name of his restaurant, is the only such in the belt that serves authentic Goan food because unlike other cuisines, food here is prepared by the family. A fish curry rice starts at Rs 200 and the most expensive – depending on the fish – is Rs 300 with seabass the favourite.
Eating fish curry rice at Home Made Fish Curry Rice is akin to eating at a Goan Hindu home because right from shopping to serving, all the tasks are shared by members of Rohidas’s family. And, no alcohol is served.
Rohidas’s opens the restaurant at 1pm and by 3pm, the food is over and a few hours later flows his love for the abandoned and helpless animals that roam the streets of Anjuna and Vagator.
“People through the years have demolished the old shelters for cows and in their place have built rooms to let out to foreigners. These animals are now abandoned on the road. They come to claim compensation in case of their (animal) death but otherwise ignore them,” says Rohidas
Come sunset and Rohidas is seen riding his bike to places where cattle take shelter, like bus stops or abandoned, closed houses or shops in the village.
“The number of cows and dogs injured by vehicles is growing and with no veterinary doctors on call, I feel it is my duty to help them,” says Rohidas. “Money does not matter when it comes to offering solace to the abandoned,” reasons this man who has his feet on the ground.
Communities, says Rohidas, should come together to form gaushalas for abandoned animals. Based on experience, he knows there is sufficient government funding for these and that all people need to understand is the economics.
“The ideal solution would be to have a gaushala in every constituency. Funds are available from the government, we only need willing hearts and minds to take this forward,” reasons Rohidas who gets unnerved seeing animals suffering due to accidents.
“Grazing land of about 20,000 square meters suffices to tend to all abandoned animals in a constituency,” feels Rohidas and is optimistic that a way out will be found because full stops don’t apply to clean hearts.