BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The weekly flea market on Wednesday in Anjuna has evolved since its inception but has not lost its extravaganza of colour, derived both from the market itself and the people that visit.
“The first flea market was started somewhere in the seventies by an English lady called Joan and her friend, who everyone called Eight-Finger Eddie. It was started for one thing and is something else today. But everyone leaves having a good time,” says Francis Fernandes, owner of Sea Breeze restaurant, where a lot of the action takes place.
The flea market, as many remember, was started at a time when foreigners in Goa had decided to sell, cheaply or at times given away for free to the locals, whatever they did not want to carry back home.
Musical instruments, clothes, cooking apparatus, half-used perfumes, chocolates, electronic equipment and even underwear.
As foreigners mingled among themselves and with the locals, the music played, adding a distinct air which saw the market wind through an evening of song and dance. Of course, there was smoke, but the type not classified as drugs in those days.
“The flea market started in the afternoon, but it ended as a party late into the night. It made us leave with a feeling of an extra coating to our visit to Goa. It made coming back again so much easier,” related Cynthia Ramos from Spain, who has been coming to North Goa since the early eighties.
“I used to sell my clothes, especially my jeans, my tops and even my bras,” she adds, as she nods to the rhythm being belted by the band at Sea Breeze.
From being a market by foreigners for locals and vice versa, the transition today is phenomenal, with traders from outside the state ruling the roost. Indian tourists are now the biggest visitors. Foreigners are seen here and there, and a few Goans still come, trying to capture a whiff of the past.
“There must be around ten to fifteen Goans selling stuff in the flea market today. Many eating places are still managed by Goans and a handful of stalls selling cigarettes, soft drinks and beer. The migrants have captured the market,” rues Francisco Fernandes.
“My husband and I have been running this stall for over ten years. Business has been slow after the pandemic, but we expect things to pick up once the charter business fully starts,” says Rukmini from Rajasthan, who sells gemstones in the market.
It is 5 pm, and Dina Shirodkar, a resident of Anjuna, is packing up his cigarette kiosk selling international cigarette brands.
“There has been absolutely no business today, and so I have decided to pack up. There is no point in staying,” says Dina, who proudly claims he is the father of four girls – all doing very well in life.
“One of my daughters is a doctor, and I have a daughter who is a pharmacist. One child is a teacher. I am an MA pass. I have been running this shop over many years, but there comes a time in life where one has to decide how much is enough,” proudly claims Dina.
As Dina packs his stuff, Sushant is busy leafing through his book, ascertaining which stall vendor needs to pay the weekly rent.
“There are over 46 shops that are let out before the start of the season for Rs 20,000. There are a lot of outsiders ready to do my work, but why should we allow others?” he questions, as vendors come forward to pay their dues.
“A lot of us Goans are happy to give our places out on rent and earn money easily. I am not comfortable with this style of thinking and that is why I keep coming every Wednesday to sell my stuff,” says Pednekar Bhagat, who comes from Panjim to sell his artefacts.
“Business is definitely down after the pandemic, and I think it is because the charters are not yet fully operational. The charter people are the best visitors to the market because they buy a lot of handicrafts as they come for a short time and do most of their shopping here,” observes Krishna, who sells soft drinks, beers and cigarettes to foreigners who he claims have been coming to Goa for over thirty years.
“They are my family,” he says.
As the sun begins to set in Anjuna, the volume of the music increases – varied beats in various restaurants entice a variety of people. The emphasis is on drinks as beady-eyed customers appear to gorge on the last rays of the sun, and market vendors try to lure in customers with sunset discounts.
Once the vendors leave, the shadow of nightlife covers the flea market and inhibitions are cast aside until the next flea market.