BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
It is 8.30 pm and the Siolim tinto (main market) is buzzing. Vehicles can be seen crossing the bridge that connects to the furthest point of North Goa and the pavements provide a lease to nightlife with locals, Indian tourists and foreigners trying to make the best of it.
“I normally start around 7.30 pm and finish by around 11.30 or midnight. I get all sorts of customers and business has been pretty good since I started around four months back,” admits Melvin from Mumbai who runs a fast food joint at the entrance of the road going towards the bridge.
“My smoked pull pork burger is a hit and I normally get locals coming in first and crowds returning from parties on bikes or in cars, late into the night. Parties are normally taking place on both sides of the bridge and hence business is constant,” says Melvin.
If Melvin stirs taste buds with his pork burgers, Vasanti draws crowds with her omelettes and chicken xacutti. "We start in the evening and pack up by around 9.30 pm. Our clientele is pretty fixed though we have foreigners coming in to check along with a few Indian tourists,” says Vasanti as she prepares a snack for one of her guests.
There are eight stalls – all in line - alongside Vasanti but not all are open. “Some people start early and close early too. We normally cater to the taste of the local people but now that Siolim is a transit point for foreigners and Indian tourists, our client base has increased and a few of us prefer to stay late,” exclaims Suresh as he starts closing his stall for the day.
A few feet away from the kiosks offering Goan snacks, sit Mahesh and his wife selling, what they claim to be fresh fish. "We have been here since five pm but normally leave when we finish selling, that is normally around 9 pm,” claims Mahesh as he heightens his sales pitch.
“We normally come around this time – it is 9 pm- as the prawns, when available, are cheap and easy to clean and cook. The fish, I am told, is from the nearby sea and since these fisherfolk are local, we always get a good deal,” confesses Sheriff as his wife negotiates with Mahesh and his wife.
It is 9.10 pm and local people are still seen visiting the fish stalls, as one approaches the Siolim end of the bridge.
“We are on our way home and have decided to see if we can pick up some good fish for dinner. I normally do not like to buy fish from Mapusa as I find the fish here fresher,” says a lady who does not wish to divulge her name.
The traffic from Siolim veers towards Mandrem where a few foreigners and Indians can be seen – either entering bars; shopping or walking towards the beach with their own booze.
By 10 pm, life in Ashvem is slowly embracing the night. Most locals appear to have gone to bed and music from a few restaurants appears to dumb the sound of the waves.
“We normally close our shops at midnight as we get foreigners who are passing by this side, stopping to have a look at what we have to offer. There are times, the sales from people stopping at night are bigger than what we do the whole week during the day,” says Vivek after seeing off three foreigners who had stopped by in a car.
“Foreigners also like to window shop on their way back to their rooms after having dinner. It is a question of luck. At times, a few drinks can be to our advantage,” hollers Vasanti as she hitchhikes a ride from her shop to her room.
Through the night as the village falls asleep, it is the lights that keep late-night travellers company from Ashvem to Morjim to Siolim. Lit-up temple, park, church and a few houses on the way, show how the villages have decked up for tourists in the extreme of North Goa.
As the heat takes over, it is time to bid goodbye to another tourist season and welcome another monsoon.