BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
“The only vehicle in Anjuna in 1981 was the police car. Bullock carts were used then, and a few people had cycles. People of my generation will keep coming to Goa, but our children now prefer Thailand,” says 72-year-old Stefano, setting aside his furniture as his time to return to Spain approaches.
“My flight is booked for the 23rd, but given a chance, I would leave tomorrow. It’s bloody hot,” he adds.
“I used to pay a rent of Rs 500 a month for a house in the interior of Anjuna. It had pig toilets, but the villages then had a magic about them which has sadly disappeared,” opines sixty-seven-year-old Francesca from Italy, who now pays Rs 20,000 for a three-bedroom house overlooking the sea.
“I recently found in one of my diaries that I was paid Rs 1202 in exchange for a hundred dollars in 1981. There was a bus that used to leave from Anjuna to Mapusa in the morning and return in the evening, which we used to go on for our weekly shopping in Mapusa,” discloses Francesca, as she too begins to pack up to return to Italy.
“I remember in 1983, Rs 100 was enough to shop for a week. Four of us used to go and return with a bag full of stock for us for the week. I returned to Goa every year except during the pandemic,” says Francesca, as she prepares coffee in her perforator.
“Colleagues of my generation will keep coming back to Goa because we cannot forget what we got from Goa. But, the change that is taking place is for the worse. Today, one cannot get one per cent of Goa of the eighties or nineties. It’s over,” laments Lola from Spain who is in her seventies.
“My daughter was born in Goa, and she works here. I come to spend three months in Goa and have to fly out to get another visa as visas are now issued only for three months,” states Lola, who like Stefano and Francesca has been staying in rented houses.
“The government has stopped issuing six-month visit visas after the pandemic,” she complains.
“I go to a party today, and there will be around 3,000 Indian men and hardly any women. The spirit of partying of the early days has disappeared, the place is unhygienic and there is plastic all around,” complains Lola, who also believes that by legalising marijuana, Thailand is now the preferred destination.
“The beaches in Thailand are cleaner, the food is cheaper, the place is clean and there are better parties with the privacy of ladies respected,” opines Lola, who thinks locals are responsible for the guests they invite.
“I am not a hippie, but I remember live music was first played on beaches, and it was only in 1983 that recorded music started becoming the fashion. A special fish thali in Mapusa cost Rs 3 and tea was 20 paise. I had a friend who used to first live in a hut in Vagator,” recollects Lola.
“I have nothing against Indians but having come to India for over thirty years, I see a difference between Indians and Goans, and that is why I feel like a fish out of water amidst the crowd today,” reveals Stefano, who now comes to Goa unaccompanied by his family.
“The beaches of Goa are no cleaner; the water is unhygienic and things have got so expensive that a holiday in Thailand is economical and with no health risks like Goa. Plus, the ability to legally smoke is a bonus,” drums Stefano, as he journeys into his past with Goa.
“I keep my house for people who come for a long stay as I don’t have to worry about new customers. These old customers return home early and go to bed early, and there is no noise.
Sadly, few foreigners are returning now. I think twice before giving away my place to Indian tourists. I do it in an emergency,” confesses Shirikant, who has been renting his house to foreigners for years.
As the heat takes its toll on the tourists who have been coming to Goa for years, the houses they stay in will slowly be covered in plastic to keep the rains from messing up the construction.
And as Shirikant waits to know whether his guest will return, Lola, Francesca and Stefano will go back to their countries with memories of the Goa of the eighties.