BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
When in Maharashtra, expect a Marathi fare. This is best understood as one strolls the along the coast of Shiroda beach, approximately 50 kilometres from Panjim, the capital city of Goa.
Unlike the nearby Redi beach, the beach in Shiroda does not look welcoming to swimmers, with the sand dropping from the shoreline and the watermarks for swimmers restricted.
Shiroda beach comes to life when children from the village start to arrive in the morning, most wanting to take a ride on the camels and horses that are the staple of the seaside.
“Vada pav, bhaji, chai,” says Rashmi as she tries to draw the attention of the kids running to watch the horses and camels, and some running to play in a designated area for children that is in a dilapidated condition.
The beach in Shiroda, though not as popularly visited as those in Goa, has tell-tale signs of empty beer cans, alcohol bottles and mineral water strewn around because, like many beaches in Goa, there are no dustbins accessible.
There are three hotels near the beach, one with cottages and another with a few rooms and a swimming pool. Air-conditioned rooms are sold for Rs 3,000 and non-air-conditioned rooms for Rs 2,000. Cars with Maharashtra registration are parked near the hotels.
Though alcohol is not sold, drinking is not prohibited in restaurants. “We have come to spend the weekend and get our booze along with us. After enjoying a nice meal, we relax in our cottage,” says Sarvesh as he sips his whisky.
Fish curry-rice and an assortment of fish dishes are what is offered in the two restaurants in proximity to the beaches. “People that come to the hotel eat in the restaurants, but the stalls around survive on the business from the locals who visit the beach,” says Felip, who runs the St Francis stall.
“Very few foreigners come to this place. They normally come and hang around on the sand and leave to go back to Goa just before sunset. I think it is because they may not feel comfortable with the topography of the shore,” says Ramesh in English smattered with Marathi.
A cross close to the beach, a stall called St Francis and a few people speaking Konkani are the only visible links to neighbouring Goa.
The road to Shiroda beach needs attention, but it is the hearty laugh of children riding on a camel or on horseback that breaks the sound of crashing waves that makes a visit to the beach worth a try.