BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The lone bus conductor can be heard saying, “Margao, Margao …,” beckoning the tourists coming out of Colva Beach as the rain clouds appear ready to burst overhead.
With the high tide and rain, Colva Beach seems bereft of sand and with a few Indian tourists, some in fancy footwear, the locals strolling around seem waiting for the sun to pop up and lighten the gloominess of the morning.
“I am hoping some tourists decide to return. Business is always down during the monsoons, but at this time we have a mix of Indian tourists and locals going to the city,” explains Anthony while disclosing that his bus makes twelve trips between Margao and Colva Beach on a day, and it costs Rs 30 for a one-way ticket.
As Anthony tries to get the attention of potential passengers, Dora and her friend make their way towards the beach as the winds begin to pick up. “We are here because we have a break from work, and Goa is an affordable destination,” claims Dora, as she looks for shelter from the breaking rain.
“Shopping is prohibitive in Goa, and we haven’t found anything worth a second look, at least in the shops here. We are here because it is safe, the food is okay and the alcohol is cheap,” admits Alia while her husband and child look to pick up snacks from a store.
Colva of the past is different from Colva today, although the entrance is still distinctive. Two thoroughfares have come up next to the old walking bridge to the beach that is now neglected.
The stretch till Colmar is the same except for the children’s park that has found its place in front of the Colva Residency run by the Department of Tourism. As is the case often, the children’s playing area robs the guests of the view of the sea.
“Where can we find a shop selling booze?” asks an Indian guest wearing a white and orange T-shirt, white shorts and maroon shoes.
“Is it too early for wholesale booze shops to open?” he asks again when recommended to visit a nearby restaurant.
Most of the hotels facing the sea appear empty, and the few staff managing the receptions are occupied with their smartphones.
“We are full during the season that starts around October. We have only charter guests, and it is only after the last charter has left that we take in Indian guests. We are empty now,” stated a receptionist in a hotel close to the beach.
Restaurants in Colva open late in the morning and many only in the evening as there are few visitors during this time of the year.
“We still have young couples from different villages coming to spend time here. They do not eat much but may have a soft drink. If the weather is good, they will take a walk on the beach and suddenly snuggle among the sand dunes,” says sixty-something years Tolentino as he sips his caju feni.
If the heart of Colva still beats, the tributary – the road that leads to Longuinhos Beach Resort and numerous other new hotels – still tries to retain a mix of the old, green paddy fields with ponds in between and the warmth of new hotels.
“We still come to this place with our cattle. They get the best feed at this time of the year. With most people having stopped growing paddy, the greenery is good as long as land sharks are kept away,” observes Tolentino.
The old road in the Colva used to end at a residence that offered rooms with special service only to men – middle-aged and young. “That’s gone a long while back. I think after the old man fell sick,” says Ashok, as he and his colleagues mend fishing nets nearby.
Colva, according to local Arthur, sees a mix of foreign and Indian tourists during the season, and, as before, a lot of locals during summer.
“The topography of this place, in the years gone by, suited youngsters falling into the basket of love. It is different now, though many still find it safe,” and that, according to Redento, keeps the charm of the place and working in Colva upbeat.
And as the sun finally hits the skies, the bus Anthony is working on, arrives from Margao with a few Indian couples descending and the ticket collector walking for a cold drink, jangling the coins in his pocket.
Colva is seeing a change in infrastructure, but the old men and women keep the charm of the place alive.