BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Water in the Arambol sweet water lake looks dirty and does not appear worth a dip from afar. Some areas seem fine. But, a few drops of water on one’s tongue and there was a different story to tell, a filthy one.
The lake today and 30 years ago follows a storyline of the malfunction of society where the emphasis is on money, at the cost of nature; where, when money talks, nature remains silent, letting man scheme his way to his own doom.
In the old days, it took thirty or so minutes to walk on the edges of the mountain to reach an inviting lake – blue waters when it was dark and green in the sunshine.
“Those days are gone. Hippies no longer live around here. If they did, they would not have been able to survive on this water. A lot of people still come, but the purpose is different now,” says seventy-odd-year-old Francisco, his face appearing invigorated with caju feni.
“There was a natural trail to reach the lake. One had to watch and walk, to climb up and down the rocks until the lake. People have either given their land on rent or sold it, and this is the result,” moans Francisco.
The walk to the lake is now a walk past a sort of a mini-market created by individuals wanting to make a quick buck. There are narrow shops, restaurants and guest houses in between a pathway that now functions as a way to the lake.
There are hardly any Goans on the new path created, with Hindi and Russian being the two languages heard spoken on the walk towards the lake.
“It’s all outsiders and Russians that have been welcomed by us Goans,” says Isabella, as she returns home from the beach.
“People had to walk slowly at night with torches in the past, but it is different now with hoards of people, sometimes walking through to party near the lake, and the difference in parties is noticeable,” says Antonio, who works in a pay-parking lot from where the path to the lake begins.
“The lake was a haven for hippies and later a dream holiday spot for many Goans. The two used to co-exist well, and even my children enjoyed going to the lake to play and swim. Foreigners used to bring toys and sweets for the children on their return,” recollects Francesca, who now barely leaves her house.
“Foreigners built their own huts, cooked their food and lived happily until one of them was found dead many years ago. I don’t know how, but a few years after the murder, the people coming started changing. Gradually, change set in, and this is what you have seen today,” says Francesca, as she serves a cup of tea.
The hill that used to shade the waters of the lake now hosts hotels or homestays on the right of the lake with the left and centre still dressed with vegetation.
“Arambol was a typical village in the 80s, whereas now you see shops or restaurants on both sides of the road. Even our houses are hidden by these shops. The difference is huge for those who saw Arambol in the past. I don’t think it matters to the visitors today,” opines Vivek, as he wanders through a lane where the smell of caju is distinct.
The road to the lake that was dark and felt scary at night today is starkly different with lights; blaring music; the smell of food wafting; and shopkeepers trying to persuade customers.
Despite the din of human presence, the walk to the lake appears eerie because lovely memories of the past haunt the drama of the present, where money rears an ugly head from a hill that once shouldered good, fun times.
And for many, Arambol sweet water is no more a bed of sweet water, as the taste of wastewater still lingers.