St Tome, the Latin quarter of Fontainhas in Panaji, is today seeing tourists in droves – some wanting to take selfies; some wanting to grab a bite of Goan cuisine; some wanting to imbibe a drink and some trying to capture vestiges of the past through film. And the locals are not too happy with this type of tourism, though, a few establishments stand to gain.
“Anyone and everyone is coming to St Tome with no knowledge of the background of this place. We have no problem if tourists come here, but the problem starts when they are unable to understand and respect the sentiments of the people and the place,” says Tuan Gomes Pereira, a resident of St Tome who feels claustrophobic with the behaviour of tourists visiting the place.
“St Tome is a residential area with limited parking for the residents. These tourists come and park their vehicles where they want, and we senior citizens have to search for a place to park,” laments Tuan, as he recollects the days of the past when a walk through the ward was filled with neighbourly goodwill.
“Tourists come and put their legs up on the walls, dirtying them. Painting our houses is an expensive affair, and they aren’t in the least bit bothered about how dirty it leaves our walls. It is the lack of education and care-a-damn attitude of these tourists that is annoying,” thinks Tuan.
Life on the lanes in St Tome begins at around 9 am when the first tourists start trickling in and ends around 10.30 pm when Joseph Bar, a popular bar, packed with tourists, closes its doors.
“I have no problems if they come, but they should maintain some etiquette. Not that all tourists are bad. There are some who are very well mannered, but they are outnumbered by others who fail to realise that people live here and we need our space,” says resident Fatima Alvares.
“There are times when I am having my siesta and my sleep is disturbed by the noise created by these people passing my house. They should realise that people are resting in the afternoon,” believes Fatima, who otherwise does not mind sharing information about the past with tourists.
“There are good people and there are those with no manners, and I think it is time to live with both sorts of tourists,” thinks Fatima with a resigned look.
“I think the government should put in place some sort of regulations for professional photographers. They come and create a nuisance with their photography sessions, end up earning lakhs and we are left with dirt to clean. The government should adopt a system where we can be compensated too,” thinks Tuan.
“These tourists come guided by GPS and end up taking ‘no entry’ roads and creating traffic problems. Tourist vehicles should not be allowed. It is okay if they park their vehicles and come walking,” claims another resident Denzil Fernandes.
“This may look like a spooky bar from the outside, but I love it on the inside. We have never been to such a rustic place like this anywhere in India. This bar takes me back to some places in Europe,” says Sandhya from Delhi, as she knocks in a scotch at Joseph’s Bar.
Most citizens living in St Tome are senior citizens with youngsters having migrated to better pastures in Europe. Few bars, restaurants and coffee shops form part of the ambience offered by the river-caressed St Tome.
“We are all together on the fact that this behaviour by tourists is affecting us, but we are not together on how to handle it,” concludes Tuan with evident uncertainty about whether the government would help the residents find a solution.
The St Tome of today is different from the St Tome of yesteryears. Residents of the place may have aged, but the old lifestyle, attitudes and thinking still waft through the place.