BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Dona Paula, folklore recounts, was a woman of charity who is said to have helped the people of her village. The eponymous village, after having received a makeover from the Government of Goa, looks appealing to tourists and locals. However, it has left the vendors disgruntled as they feel cheated after having been shifted to the new area.
“Tourists come, go to the tip and after taking photographs leave the place without even visiting our stalls. Before, they had to pass our stalls, but now, the number coming to check our wares has decreased,” says Idalina, as she waits for customers.
Dona Paula is a village where the Mandovi and Zuari rivers meet to flow into the Arabian Sea. It was once visited by locals keen on fishing; keen on travelling to Mormugao by launch; and keen on attending the occasional yearly dances.
“There is a lot of order after parts of the jetty have been restored. Traffic is better organized, but despite opening a counter to charge tourists to enter, the counter has disappeared and only the board remains,” confessed Domingos, who regularly visits the place to fish.
“There was a time when I used to get the best fish in this area. I now come here more to pass my time as there is hardly any fish. Hopefully, I will get ladyfish during the monsoons,” says Domingos wistfully.
Apart from the stalls selling artefacts from Goa, a few unoccupied cubicles are seen dotting the place.
“Each cubicle has provisions for four shops. How can one expect to function in such a small space? There is no room to keep one staff inside,” complains a villager on the condition of anonymity.
“These cubicles reflect the mentality of the BJP. I don’t know why they have been designed in such a manner and kept here. These boxes just kill the beauty of this place,” thinks another lady who sells her goods through a makeshift stall.
There are jet skis, boats and motorised canoes, and operators claim business is too slow.
“Our daily turnover is around Rs 6,000, and it is low. Business has not really picked up after the jetty was thrown open to the public, but we expect things to improve,” stated one of the motorboat operators.
“So far, most people coming to visit the jetty prefer to go near the statue, take some pictures on top, have something to drink and leave. We expect business to improve after the monsoons. The crowd that comes from October onwards is good for business,” reveals a lady operating the boat cruise kiosk.
Sitting at the bottom of the steps leading to the top are three photographers – all busy wooing customers or preparing prints to hand over to clients.
“We click photos here and provide our customers the pictures immediately as we have a printer running on batteries,” says photographer Arun.
“We charge Rs 40 for normal pictures and prices vary if clients need special pictures. We have customers who need photographs of groups or couples,” states Arun, who at 60 appears happy with the bucks he is earning.
As it starts getting hot, many tourists make a quick dash to the jetty for a picture and the males wander into restaurants for beer.
“Beer is good for health. It is too hot and nothing like a chilled beer to freshen my spirits,” says Vinod Kumar as his wife and children quench their thirst with aerated drinks.
Though not all villagers are happy with the profits of their businesses, tourists return with happy pictures and a different view of Goa.