Baga of the 1980s is no more; that of the 1990s is disappearing fast and as Indian tourists have come to stay, expecting foreigners to opt for Goa as a holiday destination is quickly turning into a dream.
“There were people on the road, we and locals, and there was sound but not the noise of today. Minus the beach, Baga resembles night life in some metropolis of India,” moans Zule, who decided to make Goa his home years ago.
It is 9 pm and the Calangute-Baga road is bustling with activity. As a group of Indian tourists walk through or stop their vehicles to seek directions, they are accosted by men asking, “do you need a massage? do you want to go to disco?”
The ‘do you’ questions keep increasing as the night gets older and at some places even ladies – walking in groups – are added to the bracket of ‘do you’.
If the scene on the road is chaotic, a walk on the beach is not so pleasant either. Apart from the lights reflecting off the water, the noise from the restaurants caressing the sands, silences the soothing sound of the waves and as the night grows older, the sound and stench of bad stomachs gets emphatic.
“The belt is full of tourists from India and their choices of food are pretty different. There is just a handful of restaurants serving Goan cuisine whilst the others offer Indian food and are well frequented,” says Martin, as he sits in one of the few bars in the area.
Tito’s lane is the busiest and is perhaps the only road on which one sees a few foreigners in some restaurants where, apart from food, Indian music is the new genre.
“I like to listen to indie music when I sit for a drink as I grew up listening to such music. You may call it filmy but that is the music I like,” says Mila, as she and her friend puff from a hookah.
In her early 30s and wearing an outfit cut to her shape, Mila thinks the beaches in Goa and the helpings in restaurants in North Goa take her close to memories of her breaks in Europe.
“I have heard that the foreign tourists will be arriving later this season but when they do, the trip is different and we will even see more men like you coming,” observes Mila as the JD she sips, spins her mind to the past.
As time moves forward, the Indian men soliciting business on the roads get more adventurous or bold and the shift from massage to good time becomes more pronounced.
Russian, African and even North American – the offers grow tall with little inhibition of who is listening. “Prostitution is big business here. If not, do you think there would have been so many Indians around?” asks a restaurant owner cupping his mouth.
“In the olden days, the scent of hash was distinct at this time of the night in this area. That smell has disappeared and I am told that now some other drugs are sold,” observes the restaurateur.
Today, Baga by night is no more the haunt of locals and foreigners. It feels like a big Indian bazaar with loud Indian music, rich alcohol and a mixture of north and south Indian food.
Times have changed and with that tourists too on a belt that was once the favourite of foreigners.