Nice Goans and Fat Russians

[Re end of last post – false alarm.]

Hmmm. Goa is a bit of a conundrum. After a day I wanted to leave; in the end I decided to stay for 6 days. I’m glad I did. (If nothing else, to learn how to ride a scooter – more on that tomorrow).

Goa is the smallest province in India by some way. It is without doubt predominantly a tourist resort. At times the worst of British peeks its ugly shaven head from behind the idyllic beaches – a restaurant offering “Sunday roasts”, a Manchester City FC flag flying at the bar on one of the remotest beaches, even a Domino’s Pizza franchise for God’s sake.

But two other nationalities are starting to dominate here. I had been warned in Mumbai that the place was run by Israeli and Russian mafia, but no-one told me they would form a large proportion of the tourists too. The evidence is everywhere – try the “Gagarin” bar for instance, or the adverts for restaurants subtitled “All foods served – Russian, Israeli, Chinese Tandoori”. Or just stand on the beach and look – and listen.

The locals I talked to confirmed this growing trend. Rajan works as a conservationist. For 70p a day, he protects the Olive Ridley turtles that return in dwindling numbers to Morjim Beach in North Goa. “The Russians are buying everywhere” he says, pointing across at the recently built and massively conspicuous Casablanca resort that has cropped up in one of the more remote areas of the coast. “The government loves them and their money, not me” he adds – not great news for the turtles, who aren’t the biggest fans of trance music at 3 in the morning while they are quietly trying to lay their eggs.

On the positive side, Rajan is just one example of the good natured Goans. My hosts in the Arjun Villa, Godfrey and Joan (Christians converted by the Portuguese like 50% of the Goan population) have been welcoming and engaging. They both worked in Oman for 10 years before returning to Goa and gave an interesting explanation as to why so many Goans go overseas.

India’s 27 states have more than 60 languages. Despite the governments efforts to promote Hindi (and latterly to re-promote English), these local languages still predominate. As a result, if an Indian company hires a CEO from Gujarat, he tends to employ people he can understand – Gujarati speakers. When a CEO from Maharashtra province (where Mumbai is) takes over, out go the Gujaratis, in come the Marati speakers. And so on. Goa, being tiny, suffers from having very few “godfathers” in business, so they all go overseas to the Middle East for work. QED.

I’m glad I stayed. It is proving to be really informative, even if by all accounts Goa is an anomaly from the rest of India. The beaches and the sun are stunning, and are definitely a great way to step off the conveyor belt.

And finally… India may be making an impression on me, but I’m making my own impression too. Every time I take out my notebook and start writing, Indians stop and stare with incredulity. They’ve never seen a left-hander writing before. Combine that with my mal-coordinated attempts to eat right-handed, and I am definitely leaving an impression, even if it’s only on the tablecloth laundry bill.

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Filed under 'mind the gap' journey 08-09, All posts, India '08-'09, South India

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