Goa – A Much Sought-after Destination
I love to travel (like a backpacker) and live on a shoestring and not splurge money around by living in fancy hotels and accommodation or eating in expensive restaurants or eateries and prefer public transport. Since I am very much interested in travelling, observing edifices, monuments and people, I make much use of the Walker’s express.
Apart from Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay), the place that I have visited the most in India is Goa. In the beginning, I used to stay with a friend and since 2015 I stay at a relation’s row house in one of the best residential localities near Panaji, the other best locality being Donna Paulo. Goans are friendly and nice people, but appear to be laidback and casual. Since Goa is a tourist destination, most traders try to rip off tourists. So, if a tourist is street-smart and does not shy to bargain, he could buy things at good prices. To give you an example, I had a plate of idli near Mangalore in 2012 for Rs. 07.00 and in 2015 a plate of idli in Goa (much inferior in quality, with junk chutney and sambar) was costing Rs. 55/- in an Udupi restaurant.
From the front balcony of the row house where I reside, just about 400 feet away, Mandovi flows into the Arabian Sea and there are boats cruising on the river taking tourists on dolphin and other tours or birthday and wedding crowds and in the evenings there are two casino ships anchored on the river and during the nights these vessels are well-lit with neon lights and signs. The scenery of the river and sea both during the day and night is panoramic. From the kitchen balcony, I can see a thickly wooded area that runs quite a stretch and we have feathery friends, i.e. crows and sparrows, including squirrels coming to the balcony to eat the grains and nuts and drink water that are kept for them.
Since I have a historical bent-of-mind, I went through the Internet and learnt that India initiated military action against Portuguese on 17th December 1961 and the Portuguese garrison consisting of approx. 4,000 men surrendered after two days at Betim, the place where I am presently residing. However hard I tried, I could not find out the exact place where the Portuguese surrendered on 19th December 1961. It appears, 30,000 Indian soldiers invaded Goa (equivalent to three small divisions) and 4,000 Portuguese combatants gave up virtually without a fight. Indians and Portuguese lost below 40 men on each side. Portuguese, Spanish and Italians may be good lovers, but they are not known for their military prowess and even in World War II, Italians surrendered to the Allies and Russians in thousands. British used to call them gentlemen soldiers. In 2016, the area on the hillock at Betim is heavily wooded with hardly any residents around for considerable distances and I wonder what it must have been in 1961 when one column of the Indian forces passed by this place?
Some State Governments in the Union of India have imposed or are trying to impose prohibition, when any politicians with brains will realize that one cannot have 100% prohibition, because police will allow the bootleggers to brew their noxious stuff for people who wish to tipple and in return collect bribes (haftas). This will be a big loss to the exchequer of any given State, as they will not get revenues but the police will start minting monies through regular haftas and others will also get their shares of the same.
There is a prohibition on alcohol in Gujarat, but illicit liquor is brewed locally and is readily available, so much for prohibition. However, time and again, people die by consuming country liquor brewed with spurious stuff by bootleggers and then it is an eyewash with the police arresting bootleggers and people supplying the ingredients/chemicals. In Gujarat, even factory-made liquor is available (at a premium) for people who have the means. In Saudi Arabia, one of the two to three countries with no human rights and freedom of expression, liquor is totally banned and if any expatriate is caught having “Siddiqi”, a hooch brewed from dates, he is put in the slammer for months, lashed with whips and deported. However, when Saudis come by the Causeway to Bahrain, then they drink like a fish, are totally intoxicated and wild, have a wild time at the nightclubs, hotels or in their rented, furnished apartments and are a good source of income for hookers. That time they do not realize that they are coming from a country, whose Monarchy is the self-proclaimed custodian of holy places and where life is ultra-conservative and puritanical.
By having liberal rules and being permissive is always good. In Goa, one can bus liquor bottles at the shops, have liquor at the bars, restaurants and hotels or a family can brew liquor from cashew fruits or coconuts at home, known as Feni. In bars patronized by common people, a peg of feni costs Rs. 10 which, in fact, is cheaper than tea. So, on a lighter or jocular vein, if one tipples regularly he need not have tea for breakfast but feni at a cheap bar or keep bottles at home. The beauty of Goa is that though liquor is freely available, one cannot see people drunk or reeling or staggering in public or fallen by the roadside. Further, in all swanky restaurants, resorts and hotels, there is music and customers interested in dancing can shake their legs.
There is just 2% excise levied on liquor and, therefore, it is cheaply available at shops or one can buy Feni brewed at home. Such situations are not conducive for bootleggers to ply their trade. When quality or good liquor is freely available, who will buy and consume bootleggers’ hooch and put their lives in jeopardy?
Unlike other States where liquor is available, but heavily taxed or States that prohibit the sale of alcohol, in Goa one does not see policemen coming to bars, restaurants, resorts and other places to collect haftas. The State Governments of Bihar, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu should study Goa’s case and emulate her. However, when the politicians and police are corrupt, they have their vested interests.
To get an idea of corruption, one should read “Carnage by Angels” by Mr. Y.P. Singh, an upright, ex-I.P.S. Officer, who quit the police force realizing that the department and system is corrupt and not meant for honest people.
Mention has not been made of tourist destinations, as I had written on Goa about nine years ago.
by Nelson Lewis