Mangaluru: Holy Cow! Cattle Rule the Streets and Beaches in Colva/Candolim/Calangute-Goa

Mangaluru: Without a doubt, the happiest cows on earth live in Goa-they live a charmed life, spending their days sunning themselves on some of the most beautiful beaches around and roam the streets when they are off the beaches. They stand or squat starring at you in the middle of the road- motorists call them the “Brake Inspectors?”. While other Indian cows wake up and begin foraging through India’s filthy and congested streets for their morning meal, the cows in Goa make a quick breakfast stop at a trash pile, then head down to the water. They gather in groups of five to ten and lie down on the warm sand while staring out over the Indian Ocean.

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When you are relaxing on the beach, you expect seagulls, pelicans, crows and even occasional crabs scurrying around – But cows? That’s got to be a first. However, at “Goa’s Cow Beaches”, the bovines enjoy the beach as much as the humans and seem to have no issues barging in and disturbing the peace, whenever they feel like it. Strangely enough, this is has become a major tourist draw for people seeking some additional excitement, whilst on vacation. Where else but Goa’s beaches will you find half-naked Europeans, Indian women dressed in full-length Saris, Indian men all dressed up in terry- wool pants and long sleeve silk shirts (like they are attending a wedding reception), and off course, stray dogs and cows, all sharing the same beach? – and some of the beaches are at Colva, Calangute and Candolim. One thing good about Mangalurean beaches, we don’t have cattle on beaches, except for stray dogs.

Even though you may find all good things said about these three beaches on the website or travel blogs, but you’ll have to be there to actually believe it- these beaches will take you by surprise? Calangute Beach now is not what it used be years back -mismanagement and carelessness has spoiled the reputation of this lovely beach. You will notice everything on this beach- with fishermen untangling the nets for the next day’s catch, cows roaming or squatting around looking holy , packs of stray dogs fighting other dogs, silly white people scorching themselves in the sun, desi people having their chappatis and Sabji or beach marketers making a quick buck selling trinkets. There are cows all over the beaches, and they really don’t give a damn about what you are doing. They will sometimes chase the stray dogs, which is amusing and terrifying at the same time. When you are sitting there in your bathing suit, the last thing you want is a scared and angry cow running at you. And also not to forget about the bunch of stray dogs that come begging towards you for any left overs.

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The problem of stray cattle on the Colva-Candolim-Calangute beach stretch has begun to haunt tourism stake-holders and tourists alike as the North Goa beach belt gets into top gear for the season. Two herds of cattle park themselves every day near the main beach entrance at Calangute. As I noticed during our recent trip to this beach, large herds occupy prime stretches of the beach during the day making it difficult for tourists to set up their beach beds and also disturbing their clientele. Not only that the cattle also defecate all over the beach. While these cows wander around, it’s natural for them to perform their bodily functions. Even the cops on duty don’t give a damn about these cows creating nuisance to the public. But one funny thing that I noticed was, at the time of sun set, all the cows got up and headed back where they came from, walking side by side with beach goers. Funny, at the same time, scary too!

Few days ago, a bunch of doctors, around 35 of them left their white coats and stethoscopes back home and had headed for a vacation in Candolim-Goa- and I was a lucky dude to accompany them and being treated with good hospitality, food and liquor free of cost- you can’t beat that. Call me a compounder or a patient to be in the midst of these professional medicos- that’s okay with me. Staying at a posh resort in Candolim, everyday when we woke up and wanted to go for a morning walk, we were all greeted by a huge herd of cattle right at the entrance of the resort. There was cow dung all over the area, and it was so disgusting to walk on the streets/footpath with the cow-dung mixed with monsoon water. Simply terrible- and we saw a few foreigners clicking some photos of the filth as memories to back home to their country. And we are talking about Swachh Bharat awareness- probably we won’t see “Clean India” in the next million years?

For a few hours at the beaches, these cows enjoy the relative solitude. Then the humans arrive and it’s time for the cows to earn their keep. They spend the afternoon posing for photos with a steady stream of tourists, although “posing” makes it sound like they actually do something. They don’t. Their expression never changes, they barely move and only acknowledge the most obnoxious of tourists with a quick, harmless jab of their horns that seems to warn, “Careful human…you’re pushing your luck.” Other than that, they pose with that completely un-bothered expression that only cows can pull off.

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Occasionally, someone will manage to provoke a more aggressive reaction, usually someone with the brilliant idea of taking a picture while sitting on a cow. They don’t stand for this and quickly shoo the human away. Then they move further down the beach as a group in search of a little more privacy. They also refuse to collaborate on any more pictures for a while. The cows will stay on the beach to enjoy the sunset, then get up and move inland, as Goa’s beachfront restaurants begin to set up tables and chairs on the sand. They forage the piles of garbage for their evening meal before finding their favorite spots beneath the trees and turning in for the night.

Unfortunately, the humans like to drink around this time and in a few hours drunken tourists will discover the resting cows and attempt to get a few more photos. This is not a good idea. Picture time is in the afternoon. At night, the cows sleep and anyone who disturbs their sleep will be dealt with. Unlike during the daytime, at night they will aggressively charge at anyone who comes near them.

Speaking to one life-guard at the beach said, “While the Calangute village panchayat has a dedicated cattle pound, panchayat members expressed helplessness saying that they don’t have trained personnel to round up cattle. During the off-season, cattle can be seen loitering on the main Calangute-Candolim road. With the season now on in full swing and the road bustling with non-stop traffic, the herds have made their way to the beach because of the more relaxed atmosphere there. The problem occurs because cow sheds have all made way for new constructions and the cows have nowhere to go. But no matter what, the concerned authorities should do something about this cow menace”.

And that’s the present situation at Calangute Beach. The sun is setting over the sea at the beach and the smell of marijuana drifts from a grubby bar a little way up the road. A retired western couple pick their way between the cows, dogs and the rubbish, pausing to glare grumpily at the young Indian tourists who swoop around them on hired two-wheelers, whooping and passing bottles of beer. Apart from these stray cows and dogs lying or moving around on the beach, what really bothers is the dog “poop” and cow “dung” which is seen scattered all over the beach. Imagine a dog licking your feet while you are sipping and enjoying your ‘cold one” or a dog begging you for a piece of the succulent Chicken Vindaloo or Mutton Xacuti, while you are dining at a beach side shack, or a strange looking cow starring at you, like it is ready to attack you!

But something usually manages to intrude into this picture just long enough to remind you that, no, Goa is not paradise, for that matter even Calangute- Colva-Candolim Beaches, nor will we see paradise until Jesus returns. Goa is India’s good-time state, the hedonistic hippy haven whose promises of sun, sand, cheap beer and drugs transformed it into a magnet for backpackers and budget tourists looking for an alternative to the Spanish Costa’s. Years of mismanagement, non-cleanliness, stray animals polluting the sandy beaches and decline have prompted many British tourists and other Europeans to go elsewhere. But is the tourism department doing enough to rectify these issues – I don’t think so, while looking at the present beach situation.

In conclusion, all I have to say is that the concerned beach authorities should get down to serious business and take care of the deteriorating beaches, and get them back to “world-class” standards, so that the tourists-foreigners and Indians alike, don’t have to grumble and complain. You need tourists to come back, don’t you ? Hoping to see the Goa beaches back to the 80s and 90s standards, and definitely not at the present standard. Hope so! Keep the “Bovines” and “Doggies” away from Goa beaches and streets. Thank You.

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