On December 24th 1978 I was on Anjuna Beach in Goa.
For the period up to Christmas and New Year I stayed in a fishing family's house on the beach in Colva in southern Goa. The house had white-washed walls, shuttered windows, a red-tiled roof and a large colony of geckos. The fishermen were Konkani-speaking and Christian. I wanted to stay in Colva as it was quieter than the beaches in the north, with fewer freaks and basket cases, and the beach was huge. Colva village was along a road parallel to the beach, a quiet place among the palms and paddy-fields; but I was happy enough among the houses that lay right up against the sand. There were a few restaurants and shops near the bus stand and a cafe by the turning to the village and that was it. Not that the locals were all against development. The owners of my house were pleased with the Christmas bonanza and were using the proceeds to put up new rooms with sanitation opposite the house, and had the first customers in before I left.
The house had a kitchen space with a cooker and I used to go into Margao every other day or so to buy fresh vegetables to make stews to feed myself and others. The market there was old and covered and felt like the perfect combination of India and Portugal. The bus to town wandered among the little villages near the coast, all with little churches and Portuguese names. Benaulim was the next village south along the coast, a pleasant walk, a couple of shacks selling soft drinks on the beach and a small resort which remained mysteriously closed.
I went up north for Christmas Eve, walking down the coast and ending up at Anjuna Beach for the Christmas party. In the late afternoon people were arriving from all quarters. I met Indians from Bangalore and sadhus from Benares and Europeans comparing doses of acid. Coolies were bringing down the band's equipment and some of the villagers were preparing the catering. After dark everyone congregated on the sand in their various groups. The band, semi-resident Westerners, played sets interspersed with records but I did not recognise much of the music. Some people danced near the band, some of them naked, some people circulated for food; but most just stayed in their groups. Near me there was a Bom Shankar group with chillums and tridents, and a baba who was doing a fire-eating turn. An Indian man playing the film star sat on a raised dais with hurricane lamps, with swarms of fawning attendants and a blonde English woman giggling - a super-present arrived in the early hours with huge showy congratulations. There was a colourfully dressed group with beautiful people heavily made-up, doing coke and making a lot of noise. Another group of newly arrived Americans had coke and other drugs I did not recognise. Men and women freaked on acid stumbled about in the darkness. I watched a European thief at work sizing up a group of rich beautiful people.
The next morning I walked down the coast to Calangute where I had my Christmas lunch, on fresh tuna, chips and salad, before looking for a bus back south.
|Anjuna Beach in 2007: Picture by Roshan Sam, CC|
|Colva Beach in 2005: Picture by Elroy Serrao, CC|