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<nettime> A Day at the Zombie Beach
Patrice Riemens on Mon, 21 Jan 2002 00:22:28 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> A Day at the Zombie Beach


Anjuna is where it all began. Well, almost. The very first hippies had
come to Calangute in 1967, apparently because there was a hotel here,"A
Caravelha", the result of Portugals half-hearted attempt at getting some
form of tourism started in its far-away and definitely backwardish Indian
possession. India had put an end to that, and to Portuguese colonial rule
in Goa in general in 1961, but did very little with the new Union
Territory till far in the seventies. In 1968, a Calangute hippies
threesome, consisting of a couple and '8-fingered Johnnie', discovered
Anjuna's large expanse of unspoiled white-sanded beach, and before soon
the place became a legend.

Today, Anjuna is looking back on 30 years + of backpackers tourism, and Mr 
Camillio d'Souza, of Dallroys Inn has seen it (nearly) all. The flower 
children, the coming of the Italian hordes, followed by the drug trade, 
the nudist culture, the parties on the beach, and how everything seemed to 
grow bigger and faster. And more dangerous too, as tourist under influence 
slammed their motorbikes into coconut trees and addicted western women 
jumped to death in the village wells. Nationalities came and went, 
American Vietnam draft-dodgers followed by South European a-socials who 
had cordoned the beach of with huts at some stage, resulting in irate 
locals burning the "Italian village" and beating its inhabitants to pulp, 
North European beautiful people who started to attract voyeuristically 
inclined Indians ("Foreign tourist come for the beaches, domestic tourists 
come for the foreign tourists" - the Mediterranean had seen that 
before...) 

And then came the party scene, and Goa Trance started its conquest of the 
worlds discos from the full moon parties there - only to come back to 
source with plane-loads of DJs and clubbers. Open University researcher 
Arun Saldanha is checking out on this particular brand of cultural tourism 
against the backdrop of the globalisation of customs and tastes. He 
collects - and shares  tapeloads of anecdotes and vignettes, collected 
from to-days visitors and old-timers alike. It helped me a lot to make 
sense of this strange place.

I had only a day-and-half to spend in Anjuna, but perceived it as
positively weird as soon as I had set foot there, or rather the tires of
Frederick's mobike had hit the villages ill-defined borders. The place is
a spread-out without clear center, separate clusters of houses divided by
a vaste expanse of seemingly barren land (venue of the notorious weekly
Flee Market), with wawering ribbons of palmtrees at the fringes. As we
were headed for Mr D'Souzas inn, it was South Anjuna that was to be my
base.  Just as well, since this is the most authentic part, home to the
real people and the die-hards (Johnnie 8-fingers still lives there). The
atmosphere immediately brought me back to those smaller and less mass
marketed Greek islands, where the newcomer is made to feel somewhat
unwelcome, or rather, is made to understand at once that there is an
unbridgeable gap between him (her), and the true (un)natives.

That gap is all body-language (and dress), timings, itineraries, and way
of moving around. Arun explained me the cult of the Enfield motorbike, the
only real conveyance for the hard-core, street-level (fe)male macher,
tara-tump-tumping the odd mile (seldom more)  between his (her) digs and
the beach shack. Strict hours and consuming patterns seem to prevail
there, with an almost court protocol of who to be seen where with whom.  
Since the more tormented relief of the landscape (compared to the South
coast) seem to provoke an equally more violent surf, bathing is
comparatively less. Nudity seems to have almost died out (either by the
antics of busloads of day-trippers from Panjim, or by the ministrations of
the increasingly severe local police), but Israelis seem still to indulge
in it. The Israelis have indeed debarked en masse, and for them the place
is a kind of R&R area after their unnerving months of military service. In
Anjuna these days, Hebrew seems to be more prominent in writing than
Hindi...

But this time the regulars seemed listless. Panchayat polls were in full
swing, resulting in the whole district being declared 'dry' for the
several days on end, and there were no parties in sight either. The last
one had been on January 4, and since, an injunction from the High Court
against playing loud music after 10pm appeared to be strictly enforced.
Tough luck for the genuine crowd who would not dream of showing up before
6 or 7 am, in order to avoid the defilement of rubbing shoulders with
untouchables fresh out of the charter plane or the Mumbai bus. So they
were hanging around on the beachside, or - in even larger numbers - in
various outfits in the interior (including the famous German Backery),
partaking in the chillum ritual, obviously yet another initiated-only sort
of pastime.

A few more energetic types were however going for hang-gliding, something 
that had been an Anjuna speciality for the past ten seasons orso 
(recently, a buggie-jumping tower has been erected on the North end of the 
settlement). Hang-gliding is of-course an expatriates-only business (and 
at Rs 8000 the 5-day sessions, out of reach time- and money-wise for most 
Indians), one of the many manifestation of an opaque array of economic 
activities deployed by the just more than casual visitors. Yet one more 
thing I could ruminate upon when rejoining Mr DSouza congenial lodgings 
under a star-studded night. Even if excluded  purposefully or not  by the 
local elite of the day (including some stunningly beautiful  but so 
strangely conformist  German women), I was staying in the (now empty) 
place where it all had happened. And unlike them, I did have a bottle of 
wine..

Patrice Riemens, Panjim, January 20, 2002

----------

If you're in anyway conversant with Goa Trance, Arun Saldanha would like 
to hear from you (and also if you have specific connections with Anjuna, 
or tourism in Goa in general): j.j.a.saldanha {AT} open.ac.uk

Frederick Noronha is a repository of knowledge on all possible (and 
impossible) aspects of life in Goa: fred {AT} bytesforall.org

Alito Sequeira is lecturer in sociology at Goa University and runs a
programme on (the effects of) (foreign) tourism in Goa. His university
welcomes researchers from abroad, especially on exchange basis:
<alito {AT} unigoa.ernet.in>
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