Life’s a beach on India’s west coast
I SEE her walking along the beach in Goa, shimmering in the heat haze. She moves with a deliberate, upright shuffle. Balanced on her head is a stack of brilliant sarongs with a bulging plastic bag on top.
Her eyes dart left and right, looking for a friendly face or the burnt pinkness of a foreigner newly arrived. I notice others on the beach look down or away, or keep reading their books; some give her a dismissive wave of their hand, like swatting a fly. As she comes closer I see her eyes are bright but sad and I feel sorry all these rich foreigners will not even look at her.
I give her a smile of acknowledgement and she knows she has found her mark.
‘‘Hey-loh, you like some things?’’ she chimes as she carefully kneels in front of me, the towering sarong stack wobbling from side to side. ‘‘Just be lookin’, no buyings, very hot sun, too much hots, jus’ looking, OK? Where from you?’’
I tell her Australia and try to indicate I am not interested in buying.
‘‘Australia is good, good. You like sarong? Just I show . . .’’
The towering sarong stack has magically transferred to the sand and half a dozen have been opened out. The plastic bag is spilling bracelets, anklets, rings and beads.
‘‘You first business today. You bring good luck. I no business, two childrens and no eating today, this one you like, your price, OK?’’
Because no one else has given this woman as much as a polite hello, I buy two pieces. I get my desired price because she tells me what it is and it seems unreasonable to haggle with a mother whose two kids haven’t eaten today. The remaining sarongs are quickly refolded and restacked. Taking my 500-rupee note ($10.50), she kisses it on both sides before waving it around her forehead, a blessing for her first business of the day.
‘‘Thank you and good luck,’’ I say, standing on tiptoes and replacing the plastic bag on top of her tower of sarongs. Feeling happy that I have done my bit for the global economy and two hungry kids, I wave goodbye.
Fifteen minutes later I’m woken from a nap by another woman with a stack of sarongs on her head. I close my eyes and tell her thank you, but not today.
Twenty minutes later, there’s another, and then another. Sadly, I can’t help them all. RANT OR RAVE Send your 400-word contribution to our Follow the Reader column. Published columnists will receive a $60 gift voucher courtesy of kikki.K to spend on stationery, journals (pictured), travel accessories or stylish Swedish-designed gift items. More: (03) 9645 6346; kikki-k.com. Send your contribution to: firstname.lastname@example.org.