Life’s a beach on In­dia’s west coast

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - RICHARD MAYNE

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: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au.

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