A picture paints a thousand words. Sometimes. Take a look at this one –
What do you see? A young couple on a scooter and another guy behind them. A few boats and a river in the background. Ok. For a first viewing.
MB took this shot merely trying to capture the young couple on the bike as they passed him on the street. But on downloading it to the laptop, MB could see a whole host of things he has seen many many times in a number of third world countries. The photo, for MB at least, sums up much of what is good & bad in Goa, Sri Lanka, Katmandu, Yemen and other similar places MB has had the good fortune to visit.
Now, lets take a closer look –
Nr 1 & 2
Maybe this young guy is a tourist from another part of India. Maybe from a well-to-do city family. And maybe he just hired the scooter for the day. But for purposes of this discussion, let’s assume he is a local from Goa. Chances are the guy is. The vast majority of locals travel by bike or scooter.
Hundreds of thousands of Goans own & ride scooters and small motorbikes on the narrow streets during the daily grind. The noise can be deafening as tens, or even hundreds, of them pass within a few inches of your ears as you walk the streets. And like most Goans (or Indians or Nepalese or whoever) the early-life dream is to purchase a scooter. And this young guy has managed to do it. Maybe by doing some odd jobs or by selling goods on the streets. Or working in some tourist related business in Goa, of which there are many. In any event, our young guy in the photo has succeeded and is driving what looks like a relatively new machine. More power to his elbow!
A boy with a scooter in any third world country is a more attractive proposition to a young lady than a boy without. He is the proverbial ‘suitable boy’ for many females. Not a hard and fast rule of course. But as the early bird gets the worm, the boy with the bike has a far greater chance to impress members of the opposite and get the girl. The boy without the bike can only offer long walks on the hot dusty street. The boy with the bike can remove some of life’s drudgery. Hop up. Let’s go to the beach. Will only take five or ten minutes. Sorry ‘boy without bike’, you have no chance. Save up some money. Ask family to help. Get a bike. And the rest will hopefully follow.
A boy with aspirations. A boy not afraid to try. Not yet a ‘suitable boy’ of course, but has started on the journey. Owns a bicycle, not a bike. The ice cream seller.
MB saw many young guys in the tourist spots of Goa selling ice cream from small containers strapped to bicycles. Just like this guy. It’s a hard graft. The cost of an ice cream is small and sales are not exactly booming. Most people prefer to take water in the hot temps. They buy water in the morning and keep it in the bag when traveling out. So the offer to buy ice cream is often rejected. But the sales are enough to keep the ice cream sellers in business, just about. The money earned will not buy a bike. But a man, or boy, has to start somewhere.
Some 60,000 people die annually from rabies disease worldwide. Resulting from dog bites. India suffers a big percentage of the total. Some 20,000 plus. Men. Women. Children. All bitten by dogs with rabies infected teeth and gums. Who die as result.
Similar to scenes MB witnessed in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, there is little or no control of the dog population in Goa or in India generally. Many have no owners at all. Dogs just roam wild, breed more offspring, and scavenge for scraps on food outside fast food shops or restaurants. And are constantly roaming the streets in the search to quell the hunger.
Some time back India had a policy of culling street dogs. Then some intelligent (not) politician had the great (not) idea that it is not kind or in conformity with the religion to kill dogs. Better to have them neutered so they can not breed. Nice idea in theory. But totally impractical and unworkable in the third world. So more and more dogs roam wild and breed more and more offspring the more and more people die as a result.
It must be said that the dog problem is not something you see occasionally as a tourist. Dogs are everywhere. And they are quite intimidating. Many growled at MB and family as they walked the evening streets of Calangute in Goa. Now MB grew up on a farm with sheepdogs and racing greyhounds and castrating wild bulls. He has no fear of of animals or dogs at all. So MB’s perception was not born out of dog-ignorance. Quite the opposite. He did not feel at all comfortable passing in close proximity to wild street dogs, many of them considerable in size, growling intimidatingly, until MB had moved off some distance. If any decided to attack, MB knew for sure he would suffer a few bites to hands or legs before he could fend them off.
The dog problem could be solved in one month if the politicians decided to place the safety of their people before the well-intentioned but hopeless ‘neuter the dogs’ idea. It would only take the (relatively wealthy) central Government to issue a bounty payable to all local Governments for all dogs humanely put down (ie killed). Local Governments could then offer that bounty to the general population. In three or four weeks every street dog would be captured, brought to the appointed locations where qualified vets could end the problem forever. And Goa’s (& India’s) image and safety would improve dramatically.
MB and family had the travel agency driver drop them to Goa International Airport for the departure to Qatar. MB & family moved their baggage inside the terminal building with the help of some porters. The driver headed off on the return journey to Calangute having exchanged goodbyes with his new Irish friends. Once safely inside, MB cast a quick glance outside through the large glass entrance doors to catch a final glimpse of Goa. As he did so, two street dogs walked past the door outside. And turned their heads to stare MB straight in the eyes. ‘Bye bye MB‘, said the two rabid mongrel mutts telepathically to MB. ‘Bye, bye, you mangy mutts‘ replied MB, ‘may your seed be weak and may infertility be your lot!’.
The Portuguese arrived on boats five hundred years ago. And Goa today has many many boats. Boats for fishing to keep the restaurants supplied with nature’s bounty from the river estuary and from the sea. Boats for tourist trips, like the one MB & family took for their trip to a Goan island for some swimming and a picnic. Boats for dolphin watching. Boats for sea fishing trips for tourists. Boats bobbing up and down on the seas as they cast their nets. Boats moored and anchored on river banks, on beaches and in jetties and coves. Boats. Boats. And more boats. So many boats.
On arriving in Goa, or in Sri Lanka, or anywhere similar you care to mention, there are two issues that immediately strike Western tourists full in the face when they compare with their home countries. MB has already mentioned the dogs. But MB places the dogs in 2nd place only. Winning the Gold Medal for ‘Third World Unacceptable Behaviour’ is the throwing of general rubbish on the streets, or in public amenity spaces or anywhere else a local happens to finish his fast food of his bottle of water. The wrapper or plastic bottle is invariably thrown aside onto the ground, without the slightest thought or even the smallest respect for his or her locality or country.
MB has debated this matter a number of times with Indians in the Middle East. Where many Indians live & work. They, like the majority of Arabs, do not confine rubbish throwing to their home country or home town. Anywhere is ok to throw rubbish. Anywhere, except the rubbish bin at home where you might decide to bring the food wrapper of bottle if you had the slightest bit of pride in yourself and your country. MB does not care that you call yourself a proud Indian, or that you might consider placing your life on the line for the national cricket team. If you throw rubbish on your street, then in the opinion of MB you have zero pride. Actions speak deafeningly louder than words. Your words of pride as you throw the burger wrapper onto the street are words of bullshit. Total and utter and 100% bullshit. You have no pride.
Some Indians that MB knew in Saudi Arabia tried to argue with MB that ‘rubbish throwing’ is a matter of education. And people in the West are more educated that those in poorer places. Hence they do not rubbish their streets or countryside. MB disagreed with them. Maybe education is a small factor. For MB it’s mainly a matter of pride.
As MB and family took the boat trip to the island, they boat’s captain stopped the boat on a few occasions to look at some dolphins who were jumping out of the water playfully as the boats got nearer to them. MB was happy to get one or two decent shots of the dolphin action. Food was served by the boat staff for the trippers to enjoy. Bottles of water were served. Of the 30 or so people on the boat, only MB plus wife plus daughter were the only non-Indians on the boat.
The boat continued on its way towards the Island. People started to finish their meals and think about the remainder of the day. And that’s when MB first observed it. Observed the vast majority of the Indian passengers discard their empty plastic water bottles and wrappers into the sea where only seconds or minutes earlier they had watched dolphins swimming. The three Irish Whities placed their bottles and wrappers into their bags for discarding back in the accommodation later on. But eventually the boat staff, who had not previously advised anyone that they actually had a rubbish bag, passed a large black rubbish bag around and the Irish placed their rubbish into that. The Indian passengers also placed what rubbish they had not discarded into the sea into the bag. Shame on Goa. Shame on Goans. Shame on India.
The rubbish problem, just like the dog problem, could be sorted out very quickly, in the opinion of MB. Indian Bollywood and cricket stars are like mini Gods to Indians. The Government, if it had the will, could enlist the help of the stars to mount a big advertising campaign. MB is sure they would not even charge for the task. Have a ‘Clean India’ week or month. Get the celebs involved. ‘My name is Sachin Tendulkar. I am a proud Indian. I do not throw rubbish on my countries streets. My name is Shah Rukh Khan. I am a proud Indian……….. etc, etc‘
Show the adverts before every Bollywood movie. Show them before every televised cricket match. Put them on billboards. Make it socially unacceptable to litter the streets. If you litter the streets you have no pride in your country. Introduce fines for littering like many other countries have done. Hey presto. One year later – problem solved or well on the way to being solved. If politicians had the will. But sadly they do not. Indian politicians are famous for lots of things and corruption is one of the things they excel at. There is no big pay day or no extra cash going into Swiss bank accounts resulting from a clean up. So the rubbish will continue to get thrown on the streets and the dolphins will continue to have to navigate around the bottles. And India will forever continue to look like a rubbish dump. Sad, but in all likelihood true.
Street sellers. Fruit sellers. Every poor country has them. Few job opportunities exist. No social welfare exists. If you want to eat you gotta earn. Street selling is something almost anyone can do. Collect or buy fruit. Set up a table on the side of the street. Sell. Earn. Eat. Live.
River & trees. In this case leading out to a very wide river estuary which in turn leads out to the Arabian sea on the West coast of India. Goa is blessed with miles and miles of beaches and much natural beauty. Just like many other places in India. The tourist opportunities are limitless. Nature or God has given many blessings.
Unfortunately, getting to India is somewhat difficult. There is no visa on arrival. You must go to the Indian Embassy in your country of residence to apply for an Indian travel visa. MB’s family members applied for their Visa in Ireland. They received the visa in seven days through the postal system. Apply on line, print out the form, sent form and Passport to the embassy by registered mail. Receive it seven days later. Inshallah. MB applied in the Indian embassy in Doha, Qatar. It necessitated some time off work. Drop your Passport and various additional paperwork to the embassy at 9am. Come back at 4pm and collect the Passport with visa. Inshallah.
The visa application form was amusing for MB. Name? Mother’s name? Fathers name? Mother’s parents names? Fathers parents names? WTF!
Then you eventually arrive. And you see the dogs and the rubbish. Welcome to India. God’s own country, as they say in the Southern Indian State of Kerala.
Men walking the streets. In all third world countries millions of men are walking the streets. Not doing anything obviously constructive. Just walking it seems. It also seems that the women are too busy to be out walking. And if you see them then for sure they will be carrying something like firewood or food for the family meals. But the men are just out walking. MB has not yet got to the bottom of this one. For further analysis. On future trips!
Goa – Summary
Do not let any of the above put you off a visit to Goa. The advantages, which are many, far far outweigh the disadvantages. Weatherwise, January or February are the best months to visit. Loads to do and see. MB will select some of his top pics for HX followers for next week’s post.