Goa, probably, has the maximum number of touts after popular religious places in India. The only difference: in the fun capital they sell vices and in the latter a conscious to keep away from them.
From the moment I arrived in Goa, there was always someone promising a cheaper room, transport, tour packages and foreigners’ company. No matter how hard a person tries to ignore, one always ends up loathing these brokers of vices.
As I went for stroll one day, down the road running parallel to the Calangute-Baga beach, teenagers started pestering me to buy tickets for “disco”. The bunch of tickets they held were bright red, to suit the passion on sale.
“Sir, meet girls from different countries at this disco,” shouted one. Another tried to tempt with “beautiful Indian girls from any region of your choice”. I walked pass them looking straight, displaying lack of interest. A two-wheeler halted next to me.
I turned around and saw a man in early forties, smiling at me. He had a look of a typical shrewd shopkeeper, who says a higher price for an item expecting the customer to get into the bargaining game.
“May I drop you somewhere?” he asked.
“I am just walking”
“You should stroll on the beach at the end of the road. There are the popular shacks and that’s where a lot of tourists hang around. Hop on and I will drop you”.
I got on to his two-wheeler with caution.
He started chatting. After the usual ‘where are you from’, ‘what you doing here’ and ‘are you alone’, he asked me if I had been to a disco. When I said a “no”, he started convincing me to visit one. He insisted that I go with him to see it once. If I don’t like it, I can opt out. He will drop me back.
The sun had moved to brighten the other parts of the world leaving this one in the daily darkness. He started riding through the small curvy roads lined with coconut trees. Took a left and then a right turn.We were far from the beach and the main artery that connects Baga to Calangute Beach. If he takes another turn, it would be time to get down, I told myself.
He halted in front of a two-story structure. Pointed towards the building: “You are about to have the time of your life,” he said rubbing both his palms with a corny smile.
When I hesitated, he started convincing me.
“Just Rs 800 ($16) for entry and you get three free drinks and a chance to meet attractive girls”
He thought I was playing hardball because of the entry fee. Asking me to wait, he went to talk to the manager for a discount.
Just outside the building was a small cabin. A well-built dark man in early his early thirties sat with the red tickets. He seemed like a bouncer-cum-manager. He sat expressionless but had an aggressive pair of eyes that waited to subdue the carousing visitors.
While the middleman, who got me to the so-called disco, spoke to the manager, groups of men started pouring in. All of them heavily drunk. Some fighting among themselves and some laughing on the comment their pals passed. There was a lot of convincing and persuasion going among the groups. “While in Goa, we have to do this. What stories are you going to share when we go back? You might be happy checking out women from a distance; I am not,” said one of the recent arrivals to his friends, taking a deep drag from his cigarette.
My guide to the disco culture came back with a new offer: pay Rs 500 ($10) and get one free drink. He made it sound like an offer never been made to anyone else in the past.
I was already getting curious about the disco culture. The entire scene playing outside the disco had transformed me back to Mumbai. It looked like a typical night right next to a Mumbai’s dance bar. I wanted to check if it’s the same inside.
Mumbai’s dance bars could be a great tourist attraction, if they take the skin trade out of it, a thought had passed me once. In Goa, it seemed the idea had taken shape and I wanted to see how. They had organized tickets as if it is a special show. Bollywood music came through the door every time it opened and closed. The middleman also mentioned absence the of skin trade. The visitor could only buy girls drinks and dance with them.
“I will pay if you let have a glimpse inside.”
“This is not allowed.”
“Will you check?”
He checked and was declined. He came up with another offer that the manager had especially made me as he thought I was unlike other usual visitors – an entry fee of Rs 300 ($6) but no free drinks.
I was confused if I should go in. This was not really my idea of fun and I wasn’t sure if there’s a need to explore the disco culture of Goa. Knowing that I would not be allowed to look inside, I got adamant about it. It ended in a stalemate.
It was time he drops me back but he asked me to wait for five minutes. He had to get another person to the disco and hurriedly went off. I waited for 15 minutes and started walking towards my hotel. About half an hour later, close to my hotel, I saw him standing in a group, convincing people to visit a disco. He looked at me and grinned. “Where did you disappear? I went looking and you weren’t there?”
It was time for my sweet revenge. If I would have bitten the bait, this person would have made 50 per cent of the entry fee I paid. Though I didn’t go inside the disco, I told him: “I went inside the disco to check it out. Had a drink but didn’t quite like the place.” And I hoped that he got worried about losing his commission.