I spent the equivalent of 30p on a coconut and some peanut brittle yesterday, simply so that I could have an excuse to chat to this lady, one of the six female fruit sellers I’ve spotted on my local beach. They walk up and down all day, carrying heavy baskets of fruit (pineapple, coconuts, papaya, passion fruit, limes, bananas and mangoes) on their head and offering them to the sunbathers.
(When I say “chat”, I mean a combination of pidgin English, hand gestures and drawing in the sand with a stick).
Once someone indicates that they want to buy something, the women heave the basket down onto the sand, rummage around and then extract the chosen item.
They then produce a cloth and a fearsome looking knife, and peel and slice the fruit into neat segments. These are in turn popped into a small plastic bag and some mineral water is added, to both remove sand (“Sand is bad!”) and to keep the fruit moist.
Over the weekend, I noticed that a lot of the Indian visitors (Goa is a popular weekend destination for people based in Mumbai, Pune and Bangalore, as it’s only an hour’s flight) also have a small twist of garam masala powder on the side, or even some salt.
I had a bad stomach upset on Friday, so I’m being a bit cautious at the moment in terms of what I eat and drink. One look at the “prep zone” for the fruit sent my digestive tract and my imagination into overdrive, so I settled for a coconut, learning in the process that the water it contains is apparently a good remedy for curing food allergies.
The fruit seller in question is the Grande Dame of the beach, known to everyone. People call her “Mama” and she seems to inspire a great deal of affection; I’ve seen quite a few visitors buy her drinks, offer her a seat, buy fruit from her and then immediately give it away again to one of the children (I did this with my coconut), or help her heave her 30 kg basket back up onto her head.
She told me that she’s been selling fruit on the beach for the last 30 years, and that she travels to Goa (not sure from where – she’s very dark skinned, so possibly one of the more southern states) each year for the 6 month season. She lives with the other women and they go each morning to the wholesale fruit market in Panjim in order to buy the day’s produce before taking to the beach at around 10am – from where she then walks up and down, back and forth, until it gets dark at around 6pm.
It seems like a brutally hot and hard way to make a living, but perhaps it’s made more bearable by the fact that the fruit women are so popular with the visitors – people like to chat to them, to buy from them, to help them – compared to the women (and men) who sell all the other items (drums, necklaces, manicures etc) who are brushed away with irritation and rudeness (then again, they also poke you with a sharp finger if they speak to you and don’t get a response, so I have a bit more sympathy with the sharp retort after I was prodded yesterday).
I’m giving the beach a miss today and will have another go at visiting Rainbow House; my trip last week was thwarted by the fact that the road to the home was blocked by a fallen tree – yet another casualty of the cyclone. When I called for an update, I was advised to try again today – so that’s the plan.
And as we know that I love a pun, I’ll end by saying that fruit puns are a lemon tree, my dear Watson.