By Damian D'souza Jul. 21, 2016
A hint of scandal accompanies the romances between young Goan men and older expat women. But then aren’t all affairs, a little bit of love, a little bit of lies?
At first glance, this seems like just another Goan Catholic wedding reception. Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life” is being belted out as couples proudly show off their legendary ability to jive. In one corner, older matronly ladies disseminate gossip of the groom’s many flings prior to settling down for good. In another corner, more old women indulge in some unwanted matchmaking oblivious to the magic of Tinder.
There are your garden variety Goan men, aged 18 and above, in ill-fitting suits with obnoxious ties crowding the bar: some chasing a buzz, some catching it, and others simply too buzzed to care. In the midst of it all, the couple who’ve just vowed before God and fellow men that they will love, honour, and cherish each other as long as they both shall live, oversee the entire shebang. The groom – James, 25 – looks as dapper as can be in a tuxedo, and the bride, Iulia, 45, is in a virginal, spotless white gown.
The music plays, the sun sets, and James – pushing the thought that he has to spend the rest of his life making love to this woman who has 20 years and 50 kilos on him, out of his head – leans over to kiss his brand new bride.
Behind him, he can hear his friend jeer.
I heard James’s story at a rundown little taverna in a village called São José de Areal in Goa, while marinating my liver in a mix of urak and Limca, in the company of a cousin and his friends who were making crude jokes about pakle bailo (white women) and goinche chede (goan boys).
There was great excitement about an upcoming wedding where the groom was a local boy and the bride, a much older foreigner, who had made Goa her temporary home. The boys couldn’t stop sniggering. James was now properly fucked, they said. I had no idea what the fuck they were on about. They kindly brought me up to speed.
Until about a year ago, James was blissfully resigned to living the “susegad” Goan life, waiting tables at a beach shack not far from home, chasing local girls, and playing football with his friends – all while making enough to support his mother and two younger siblings after their father died in an accident at his work camp in Kuwait. He, like many other goinche chede, secretly nursed the dream of getting out of the sunshine state, finding a job overseas, and never returning to lower middle-class life.
The smell of cashew feni and cigarette smoke was distracting me, but from what I gathered, this monsoon romance followed the girl-meets-boy script down to the last detail. White girl walks into restaurant where brown guy waits tables. Girl is struck by lust at first sight, and asks guy out for some fun. Guy agrees. And about one year, some branded clothes, a new phone, and some house renovations later, James signs on for his ticket out of Goa in the form of spousal visa and they dance slowly and awkwardly to “Faithful” by Lobo.
Through the alcohol haze, understanding was beginning to dawn. Education isn’t really a top priority among lower middle-class Goan families, and with their preference for the laid-back life, the supply of money is a constant worry. Cheaper labour from other states feeds the tourism industry, and life, for those who haven’t climbed on to cruise boats, isn’t easy. A quick fix then is to do what James and many others like him have done: Find “love” in the form of rich, older expat women in Goa, have their passports stamped, and fly off into a Nordic/Slavic sunset. It is a win-win situation. The goincho chedo gets his visa and the pakle bailo gets her very own short-order hunk, with a double order of tender lovin’.
Sitting in São José de Areal that day, I felt a growing respect for James and his ilk and I did briefly wonder if I’d wasted my youth in chasing stupid things like a career.
The goincho chedo gets his visa and the pakle bailo gets her very own short-order hunk, with a double order of tender lovin’.
And then I heard about Arun.
In the early 2000s, Arun quit his job as a techie in Bengaluru to set up a computer dealership in a sleepy village called Betalbatim in Goa. One day, Helena, who was then 45, walked into his shop looking for a computer for the house she rented. She was in Goa, simply to get high on the pretext of learning yoga. When she needed a computer, she walked into the local store owned by the curly-haired, TDH Arun. Something happened in that little computer shop: Arun uploaded love into Helena’s heart.
They were married two years later. Helena decided to return home first, to begin legal procedures that would make Arun a Belgian citizen. If everything went well, Arun would follow suit in six months. Back in her own world, far from the intoxicating Goan sun and the ministrations of her young toy boy, reality began to settle in. Helena might have realised that the curly hair and hot body weren’t necessarily a great foundation for a long-lasting relationship. Nine months later, a package arrived for Arun. It contained divorce papers. Arun’s dreams of drinking Hoegaarden in a Belgian pub vanished.
Arun’s story went on to take many twists and turns, and the last my boys had heard of him was that he did manage to get his ticket to Belgium, only to end up as a garbage-truck driver for the city. At the end of the drinking session, I’d heard so many stories of so many James and Aruns, some with happy endings and many without, that I no longer knew what to believe.
The romantics argue that Arun and James could have married these women because they truly loved them. Feminists call it exploitation, meninists call it sex-ploitation, equating it to the famed Thai service that culminates in a “happy ending” only for the paying party. But I’m with the pragmatists – it’s a rather equal-opportunity exploitation deal on both sides and it could go either way. Both consenting adults know what they’re signing up for. It’s a little bit of love, a little bit of lies, all thrown in with the hope of a happy ending for two.
If you ask me, that’s always better than a happy ending for one.
Damian loves playing videogames. If all the bounties he collected slaying zombies were tangible, he wouldn't need to write such bios. Seriously though, Damian used to be a cook who wrote, now he's just a writer who cooks.