Women in India: The Hustler of Goa - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog

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Women in India: The Hustler of Goa

Why I bought an overpriced bracelet from a woman who probably should’ve been on Wall Street.


On the tropical shores of the Indian state of Goa, it’s not uncommon to see locals pitching their wares as you sunbathe in the scorching heat. Men saunter by, flashing elephant-printed shawls and wraps, women trudge by pitching cool mango slices. Of all the salesmen and women on the beach, one woman in particular stands out.

Women in India: The Hustler of Goa

The women, Jana, approaches my friend and I demurely. We’re wary, wondering what she’ll pull out of her bag, but she strikes up a conversation instead. Her charisma pulls us in instantly. She sits on the edge of my reclining sun chair, confidentially, like we’re old friends, and the three of us enthusiastically participate in a cultural exchange.

In another world, in another life, this woman would be a high-salaried saleswoman or a CEO. She has something that her fellow salesman do not: sociability, confidence, the ability to draw us in and make us want to buy what she’s selling. I don’t want any of the anklets, necklaces, or bracelets she lays out on the chair beside me. But that’s okay. I’m not buying those items; I’m buying her.

Women in India: The Hustler of Goa

India is not a stranger to women entrepreneurship. Women-formed Self-Help Groups (SHGs) abound throughout the country. The SHGs are formed so that traditionally unbankable individuals can open a savings account with the combined funds of the group, and pull out loans. In some cases, the members (normally women) are able to use the loans to start their own enterprises. Some start tailoring shops or schools, others open snack stalls, and still others form their own beauty parlors. With the burdens of poverty in rural areas, and the restrictions on women abundant, fewer women than you might think use their loans to generate more income.

Even so, none of the SHG members I ever encountered had the knack for sales like Jana. Many of the women SHG members found themselves in positions where they could acquire loans and learn skills such as tailoring to earn their own income. However, they didn’t have the sales instinct or the marketing opportunities to make any real money. Jana on the other hand had instinct in abundance and she used the beaches of Goa as her marketing channel.

Women in India: The Hustler of Goa

She tells us, seated at the edge of the lounge chair, that she’s from a remote village in the state of Karnataka. She comes to Goa for a few months out of the year, during the high tourist season, to pitch her wares and make some money for her family. Her husband is a stay-at-home father, taking care of their four children, including their one handicapped son.

Looking at Jana’s flat stomach through the open flap in her sari, I doubt whether she’s ever given birth to a child in her life. This could all be part of the pitch, and yet I’m still drawn in, wanting to fuel this bright spark.

I select the items I intend to buy and the haggling process begins. I offer a price and she gives me a disdainful look. Jana of Karnataka launches into a short-winded lecture on the virtues and rhythms of bartering: “No.” She says. “First I offer a price and then you bargain. That’s how this works.” She’s right. Of course she’s right. She’s an old pro, bartering with tourists on the sparkling shores of Goa for years. I’m the amateur and I had jumped the gun.

We begin again, her offering a ludicrous price, and me shaking my head and offering about half. We ping pong back and forth, settling on a price that is by all means still too high for the quality of her products. But again, it’s not the bracelets I want. I may not even wear them. I want to see her successful, I want to imagine her taking care of her potentially non-existent family. I want her to have what a woman of her background cannot possibly have but what she deserves; an office job on Madison Avenue, tailored power suits, a classroom where she can teach the impressive skills she knows, seemingly innately.

India is in every sense of the word a developing country. Their tourism, their business, their women’s rights are all growing with awkward, sometimes dizzying spurts. It is now more common for women to go to school and get jobs, and with the perpetuation of educated women, India will start seeing major shifts in women’s roles. We may one day soon see a time where women with Jana’s graceful skills at the bargaining table are nurtured and encouraged.

Until then, you can find Jana on the beaches of Goa from November to March, with a hustle that will make you swoon.

Ariana is a writer and world traveler. Her writing covers her three main passions: women’s empowerment, travel, and culture. The beauty of the world is not just in scenic mountain views or turquoise waters; it’s in doing the thing that gets you out of bed in the morning. For Ariana, that thing is stringing words together.

Reader Discussion: 125 Comments

  1. Lula Burton

    its all part of the experience of Goa beaches, although I don’t really buy anything from them (wife might) I occasionally do like a little chat with them.I personally don’t mind them, would be a little disappointed if there were not there in dec, lol

  2. Megan Hamilton

    I admire their effort and it must be so hard to do what they do, but goodness it got annoying after the 15th seller. How many pineapples/bracelets/sarongs/wooden bowls/drums do they think you need!!!

  3. Anne Rios

    Hah! I really enjoyed Gao as well. I bought a small trinket from one woman early on while staying at the beach. Mostly to get her to stop annoying me. And I’m glad I did because every day she would come up to me and ask how I was today. Never tried to sell me a thing again and neither did her friends! But yeah, they were pretty obnoxious on a lot of the beaches.

  4. Ramon Walters

    I’ve never been to India but Mrs. C. and I are contemplating a trip next year. But we’ve been to beaches where the vendors swarm you relentlessly. Like you, I wonder how these people manage to make a living. I really love your travel perspectives and I look forward to reading them.

  5. Some of the offers are acceptable and even desirable, like the women who walk around carrying baskets of fresh fruit on their heads and the ones who……ok, just the fruit. The rest of the offers range from the useless to the ridiculous to the annoying.Some are apparently just ridiculous to me, like the guys selling plastic looking junk food they call chips. Apparently, they taste good judging by the number of people I saw stuffing their faces, but, while I have no problem eating insects in China or a live octopus in Korea, there was no way I was putting anything so overly processed in my mouth.

  6. Whether you’re lounging on the beach, sitting in a restaurant, browsing shops or basically doing anything other than sitting in the dark in your room, hawkers in Goa will want to sell you something you neither want nor need. And often something you can’t even really identify or make sense of.

  7. Freda Miles

    “I want nothing….” The second most common phrase you’ll hear in Goa and in any other touristy area of India really. The reason for this, of course, is the most common phrase, “Hello my friend, you buy __________.”

  8. Kathryn Matthews

    The great thing about having been going to Goa for many years is that the majority of the beach sellers know us and just give us a smile and a wave and walk past. The same goes for the beggers. Same faces year after year!!!

  9. Myra Jordan

    Can’t say I’ve ever been bothered by beach sellers when I’m in the shacks. I agree some of them can be very persistent and it can get a bit wearing saying no thank you all the time but they’re only trying to make a living at the end of the day. I have been known to take shortcuts to the beach to avoid walking past all the stalls as it sometimes takes you ages to get to the beach when you’re stopped by every single beach sellar. I don’t find them as bad in Goa as in the Gambia where they all swarmed around you as soon as you walked out of the hotel.

  10. Casey Craig

    With a little effort, you can have a great laugh with the beach sellers. We made a good friend in a young girl called Ranooka. We often bought her a bite to eat and a bottle of water. Towards the end of our holiday, I found that just a slight movement of the head from left to right and they just passed us by.I have to say I did enjoy Mandram beach with no sellers whatsoever. It made a nice change. But the CCB beach stretch wouldn’t be the same without them.

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