‘I tell you solemnly, one of us shall betray God.’
‘Today, I’ll begin to unravel this dream, a dream which had always been sort of a big curse to me. This is the first time that I am traveling to the land that my people had ruled over some centuries ago. For me, Goa has been just a dream since I was born and today as the aircraft lands on its soil, I will begin to unravel this disturbing dream which had been plaguing my sleep since I had become old enough to think. Dreams which had given me many a sleepless nights. Dreams that I couldn’t fathom. Dreams about people who had lived hundreds of years ago. Dreams about an unknown mystery… of an unanswered question. And after this journey, I wish to sleep peacefully, forever.’
These thoughts ran in Cathy’s mind as her eyes took the passing clouds through the small window of the aircraft. Cathy, short for Catherine, was a young college going girl from Lisbon, Portugal. She was a beautiful girl, of creamy complexion, slim and of medium height. But where here face emitted exquisite and delicate features, her eyes kind of betrayed the pain and the fear that lurked in her mind.
She turned to look at her companion, Sanjose, her fellow classmate and her boyfriend. Sanjose was of the same age as Cathy. Tall, dark and with sharp features, he was the cynosure of girls’ attention. But to him, Cathy was everything. Little did he realize that 3 weeks ago when Cathy had first popped the question to him to accompany her and the students of her University on their annual college trip to Goa in India instead of some traditional place in Europe, his nonchalant yes answer would be so readily accepted by her.
Cathy had always wanted to visit Goa but had dared not venture alone. Her parents wouldn’t have allowed it. It was only at Sanjose’s behest, her parents had agreed to let her go to visit her ancestral place. And in no time, their classmates too had readily agreed to make this trip. For the students, this was a novel idea to visit the land that their forefathers had ruled over centuries ago. The land they had learnt about in high school.
Goa, one of the smallest states of India, is located on the western coast of the country facing the vast Arabian sea. Till 1961, Goa had been a Portuguese colony since 1510 when Afonso de Albuquerque captured the island state and brought it under the Portuguese rule. Soon the land of Goa turned into a great trade center under the Portuguese.
In the years to come, various Viceroys ruled Goa and the locals managed to live without much of negative repercussions though there were some strict regimes to follow which the locals bravely followed. But at times, the Portuguese did witness some revolts from certain sections of the locals who demanded freedom. However, their actions were quickly and harshly curtailed by the Portuguese authority.
But in 1925, with the rise of power of a dictator in Portuguese, lots of new and strict laws and bans came into force. The locals soon started demanding collectively for a free Goa but their actions and pleas went unheard until 1961 when the Indian Army liberalized it and brought it under its fold after years of peaceful negotiations with the Portuguese authorities had failed. Thus ended the Portuguese rule in Goa.
Cathy’s thoughts were broken as the captain’s voice boomed from the speakers, announcing that the aircraft will be landing in about 30 minutes on the Indian soil at the Dabolim Airport. She kind of felt elated but at the same time she felt some apprehension.
She peered outside to look at the vast Arabian Sea spread out below. It looked so majestic in the shimmering sunlight. In the distance, she could see the land as it loomed nearer and nearer as the aircraft made a slow descent. Her breathing became heavy. She was nearing her goal.
The aircraft made a smooth landing at the Dabolim airport and slowly taxied itself to a stop in front of one of the terminals. The group of 20 students all bumbling with excitement, picked up their handbags and rushed excitedly to the exit ahead of the other passengers.
Cathy remained seated, eyes closed trying to savor the uncanny feeling that she felt. She then took a deep breath to ease her heavy heartbeats. Letting out a huge sigh, she opened her eyes and slowly pulled herself up from her seat. She pulled open the overhead cabinet and dragged her handbag out and with baited steps, walked to the exit.
She slowly peered outside and watched the airport with anticipation. This was the modern world. This wasn’t what she had expected but then this was the airport in the heart of the city. And her destiny lay on the outskirts of the city where there was hardly much of human dwellings. Once again, taking a deep breath, she started down the staircase and then took that final step to touch the ground. Finally, she was standing on the land of her ancestors.
She stood still, closed her eyes for a brief second and then bent down. As her fingers touched the ground, she opened her eyes and brought her hand to her lips to kiss it. This was it… her motherland. Her dreams were unraveling. And then she heard the soft laughter that’s been ringing in her ears since she was a baby. She closed her eyes again for a second and the laughter slowly diminished. She was getting closer to understanding the mysterious laughter… the mysterious words that has been haunting her since she was a baby.