Sometime ago there was an ad for a fizz called 'Do the Dew,' The fizz is still around but I don't see the ad anymore.
Am writing this from Diu, south of the Gujarat coast and one of the few Union Territories which remain in India. The morning was out of a picture postcard holiday with the weather oh so divine! A nifty auto took me to mandla caves, but not before I saw the immense rage of the sea as the waves crashed on the docile shore. Yesterday I saw their tumult too - like my life - as I gazed from a cliff at Diu fort constructed by the Portuguese in 1540. All I could mumble in reverence was:
Break, Break, Break
On thy cold grey stones O sea
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.
It is strange that in moments of the deepest experiences in life it is sometimes poetry that comes to mind - like an objective correlative, TS Eliot would say. Poetry has always been with me, in good times and in bad. I always carry a folio of verse when I travel, the simple reason being, with so much change around you, at least a poem can provide some sort of fixity. If fixity is what you want, that is.
Leaving the roar of the waves behind we ascended the steps to the Khukri Memorial where INS Khukri of the Indian Navy was brought down by 3 torpedoes by a Pak sub 40 nautical miles off that point on the night? of December 7, 1971. A salute to the Commanding officer, Mulla, who preferred to go down with the ship but I couldn't help thinking what if he had survived and lived to fight another day?
The talk meandered to to 26/11 with the autorickshaw driver saying that the 'atankwadis' must have definitely gone via Diu to Mumbai. Looking at the so-called policemen on duty draped over the steps, one listening to music on his mobile phone, the other lost in thought, it was easy to see why. Vigilance was definitely not a strong point here.
At the Parsi Bungali close by we were confronted by the tower of silence, now unused. The Parsis lived in Diu after they came from Iran. Now there are hardly any left here. Sanjan a port on the Gujarat coast tells of how the Parsis pursuaded the reigning monarch to allow them to stay on his territory promising to blend like the salt in the sea.
The tender coconut outside the Shiva temple took me back to those I had on the Eastern coast at Mahabalipuram. They always taste the most delicious by the sea.
'Fortin do Mar' [Small fort in the Sea], a small construction in front of Diu fort is believed to have been connected to the fort. Like a beseiged battleship it battles the waves which lash against it. Here too like that morning in Jorhat when I so wanted to visit Majuli, I was prevented to do so by the waters which churned before me. Only in Assam it was the river Brahmaputra. Here it was the Arabian sea.
A hearty lunch at 'Heranca Goesa' run by the amiable Francisco and Alina saw me in the best of spirits. The 'Feijoada' (a curry of pork sausage with beans) was made by Francis with verve and with fresh slices of bread and a simple preparation of green vegetable, coconut and potato made you feel this is life! Over pleasantries over lunch I discovered they know the architect Joe Henriques (my relation through my brother's in-laws) very well. Small world. Joe has completed architectural projects in Diu along with his son Roger.
Yesterday was the feast of St Thomas the apostle. What a spiritual gift it was to visit the massive church of St Thomas in Diu (picture alongside), which is now known simply as the Museum, since it houses intricate wood carved figures and figurines of Saints and sacred objects' d arte. When I went for the feast Mass at 6.15 pm preceded by prayers and intercessions, I observed the vast canopy of the church was so tacky and shorn of its whitewash with cement peeling away. Surely faith deserves better?! The same was true with St Paul's church close by - a distinct model of Se Cathedral in Goa.
I need to rush now to jump on the bus to Baroda (Vadodra) to see a dear friend Rajan. But it was certainly worth it to 'Do the Diu' because in times life calls you to push your limits. Like what Jaci Velacquez the sultry singer croons 'What doesn't kill you / makes you strong.'
I hear your angry waters
As your waves lash against
Your tempestuous history.
Fortin do Mar, Pensao Beira Mar
hold their own
against Sanman and Samrat
Down by the kerb
Amrutlalji hands out free Parle biscuits
on Saturdays to children going to school.
INS Khukri, the tower of silence
Memorials to the dead,
'midst the seance of the sea.
Like the wood bust of St Philip Neri
St Paul's Cathedral, regent of Bom Jesu
The feast of Thomas the apostle
His church now a museum.
Under the spire of the cathedral
Boys play football at 4.
'Zero pollution' 'In May, my boy'
says Fr. Cardozo from Utorda, Macazana
Feijoado e pao, musica do Cabo Verde
'Iremos juntos sozinhos pela areia
Embalados no dia
Colhendo as algas roxas e os corais
Que na praia deixou a mare cheia.'
(3-4 July, 2009)
Fortin do mar: 'Small fort in the sea' near Diu fort; Pensao do Beira Mar: Hotel in Diu converted from a Portuguese fort; Sanman, Samrat: Post Liberation hotels, i.e post 1961; INS Khukri: sunk by a Pakistani sub in 1971; Fr Cardozo: parish priest of St Paul's Cathedral, Diu; Feijoada e pao: Portuguese dish of beans cooked with sausage, eaten with bread; Iremos...: 'Through the sand alone we shall go together/Rocked by the day/Gathering purple seaweeds and corals/
Which the high tide left on the shore.' -Sophia de Mello Breyner Andressen
Translated from the Portuguese by Zelia Remedios, Diu.
'Diu' was published in A Peace of India: Poems in Transit by Brian Mendonca (New Delhi, 2011)