Caitan was a man everybody knew in the village. He had a way about him which made you remember the small interactions you had with him – whether he greeted you with an extra-wide grin in the morning or helped pick up the bag of groceries you had dropped.
His was a special life. He was a special person. From birth he had a mental condition which made it difficult for him to comprehend things. Yet he was always trusting. He believed in the goodness of his fellow human beings, to help him stumble through life.
There were moments when he fancied the beauty around him, in nature and in people. At times he approached people to kiss them out of his tenderness for them. These gestures were most often misinterpreted by those around him. He was cast as a misfit in society. As people grew busier and more impatient they had less time to understand Caitan.
Caitan was a man with the intelligence of a child. He could not sense when danger was approaching. He was often found in the mornings, ragged and disheveled lurching in the path of vehicles speeding furiously to work. In the evenings he slept in the fields with the tattered shirt he wore.
He lived alone. His family had disowned him. Who could take care of a mentally unstable adult when there were already so many mouths to feed?
Caitan was alright when he was in his adopted village. People knew him and he survived on their largesse – on the pau the child across the street had brought for him, the rotis the lady of the house felt were surplus, and the occasional tenner he got which could fetch him a fistful of rice.
That day Caitan was burning with fever. He tried to communicate his pain but no one could understand him. They were all busy with their own lives. As the fever mounted Caitan grew more and more frustrated at not being able to handle his condition. He made the fateful decision of walking away to see if someone else could be of help.
Caitan left the familiar streets in the afternoon sun. He walked for many miles. He did not know how many. Then he came to what seemed to be a human habitation. They would be able to help him, he thought. He ignored the reproach in their eyes. A lady came by who reminded him of his mother. He reached out in desperation and relief to caress her face, when she screamed in terror. The villagers started chasing him. They chased him all the way to the fields where they tied him to a tree, hit him mercilessly and watched him die choking in the sludge.
On 12 January 2016 Caitanya Holt (30) a resident of Ohio, USA, was beaten to death allegedly by villagers in broad daylight in the rice fields of Korgao village of Pernem, Goa who suspected him to be a thief.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 24 January 2016; Pix courtesy indianrailinfo.com