RK

RK

The first five chapters from the published novel.

BARROZ - Guardian of D’ Gama’s Treasure

(English)

Author: Jijo Punnoose

First published: July, 2018 : Copy rights Reserved

Published by: Navodaya Studio. Kakkanad, Kochi, Kerala Pin-682030

 

Printed At: Don Bosco  IGACT

Design Layout: RK, KS  (Art Directors. Radhakrishnan & K. Sheker)

Distributed by: Dee Publishers, Eventique House, 2F, Apple Tower,

NH Bye Pass Junction. Palarivattom, Kochi 682024.  deepublishers@gmail.com

Price: INR 450/-

All rights including copyrights and the rights of translation etc. reserved and vested with the publishers .

No part of this Book may be reproduced or copied in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publishers.

voodoo doll

character design

Prakash Moorthy

Preface

The sprouting of this story occurred four decades ago - year 1980 to be exact, when we were searching native fables and myths for making a children's film in 3D.

The Portuguese-Afro-Indian Myth outlined here was just one among the many that were set aside when selecting the Kuttichathan Myth to narrate a children's fantasy.

I did revisit the subject in 2003 when we were walking along Fort Kochi waterfront. Jude Attippetty pointed out a fascinating sight to me … some distance from the boat jetty, there was an man sitting atop a bollard. Then it occurred to me that this could be that ghost guarding his master's treasure in the Portuguese-Afro-Indian Myth ... as seen by an adolescent girl. I wrote the story and circulated it among a few friends.

(It was only emails those days. No blogs or wattsapp).

Kochi was in the excitement of the Global Investor's Meet 2003 and hence the reason of my placing the story during a casino investors' meet in Goa. The casino is to come up at the very spot where the ghost was guarding the buried treasure. 

Rajeevkumar, who was in charge of the event management at the Kochi Global Investor's Meet 2003, pointed out the similarity of the new story with that of our earlier film My Dear Kuttichathan. Both are about a girl child befriending a treasure guarding spirit. I said to him "... so be it, but the child in the Kuttichatan myth has become an adolescent now in the Portuguese-Afro-Indian myth". Also, as the psychiatrists say, troubled adolescence is one cause for poltergeist activities in a neighborhood.

Given here is a revised version of what I had originally written in 2003.

Jijo. Kakkanad.  July, 2018

"BarroZ, Espíritu Maligno, ¡Partida!"

“Evil Spirit, BarroZ! Depart!”

Title - A Dutch Surprise Attack on Thee Portuguese Galleons in the Bay of Goa, 30 September 1639.

Artist - Hendrick van Anthonissen  (1605–1656)

A Portuguese-Afro-Indian Myth

 

Along the Malabar coast of India, since days of old, there is told a 17th century fable, about a hidden treasure. The treasure of D'Gama family. The story dates back to the maritime period when Portuguese seafarers sailed to India in their magnificent galleons and built forts, cathedrals and colonies in India. Goa was one such colony. Many Portuguese nobles had come with their families to settle down here. They brought with them their trusted black (Malagasy, Masikoro) slave servants from the African coast of Madagascar. By the 1600s, the splendor of Goa was at its height. Travelers marveled at 'Goa Dourada' i.e.; Golden Goa. There was even a Portuguese proverb - 'Quem viu Goa excusa de ver Lisboa' - meaning, “He who has seen Goa need not see Lisbon”.No wonder the town attracted the envy of the Dutch - a colonial competitor to Portugal, and the wrath of the Marathas - a local kingdom abutting Goa. One fateful day, their land forces launched a combined assault on the fortress at Goa.

RK

“I wish it were only a myth” : Barroz the Ghost

The Fable

 

A.D. 1645. Velha-Goa. In Theresse's bedroom grandpa Barroz was yet again narrating to the child stories of buried treasures and treasure guarding spirits who came out of the cellar walls and smothered thieves who came for looting. It was a Christmas eve and in the kitchen they had just finished doing the cakes when the thunderous sounds started.

 

It turned out to be a torrid night of booming cannons, infantry charges, war cries and screams of pain. Marques De'Gama - King John III's admiral in Goa, was desperately defending the Império Colonial Português under him. Realizing that the town's south gate would be breached any moment, the admiral ordered a withdrawal to the ships - Santa Catarina and Albuquerque, anchored east beneath Fort Aguada’s seaside wall.

 

When the order reached D'Gama mansions - the residence of the Admiral, his wife, fair Isabelle, started in haste to complete the evacuation plan she was entrusted with. She made Antonio,  the records keeper at the archives, bring all sensitive papers Viceroy Mathias had left at the viceregal palace before leaving for Lisbon. With Barroz - the keeper of the palace keys, Isabella carried all imperial correspondence from her husband's study deep down into the D'Gama mansion's underground cellars.

 

Isabelle never thought that there would come a day of such ignominious retreat from Goa ... not even when she had heard that Mweusi Maria - their old black crone of a servant woman whose age nobody knew, had a vision during her Masikoro seance. Apparently in a trance, the old hag had shrieked “dere wont be no cristmas dis year ... no cristmas dis year”. Nobody took the old woman seriously. Well, nobody other than the Malagasy black slaves. And chief among them was, of course, Admiral De'Gama’s most trusted servant - “Black Pa” or Grandpa Barroz.

Isabelle stood at the archway to the underground caverns when Barroz, with a train of servants, brought down the artifacts admiral Marques D'Gama had acquired during his recent expedition to the Mughal territories. While they arranged the treasures amidst the cache of gun powder kegs, Isabelle looked at the huge jars on the cellar shelves. These were her wine, jam and pickle collections – exquisite recipes by her Portuguese aunt Manuela and her Kodaguese maid Vrinda.

 

'If only my child Theresse could come back someday to enjoy these …!'  Isabelle sighed.

 

That was not to be … because her husband's instruction to her was to light the fuse of the powder kegs and destroy the cavernous cellars. No plunderer should ever lay hands on the official records or family heirlooms. The thought brought tears to Isabelle’s eyes … and it was not lost on the ever-observant Black Pa Barroz.

 

Cannon fire, now louder, roused Isabelle from her thoughts. She hurriedly picked up the flaming torch from the cellar wall. She had scarcely enough time to hustle all the women and children with barest essentials safely aboard the galleon Santa Catarina. 

"Vrinda, Theresse, bring everyone down … quick!"

As she called everyone for a parting prayer to Virgin Mary, Isabella saw Mweusi Maria enter the cellar. The old black woman was holding in her hand what looked like an infant's rattle. But the rattle top, as Isabelle slowly realized, was a monkey's skull! The hag's piercing look made Isabelle shiver. But the old woman's gaze was directed beyond Isabelle, at Black Pa Barroz … who himself addressed the old woman 'Grandma'! That was when Isabelle felt Barroz close to her right shoulder. The normally taciturn Black Pa whispered in her ear,

"Mãe, … há mais um via … por favor, ouça-me"

Isabelle looked quizzically at Barroz

"Yes my Lady, listen to me …there's another way …"

As he gently took the torch away from her hand, the old man, eyes overflowing with kindness, said -

"My Lady, you know of our Masikoro tribe's ancient voodoo ritual. It has worked in guarding King Solomon's mines for three thousand years. It shall work today too …"

 

Isabelle stared at the old man in horrified disbelief. Turning around, she found the old woman kneeling … and brandishing her voodoo rattle, chanting.

 

Abroad Albuquerque, Admiral Marques D'Gama was directing the cannonade when a messenger came summoning the ship's chaplain to the D'Gama mansions for conducting an urgent christian burial.

 

While the big guns boomed outside, within the cellar old Mweusi Maria was shrieking and screaming.

"mamadika ny demon-y! _ lasa fanahy!! barrosie … mahatoky, barrosie"

("Turn into spirit! … Become a demon!!  Barroz … oh faithful Barroz")

The Malagasy group chanted. Barroz lay prone amidst the occult figures and figurines. What looked like an animated 'tribal war-dance' seemed to be taking place there.

In haste, the chaplain arrived at the underground cellar. Now there was silence within. He found the women and children gathered around a coffin. In it he found Black Pa Barroz … lying dead! The chaplain hurriedly put on the stole and vestments and started the burial prayers …

"Do espírito maligno … "    (from the evil spirits), recited the chaplain.

"Liberandum nos Domine"   (deliver us, O Lord), responded the group prayerfully.

 

Amidst the turmoil and panic it's no wonder the chaplain couldn't make sure whether the man in the coffin was breathing or not. But the children knew. To the chaplain’s litany of prayers -

"Do inferno eterno …"  (from eternal damnation)

the children responded with tears streaming down their cheeks.

"Libertar essa alma Domine" (deliver this soul, O Lord)

 

Then, everyone kissed the cheek of the dead man before departing. Isabelle waited until all of them holding hands marched out in single file towards the Santa Catarina, her own 13-year-old daughter Theresse being the last. Theresse had urged Black Pa Barroz to come with them. But the old man insisted that he had to stay behind to guard Theresse's crib, ornaments and toys stored in the cellar. Before leaving, with an ominous bang, Isabelle closed the cellar door and sealed it.

 

D'Gama helped his wife and daughter onto the deck. Now there was only Barroz left to board before weighing anchor and sailing. The Admiral knew that Viceroy Mathias was on his way with reinforcements from Lisbon … and hence hoped to turn back to Goa before turning around the cape.

With Barroz nowhere in sight D'Gama frantically asked

"Where is Black Pa?"

Isabelle confidently answered her husband

“He shall be here dear, … when one from us returns someday”.

The fable says that to this day the spirit of Black Pa Barroz guards the family treasure of D'Gama. Down centuries,  many people have attempted to find it, in vain. For, nobody other than a descendant of Marques D'Gama can get to it. In fact, it is said that even if it were the descendants of Black Pa Barroz themselves, they shall not succeed in finding the treasure!

CHAPTER …………    1.

 

A.D. 2010. Present day Goa.

SAY NO TO CASINO”, the placards scream.

Ron Madhav, the 38 years old entrepreneur of Indian origin, notices the agitation as soon as the carcade of invitees from Dabolim airport reach D'Gama Mansions. Ron is here as one among the top cats the Govt. of Goa had invited for its global investors meet to develop a world class casino here. A month back, proposals were called to make Goa the 'Las Vegas of India'. Ron, who made it big in California Real Estate, had responded to the government tender. Now, he is here as a prospective bidder. He would have to, however, overcome stiff competition before winning the GIBO (Gambling Infrastructure Build & Operate) contract from the state. Ajit Pallava - the liquor baron, has sent his team of lawyers. Cheng Ho - the celebrity financier, is here from Shanghai to represent Macau Holdings. A gambling lobby was working behind the scene. Data-miners had done their job in the social media by successfully trolling all opposing voices. Yet, public dissent remained. The prized piece sought by every vested interest is the D'Gama Mansions - which, the traditionalists demand, should be made into an architectural heritage instead of a gambler's den. Hence the demonstrators who shout - No, No, No Casino!

Conference hall.

It's a hall in the huge D'Gama Mansions. And D'Gama mansions, is now a state-run heritage hotel where the GIBO guests are accommodated. An audio-visual presentation is in progress. Enumerating the economic potentials of Goa, the Tourism Secretary is addressing the guests. Sitting by the side of her father Ron Madhav, we find Theresa, a 13 year old girl. She is a bored listener. Come down during holidays from her Kodai residential school, she has joined her father on one of his rare visits to India. Theresa had expected Goa to be a 'happening place' like what the tourism brochures claimed. But, what yarn this officer spins! She let out a big yawn and opted for the more interesting slogan shouting by those activists outside.

While slowly walking out, she notices another bored person in the hall. This is an oddly dressed elderly black man. And contrary to the dignitaries seated respectfully in the hall, he is perched on a high window sill, gazing even higher towards heavens, and whistling away.‘Must be the doorman’ she thought. But his conduct in the hall is quite strange for a doorman. But there is something stranger here … nobody else seems to mind his poor etiquette. Yet they do mind Theresa’s bad manners and stare daggers … for her leaving the talk halfway!

 

[From the parapet of the mansion, Theresa watches a confrontation between the dissenters and the police. The activists were attempting to barge in and disrupt the conference, and the police was pushing them back. The dissenting leader is a middle-aged lady - Ms. Firebrand. And in her shouting at the Police Inspector, Theresa saw her own warden - Sr. Agnes at the Kodai school, yelling at her. Theresa's attention suddenly gets drawn to a 11 year old black boy (of afrikan-indian parentage) who, with a water kettle in hand, was going around serving drinking water to the slogan shouters. Ah, yes! That is Chotta Barroz, the boy from the nearby slum, who had told her what is going on here … the casino furore. Theresa had befriended him yesterday … fleetingly. "Hey, Chottaa …" Theresa calls out to him. He could tell her the current developments … and like yesterday, the past stories of Goa and the legend of D'Gama].

RK

“...I swear the ghost took the big chest and shoved it toward me. He said “this is all yours if you are a D'Gama ”

Chapter …………    2.

 

Forenoon.

Theresa and Ron are on a sightseeing bus tour around Goa. Voila! … Theresa sees that strange old black character again … now seated atop St. Xavier church's high corniced wall. And there again … on the ledge above the antique shop at Mapusa. She wonders 'Is that the doorman part of their tour?' But, in the oddest of positions, at the highest of vantages, he seats himself … with acute disregard for everybody. There he sits … surveying the skies, whistling towards hawks and pigeons. Their tour guide, standing right below the old black man, is oblivious of the distraction above. Even Ron, Theresa's dad, doesn't care! What has happened to these people?

 

Her curiosity turns to fascination as she sees what the strange man does next. In a jovial mood, the old negro stoops down to pick up flowers from passing ladies’ hair. He also snatches pens from men’s pockets. Before Theresa could shout "thief!", after a close study of the items, the man dutifully replaces them. Oh, but a calculated interchange in their respective places of origin, creates acrimony between the victims.

"Hah, a prankster … seems good at practical jokes!" laughs Theresa heartily.

And there he does it again. After consuming a banana, the black man carefully disposes the banana-skin, one calculated step before their tour-guide. The pushy guide decides on a slower tour pace after he is helped up from his prone position.

"A man after my own heart! … splendid!" approves Theresa.

 

But the next prank did bite.

 

They are at the D'Gama Mansions' library to see an exhibit - that one exquisite earring - Lady Isabelle’s bejeweled earring with it's matching pair missing. The pricelessness of that single ornament dawns on all visitors … when they raise their eyes to a huge 17th century fresco, painted high on the library wall. In that De'Gama family portrait, one can behold Lady Isabelle wearing both pieces of the pair of earrings … and also around the family members, other exotic artifacts that has made the story of the D'Gama treasure, a legend. The tour guide announces -

"Discovering this earring's matching pair - like finding the missing arms of the Statue of Venus, is the holy grail of all archaeologists".

The earring is displayed within a glass case. While the ladies marvel at its beauty, Theresa spies the old black man again … this time tying a knot between the hairs of two ladies. A tumult erupts, and pacifications follow. When things settle down, Theresa finds suspicious fingers being pointed at her - an the innocent bystander! This last prank, she doesn't find funny. Not funny at all. That's when she gets the idea to borrow her father's iPhone to capture the black man in action … and establish her innocence. But the result startles her. The black man's image doesn't show! What more; he has no reflection on the hall mirror … no shadow cast on the ground either.

"A ghost!" whispers Theresa hoarsely.

And it is then she realize that she is the only person who can see this black man. She quietly leaves the hall after purloining their room key from her dad's coat.

 

Once inside the room, she goes on the internet and confirms her suspicion. The black man is a poltergeist – a prankish spirit.

"Must be a rare variety" she muses aloud.

"Because, this blogger, an authority with a PhD in para-psychology, says … quote ‘by virtue of the pranks they do, all poltergeists always remain young’ unquote".

There she get links to other websites that doled out exorcism advises.

 

At www. poltergexorcism.org, she learns that one can stop a poltergeist dead on its act by casting dry powdered garlic. Another religious blog emphasizes … for any form of exorcism to work, it should be accompanied with a shout "Evil Spirit, depart!" But, it should be in the poltergeist’s own mother tongue! cautions the blogger.

"What could this ghost's mother tongue be?" Theresa wonders aloud.

"He looks Afrikan …. but, for that matter, could even be a dumb-mute!" she mutters.

Before long, the smart girl figures out that the ideal language of communication is Iberian. With a proper blend of the languages, she coins a right mantra.

"Espíritu Maligno, ¡Partida!"

loud and firm, she starts  practicing the spell.

 

For obtaining powdered garlic, she decides to rope in her friend, Chotta Barroz.

 

[On the pavement we see Theresa talking to the boy from the slums. From their actions it would seem the subject of conversation is 'ghosts and hidden treasures'. When this is happening, there is a pair of bespectacled eyes watching them from the top floor of the mansion hotel. Chotta leads Theresa into a slum dweller's shack. Inside the shack, an old woman prepares for them a potent charm of powdered garlic]

 

During the dinner banquet, Theresa sees the aged poltergeist again … attempting to pour laxative into a pot of sweet-corn-chicken soup. Yes, this time she is armed and ready. "Espíritu Maligno, ¡Partida!" she casts her spell along with the garlic powder. But alas, Ms. Jhanvi Jain IAS - M.D. Goa Tourism, suddenly walks across and catches the volley of garlic full on her face!

 

The outcome can be stated as briefly as possible.

Theresa, this time sans the benefit of internet, learns the following ...

(1) There are humans (not only spirits) allergic to garlic - a condition called dermatitis, caused by the chemical diallyl disulfide found in garlic pods. The victim's face gets bloated like that of a pufferfish, causing a medical condition.

(2) Jain vegetarians follows a spiritually motivated diet. They abhor all plant-life that have underground storage organs called geophytes. (Garlic and Onion are examples).

And, Ms. Jain - a very strict Jain for that matter, falling in both the above categories, erupts with fits of sneezing. Theresa, rushing towards the victim for making amends, loses track of her poltergeist.

 

Back in their room, Theresa gets a dressing-down from her Dad.

"The good IAS lady had promised me the Finance Minister's ear. You've ruined it! … ruined it, royally!" shouts an agitated Ron Madhav.

Theresa promises good behavior henceforth, and avoids a detention.

"No wonder, her Sr. Agnes was breathing fire! My girl always got into her hair … and how!!" an exasperated Ron fumes.

His complaint, he is gesticulating expansively, to a nonexistent listener.

 

[There is a  bespectacled listener in the room]

 

CHAPTER …………    3.

 

Day Two of the conference. Morning. D'Gama Mansions Hotel. The Govan Finance Minister is to make a speech that day. On the stage Ron Madhav is to sit next to the minister. Theresa to sit behind her father.  Given the agitations outside, the security is tight. While an army of police officers and civil servants wait to receive the minister in the hotel lobby, Ron, already seated on stage, turns to Theresa and mouths a silent warning

"Now, … Behave!"

 

Theresa ardently puts in full effort to change her morose and sullen face expression into one of beatification. She does a rapturous smile. Too early for that. For, suddenly she sees her nemesis - the old black poltergeist, squeezing through a wall of security guards. He is whistling while juggling with a bunch of small marble balls. Theresa's demeanor changes into fuming fury.

"The filthy blackguard is already onto his next despicable act" She snarls. "Surely, he must be working for those anti-casino agitators. Bunch of terrorists … they stoop even to occult! I won't allow their ghost to put a wrench into my dad's casino plans"  

 

But what shall she do now? Caught without the magic powder, what was she to do now? Having relinquished possession of a cellphone (hers by right, but dispossessed after a sordid episode at her Kodai school) she cannot summon her boy-friday for help.

 

Without her dad noticing, Theresa manages to get off the stage. She ducks when she finds Ms. Jhanvi Jain doing a hurried face touchup in the ladies toilet. She scoots into the hotel kitchen next. It takes her great cautious ingenuity to grab a fistful of chopped garlic meant for a szechwan dish. For, the cuisine was swarming with official tasters and security staff in view of the ensuing ministerial lunch.

 

Returning to the hall, seeking an opportunity to cast the spell, with her fistful of garlic raised high, Theresa discreetly follows the black ghost. He is now distracting the policemen by pelting marbles at them. Theresa feigns unawareness when, struck by marble, every time a security personnel turn to look at her with suspicion. She ducks when she once again see Ms. Jain walk past her … this time escorting the presently arrived minister onto the stage. And suddenly, woe! … she has lost her quarry in the crowd.

 

Returning to her place to resume her position as non-obtrusively as possible, she sees her quarry occupying her chair! The audacious creep … he was nodding and smiling while keenly listening to the hushed conversation between her dad and the FM!!  

 

Theresa raises her fist … yes, her fistful of garlic.

Aims.

Forgets to shout the practiced exorcism mantra (Espíritu Maligno, ¡Partida!)

Casts the magic pods.

Finds Ms. Jhanvi Jain suddenly walking into the trajectory.

Theresa screams, "Watch Out!"

Ms. Jain turns towards Theresa on hearing the scream.

Ms. Jain catches the garlic volley squarely on her face … ahem, her recently touched up face.

As Theresa watch dumbfound, the face expression of the wrong victim changes to a horrified "Oh, No! Not Again".

Things doesn't end with just that.

Beyond the IAS lady officer, the chair of the Finance Minister deep in conversation with Theresa's dad Ron Madhav, suddenly topples.

The FM slips down from his chair to land unceremonious on his bum, in full view of an esteemed international audience.

Pandemonium in the hall.

Chapter …………    4.

 

Theresa is now slouched on the back seat of the Muncipal Commissioner's car.

Being a bit drowsy due to sleep deprival, she yawns.

In the car front seats, her dad Ron and his erstwhile college mate - Rozario Fernandez, the present Muncipal Commissioner of Goa, are in friendly conversation.

"Hey man, the TV channels mentioned your name - Ron-ji of Madhav Realities, Burbank. So, thou art he … the same person who heaved the fourteen-stone-overweight-minister up from his yoga position on the red carpeted floor … eh?" 

At his friend's remark, Ron guffaws. Rozario continues -

"I wish … credit was given where it was due … to our Theresa … for her timely warning. Sincerely, man! That her words didn't prevent the fall, is not significant. The child did better than those police guards".

 

Theresa suppresses another yawn. She knows what they are talking about. In front of her, in the seat pouch, was a copy of the 'Konkan Tribune'. The tabloid has a photograph which tells it all - the FM doing an unscheduled floor asana, her dad Ron heaving him up, a terrified Chief of Security (also assisting) already staring at his marching orders … and, a horrified Ms. Jain with her "Oh, No! Not Again" expression.

 

But at the moment what Theresa would have liked to know is something else.

What role did the old ghost and his marbles play in the minister's fall? What would the black spirit had done if Theresa had not left her seat? Once she recovers from her second bout of allergy, what would Ms. Jain spill?

 

Driving them around Goa, Rozario was explaining to them the town's features.

 

Suddenly Theresa notices something on the rearview mirror …

something nobody else other than she can perceive.

There was somebody else also riding with them.

That unsolicited passenger was slouching like her …

but behind her, on the outside … over the boot of the

Commissioner's sedan! Eyes narrowed, lips pursed,

Theresa studies the old ghost through the car's rear glass.

With sunlight and tree shadows wafting over his face,

the man with a blissful smile is looking heavenwards and

whistling. He is oblivious to every thing …

even Theresa watching him.

 

Parking the car on a busy market place, they start walking. Without Ron or Rozario knowing, Theresa double back to see what the prankster is up to. There she sees him … deflating the tires of their car! Something snaps inside her.

"F***ing A** H***" she yells! (at the very same decibels which never failed to rattle the roof tiles of her Kodai school). "Stop Him … Help! Help! Somebody Help!"

Her shouts brings the life and traffic in the market to a sudden stop.

 

People start gathering. Sensing the commotion, the old black ghost stops his latest attempt at prank … and disappears! No, no, … Theresa actually sees him running away. She also sees her boy-friday 'Chotta Barroz' come on a cycle. What coincidence! Just what she needed. She grabs the boy's bicycle and rushes in the direction she saw the apparition recede.

"Stop, stop, you old dog, …I shall put an end to your filthy deeds … today itself!"

She yells banzai.

 

She screams Apache war cries.

Pedaling furiously, she chases him through

the narrow markets of Marmugao.

"Bloody Retard! … Poisoned my dad's soup,

didn't you? … Spoil my dad's casino plan,

would you? Stop you dog, … Stop I say"

She is now in hot pursuit …

jumping her bicycle up and over every

impediment in the way.

"Stop. Come … fight like a man,

You, You COWARD!"

 

The ghost  runs into a crowded dead-end lane and gets cornered.

Shouting "Got You!" she jumps off the cycle. Pouncing on him at full momentum, she starts mauling, kicking, scratching, biting, spitting … with full ferocity one would expect of an ocelot cat.

 

Now, how would a ghost, an old ghost, an old negro ghost … react to such an onslaught?

Well, … shockingly!

The Black Negro ghost’s reaction to this is indeed shocking! ……

He laughs! He exults!

He is moved to tears. At last, … after a long, long time, … somebody – this little girl called Theresa, can actually see him!  After what seemed to be an eternity, he can today converse with another entity!

“Hey, old man … who the hell you are?” demands Theresa.

The Negro replies with bow and a flourish

“Black Pa Barroz, at your service Madam! … And, I can also tell you, who you are !You can see me. Right? … You can really, SEE ME! That means, you my young lady, is a descendant of De'Gama and a legal heir to the D'Gama Treasures! Come let us do a celebration dance”.

 

Barroz starts a voodoo dance right there in the center of the crowded market place. Then the old man extends her his hand, in an invitation to join him. Theresa slaps away his offered hand. Bah! She is neither interested in dances nor in treasures. In utter disdain, with a raised nose, she declares -

“Look here, … Hey old man … Barroz or whatever,

Go! stick your treasure where the sun doesn't shine!

But, … from now on, just keep-off my dad’s business. O.K?”

 

Theresa hands the cycle back to its owner Chotta Barroz - who, as much as the assembled crowd themselves, is baffled as to what was happening there. She leaves in a huff.

 

Black Pa Barroz is shellshocked at such a response. He is heartbroken at this rejection. Just imagine … for four long centuries, he is the one who had thrown out both kings and looters come for the gold he was guarding for this girl’s sake. He always thought he would one day handover the treasure and R.I.P. (Retire In Peace). Such ingratitude! Ghost or servant, he has ample reason to feel offended. Barroz goes back to his treasure cellar to take umbrage. He pours out his complaint to his companion 'Would-U' - the voodoo doll of Mwuesu Maria who had come to life when Barroz woke up from the dead. Would-U, as it had done for the past 246 years, pacifies Barroz.  

 

Chapter …………    5.

 

The Luncheon at the hotel. Theresa is waiting for Barroz the ghost to show up. No, not to restrain him at his next prank. That he wouldn't dare commit. Not with the amount of scratches and bites he got in the morning. She was expecting him to show himself … so that she could disregard his presence.  But Barroz doesn't appear at all. Hmmm …  a ghost with such high self-respect! Not bad.

 

She doesn't see him during their scheduled group-tour to the ancient fort either. That ought to be a very upset ghost!

 

But at the waterfront jetty … ah, there he is! Theresa sees him perched on the left-side pillar of Our Lady's Grotto. He was, as before, looking upwards and whistling … though, a bit dejected now. Theresa waits for him to look in her direction … so that she can thump her nose at him. No, it seems it is she who is being disregarded. When her dad and others line up for the boat trip, Theresa falls behind purposely. She climbs on top of the grotto's right-side pillar. She sits looking upwards, and mimes Barroz's whistling action. This, to her surprise, doesn't bait the black ghost. Instead, he baits her. He takes out from his pocket a magnificent black pearl necklace and starts playing with it. The necklace that once belonged to his mistress Lady Isabelle De'Gama's daughter Theresa - that which is depicted in the family portrait.  Theresa is enticed … but she puts up a valiant effort not to look in that direction.

 

The next time she glance furtively in that direction, he is not there! Her dad and the tour-group are also not to be seen. Getting down, she walks towards the jetty and beholds a strange sight. There's Barroz … sitting on top of a log pillar erected in water … about 70 feet away from the shore. How did he get there? She can't contain her curiosity. Seems quite interesting the way he sits whistling skywards. She also would like to do that.

 

"Hey old man, … you there …" Theresa calls out.

Barroz turns around to look at her, and gesticulates "Who? Me?"

"Yes, you!" shouts Theresa in confirmation.

Yet, Barroz turns around to make sure that there is no other ghost perched on a pillar - none other than himself - who Theresa is addressing.

"You! … yourself, old man" she shouts in exasperation.

"Me? … Why me?" Barroz gesticulates.

Theresa -

"How did you get there?"

Barroz feigns he doesn't comprehend the question.

Theresa -

"How - did - you - get - there?' she shouts again.

Barroz makes a tiptoeing action with his fingers to indicate that he walked over water … from the jetty to the pillar. Quite simple, Barroz shrugs.

Theresa is silent for a few moments. She contemplates the feasibility in attempting such an act, and the validity of his claim.

Now it is Barroz's turn to enquire

"Why do you ask?" He puts the question in sign language.

Theresa is still silent as to what her intention is.

So, Barroz asks helpfully

"Would you like to come here?" His again, is sign language.

Theresa affirms with quite a few very vehement "Yes" nods.

"Wait a moment" gesticulates Barroz and he climbs down from the pole.

 

As Theresa watches, he walks gingerly over the water … stepping over the wavelets without disturbing them … and reaches her at the jetty. Theresa seems impressed.

"Come, my lady … " urges Barroz, with a hand extended to guide her.

Apprehension clouds her eyes.

"Is it safe?" she asks.

"Of course dear, … you saw me doing it, didn't you?" answers Barroz.

 

She holds his offered hand and gingerly steps down from the jetty onto the water. The surface, without breaking, holds her weight. Both of them, now standing on water, are gently swaying with the waves. She looks up at Barroz and beams!

 

Holding Theresa's both hands, making one dainty step at a time, Barroz is leading her towards the pillar. This 'ballet over the waters' soon attracts accompaniments. Looking down, Theresa sees schools of colored fish swirling around them. Looking up, she sees seagulls hovering around. She pauses for a moment to savor the delicacy of that moment … and suddenly, 'bloop … splash'.

She slips, falls and goes under water … scattering the school of fishes!

Helped by Barroz, she emerges and comes up sputtering …

"Muttaala, thevadiya pulley … Edaa Naayey … !!"

(tamil obscenities : courtesy, Kodai school)

"F***ing A** H***, You did that on purpose!!"

A peevish Barroz, while wiping away water from her, responds to the accusation with pacifications.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk … sorry dear. I forgot to tell you. While walking over water, … one has to keep moving … like you do when cycling … the instant you stop moving, you go 'thump … splash' … keep moving!  keep moving!"

 

Before long, the strange pair is sharing the narrow seat on top of the pillar. Theresa, despite being wet, has forgotten her discomfort. She turns to Barroz and beams again. She emulates his signature pose. Looking heavenwards, she whistles.     Barroz, suddenly, doesn't seem to share her enthusiasm. She looks at him quizzically.

Barroz, with suppressed moroseness -

"You called me 'hey, old man' … "

Theresa -

"No. I called you 'hey, old dog' … "

Barroz -

"Oh, sorry … I correct myself. You called me 'hey, old dog' … tsk, tsk, tsk."

There is a silence before Barroz speaks again

"I don't like that … because, it is not good".

Again silence, again Barroz -

"Everybody calls me 'Black Pa Barroz'. Even my Lady Isabella did … even her sweet child Theresa did …"

Theresa realizes the sensitivity of the issue. She makes an act of concession … probably the very first in her life.

Theresa -

"So, from now on 'Black Pa Barroz' you are! … lets shake hands to that"

They shake hands and makeup. Then facing opposite directions, they lean on each other and start whistling skywards.

 

When the tour-group's boat returns to the jetty, Ron Madhav - baffled and angry, directs a rescue operation at the waterfront. Having reported his daughter missing, he is now furious to find her sitting  - all alone, wet and dripping - atop the jetty pillar. As she is helped into the boat, announcing the arrival of a cold, Theresa sneezes. Hence, instead of giving her a dressing down, Ron takes a blanket to wipe her hair dry. The blessed cold, by its timely arrival, spares Theresa from an interrogation.

Kakkanad - Kerala, India | ©2017 Navodaya Studio | navodayastudio@gmail.com

  • Facebook Social Icon