This is my first trip to India. I spent two and half days in Kochi in the state of Kerala, site of the death of Vasco da Gama who had arrived in Calicut (now Kozhikode) 26 years before. In 1510, led by Afonso de Albuquerque, the Portuguese conquered Goa and here they stayed until December 19 1961. I spent two days here, fulfilling what has been a dream ever since I was a kid. To visit Goa.
And while trying to fight whatever is left of my jet lag self, I am trying to both understand where I am beyond the imaginary place of countless life fantasies and the real place. This is, of course, an absolutely delusional ambition. How could I ever understand anything in two overwhelming days.
I always felt History was not easy to explain. Not even to thode who share it with you. There’s always a sense of invaders guilt at the back of my mind and then people tell me ” you should come to Iran and see the Portuguese fort in Hormuz” or ” you really need to come to Sri Lanka and see the Galle Fort” or maybe go to Thailand or Oman or Indonesia. And then I realize there’s nothing to be explained. It’s a common memory .
The minute I got in the car for a tour of Goa, the guide starts talking about Augustinian and Jesuit churches and nuns baking Bebinca, and reliquaries and Saint Francis Xavier and how much knowledge came together in the XV century to make all those churches and forts rise and still stand.
It is impossible, for me at least, not to feel that those stones and paintings and that relic are part of who I am. They are my cultural DNA.
The next day I decide to walk on my own through Fontainhas, the Latin Quarter of Panjim and get lost, as I normally do. Since I have no wifi I ask the girl carrying her dry cleaning carefully wrapped in newspaper where June 18 street is. She walks with me because she is going that way. Where are you from, she asks. I tell her.
Eu também falo português (I also speak Portuguese) she tells me.
This is my unfinished journey. Where my sense of belonging comes from.
One is always at home in one’s past…