|Cherai Beach, Kochi
The beach is one of the
loveliest places on earth. I can spend hours sitting on the sand and looking at
the restless sea. The waves. What are they hungry for? They never rest. You can
watch a wave coming from far away in the sea and moving relentlessly, on and
on, until it lashes against the shore and returns. And returns. It is an
endless process. A process that started somewhere beyond the reach of your
vision. Your vision ends where they call the horizon. But you know that the
horizon is not the end. It is the beginning, in fact, the beginning of another
from where Vasco da Gama was carried by the restless waves to Kerala many
centuries ago carrying the Portuguese colonial power in a few ships. The tang
of pepper and cinnamon on the beaches of Calicut beckoned Vasco and his crew
like the sirens on the enchanted island of Odyssey. Vasco came, Vasco
saw, Vasco conquered. The legacy left by him five centuries ago has survived to
this day in Kerala.
The seas have
carried colonial powers all over the world. Christopher Columbus was one of the
many carriers of that power. His legacy was far more brutal than Vasco da
Gama’s. Other people existed only for gratifying his appetites, Columbus
thought. He could just take a woman from an island and give her to his crew members for sex. He cut off a man’s
ears merely to shock the other people of the island into submission. Columbus
was a mass murderer. He killed those who refused to submit themselves to his
power. He was a tyrant and a scoundrel. His legacy has continued to govern the
United States of America to this day. They call it civilisation.
Such is the
hunger of the oceans. It is a human hunger. Or is it inhuman?
I live in
Kerala which has a 600-kilometre-long coastline. So many civilisations entered
Kerala along that coastline at various junctures of history: Dutch, French, Arab,
and even the ancient Roman. Legend has it that Thomas, disciple of Jesus,
landed in Kerala along with traders in the first century CE. It is true that
the Roman Empire had trade relations with South India from the time of Augustus
Caesar (c 40 BCE). The Roman aristocracy loved the exotic things of the East.
Pliny the Elder ridiculed Emperor Nero for burning more perfumes on the single
day of the funeral of his queen Poppaea than what Arabia could produce in a
whole year. The fountains of the affluent Romans flowed with rosewater. All
those perfumes, spices and condiments were carried across the oceans.
The British Empire
came across the oceans too. Carrying the white man’s burden. Another hunger of
the golden sands by the Arabian Ocean, I can see the shadows of alien ships
beyond the grey horizon and its scarlet twilight.
have become shadows. But the restlessness of the seas continues. Only, now the
restlessness comes from a landlocked city. And the war cries are indigenous.
They don’t belong to alien ships.
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