Circa: 400 years ago.
A soft flicker of light cut through the darkness as it moved and stopped at a point. It soon turned into a bright glow that illuminated the hand of a sailor as he went about lighting up a lantern on what looks like a bridge of a ship. He then walks across to another unlit lantern.
At the bow of the ship, Antonio stood patiently peering in the darkness. After 15 years, he was returning back to Goa. As he stood there staring in the dark, he could hear the sound of the ship cutting through the dark waters. All of a sudden, a faint sound of a girl humming filled the air. Unsure if he heard it right, Antonio peered closely in the dark. He strained hard to hear it better as his eyes searched through the darkness for the source of the sound. He was puzzled now. They were in the middle of the sea and he was sure there were no other ships except for theirs or else he would have seen some kind of a sign of its presence. And as far as he knew there were no women traveling on his fleet. His Aide, Kishen seeing him act so peculiarly, walked up to him as the sound diminished for a brief second.
‘Master, is something wrong?’
‘Did you hear that sound?’ Antonio asks him pointing out in the dark.
‘What sound Master?’ Kishen asked peering oddly in the dark.
‘A humming sound. Some girl’s voice it was. So beautiful…’
‘No master…’ Kishen replied. ‘I heard no sound’, scratching his head in puzzlement.
Antonio smiled to himself appearing foolish. ‘Funny I think I did hear it. Maybe it was my imagination.’ Taking a pause, he added, ‘Ok, you may go.’
Kishen bowed low and slowly retreated. Antonio continued to stare in the darkness. The sound filtered again in his ears. Antonio strained hard again to see in the darkness, mystified.
On the other side of the sea, it was pitch black. The sound of humming along with the sound of waves filled the air again. Slowly the dark clouds moved to let the full moon cast its glow on the land and what seemed to be a beach. Rosalin in a white, transparent gown, her hair loose and flowing with the wind, was dancing animatedly on the beach to her own humming. Her body moved elegantly in the swaying breeze, her feet gingerly gliding across the sands. Few minutes later, she stopped, knelt down on the sands and arching her back, tilted her head back. Her eyes were closed and loose hair moved with the wind, and with her arms outstretched, she savored the cool breeze that gently swayed her gown. Her faced oozed serenity with a subtle smile lingering on her face. A small boy’s voice broke through the trance as he called out to her from across the beach. She turned around to look at him as he ran across the beach towards her, her smile still lingering delicately on her face.
The boy came to a stop in front of her and tried to catch his breath. ‘Your Mai is calling you.’
She got up and kissing the boy gingerly on his cheeks, took his hand. They started walking back home across the beach through the moonlight lit night, her gown fluttering daintily with the breeze.
Her house situated in the village was one of the biggest in the area and stood in the center of a vast courtyard. Palm trees dotted the boundary of the house shielding it from the direct sunlight. The lawn was well maintained with lovely flowerbeds lining the path from the gate to the house. Just behind the house, a small river ran that acted as a shield in place of the wall that cut at the river straight. Six steps lead to the main door of the house. Inside stood a big hall. On the other side of the hall, there was a long corridor that led to individual rooms. The roof of the entire house was covered with tiles that kept the house cool at all times of the year. The hall was richly decorated. The windows were ornately designed and were covered with curtains made from the finest silk from Macao. Lovely artifacts adorned the walls. At one corner of the hall, there was a huge dining table with exotic carved chairs. Pascal Costa and his twin nieces Maria and Theresa were seated, eating dinner.
Rosalin entered the house with gaiety and walked over to them. ‘Rosa’, the twins called out to her in unison. She went over and hugged them one by one. Maria and Theresa were just about 10. Their parents had died a couple of years ago, killed by some bandits as they traveled from their neighboring town to Rosalin’s house. She and her family were all they had to call their own. She loved them dearly as she gave them each a kiss on the cheek.
Her mother’s voice bellowed from inside. ‘I told you a hundred times not to venture out alone after dark.’
Her mother was fuming mad as she walked out of the kitchen carrying a pitcher filled with water. She angrily placed it on the dining table with a thud. Her mother was a short, fat woman with a sharp shrilly voice.
‘But Mai, what have we to fear?’ Rosalin called out with make-believe despair on her face.
‘Don’t say another word.’ Her mother stopped her with a sharp glare. ‘At this age, you should be at home helping me with the household work. But all you do is just waste your time outside. I tell you. If this continues, no boy will marry you.’
‘Good for me. As it is, all the boys in this village are good for nothing. They are not fit to marry me.’
‘Stop it Rosa! Don’t talk to me that way.’ Her mother severely reprimanded.
‘Calm down woman.’ Her father intervened. ‘Let the girl eat in peace.’
Her father, Pascal Costa was a trader of spices and exotic garments of silk among other things. Over the years, he had amassed huge wealth that made him one of the most respected men in Goa. It also brought him in close proximity with the Portuguese and especially Viceroy Fonseca. His parents had been the natives of Goa and belonged to the Hindu religion. But sanity prevailed and they soon converted to Christianity when they realised the advantage of being a Christian.
Though he himself wasn’t a devout Christian, Pascal prided himself on the fact that he often contributed to charity, which actually didn’t amount to much. The villagers, specially the idol worshippers tried to maintain a good relationship with him knowing quite well that he was held in high esteem by the Portuguese officials. And he in turn saw to it that the Portuguese officials were lenient with the pagan worshippers whenever possible.
Rosalin looked at her father with a mischievous smile. Her father always favored her. She looked across the table at her twin cousins. They were giggling secretly at her mother’s banter. She mocked a stern look and the cousins broke into laughter.
‘You two stop it now and eat quietly.’ Her mother gave the cousins a look of discontent.
Pascal Costa turned to Rosalin. ‘You know Rosa. Tomorrow the Viceroy’s son is arriving from Lisbon to take charge over here. If I am lucky I might meet him at the quay otherwise it will have to wait till I return from Bombaim.’
‘Yes Pai.’ She paused. ‘Pai, I didn’t knew the Viceroy had a son.’
‘Oh he does. It’s been many years since he moved to Lisbon and from what the Viceroy told me, since the last few years, he had been undergoing marine training and now I believe he has been appointed Captain by his royal highness, King Juan II.’
‘That sounds interesting Pai.’
‘Rosa, you stay clear of him. I don’t want you or any of our family members falling in trouble with the royal family because of your mischievous ways.’
‘Oh Mai. You are so naïve.’
‘Don’t you dare call me names?’ Her mother yelled at her.
‘Hey calm down both of you.’
Her father raised his hand to silence them as he scoffed at her mother. Her mother dropped into silence. Rosalin looked at her cousins. They were eating silently, their eyes riveted on the food. She looked at her parents. They were such an odd couple. And to say that she was their daughter so beautiful and yet totally in contrast with their physical personalities. She spent the rest of the time eating her food in silence.