By Dom Martin

Amidst the ruins of the Church and Convent of Crux de Milagres on Monte de Boa Vista, Socrates de Balmiro Coelho sought his hermitage and refuge. He was the last of the Goans to survive the ideals of liberty that overshadowed the land of his ancestors, tampering it from nature's work of art unto man's vandalism. The unclad corruption, the egotistic indiscipline, and the domesticated drug-diet that replaced the colonial yoke were more than what his morals could endure. More than what the gods of the land could ceil through their omniscient omnipotence.   And feeling disintegrated in the land where he had been integrated with thoughts of peace, religious tolerance and communal bliss, Socrates submitted himself to prodigious murmurs!

His ancestors -- bless their piety -- were a God fearing lot, who had been painstakingly groomed to rely on Divine Providence. And they relied, and prospered. But Socrates did not! And he murmured. His ancestors had not manipulated the fibers of his masculinity, so as to be instinctively equal and lethal to the lecherous enemies of the human flesh and its properties. They had not taught him the methods of survival in a world that thrived on trespass and trespasses.  They had only armed him with a God-fearing soul. That was the family weapon. And Socrates went to battle with it and fought, and lay battered.  Almost lynched by that weapon of singular nonviolence. Only the ego that he was a Goan, amalgamated his body and soul.  And within that amalgamation, the ego was as loft and defiant as the tower of St. Augustine!

Religious Aristocracy

Prowling about the ruins, Socrates contemplated on the rise and fall of his disillusioned life. Born of noble descent and stuffed with affluent calories and comfort, he had known no anguish -- the kind, haunted by the fears of extinction. He had known no poverty -- the kind, that left behind proficient sores.  He had only known his God, and had time for Him.  That was his religion!  He loved his land, and was emotionally obsessed with its ecological manifestations.  And he believed quite stubbornly within his spiritual convictions, that his land would forever remain an ecological heaven. But the storms of liberty mauled   his   beliefs, dislocating his soul and maiming his flesh!


Socrates murmured. Anguish had become his life's anarchist, the pain reverberating his soul . . . goading it to seek its God . . . for the God inherited from his ancestors, and which God his ancestors inherited from a colonial religion that left behind a legacy of churches, chapels and crosses. But nothing now remained of that pompous legacy.  Nothing remained of his God. Socrates evaluated his plight and feared its reality. In that Rome of the East, God had already migrated. Only his soul remained, as guilty as the ancestors who had found it in that spiritual sanctuary, centuries ago!

Changing Times

Times had changed, and the changing times made their own impact on man. Man had no time for God, or for Gods who stressed on the metamorphosis of the human soul. There was no longer a bond between man and God through the wave-lengths of religion. Man lived for liberty, and liberty created its own faith. The faith of commerce! Money became the practical, living God, and industries the places of worship. The land of his ancestors had turned away from the God of his birth, and mortgaged to the Gods of metal, of cement and foodgrains!


And with a conscience by religion hospitalized, Socrates thought of Nemesis. -- the Goddess of Retribution.  Perhaps, the Goddess had also migrated. There was no way for him to know. In his present predicament, he was neither cherished, nor acknowledged, nor attended to by Gods or Goddesses. Even his petitions to the Bank of the Universe failed to procure any spiritual or material drafts. He now survived on public providence. Ramaswaminand's providence!

From time to time, Ramaswaminand provided him with coconuts and some rice. Ramaswaminand was the conjunction between his existence and extinction. Ramaswaminand was his God! And Socrates would sit on the balcony of Ramaswaminand's house and ruminate. On that balcony, his grandfather sat and narrated to him tales of Goans who lived for their faith, and for the love of their land. They were now dead. Bless their souls! His grandfather was also dead. Bless his soul as well? But the balcony was still there. It was Ramaswaminand's balcony. His ancestral home was now Ramaswaminand's estate!


Socrates thought of Isidor, Bhabol, Franspaul . . . Vasanti!  They were the last among the many who knew that Ramaswaminand's house belonged to Socrates. They were the ones who knew that Ramaswaminand's coconuts and paddy belonged to Socrates. But their knowledge was of no use. It was dead with them, and interred in the graveyard overlooking the arsenic chemical plant. Soon, that graveyard would become Ramaswaminand's estate. Soon, his corpse, would be brought before Ramaswaminand, and Ramaswaminand would judge his corpse in the manner Pontius Pilate judged Christ!


Gods of The Gulf

Socrates thought of the Vicar who cried out hell, fire and damnation from his conscientious pulpit. But the Vicar did not realize that hell, fire, and damnation had already descended upon his beloved land, and that, soon he would himself be a voice crying out in the wilderness within the Church walls. The Vicar did not realize, because he was spiritually committed to propagating feasts, patron saints and the physically dead. The faithful were interested in a more liberated God, a God who would fulfill their ambitions and overlook their sins.  And the faithful found such a God in the Gulf.  And they migrated.  And money flowed!


 And the faithful returned, more prosperous than before, to convert their wealth into concrete monstrosities reflecting the Gods of the Gulf. They had forgotten their heritage. They had forgotten their ancestors. They had forgotten the curriculum vitae of their land. They had forgotten the language of their cradle, the wit and fertile proverbs. They now spoke the language of ambitions and wealth.

And the Vicar continued crying out hell, fire, and damnation! His God was powerless before the Gods of the Gulf.  His God could not provide what the Gods of the Gulf could provide.  His God placed the soul above the flesh.  The Gods of the Gulf placed the flesh over and above the soul. And the Vicar died in the wilderness within the Church walls, forsaken by his own God. And his Church collapsed. And Ramaswdminad purchased the rubble, and rearranged it into a Holiday Inn.  And the Holiday Inn brought him wealth and fame, and many more faithful than the Vicar's Church.

Poverty and Pain

Socrates wept, his soul cringing from fatigue and despair. Liberty had mauled the beloved land of his ancestors, laying it diseased and devastated. Birds had already shifted their nests and clouds their silver lining. The monsoons shed their tears half-heartedly, and winters were indisposed in their own chill. Only .the summers continued to avenge, destroying life along with the sources sustaining life. The cattle had no place to graze. Pigs were deprived the freedom of flirtation. Mountains had been shaved of their lush verdure and studded with concrete huts. Masses of humanity became an incurable contagion, spreading into agricultural fields, along waterfronts and into barren graveyards!

Socrates witnessed these atrocities and wailed. Streets had lost their profiles and edifices their heritage. Footpaths became a metropolis of human traffic, whose onslaught Socrates lived to fear. Congestion was writ large in every place, so too the odor of human flesh, greed and lust. Morality thrived in fear, and dignity was reduced to the mettle of gutters. In their place sprang arrogance, savagery and impudent might. Each man became his own god, and his neighbor's god as well.  Restlessness pervaded in all norms of human activity. Idlers appeared in hordes, either leaning against the administrative walls or sprawled along important avenues, mincing their words as uncouthly as they unsheathed their eyes and teeth.  And these idlers were the digits that controlled and manipulated nation's economy.

.Socrates saw these sights and lurked in the shadows for freedom and welfare. He hadn't come across one familiar soul in nearly a decade's layout.  He hadn't met Bicu,  Baltazar or Consu. They were the beggars of his generation, when begging was governed by the dictates of one's conscience. In their place came other Bicus, Baltazars and Consus, stretching their palms and bowls in every conceivable direction.  And Socrates saw the fate of his land in their outstretched palms and bowls.  He saw the wrinkles of poverty and anguish on their disheveled faces.  The poverty and anguish of his own land!

Gospel of Ruins

Socrates murmured, insufferably, as the changing facets of society forced him to an abysmal exile amidst the ruins of Monte de Boa Vista. His dialect became the cultural heritage of universal silence, and his memoirs were without kith and kin. Only his ego maintained its beat, spurring his memoirs and urging him to lurk in liberty's twilight. And he lurked and watched the exodus surging into his land from all quarters.


And he mingled in their midst to meet their Moses, their John the Baptist or Messiah.  But they had none. They had come to meet the God which the sons of the soil had abandoned while in their search for the Gods of the Gulf.  They had come to meet their God. They had come to resurrect their God! And his God -- the God of his ancestors -- arose, and now spoke their tongue.  And his God answered their petitions, went to their homes, ate and dined with them! And Socrates wept, not as an orphan, but as a man whose life was a conglomeration of unquestionable strength and surmounting weakness.


Desolate, Godless and by his own murmurs burdened, Socrates staggered along the familiar beaches. They were once the white men's Eden. The white men had come with their clay pipes to recreate the Book of Genesis. And the brown men came to bear testimony. And there was an exodus of white men. And there was an exodus of brown men. The white men were lured to Goa's anatomy. The brown men were lured to the white men's anatomy! And Noahs came. And they built their concrete edifices to drape the modesty of the white exodus. And when the beaches were transformed into citadels of decadence and filth, the white exodus ceased. The brown exodus did not. It increased and multiplied. And dogs -- who weren't part of Noah's inventory -- they too remained. And increased and multiplied, howling their wrath, their lust, hunger and disease.

Days drudged into months and the months inflated into years.  Socrates continued to murmur, until his murmurs within him succumbed.  His patriotic soul defected from its orbit, throwing him into fits of incinerating anguish and despair.  His vision began to flicker, immobilizing his body, making it an impoverished part of the ruins.  And he lay, limp and pale as silence, on the moss-ridden ground, synchronizing his life with the ruins.  Each crevice, segment and fragment had its own script, adding up to compile the Gospel of Ruins.  And in abrupt succession, the Gospel became part of the darkness within his eyes.  Only his ears remained with him, altruistically assuring him of his existence, and of that of the world outside the Gospel of Ruins.  And on that sulky night when the Tower of St. Augustine collapsed, Socrates did not awake.  He did not hear the omnivorous rodent pounce at his levitating soul and sprint away with it into its purgatory.  He did not, as he was already asleep in the eternity which belonged, irrevocably, to his beloved ancestors.