Wednesday, August 26, 2009


NAME- Esther Rozarrio (maiden name- Esther de Silva)

AGE- 34 Years

Esther’s family, the de Silvas, are fifth generation immigrants to India from Portugal.
The Rozarrios are also immigrants from Portugal. Esther’s husband is the fourth generation immigrant.

The de Silvas and Rozarrios live in the town of Maldovi in Old Goa, situated about 9 km away from Panaji. The defining feature of this town is the world heritage monument of the Basilica of Bom Jesus, built in 1695.
Both the Rozarrios and the de Silvas live in what is known as a typical ‘old style’ Goan house. The roof is constructed with red "Manglorean" tiles. There is a long winding stairway leading to a balcony also known as a "balcao" in Konkani and Portuguese.
However, even though the Rozarrios continue to have their estate well looked after, painting it at least twice a year, and having original materials brought in from Mangalore and Panaji, the de Silvas have long relinquished any efforts to reflect their social status in the houses they keep. It is atrociously beyond their means.
As for the town, the only thing that can be said, is that, it resonates with the glory of Old Goa, but like Old Goa itself, it is struggling to brush away the cobwebs from a nearly dead heritage.

There is not much to talk about regarding Esther’s formal education. She never got much of an opportunity to explore that territory. She studied at the government school, a decrepit sickeningly yellow building that threatened to crumble under the weight of about a hundred students, and did crumble a year after Esther passed out of it. As for her higher studies, she had just started doing her Bachelors in Philosophy from St.Paul’s College. However, she could not even complete the first year. She got married off before that.

Esther teaches music to the choir at the Se Cathedral.

Esther has very scant hair on her head, that’s probably the most striking feature about her appearance. She has a slightly elongated face, with deep-set eyes, of a deep brown colour, very pale skin, and a snub nose. Another interesting fact about her physical appearance is, her sixth finger, growing from a stub at the end of the root of her thumb. Her body is a bit flaccid, almost formless, but she is not obese. However, the single inconsequential mark of beauty on this frame, is her chin. It has a beauty spot right at its tip which gives her face an air of gentleness.

The back stories of the two families merges with the history of the Goa Inquisition, established in the year 1560, abolished in 1812. (This office of the Inquisition acting in the Indian state of Goa and the rest of the Portuguese empire in Asia, was executed by the Portuguese Catholic Church. It was established to punish relapsed New Christians- Jews and Muslims who converted to Catholicism, as well as their descendants- who were now suspected of practicing their ancestral religion in secret. However, while its ostensible aim was to preserve the Catholic faith, the Inquisition was often used against these people as an instrument of social control, as also, to confiscate the victim’s property and enrich the Inquisitors.)
The tribunal of the first Inquisition had as its Deputies of the Holy Office, the two de Silva brothers, Diego and Aleixo de Silva. That is how the de Silvas sailed to India and became settlers in Goa. The de Silvas brothers were known for their highhandedness. They were largely feared and abhorred. Their opulence was a further marker of their gluttony. Then in 1812, when the British put pressure on the Portuguese to put an end to the terror of the Inquisition, along with the palace of the Inquisition, (known as the Big House) the sprawling estate of the de Silvas was also demolished. However, nobody was killed.
In a such a situation then, to revive oneself, something more than an unflinching faith in one’s pedigree is needed. It was then that the Rozarrios extended the olive branch of friendship to the de Sivas. The Rozarrios were among the first fleet of merchants to arrive in Goa with their precious and semi-precious stones. They profited from their enterprise and now desired to climb the social ladder as well. They felt that the only way to achieve this, would be to attach themselves to some church in Goa. The Se Cathedral in Old Goa, originally built in 1510, housing the Golden Bell (the bell of Inquisition whose tolling heralded the start of ‘auto da fes’, or, the brutal part of the Inquisition process) was the Church to which they desired to be attached in some way. The aim was to be one of its prime patrons.
The Rozzarios could be described as a family with no ethical or moral scruples, solely driven by a blind ambition for social respectability. For them, the Church is not a seat of worship, but a rite of passage, whereby, they would become members of a society of the privileged. The deepest fears of these people was, the fear of extermination, and they had a strange belief that by signing themselves into some hallowed establishment, like the church, they could be saved.
Thus, it was a sort of symbiotic relationship between the two families. The de Silvas had by then found a tiny space for themselves in the church (where the women took up the job of the mistress of the choir, and the men helped about in little duties of the priests and clergy), but they needed the money to get back to their earlier mode of existence, (for old habits die hard) and the Rozarrios helped them by making them shareholders in their shipping business. The Rozzarios in turn, helped by a particular smooth-talking de Silva, managed to be one of the patrons of the said church, i.e. the Se Cathedral.

Esther de Silva is born into a family that proclaims its dubious high status, but economically, they are almost impoverished. Esther’s father was not interested in the proceedings of the Church, so he worked as a master gardener in the estate of the Church. This is not to say however, that he was not a believer in Christianity like the rest, but he was definitely not of the orthodox nature. He passed away quietly in his sleep when Esther was twelve years old, and his brother David, six. Esther’s mother worked as the mistress of the choir till the day she retired and Esther took over from her. Esther’s mother is a dominating woman, a woman of determination and has a remarkable capacity for sustaining an argument. She was almost a kind of menacing disciplinarian to Esther’s father and the two children. Esther’s father on the other hand, was a man of few words.
The mother brought up the two children in an atmosphere of piety and discipline. ‘The Grand Cane’ was the great instrument of torture at their house, and its services were employed even on the day that Esther’s marriage was finalized when Esther coughed out the words- “I don’t want to.”
Though the two families had begun a sort of partnership, the losses slowly started loading up upon the de Silvas. The de Silvas were not able to understand the intricacies of business, and started suffering losses. The Rozarrios had then struck a deal- marry the de Silva daughter to our forty year old son, and we would settle all the accounts. The prospective groom, Peter Rozarrio had one damaged kidney (nobody knew the reason behind this) and had found it difficult to find a wife for himself among the wealthy Christian families. So now, because of their family lineage and the long history of a bond that the two families shared, the marriage between Esther and Peter was finalized.
Esther was twenty when she got married off. She was just in the first year of her college, doing her Bachelors in Philosophy from St.Paul’s College. Another important fact to be mentioned is that, at around the time that Esther’s marriage plans were being chalked out by her mother and the Rozzarios, (and Esther was weeping copiously in her room) David, her brother, had a final rather violent row with his mother (and he had had many such rows before) and left the house. He has never returned, and at present, no one knows where he is or what he does.

Esther has always lived a cloistered life, so there has never been much of an opportunity to make friends. However, her closest companion (and the dearest) had her brother, David. She has always adored him, but had fallen short when it came to the duty of standing up for and protecting her little brother. Esther lacks the personality to do that. But that had never created any strain between the two. In fact, David had shown stupendous courage by walking out on his mother. He had always been a boy of determination, and this had extended to his attempts to save Esther’s life from the clutches of their mother and the Rozarrios. However, when he could not do that, he left the house.
Apart from the brother, Esther had another friend- a grizzly looking cat. But that was finally removed by her mother to some other part of the town because Mrs. De Silva despises cats.
Therefore, in a nutshell, it could be said that, Esther had just two close friends in her life, and was separated from both very early in her life.
Now she has no friends or confidantes.

Esther hardly ever looks up at the world when she walks. And then again, she has never walked far into the world of strangers and chance opportunities. So, the chance of getting romantically entangled with anyone is beyond the question. Also, she has never really been the romantic sort. But not practical either.
As for her relationship with her mother, Esther shares a formal relation with the woman, and hardly ever speaks to her. She speaks only when spoken to. There was a time when she was mortally terrified of the woman, but now, after her marriage, since she doesn’t see too much of her mother, the fear is slowly dissipating, and drops of anger entering to fill that void.

After her marriage into the Rozarrio family, Esther has to make quite a number of formal appearances. There are occasional social gatherings, charities organized by the Church, where she has the role of a silent smiling attentive spectator, the wife of Peter Rozarrio. At these gatherings, she hardly makes an effort. She goes about it as though it is a duty. Her chief aim (and that has always been the case) is to do the duty\chore assigned to her deftly, indifferently, silently and then to fade with the background. She excels at this self-constructed game of ‘fading out’.
Her husband never takes her out anywhere. She does not feel the urge to complain or request either. In fact, she is swept by a wave of relief when her husband leaves for his work.

Emotionally, Esther is as fragile as a glass, but this glass is insulated from outside (and this process of insulation had begun the day her father died) so that whatever might pass in her heart, might not be reflected on her face.
She despises tears, but only when the urge to cry overwhelms her. Every time David had broken down, she had supported him with a warm hug, if not with anything else.
Esther might not have any great capacity for cultivating anger or hatred, but when she has a grudge against anyone or anything, she tries to fade out that person or thing from her sight and memory. It is a very conscious effort on her part, but she is perfecting it, just as she is perfecting the art of ‘fading’ out herself. However, what Esther is not conscious of, is the great cauldron of anger and wrath bubbling within her for quite some time now. She is still not conscious of it, though the symptoms are starting to show of late- sudden spurts of impatience, a violent combing of the scant hair on her head, talking to herself, slashing down beautiful blooming roses and petunias with her garden scissors when nobody is watching.
Esther does not love her husband, or any member in her husband’s family. She does not know the names of a few of them , and the rest are just as insignificant to her as they. For her husband, she tries to muster respect at least, but cannot.
Esther has often contemplating leaving all and running away somewhere, but years of servitude and acceptance of her mother’s orders, has washed away any traces of determination in her. She lacks confidence. The one thought that keeps haunting her is, of being forced to beg at street corners. By far, the fear of not being able to feed herself, is the greatest fear of all. This fear is the product of her insufficient qualifications, of the fact that, if let loose in the world, she won’t be able to fend for herself.

Esther’s father’s death is by far, the single greatest life-altering event of her life. The sudden feeling of being unprotected in the world, was a tremendously difficult feeling to cope with for the young girl.
Esther and brother had at one point (when Esther was thirteen) started putting together a sort of mystery story, largely a juvenile attempt at recreating a Secret Seven or a Famous Five. They got completely immersed in the project. They had just been introduced to the world of Enid Blyton by a friend of David of his school, (who had established a kind of personal library and was making a huge profit out of it) and were mesmerized. At this time, the dream of the duo had been, to get really famous by writing these books, and then, with the money, to run away somewhere and live life the way these British children did. However, one day their mother came across these diaries filled with fantastic stories, and she set them on fire and caned the children hard. This single incident of having their work burnt to ashes, affected Esther deeply. It was at this time that she became a complete recluse. And the feeling of being unprotected in the world, heightened.
Esther’s brother’s estrangement from the family was another event which affected her. It all went on adding up to her feeling of being a cornered beast and losing all the people and things that might have protected her.
The day Esther’s mother got rid of the grizzly cat, Esther dreamt of her father. It was not a symbolic dream or something, but when she woke up, she had felt a sudden blaze of anger, (not directed towards anybody particular) which had almost immediately died down.
After her marriage, she started suffering from insomnia. She has never been able to sleep at night since then.

Esther has suddenly, in the dead of the night, started writing again. It happened without any forewarning. Her insomnia probably drove her to it, but even though there are significant traces of the earlier threads of thought that David and Esther had put together in their childhood exercise, this time, her writings are more graphic, with lengthy (and completely inappropriate for the story) gruesome descriptions of rotten corpses and men murdering men. Also, there is slowly, a suspension of the storyline altogether. Now, it is more of an exercise, a kind of catharsis. Esther feels a sense of relief after these violent sessions. Often, she simply spills a huge drop of ink right in the centre of her paper, and starts describing a murder perhaps by dragging the tip of her pen from within that gleaming pool of ink, outwards, like words spilling out of a drop of blood.
Esther has been appointed the mistress of the choir at the Church, but she simply abhors the sound of the organ. She hates the touch of the cold hard keys against her skin.
Esther is probably the only non-superstitious person in the family of the Rozarrios. Her mother is highly superstitious too (which is why she got rid of the cat.)
Esther has no favourites- colour, music, sports, etc. One of the reasons could be that, in the kind of environment where she has been born and brought up, (and continues to live) one has never had the opportunity to develop one’s finer tastes, or concentrate upon one’s personal choices in matters of art, literature, music. Such things are not encouraged in her kind of an environment. Here, the idea of ‘duty’ dominates, and Esther has as of yet, not accumulated sufficient courage to break out of this tradition.
However, it should be noted that she absolutely loves the sea.

1 comment:

deepteshpoetry said...

Great post as usual.Loved it in tons!I'm Deeptesh...Jude...UG-1.Well, I've posted after a long time!Pls c my new poem n tell me what u all feel.