The stadium was full buzzing with life of visual creation. Foot lights spot lights and sound systems being checked. Celebrities walking in one by one… No doubt it was a literary festival. The Word World Lit fest like they called it, it was a prestigious one like the Jaipur lit fest, or the Kala Goda.
The festival was littered with big celebrity names, who had their autobiographies (written by ghost writers) being released, Scions of various royal houses, talking of their heritage and God knows what. There were quieter actors, accidental celebrities who were sharing their personal battles through their writing. Not to mention the doyens of Indian journalism and fiction writers.
As Hector entered, he felt a sense of triumph, that moment of ‘ahh” it was the best 40th birthday gift that the universe could give him. He was invited because as writer he was known and three of his books were being made into movies through different genre’s…
‘Can I have your invite please”
Hector took out his mobile and the polite event manager scanned the QR code. ‘Thank you’ and hector of course gave him a polite smile. Shaking hands, and hi hello, the welcome drink Hector was careful to pick a non-alcohol since he didn’t want to damage his image of a fastidious persona.
“Welcome Harsh” the hostess welcomed him as she escorted him to his seat.
Hector looked around. Here he was ‘Harsh Kolapkar” a celebrity writer who wrote different genres. there was his story on rebirth which was directed by a well-known writer that had become a block buster. Then the story “Rocky ki Romance’ though had a hint of past life it was a Romance and a man’s inability to tell his wife that he loved her. There was this thriller written by him… of a cold case being reopened by a Lady Cop. Each story was different from the other.
Yet…Somewhere he knew he was like David Rossi from criminal minds, every birthday – a serial killer arrested by Rossi would send him the location of a body, and it would Rossi’s lot to go find the body, hand it to the family. Hector’s versatility was hidden in his journey of transformation from Hector to Harsh Kolapkar. The journey of a gauche young boy born and brought up in a small Goan village with uncles and aunts some genuinely related or some just addressed in the traditional Indian way.
‘Why did you get so poor marks in English?” and he was promptly kicked to remedial classes he attended tuition and remedial classes so that he would get through from one class to the other while his sister Rebecca and cousins attended coaching classes to improve their scores so that they could enter professional courses.
Photography and drama were Hectors passion. But his family never failed to point that language and literature were not up to the mark and neither would he make it to a professional course as he over all score was always unsatisfactory. He had begun to lose appetite, and slowly moved away from people. Family, friends. He would be in the church on and off but mostly wander off on his own.
He would gasp startled if anyone entered his room.
Then he discovered a folder in his mother’s locker. His parents had hired a detective as they thought he was on drugs. They wondered where he got the money from. He went to the confessional and broke down.
“Hector, the Padre wants to meet you, just go to the church when you are free” his mother had said. Somewhere she was worried too.
Father Francis did the most unexpected thing, he gave Hector a drink, drink it its Gin and Tonic. Sip it don’t gulp Father instructed.
As Hector began to have his drink… Father said, “tell me about it”
“Whatever is bothering you, I know you are not into drugs, I know you don’t drink or gamble but you are on the verge of breaking, tell me about it.”
‘I don’t know what you are talking about “
Father looked at him for a moment, and asked “what do you think of your family?’ before Hector knew it, he was venting to Father about the rigidity within, about his uncle telling his father that Hector will anyway not mount to much so it was okay if he did odd jobs, his father replying that Hector was a slow learner so he needed to study harder.
Something within Hector broke as he spoke to Father Francis. Francis DeMello had lot of experience with people. He knew there was something deeper, but he also knew that Hector was not yet in the space to speak up.
Evening when Hector returned, the war of words was on…
“sir Father Francis also told you not throw money on tuitions, now get realistic” his uncle David was telling his dad.
“David, Father said three months break, He didn’t say no tuitions, he said no tuitions for three months.”
Hector had felt very let down by Father Francis. Yet as promised he met the priest, who gave him a drink again
“This is the last one from me, I’m putting a deal before you tell me if works”
Hector was wary. He had heard of lot things about Priests.
“Starting from today, for next three months you will come to the church every day at 4pm, I have a notebook for you, it’s a conversation between you and the Lord, no one will read it, just write 3 pages each day. But once the three pages of the day are over, you cannot read what you have written in the book. Are you good with it?”
It sounded easy. ‘Next thing, you can choose any hymn and say it. Whatever appeals to you for the day but remember to thank the Lord for taking care of you”
‘After that come inside and Mary will give you tea. You don’t wait for me, have your tea and go ahead with your day’
It did feel odd to do it, but then things changed in the house, his uncle no more belittled him. His father no more looked at him like he was a disappointment. It must have been a month later,
“Hector, I have handicap, can you interview old people around the ruins of old goa Catholics preferably and find what they have to say about it.”
This was Hectors first documentary. In the next two months he did small documentaries for the church community. Three months were up, now the family stopped talking remedials and tuitions, it was coaching classes for him too. Soon Hector was in the engineering classes. Father DeMello did a stint in another parish and returned to Hector’s town.
That was when the first dream appeared, it was a snake entwined and Hector had felt tremendous sense of guilt. As if he was responsible for the snake being there. He was right back where he had started. Loosing appetite, not wanting socialize grades dropping. The familiar hush tone conversations.
This time Father DeMello asked him something different. Tell me of how your week went before the snake appeared.
As he spoke to Father, Hector realized that he felt sever constriction in his throat, he felt suicidal and it was as if someone was in his head trying to take him over. As he spoke this Father DeMello turned quiet, and serious, listened to him totally.
‘Hector, you need to say the psalm 91’ before going to bed each day without fail. Every time the throat constriction begins, come to the church and surrender to the Lord and let the words flow”
As the words flowed, it turned to a story, Goa’s prominent publishing house Goa 1556 published it, and the journey began. Some how Hector Pinto telling the story of Naguesh Narvekar was not acceptable, so Hector Pinto became Harsh Kolapkar, it was almost like, forgotten pains came to him for a hearing, and sharing he became the bridge between the lost soul and uncaring world. But on celluloid his stories relived their lives.
Here he was his moment of triumph. He could finally forgive himself for accepting the label that his family given him, the label of a non-achiever.