Revenge of the Naked Princess
By Oswald Pereira
The princess was dead. She died naked, disgraced and humiliated.
Princess Darshana Kamya Kathodi’s smooth mahogany skin still looked radiant. But the glow had gone from her face, which even in death was wrapped in pain and anger — at the betrayal by a person close to her family.
Brigadeiro Antonio de Braganca tugged at the braces of his uniformed trousers, gathered near the base of his shining army boots. The corners of the brigadier’s fleshy mouth twisted into a smile reassured that he had conquered the pride of the princess.
Govind Laxman Prabhu, who was recently christened Joseph Lawrence Pereira Prabhu, looked happy standing by his side.
“Saar, me saar, me getting my bakshish, no saar?” asked Joseph, fiddling with the small crucifix on his chest, dangling on a string wrapped around the collar of his new white shirt.
Joseph had swapped his red-flowered langoti, white dhoti and banyan for a pair of tailored underwear, white starched ‘full pants’ and a matching shirt. But his feet hurt in the closed shoes that he had worn for the first time in his life.
“You bloody Indian pariah, you will get your reward or bakshish, as you say; it will be a very big plot of land, much more than you and your family and your future generations can cultivate,” barked Brigadier Braganca.
“But saar, Father Pascal Francisco wanting princess caught alive to make her holy Catholic and then all her peoples too,” said Joseph, now kneeling in front of Brigadier Braganca.
“My fault saar, she dead now.”
“Not your fault, you did your job and you’ll get your reward, I promise,” Brigadier Braganca said and pulled Joseph up.
“Thank you, saar,” Joseph said, kneeling again and kissing the floor around Brigadier Braganca’s boots.
“Get up you dog and get Father Francisco here; he should bless the soul of the poor princess,” said Brigadier Braganca, stroking his pot belly with both his hands.
When Father Francisco gently sprinkled holy water from an aspergillum on the eighty elite palace guards and ten ace archers to start the mass Baptism ritual, he was greeted with a torrential spray of saliva and vitriolic invectives. Under the orders of Brigadier Braganca, he had chosen the guards and archers as the first and prime target of evangelisation.
He began the mass Baptism ceremony by strategically positioning himself in the midst of the guards and archers, who had earlier been chained in nine groups of ten each and then interlinked in several chains to enhance the intensity of the bondage. Father Francisco stepped gingerly across the chains criss-crossing through their lower legs. They looked ill at ease and certainly not in the best frame of mind to receive the holy sacrament. Several of them were bleeding profusely at various points from the treacherous knife-like contraptions that had been fitted in the chains, handcuffs and leg cuffs that bound them. Father Francisco closed his eyes, both to shut off the suffering of the conversion subjects and to pray to his Lord Jesus Christ.
As a prelude to Baptism, he sprinkled them with holy water, muttering, “Lord Jesus bless their poor souls and put an early end to their suffering.”
He kept his eyes shut, hoping that his holy words would have a soothing effect on the prospective converts.
But he was forced to open his eyes as the prelims to his maiden mass conversion exercise was met with a volley of abuses by the tribals in their native tongue, coupled with sharp and incessant jets of spit. Leading the offensive against the priest was the chief guard, the most volatile and restless among the prisoners. He was writhing in pain from the multiple wounds that he had sustained because the sharp objects in the shackles twisted and pierced the flesh the more a prisoner moved.
But though helpless in his chains, he rose above the pain and led the resistance against the conversion, first hurling his vitriolic abuses and then spitting: “Bhadvya, phodrichya aai zhavadya; ye amchi tuk cha bakshish gey,” (Pimp, very stupid mother fucker; take this gift of our spit) he yelled and then spat.
The guards and archers repeated his vituperation and salivary action. The priest’s face was bathed in saliva spewing all at once from ninety mouths. His hair and beard that he loved so much were also sprayed with saliva.Father Francisco wiped his face with the sleeves of his cassock and brushed away the sprays of spit on his hair and beard with the back of his hand. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” he said, Christ-like.
Brigadier Braganca smiled at the priest’s forgiving words and said: “Release the mother-fucking chief guard out of his chains and misery.”
The non-fighting colonel signalled to one of his officers who went outside to bring in a chain-bondage expert, who soon had the chief guard released from the bunch of prisoners. Braganca nodded to the fighting colonel, who quickly drew out one of his gleaming pistols and shot the chief guard on his forehead at point-blank range. The bullet swished through the chief guard’s brain, spraying the colonel’s face with deep-red blood, like wet, fresh, unmixed paint. As the chief guard dropped dead on his back, blood continued to spout from the small but gaping hole in his forehead.
The blood gushed down the ridge of his nose, coating his lips, mouth and chin like a macabre cherry glue. Brave in his lifetime, in death the chief guard looked stricken and ghastly, his eyes staring out in shock and his mouth agape, as if he were wondering if the end had really come.
As the chained subjects-of-conversion stood shocked, silent and still, the sharp, moving, treacherous objects in their shackles stopped lacerating their feet and legs. But their quietness was short-lived. They were soon shouting angrily, pulling at the chains, desperately trying to free themselves from the shackles, but crying in pain as the sharp pointed objects pierced their flesh, the more they moved in protest against the killing of the chief guard.
Father Francisco had been party to forced conversions in the past. But there were quite a few firsts to the conversions this time: it was his first real mass conversion exercise, the others being confined to few people at a time; while he had been witness to violence like beatings and torture to force people to convert, it was the first time that he had seen a person killed for the sake of conversion; this was also the first time that there were so many soldiers along with civilians that were being targeted for conversion. The priest had been the commander’s ally in conversion for a few years now.
But the paradox of the alliance was that Father Francisco and Braganca seemed to be working with different objectives. Father Francisco had a single goal of attaining a higher place in the kingdom of God by bringing more people into Christ’s fold. Braganca’s aim was to gain favour of his temporal king, get richer and rise in the hierarchy; he had no immediate extraterrestrial yearnings. The priest had on many occasions told the commander that he did not approve of his methods of forcing people to become Christians and that conversions could also be done with persuasion and love, the way adopted by St Thomas and St Bartholomew in the first century in India.
Braganca had each time overruled Father Francisco’s disapproval with the pretext that ‘things had changed in these modern times’ and that love and persuasion would slow down the process and fail to bring in the numbers desired by his king. Father Francisco too had a weakness for numbers, because he believed that God too would reward him in proportion to the quantity of pagan souls he saved. That was one common weakness or synergy that bound the worldly commander and the godly priest together ― the sheer love for conversion numbers or figures. It was this very love for numbers that inspired Father Francisco to make another valiant attempt of his own to pacify the agitated and restless conversion subjects.
Stepping into the midst of the howling prisoners, he shouted over the din, in a smattering of the native language that he had picked up over the years: “My brothers, I have come here to offer you the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Surprised that the priest had spoken in their language, the chained subjects-of-conversion stopped wailing and listened in silence. “I’ve come here with good news of a kind and merciful God who is offering you a kingdom of joy and happiness,” Father Francisco said. They murmured among themselves and then fell into silence again.
Interpreting their silence as the first sign of compliance, Father Francisco sprinkled holy water on his prospective converts from the aspergillum. He closed his eyes and prayed, “Lord Jesus Christ, please open up their hearts and souls so that they become like children, willing to accept the gift of your Holy Spirit.”
While saying this, he reflexively shielded his face and head by making a cross with both his hands in front of him, perhaps expecting a fresh round of collective abuses and spit from the prisoners. But he was pleasantly surprised when the prisoners continued to stand still, merely staring at him; all with the same glazed look in their eyes, which Father Francisco thought was the soothing effect of his prayers. Father Francisco didn’t want this moment of peace and quiet to pass away and decided that it was the right time to start the actual mass Baptism ceremony. He signalled to Govind ‘Joseph’ who had with him in a bag a few portable aspersoriums in which holy water was stored.
The handy holy water containers had been kept packed and ready at St John the Evangelist Church and handed over to Govind ‘Joseph’ when he had gone to pick up Father Francisco. Govind ‘Joseph’ who was frightened by the killing of the chief guard and the vehement protests by the prisoners, walked timidly towards Father Francisco. Without looking at the shackled prisoners, he fished out an aspersorium from the bag and gave it to Father Francisco.
The portable earthen aspersorium had been made to order for such mobile conversion ceremonies. It had a special cover that fitted tightly on top to avoid spillage of the holy water during travel. Father Francisco would have to use the holy water sparingly as there were hundreds of guards, soldiers and civilians to be converted. Keeping the comparative scarcity of holy water in mind, Father Francisco had decided to do away with the traditional method of baptism by pouring holy water thrice on the forehead. To conserve the holy resource, he would instead settle for the more economical baptism method of sprinkling drops of water.
Pulling together his full physical and spiritual force, Father Francisco unscrewed the cover of the aspersorium. He gave to Govind ‘Joseph’ for safe-keeping the cover and the aspergillum that he had used for sprinkling holy water in the preliminary part of the conversion.
Immersing his right hand in the aspersorium that lay at his feet, he sprinkled holy water on the first baptism subject among the first group of ten chained guards, nearest to him. “I now baptise thee in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” he said.
The baptised prisoner shook his head in a vigorous circular motion, in what seemed like a move to get rid of the drops of the holy water; he tried to raise his hands to apparently wipe his head, but he couldn’t do so because of his handcuff. He jumped about in frustration and howled in pain when two sharp and pointed pieces of metal, one each in his leg cuff and handcuff, pierced his flesh.
Ignoring his howling, Father Francisco prayed: “Peace be with you, you are now a Christian, blessed and one with Christ. All your sins have been forgiven by the merciful God.” He conjured up his best native translation to his prayer to ensure that the baptised prisoner understood and forthwith joined the band of faithful converts.
The baptised prisoner registered a loud protest against his conversion, yelling hysterically, “zaaaa, phuuut, aai zhavadya,” which loosely translated meant ‘go, get lost, mother fucker’.
All his 89 co-prisoners joined in the shouting with their own versions of invectives, yelling in different tones and pitches, bringing to nought Father Francisco’s first conversion of the day.
Brigadier Braganca took the fighting and non-fighting colonel aside to a corner of the foyer to confer on a strategy to quell the protest. It was a quick, two-minute conference in which the trio decided what was to be done to stop the unrest among the guards and get on with the conversion ritual.
Braganca deliberately kept Father Francisco out of the decision-making loop because he believed that the priest was the mere executor of the Will of the King and God, in that order.
Causes Oswald Pereira Supports
Equality of Women, Economic Equality