An Inborn Sailor

6 min

The demand for spices in the 14th century can be related to today’s need for crude oil. For instance, imagine that all of a sudden, petrol and diesel has depleted from the mother earth and someone has found out that it could be replenished from the mars and designed a spaceship that travels faster than light. The political scenario was similar in the 14th century when Arabs stopped the supply of spices in Portuguese. They forced to build a sophisticated ship and the ruler of the Portuguese send Vasco da Gama to found out a sea route to India.    This is a story of a Portuguese Sailor who found out a sea root to India in search of spices.

They laughed when he said, “I would like to go beyond the horizon”.  The sun gradually is fading into the Waveless Atlantic Ocean. The reflection of golden shine on Gama’s face gently ran down, he could hardly hear his friend saying, “It’s the end of the world, you see that star, and if you cross that no Sailor is going to come back. Everyone knew it is going to be a path to the edge of the earth. Insane people who say the earth is round never have had the courage to risk their lives and cross this lusty ocean, do you know some defiant loners who take initiative to bend away from the rules of society had engulfed by this mighty. So don’t even think about being a sailor, don’t ever try to create a new path be what your society wants you to be, heed the words of the elderly”. He answered back in silence; he is in no mood to argue. He remembered his father saying to him “one night the village was bracing for the worst nightmare, everyone was terrified of the big waves arising out of the ocean, feared that the upsurge of tide will create a death havoc in their homes. However, I was looking at the peace, when your mother handed a cute little baby over to me. Nothing happened that night I consider that as an open sea was celebrating your birth that night, you should explore that mystery of ocean one day”. His friend’s voice brought his mind back, they were talking to each other” he ended up being no one”. Finally, he could not bear being silent he replied, “My father also wanted me to become a sailor”. Rodrigues, a bully the leader of the group suggested a game “the rules are simple you alone in a team and we three are on another team, let’s throw stones at each other and see who is going to win”. Before Gama could respond he gotten hit on his forehead, his face began to quiver when the next one hit on his face. Then one after the other, he did not feel anything anymore, he could hear them saying “This is how your life would turn out to be if you are trying to swim against the tide of social laws”. Gama Splayed on the sand, they had abandoned him. He did not talk to his friends any more. His father came in and took him in his hand to their home. They did not talk on the way either, Tears poured out of Gama’s face.

One day his father handed him a sheet of paper, a Latin translated Ptolemy’s world map. “Write or wrong this is the only references the world has do not trust anything except your instincts”. His father did not speak anything to anyone after that.

As he grew up, had only one thing in his mind that is to learn about survival on the sea; he read all myths and legends available on this land and could make out what is real and what is not.  

When he went to market one day he was astonished hearing the price of pepper 1400 Manoelo Dinheiro. The Arabs are the man who knows where to find it. They increase the price without any reason. An Arab was sitting and watching the hackling of prices, a glass of pocha on his hand. Gama tried to initiate conversation with him asked where you find this. How they are making this? The Arab replied with a bragging voice. “You know the black paper is coming from a land called Indies, the people of Indies are the only one who knows how to snatch it from the venomous serpents. The pepper was guarded by them when it became ripen the people of Indies will fire the forest of pepper trees, the fire will engulf the berries, And that is how the pepper got its black colour and fierce taste. Your life is at stake on this process if something goes wrong the venom will get you killed. It is impossible to take it without the help of Indies people. Recently your King Manuala is planning to find a sea root in search of the land of species, how ridiculous and silly. How can you find a way when there is no path exists? The land of Indies is restricted land. They trust no one except Arabs. If anyone else tried to cross, they are infiltrating to death”. Gama always had a fascination towards impossible, the social laws and nos never bothered him from trying the unexpected. He already made up his mind to meet Manualla.

Arab went on boasting. “People of Portuguese can no longer live without the taste of spices they spend most of their earning for this addiction. Apparently, people are not happy with the inadequacy of pepper and ginger, they started doubting the abilities of their ruler, there may not be the next king from his family heir, an Arab with a small force who knows how to manipulate people can easily overthrow him as a ruler. The king has no other choice but to resume his father’s plan that is to find the best commander and assign a crew to find the Indies through the sea”.

Gama thought even if he is not planning to give Bartolomea Dias a second chance, he probably would not accept him as a commander, why should he anyway? Unlike Bartolomea Dias he neither prove Ptolemy world map was erroneous nor found the cape of good hopes. Moreover, the king does not know about him or he does not have experience or age to take over his mission.

When he trapped in the isolation of self-doubt he has to prey, so he unleashes the tug of his vessel, his church is the loneliness of the ocean. When he is in the middle of the sea alone, he could hear his own inner voice louder and clearer. He would talk to himself without any care about the outer world. The wind veered the boat towards the horizon, which turned purple; the clouds travelling to the north hide evening sun. He turned around, he can see nothing except the calmness of the water, and there is no trace of land. Wind steered Gamas vessel to unknown, He saw ripples of water and suddenly he saw a fine, it’s moving towards another vessel far away, he knows that the serenity of the ocean soon be destroyed. It’s not one, there are more. A group of tiger shark is far more dangerous than the loners. Before he could reach any nearer, the vessel disappeared into shallow depths, the blueness of water turned red. In the middle of red water he saw a head bobbing and circled by sharks, the head has life beneath the water, Gamma made noise on water by mooring his anchor up and down, one of the sharks turned, to his boat, he didn’t stop looking into the eyes and beat on the water. Soon the sharks gave up.

Gama somehow managed to drag him overboard, the man can barely breathe, lay motionless on the deck, to Gammas astonishment apart from battered clothes, the man has no trace of any injury. He put pressure on the man’s stomach, water oozed out of his mouth. As if waking from a bad dream the man finally woke and sat on the duck looking at Gamma, and then his eyes darted to the sea, and said, “We were seven and you saved my life”.

The man could not walk himself when they reach the beach. Gamma suggested to walk him to the home, they were about to pass the royal palace, the man stopped and looked at Gama’s face and said, “Let’s go inside”. The guards bowed at him All of the sudden people came out from inside, a sense of amazement reflected on the crowd. Gamma asked the man “Do you know The King? I would really appreciate if you could make an appointment with the king. The man replied smiling “you got it, my friend. You can ask me whatever you want indeed I am the King Manualla”. The king does not give Gama any time to express his surprise “I can see a perilous conviction on your eyes, I was searching without any luck for a commander to lead a mission to find Indies through the sea, I couldn’t afford a failure. if you think you can win this I am willing to trust you”

Within a couple of days, Gamma received an official appointment to join the Mission.

Gama needs at least 200 people for the mission however not a single person volunteered, everyone is scared to step into the mystery. No amount of money or attempts to spread the mission as a way of earning pride in the society could defrost the fear in the mind of people. Even when Gamma tried to lure the incarcerated criminals had failed miserably they said. “Rather they will rot in prison than dying in the middle of the sea.” At last King Manuela have to interfere, he ordered to train those who are convicted for death penalty no one asked their permission.

At last, on May 14 the day dawned with anticipated wind, ‘today is the Day:” Gama announced to his 176-crew members. “There are three big vessels and the fourth one was a supporting vessel with three years of food stored inside“. Gama addressed to the people gathered around, family members, friends and neighbour.  His eyes stopped when he saw his old friend, the time has changed, Rodrigus. He became extremely fat Gama walked to him wishing to hear a best of luck however he said “all people are here not to say good luck to you indeed they wanted to see the men who are about to drown. Instead of healing, you have decided to carry your madness to your grave however, the saddest thing is we will not get any trace of your body to put in your grave to remind your craziness. Anyway, we will build a church of foolishness to let our children aware of the consequences if they do not follow the society. They will pray for the sanity in there”. Gamma smiled at him.

It has been one year since they left their loved once, crewmembers are waiting for their chance to die, and they dumbed one more anaemic dead body overboard. In the roll call, one of the Crew said, “We don’t want to die like this, let’s go back at least we deserve a funeral”. Gama said to everyone “there is no going back, we started our journey together, no illness can kill you if you think about a future with free days in the homeland, the same people who called you killers will respect you for what you had done. People will dream of becoming you. I can smell in the air we almost reached it’s a matter of few more days of suffering”

As the days wore on they abandoned two of their ships, the count of the crew becomes 57, the crew lost the last bit of hope seeing land when Gama ordered to let loose the leases, the wind will steer it wherever it wants us to be.

Everyone praised their last prayer bracing for their death, that’s when they saw far end on the horizon a speck of light, the spirit of all 57 on board has skyrocketed, they sailed forward. As they reached the shore, a woman in her 30s approached Gama and introduced herself as the leader of the town of Calicut Asked who are you? He replied ‘my name is Vasco da Gamma’. He could feel the presence of pepper in the air he breathes. At last, after two years of suffering he had reached the destination of his life, he looked at the crew. There is no trace of weariness on their face.

There has been no one to control the crowd gathered on the dock, cheering for them while they were back on the homeland. People push forward to see a glimpse of the people who conquered the world. The crewmembers tried hard to stop people from coming to congratulate Gama. Among the crowd, Gama can see his friend Rodrigus, a baby on his hand is trying to approach him; Gama stopped the crewmembers from blocking Rodrigus.   He looked at the crowd and then turned to Gamma and said, “You are the real warrior”. Gamma politely smiled and avoids answering and looked at the cute baby on Rodrigus hand. ‘Is it your baby? What is his name? Rodrigues replied with a grin ‘’He is my hope, my cute little Gama I named him after you.”


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Soumith V

Soumith is an avid reader, who likes to read all kind of stories.
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