When Vasco Found Indian ‘Christians’
- Former Ranji player held, Sreesanth and others to be produced in court today
- Li Keqiang pitches for more Chinese investments as he backs trade balance
- All eyes on Narendra Modi as BJP set to discuss strategy for Lok Sabha polls
- SC agrees to hear PIL to stay IPL matches due to spot-fixing
- Monstrous tornado rips through US city of Oklahoma, 90 dead
An English translation of Vasco da Gama's voyage diary offers everything that dry textbook history lacks
"May the Devil take thee! What brought you hither?" Such was the abusive welcome accorded to the first Portuguese to step on Indian soil, near Calicut, in May 1498. It was not Vasco da Gama, as is usually claimed, but one of the convicts serving on his ship, whom he used as human canaries to test the air in foreign climes. And the convict was met not by the Zamorin, or by any Indian at all, as we have been led to believe, but by two Moors speaking Genoese and Castilian.
Vasco maintained a diary of the voyage, written in the third person after the manner of Julius Caesar, which provides amazing details that textbook history glosses over. Paul Halsall hosts a good translation, Round Africa to India, at Fordham University's website, a must-read for those interested in early colonial history.
The angst of the Moors was legitimate. Vasco had connected the last dots on a direct sea route between Europe and India, cutting out the Arabs, Levantines and Italians who had controlled the intercontinental trade since Roman times. After this, the rise of mercantile Western Europe at the expense of the rest of the world was inevitable. But the Moors tempered their abuse with Asian hospitality. They fed the convict roti and honey and escorted him back to Vasco's ship, the Sao Gabriel. And they startled the Captain-Major — as Vasco calls himself in the diary — by changing their tune to sing: "A lucky venture, a lucky venture! Plenty of rubies, plenty of emeralds! You owe great thanks to God, for having brought you to a country holding such riches!"
But Vasco's charter famously commissioned him to sail "for pepper and Christ" — incidentally, the title of the English poet Keki Daruwalla's recent novel on the Portuguese landing. The pepper the Portuguese took back paid for the voyage 60 times over, a fabulous rate of return not seen again until the rise of Silicon Valley. And they found Christians, too. The true seeker finds all things — even non-existent things.
- 'Sophisticated' Indian cyberattacks targeted Pak military sites: Report
- Talkative Li quoted Weber, Hegel, Jobs, said PM is large-hearted
- Bihar food corp ends up with chaff as rice worth Rs 535 cr vanishes from mills
- In 7 lucrative minutes on May 9, Sreesanth bowled 6 balls, bookie made Rs 2.5 cr
- India and China ask border envoys to work on more steps
- Former Ranji player among 3 more held