Author: Sophia Lorena Benjamin
Publication: Olive Turtle (Niyogi Books)
Price: Rs 395
Claudia by Sophia Lorena Benjamin is like a fresh breeze you suddenly experience after a long hot and humid dusty drive, as you enter into a lush green virgin stretch surrounded by fields and mountains. Born and brought up in one of the most naturally blessed States of Goa, the author has managed to bring to the fore some of the age-old tradition and customs through her character, Claudia.
And while doing so, she has taken utmost care to maintain the continuity of the story throughout the read. If anyone does plan to produce or direct a movie on Claudia, one can begin from any chapter and yet take it to its logical end. A talent hard to be found, amongst the recent bunch of authors.
The Portuguese rule in Goa lasted for as long as 450 years. Even after India got its independence, Goa continued to be a Portuguese colony until December 19, 1961. Amidst this backdrop, just on the onset of growing resentment among few groups against the ruling establishment, Claudia a village girl from Oroshim, falls in love with young handsome Portuguese lad Damiano. It was the time when some were planning to chase away the Portuguese out of Goa, when this girl had given one of them a place in her heart.
The author in the initial chapters of the book has described the typical village scene with its elders having their own approach towards certain issues pertaining to existing norms in Catholic houses of which Claudia was also part of. Claudia’s family comprised of her father, mother, two sisters and her grandmother. Small joy like having constructed a mud house during those days, Claudia’s father throws a party with a bottle of cashew feni (local brew) and chicken xacuti (traditional Goan dish) highlights the simplicity of the village folks during those days. Paklin Bai (a foreigner) at whose place Claudia and her mother worked or Gormai (Claudia’s grandmother) are women who have their own typical characteristics all throughout the story.
As the story unfolds, Damiano and Claudia who chose to stay away from the romantic beauty of the village, meeting each other on the outskirts of Oroshim much before dawn, come across several difficult instances. Damiano survives a major accident; Claudia, on the other hand, gets a proposal from a very well to do family.
The author has made a sincere attempt to present Goa, its villages and the day to day happenings within Catholic houses to near perfection. Will the cry for liberation crush the love of Damiano and Claudia? Who would Claudia look up to while taking some of the toughest decisions of her life? These are some of the questions a reader will ponder upon as you turn the pages.
One cannot deny the fact that author’s inspiration is certainly her real-life experiences. No wonder a Goan reader is introduced to many unknown facets of his own beautiful state. While a non-Goan has much more to relish upon besides fish-curry rice and beaches.