Translated by Vidya Pai from Konkani to English, Age of Frenzy (Yug Sanvar) is the work of eminent Konkani writer Mahabaleshwar Sail. A Sahitya Akademi award winning author, Sail, who has spent his early years on the farms, brilliantly captures the minutest details of the villages, the cultures and the people.
The author calls the book a piece of creative writing based on historical events. Set during the 16th century at the beginning of the Portuguese arrival, the book takes us on a journey filled with love, despair, faith and loyalty, from Hindu-dominated Goa to Portuguese-controlled Christian Goa.
Society is divided into upper and lower caste and everyone is supposed to work accordingly. No one raises a question, because if they do, they will be thrown out of the village and will have nowhere to go. The strict, religious, law-abiding and god-fearing Hindus are suddenly thrown into a turmoil with the arrival of white-skinned ‘devils’ into their village. The sole motive of these ‘devils’ according to the locals is to destroy their religion and make them ‘impure’.
The writer has beautifully captured the angst and sufferings of the locals as the Portuguese try to use brutal force to capture the land, use religion as a tool to instill fear, raze temples and force conversions. Faced with uncertainty and terror, the locals battle to save their faith and religion.
The upper caste prays to their lord, waiting for a miracle, the lower caste gives in easily, hoping for a new future, where they will be accepted as they are — humans. The lower caste people hope to be treated equal, not as untouchables, and live without fear of upper castes or their gods or their ridiculous laws. But when has any religion been so un-complex? Once you convert, you can’t go back to becoming a Hindu, you can’t go back to your way of life. What do you do with such a life where you are not accepted, either as a low caste Hindu or a casteless Christian?
Among this mess is Padre Simao Peres, who believes force is not the word of Jesus and only love and compassion can bring people into the Christian fold, a thought that has irked the higher authorities, who want quick results. Padre Peres faces hostility from all sections and he tries to bring about change without force. But does he succeed?