Setting foot in Curdi, the first thing that I noticed were cracks in the barren ground, almost as if the place were suffering from severe drought. But, the irony remains that this land was given water – much more than the village ever asked for, water that swallowed this once beautiful village whole.
Although it experiences an unending cycle of drowning over and over again for nearly 11 months every year, the resilient village of Curdi, which is located in the Sanguem taluka of Goa, holds its breath as it patiently waits to reunite with the people that it was forced to leave behind.
LIVING IN CURDI
Once a flourishing agricultural village, Curdi was home to several Goan families. They lived a simple life, one that involved the usual – eating, drinking, working and praying. There were temples, a Christian chapel and a Muslim place of worship in the village.
When the day ended, they shut their eyes and drifted off into a world of undisturbed dreams. Not knowing that far from their minds was the tsunami threatening them. Soon their dreams were to turn into a waterlogged nightmare.
It all began post-Liberation, when the plan to construct the Salaulim Dam to secure a sufficient supply of water for irrigation and drinking purposes to a large section of the state was made.
This meant that the entire village of Curdi would soon be inhabitable because the water from the dam would overflow and enter the village, which would result in the entire village being submerged underwater!
While it is no secret that progress often requires difficult decisions and sacrifices like these to be made, I cannot help but be reminded of a few lines from a poem titled “War” that I once came across.
“I don’t know who sold our homeland, but I saw who paid the price” – these words by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish struck me when I first read them and, today, continue to act as a reminder that life has never been fair.
Sadly, the final nail in the coffin is that today, even after so many years have gone by, the very same people who gave up their homeland for the sake of water, suffer from the lack of it since they do not have access to the water from the dam.
SAYING GOODBYE TO HOME
Taking into consideration that the village of Curdi would be completely submerged, the then chief minister of Goa Dayanand Bandodkar made provisions for the residents of the village to be relocated to the neighbouring villages. The families were given 10,000 square metres of agricultural land as compensation.
Initially, coming to terms with this change was hard. In a much deeper sense, maybe home felt like home because of the warmth of the familiar left behind by our ancestors. And now, it was time to say adeus, yet again.
How could one say his final goodbye to the grave of his deceased mother knowing that he is leaving her behind forever? There was no easy way to tell her that although the plan was to lay beside her when death came to take him away, this would not be possible anymore. And somehow, the second goodbye hurt more than the first one.
Not knowing if they would ever see their homeland again, they began packing for the big move. While utensils and clothes were easily movable, what about the elements that weren’t?
Thousands of memories were about to be submerged under water, with the only consolation being that this water would help save a thousand lives.
Wiping away their tears, the villages began doing whatever little they could to save what was dear to them. They even began translocating the temple, brick by brick!
Finally, with little to no option left, the people of Curdi began moving out of their village by the year 1971, following which, the construction of the Salaulim Dam began in 1975.
Initially, the villagers lived in rehabilitation homes which were provided by the government. Today, they live in the nearby village of Vadem.
COMING TO THE SURFACE
To this day, it is only in the months of April and May that Curdi gasps for fresh air and finally comes to the surface. There is a wave of nostalgia as it remembers that home is where the warmth of the sun hits the surface, not a cold, dark, bottomless body of water.
Just like rushing to meet a loved one that you haven’t seen all year, the Curdikars return to their village and nothing compares to the feeling of coming home!
They not only walk through memory lane but also organise and celebrate the feast of the chapel and festival of the Someshwar Temple that resurfaces in the months of summer.
Several structures still stand in silence. One cannot help but imagine that the laterite structure with several compartments was once a police station and that all the many Tulsi chauras scattered around the place mark the spots where there once used to be houses.
Curdi has a certain fascinating charm that draws people to it. Personally having visited the place in April 2023, the repetitive words that kept coming out of my mouth as my colleague showed me around were, “So cool!”
It was only once I gathered my thoughts in the car on the journey back that it hit me – how could ruin and misery be cool?
Maybe it was just me, or maybe it was the invisible barrier to empathy that everybody breaks through as they enter the village of Curdi.
If there is one thing that is truly cool, it has to be the fact that so many years ago the villagers said goodbye to their home, not knowing that in a distant whisper, it responded by saying, “This is not goodbye, but until we meet again.”