REMEMBER UNSUNG HERO ANTONIO SEQUEIRA!

Author Dr Sushila Sequeira Fonseca is the daughter of Antonio and Ermelinda Sequeira. She is a consultant pathologist and also writes as and when the muse strikes. She is the author of several fiction and non-fiction works and is a Goa State Cultural Award Winner (Literature in English 2018-2019)

‘The Journey of an Unsung Hero Antonia Sequeira, His Quest for Goa’s Freedom’ by Sushila S Fonseca (hardcover, 2021, Rs599)

WITH the menace of a exclusively Indian strain of corona virus (NoB1617, whatever it means) in the air I’ve been forced to more or less at home, something very difficult for me to do for I feel mostly out of doors! But when at home one is besotted with Facebook posts, but this time for a change I’ve been engaged with Dr Sushila Fonseca’s new book The Journey of an Unsung Hero Antonia Sequeira, His Quest for Goa’s Freedom’ (hardcover, 2021). Dr Sushila has one of the keenest perception of things, apart from being a much trusted pathologist in town, her books are simply elegant affairs and offer insight into some rarely covered aspects of Goa’s Portuguese-time colonial history. The good pathologist is a keen observer of the times she’s been privileged to live through and uses her time fruitfully to show us the other side of the coin or so speak. In her new book she’s personally involved forAntonio Sequeira’ is about her own father’s life and times and one realizes how rich Goa’s history is vis-à-vis very many stories of courage and valor during colonially oppressive times! Not only the Goan Hindu side but also on the Goan Catholic side. And history chaser Dr Sushila Fonseca has been a witness to some of it in her own family vis-à-vis the life and times her parents Antonio and Ermelinda Sequeira lived, and as if with latterday hindsight she has done her homework and come up with her latest book titled ‘The Journey of an Unsung Hero Antonio Sequeira, His Quest for Goa’s Freedom.’
Amongst other tidbits the book offers some amusing and interesting perceptions and perspective into the Liberation years and how even freedom of the media suffered, had to be compromised with given the prevailing dictatorship of the Salazarist regime in Goa. Read the book also to understand a more or less similar situation today with a difference (when media is under attack for the stand it takes on human liberties).
In recounting her parents’ life and times during Portuguese rule over Goa the author tells us how her father was affected by media censorship in the mid-1940s, when her father Antonio Sequeira was director and editor of the Portuguese daily A Voz da India’ during the few crucial years it contributed to voice of the freedom movement in Goa. And mind you Antonia Sequeira was a respected lawyer, a pharmacist, keenly conscious of a colonial ruler’s misdeeds and cruelties as it impacted the people of Goa converted and not converted. Regardless of religious differences all were Goans in mind and heart rooted in the red soil of Goa, no matter they may have lived in Portugal or the other Portuguese colonies of those years. So we have Antonio Sequeira in the forefront of the movement for the liberation of Goa from colonial rule and the book throws up fascinating facets and sentiments – of a couple undoubtedly owing allegiance both to their Portuguese as well as native Goan identity. If you want to see the other side of the picture of Goa’s Liberation here it is very simply yet evocatively recounted inAntonio Sequiera’—a man conscious of the yoke of colonial rule and committed to freedom.
His liberating `A Voz Da India’ was banned, a warrant issued for his arrest and he was compelled to run away from Goa to escape arrest. It was a Portuguese newspaper which dared to take the side of other more familiar names calling for liberation from Portugal, like Dr TB da Cunha. But the author rues that her although her father’s contribution to the cause of Goa’s Liberation was critical, later on it remained unsung and forgotten! In a sensed the book could be a daugher’s effort to fill in the blanks in memory of her father and parents life and times.
You’ll have to read the book for the nitty gritty of her parents overt and covert views about the shortcomings of Goa’s Portuguese rulers. A bit of background: “Antonia was born on 20th November, 1911, in Loutolim and he grew up in Raia – both these villages were prominent ones in the south of Goa or Portuguese India as it was called. Antonio’s was a Goan Brahmin Family, of strong Christian faith. Many members of the family attributed his birth to the prayers and promises made to their favorite saints for their intercession with the Almighty Creator to bestow Aleixo and Quiteria with a boy child. Therefore, when Antonio was christened, not only was he named after his grand-father as was customary but the names, of the many saints prayed to, were also added on. Thus, he finally had multiple names. There were Eusebio Antonio Roque Sebastiao Salvador Francisco Xavier da Piedade Sequeira but he became known to everyone just as Antonio Sequeira.’ He was born to a well to do bhatkar or landlord family of Goa which moved amongst the crème de la crème of society of the day.
A good family, education, profession, he did a course in pharmacy, later on he also obtained a license to practice law in Quepem. Her father, says the author was a multi-dimensioned entrepreneur and also a child of nature, “had a weakness for white butterflies. To him they were a good omen: he reckoned that they brought him good luck! For him, the appearance of black butterflies was a warning of impending danger and one had to be very careful! Be it as it may, the fact is that on more than one occasion, he did see white butterflies when taking an important decision, which turned out well for him.”
A life well lived in palatial homes, a loving wife with golden singing voice, a charmed life one would say when the children came along…and yet the author writes about the struggles of the mind as the chapters of liberation history turned. Some familiar history, some unfamiliar insight into how the Governor-General of Goa in charge of governance depended mainly on orders from Portugal’s Minister for Colonies…the years of Salazar’s dictatorship regime became a period of discontent for all Goans and arose the reasons for revolution. Goa’s economy was in the doldrums and a black market thrived.
The writing is comprehensive enough to serve as a refresher course to young Goans today who may be taking their freedom too much for granted today! Dr Susheela Fonseca has a gamut of selected quotes from the many players of the times which led to Goa’s Liberation and in all this her parents’ lives were intertwined. Especially her father’s life who was passionate about Avoz da India (The Voice of India) which was a daily newspaper published in Portuguese in Goa, which was also known then as Portuguese India. The first edition of this newspaper, was published in May 1946 and retired judge and advocate, Vicente Joao de Figueiredo was the first owner and publisher…A Voz da India consisted of four pages yet it made an impact on its readers during the pre-Liberation years.
Media students may do well to read up this book! Lots of yesteryear photographs with Ermelinda getting involved in Gandhiji’s causes, the early 50s were difficult times and the couple had to emigrate for greener pastures (Ermelinda pragmatically sold off her gold jewelry to create funds for a new life abroad). The family lived in Mombasa, Kenya, from 1952 to 1970, so we get some insight into Goan life in Africa. I appreciate the remarkable selection of quotes the author has used before each chapter…you want to understand Goa more, go read the book. A better understanding of history cannot but better heal the wounds of the soul, I would say Sushila S Fonseca’s new book unerringly helps to do just that.
ON that note it’s avjo, poiteverem, selamat datang, au revoir, arrivedecci and vachun yetta here for now.

Excerpted from ‘The Journey of an Unsung Hero: Antonio Sequeira’
by Sushila S Fonseca…..

ON her part, Ermelinda, our Mae enjoyed cooking. Entertaining people came naturally to her kind nature and she always had a warm welcome with her broad smile for any guest; no matter at what time of the day it was! In the kitchen, she loved to innovate and try out new recipes. She jotted these down carefully in a book, which as the years went by became voluminous. In those days in Africa, traditional Goan sweets were always home-made. She made these regularly for her children during the holidays. Although the hot, spurting mashes of Doce da Grao and Doce Bhaji were a challenge to stir over the electric hot plate, she did these for us, with love. Her favorites, however, were the puddings which anyone who had the good fortune to taste remembered for many years thereafter for their delicious flavor and beautiful presentation. Mae, often and willingly, shared many of her recipes with family and friends. In our family, each child’s birthday was a special occasion with a birthday party, where ten to fifteen children were invited. Games were played on the terrace attached to our apartment. They were mostly children from our parents’ friends circle and our neighbors. After the children were done, their parents were expected to wait for dinner. Everything was made at home, from the tea-snacks to the sumptuous dinner. Mae liked to make something different, every time. Now, in retrospect, I really wonder how she managed it all! The birthday cake was not only baked by her, but also decorated very artistically with fondant and icing sugar. I clearly remember the pink and blue doll-cake she made for me. It was the first time I had seen one and was enchanted by it! I thought it was such a pity that we had to eat it up! My only regret is that in-house photos were not a common happening; Pai was not keen on photography. The first camera that entered the house was his gift to me, when in 1966, I passed my Senior Cambridge examination with flying colours! Mia’s talent in singing was phenomenal but she didn’t make much of it. There was this occasion when she took part in an operetta for charity at the `Little Theatre’ in Mombasa. She sang the song `Blue Moon’ solo to a thunderous applause from the audience. “You should take part in these programs more often, Mae!” I exclaimed, when we got home. “And who will look after all my children?” she said, with her radiant smile and twinkle in her eyes. Yes! Her words opened my mind! Her sacrifice for us was done so unassumingly that we took it for granted and never gave it a second thought or appreciated it. Mae had got her priorities right and this became a life-time lesson for me. At an inter-school students work-shop I met and interacted with some of my mother’s students. At the end of the work-shop, one student sidled up to me and said, “Your mother is a very kind teacher.” “What do you mean?” I asked. The student giggled and said, “Even when she scolds us, she ends by saying so sweetly and softly, `my girl.’” With her dexterity at the piano and her vocal talent, Mae trained children for the annual day concert, in her school. Towards the end of her tenure, by which time there were many more African children in the school, she was excited to discover these students were naturally, extraordinarily musical and had most melodious voices. She thoroughly enjoyed training them and even did extracts of the operetta, `Pearl the Fishermaiden’ with them.

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