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Remembering the Pinto Revolt martyrs

On the anniversary of the Pinto revolt martyrs laying down their lives, Sushila Fonseca, who is also a pathologist, will release her ninth book ‘Against the tide……47 men…’ in which she documents this historical event


About a year ago, as she was preparing to release her fiction book ‘The Pontin Secret’, Sushila Fonseca got talking with historian Celsa Pinto who suggested that she should try penning a book with a historical point of view. The Pinto Revolt of 1787 in Goa, against the Portuguese rule was suggested.

Pinto herself had come out with a non-fiction book around this revolt in 2013 titled ‘A Revolt of the Natives of Goa, 1787’. “However, when you write a non-fiction book you write facts, with a novel you can see the drama behind it,” says Fonseca. And that’s how the idea of writing ‘Against the tide……47 men…’ came about.

“We have a lot of history in Goa which we are not aware of. The intention of this book is to enlighten people on this,” says Fonseca.

Elaborating on the situation before the revolt took place, Fonseca shares that this period when Goans were under Portuguese rule witnessed a lot of censorship. The Inquisition also had people scared. “In short, people didn’t really think for themselves they just accepted their lot. There were very few thinkers in Goa who had the guts, among these were two priests – Vitorino Faria (who was the father of the hypnotist Abe Faria) and Jose Gonsalves. Around the time that the two of them were in Portugal, Europe was just witnessing the dawn of the parliament and democracy. Convinced that this idea of freedom and democracy could be introduced in Goa, the two of them returned and got the Pinto family of Goa involved in this mission. “The Pinto family at that time were protectors of the Portuguese. Even so, they were disappointed with the Portuguese rule at that time given the poverty all around and the racism issue and so they joined in,” says Fonseca, adding that it was probably owing to the prominence of the family, that the revolt was titled the Pinto Revolt. The 47 leaders of this revolt were caught and on December 13, 1788, a few were hanged.

Having ventured into history for the first time however, Fonseca admits that it was quite a hassle. “This time around I couldn’t let the characters do what I wanted them to do, I had to follow a certain fixed story,” she says.

Apart from delving deeper into learning about the Pinto Revolt herself, Fonseca also had to learn a little about the  city architecture, and the transport at that time, among other things. While some people also told her stories about the revolt, one incident in particular was quite serendipitous while she was writing the book. “I happened to meet a nun at a function in Margao. When I mentioned that I was working on the revolt of 1787, she offered to help. I discovered that her mother in fact came from the Pinto family and she helped me with the entire family tree!” says Fonseca.

She was also struck by certain facts while reflecting on the story. “We usually laud the freedom fighters which is very good, but we never think of the repercussions that their families went through. In some cases the family fled the country and the children thus lost the bond with their land,” says Fonseca. It was with this in mind that Fonseca added minor characters.

In fact, Fonseca’s father Antonio Sequeira also participated in the freedom movement, following which he left Goa with his family and Fonseca grew up away from the bond with her land. “I also connected with the story because a small part of the story happened in Fontainhas as one of the people who led the revolt was Fr Couto from Fontainhas,” says Fonseca, a Fontainhas resident.

The book, she says, has helped her realise how much we take freedom for granted.

(The book will be released on December 13, 6 p.m. at Senado, Hotel Mandovi, Panaji)


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