T B Cunha is a name known to most Goans. We all know of his contributions to Goa’s freedom struggle. But, do we know why he is called the ‘Father of Goan nationalism’? NT BUZZ meets the brains behind the book titled ‘The Life and Times of T B Cunha’, Nishtha Desai and Ved Prabhudesai, to understand more about the book and why we need to celebrate this personality ARTI DAS | NT BUZZ
If you ask school students what subject they hate, a majority of them will definitely vote for ‘history’. It is probably one of the most unexciting subjects, which some feel they are forced to learn. But, in reality history is a subject which is based purely on true life events that have changed the socio-political scenario of a nation and the world as a whole. As the subject involves several dates, the names of leaders and large amount of factual data, it often becomes tedious to learn and memorise.
But when this same history is related in a visually pleasing format, it makes learning fun. The illustrated book titled ‘The Life and Times of T B Cunha’, narrated by Nishtha Desai, illustrated by Ved Prabhudesai and published by the Directorate of Art and Culture, is an attempt to learn about our history in an informative interesting way.
This book, with the aid of illustrations, speaks about one of Goa’s prominent freedom fighters, the ‘Father of Goan nationalism’, Tristao de Braganza Cunha, better known as T B Cunha.
The book, a combined effort between Nishtha and Ved, took two years to be completed. “I have done a thesis on T B Cunha, but as we know a thesis is not easily accessible. So, I thought of writing it in a more appropriate manner so as to make history attractive,” says Nishtha, who further mentions that Ved’s love for history made this book possible.
Ved, who has just graduated from Kala Bhavan, Vishwa Bharati University, Santiniketan, says, “It was quite a challenge to represent the period of the early 20th Century. I had to do lot of research, go through many books based on Goa’s culture and heritage. I even clicked pictures of T B Cunha’s house. I tried to be as faithful to the spirit of that time.”
Their personal rapport also helped in taking this book forward. “I know Nishtha maushi right from my childhood. So, it was easier working with her”, says Ved.
Nishtha, while speaking about history and its leaders, says that there is a need to celebrate such leaders. “Students should have a sense of belonging to their history. It does not mean that one should worship leaders, rather one should take pride in them”, says Nishtha.
Nishtha, who worked on this thesis in the 1990s, maintains that writing about T B Cunhas was not easy. There are many gaps about various aspects of his life, which were difficult to fill in, like his years in Paris. But, the most daunting task was to represent T B Cunha’s personality. “T B Cunha’s forte was his way of thinking. It was challenging to depict the same through my writing, and also to write it in a child friendly language”, says Nishtha.
Ved grew up reading illustrated books on various leaders, and he maintains that he received more information from such books than conventional methods of learning. “Before working on this book, I read about T B Cunha’s writing on ‘Denationalisation of Goa’, but could never understand much.
However, when you read this book, you will get a clear idea about the same because it is related in a very simple manner”, says Ved.
The book, which is divided into various chapters, gives a detailed account of T B Cunha’s life, right from his birth, his work to his last years. There are also some chapters that speak about the humane side of this leader, which most are unaware of. He was the one who worked on the repatriation of Goan Kunbis from the exploitation of British tea planters in Assam. He also volunteered and provided relief to the flood victims in South Goa during the time of crisis.
Nishtha informs that it was while working on her thesis that she met some of the people who were associated with T B Cunha. “I met some of the mundkars of his area, who had a very different image of him. They remembered him as a kind person and had no idea about his activities as a freedom fighter”, says Nishtha.
Elaborating more on his personality, Nishtha mentions that he was a loner, unlike like the regular bhatkar of his times, an enigmatic personality who felt the woes of the people. She also opines that he has not been given his due in Goa as most people are unaware about his work. “He was a humble and down-to-earth personality, which we need to look at,” she says.
(The book’The Life & Times of T B Cunha will be released on June 18 at 10.30 a.m. at Multipurpose Hall, Sanskruti Bhavan, Patto, Panaji, at the hands of National Balshree Awardee, Julian D’Costa.)
T B Cunha was born on April 2 1891 in the Chandor village. He hailed from Cuelim, Cansaulim. He completed his school education in Panaji and went to Pondicherry to the French College and then to Paris. At the French-language press in Paris he wrote about the Indian freedom struggle and about Goa. Cunha returned to Goa in 1926 and set up the Comissão do Congresso de Goa (Goa Congress Committee) in Goa in 1928 to organise the Goan intelligentsia against Portuguese colonial rule. He wrote booklets such as the Four Hundred Years of Foreign Rule and The Denationalisation of Goans (1944).
Cunha was an advocate of Goan identification, political as well as cultural, with greater India. On June 18, 1946, Cunha helped organise the famous assembly in Margão, inviting the INC speaker Ram Manohar Lohia, setting in motion the Goa liberation movement. Along with the other organisers, Cunha was arrested by the Portuguese authorities in 1946. He was the first civilian to be tried by a military tribunal and was deported to the Peniche prison in Portugal. After his release from Portugal in 1954, Cunha returned to Mumbai.
Cunha formed and headed the Goa Action Committee, to help co-ordinate the numerous Goan liberation organisations. He published a newspaper called ‘Free Goa’. He died on September 28, 1958.
The World Peace Council at Stockholm in 1959 posthumously awarded T B Cunha a gold medal for his contribution to the cause of ‘Peace and Friendship among People.’
T B Cunha’s portrait by artist Harshada Kerkar was unveiled in the Indian Parliament in the year 2011 to commemorate the golden jubilee of Goa’s liberation, by the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh.