Historian, author, researcher and former director of Department of Education, Goa, Celsa Pinto wears many hats. In her journey over the years, Pinto has many achievements to her credit and has won various accolades as well. The road however has not been smooth and she has had to face numerous obstacles. She shares her story with NT KURIOCITY

MARIA FERNANDES|NT KURIOCITY

Courage, resolve and strength of character have seen Celsa Pinto overcome the many hurdles that have come her way. “Nothing comes easy and no true achievement is possible without adversity and sheer grit. Both contribute to making one a stronger and better human being,” she states simply.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Pinto did most of her schooling there while also preparing for the Senior Cambridge Examination and returned to Goa in 1965. In 1975 she was awarded a Master of Arts (MA) degree by the University of Bombay and was the first in Goa to receive a first class in History. Following this, she took up teaching much against the wishes of her mother. “My mother was a nurse and wanted me to take up medicine but I had my heart set on the teaching profession,” she shares. Thus started her teaching career that has spanned twenty two active years as a teacher and nearly eighteen years in the education department.

Her foray into historical research leading to a PhD degree and several publications including seven books was purely accidental, she shares. It was a visit to the research section of the Central Library and a chance encounter with readers  who were from outside the state yet pursuing PhD studies on the Portuguese presence in Goa, that trigggered her interest in the subject . “This was a turning point in my life. I had little to no knowledge of the history of Goa till as late as 1985. I did not study it in school nor at the college level neither at the post graduate level. Secondly I did not know Portuguese, a requirement to have access to the documentation in the archives but I decided to go ahead with it,” she says. Not just that, she also took up the challenge of writing on an economic theme, a subject she was very averse to. “My PhD guide, professor Teotonio R de Souza literally thrust down my throat the topic and through sheer hard work and with a beaver’s approach I turned around this aversion into an obsession,”she says.  The same went for her dislike and lack of knowledge of Portuguese. What followed was 35 years of enriching historical research with four books after retirement.

The next turning point in her life came about to an offensive comment by a colleague while she was teaching at a south Goa college. “In 1994, I joined the education department and right from the start I faced opposition from my colleagues. I had to occupy the very first post subject to a court case and to which two other court cases were attached later on.” It took nine long years for a favourable high court judgement but during this time with a few promotions she had risen to the post of the senior-most deputy director of education. “At times, I was the object of mockery not just within the department but also without. To the extent that I was made to feel that I was not capable of being the future director of the department,” she adds. Not one to concede defeat easily,it was her patience, risk, and strategy at these extremely difficult times that saw her through. It was therefore very ironic that when she eventually retired in 2011, she was the longest serving director of education since liberation and this record holds court to date.

To the Goan youth, she says, “Life has taught me many lessons and a few I would like to share. Firstly opportunity should be backed with hard work, focus, risk and strategy. Remember everything takes time and you should be patient; your time will come. Learn to convert  your liabilities into assets and you may also accidently discover your true potential. Lastly, sometimes you may have to take one step back to take two steps forward.”