Musician, composer, entrepreneur and motivational speaker, Agostinho Fernandes has starred in an inspirational short Konkani film based on his life, which was accepted at the Cannes Short Film corner in May 2015. What makes him special is the fact that having polio in both legs has not stopped him from achieving his goals and dreaming big. In a heart-to-heart chat with NT Kuriocity he narrates his journey.
By Maria Fernandes
From a very early age Agostinho has had to face obstacles which many would find formidable. However, his never-say-die attitude has helped him not just to overcome them but even become an inspiration to others.
A resident of Ambelim-Quepem, Agostinho was afflicted with polio when he was barely a year old. With both parents daily-wage labourers, money was not easy to come by and getting treatment from a specialist was practically impossible. Unable to walk, he had to learn to move around on his hands and started his schooling only when he was eight. “Watching other children going to school, I used to feel really sad and wanted to join but was unable to do so. But finally my parents understood my desire to study and enrolled me,” he recalls.
Unfortunately two years down the line, he had to discontinue his schooling as his mother who used to carry him to school was unable to do so. “At the time, I had no wheelchair and as I was growing it became very difficult for my mom to carry me to school and then carry me back home,” he shares. Seeing his plight, a well-wisher gifted him a wheelchair a year later and before long he was in school once again. “I loved school and studying, and my teachers and classmates all helped a lot. I realised that if I wanted to become someone and do something with my life, I needed to study and get a qualification. I decided then that come what may, I will go to college,” he adds.
After completing his school, Agostinho then joined Panjim Polytechnic to pursue a diploma in engineering. The journey of approximately 50 kilometres from Quepem to Panaji, meant he had to change four buses and was not only physically exhausting but also mentally and emotionally draining. “Very often the bus conductor would not allow me to enter the bus or people were all in such a hurry that they used to stamp over my hands and even climb over me to get into the bus. Also getting into the bus was not easy for me and not everyone was patient so I had to face many rude comments and bear the brunt of people’s impatience,” he says. Not just that, very often while crossing the road or standing by the side of the road, he was nearly run over. “Since I cannot stand, people in their vehicles could not see me and hence it was rather dangerous.” This however did not faze his determination or his drive. “I believe if you decide on a certain path or goal, you should complete it. Of course there will always be hurdles but that makes it even more interesting. In fact then when you achieve what you set out to do, the sense of accomplishment and jubilation is much more,” he says with a grin.
From engineering to teaching music was a big switch and when asked how he took to making music his career, he says, it all happened by chance. “After completing my diploma, I did not get what I was looking for and hence decided to change my direction. I have learned that when things don’t turn out the way you want them to, giving up and crying about it does not help. Instead, what works is trying to find an alternative and making the best out of it.”
Today, he has his own music school and also goes house to house to teach music to children and adults in Salcete. “When I first started teaching music, many were apprehensive to engage me as a teacher but I have proved that my disability cannot and does affect my teaching.” Agostinho’s life is not defined by his disability. He lives life just like anyone else without a disability would and even rides a kinetic bike and drives a specially designed car. “There are many things I can do, and there are some things that I can’t do. I have accepted that,” he says. “I have a wonderful family and am extremely grateful for all that I have. I enjoy my life, teaching and composing music, being healthy and being independent.”