by V.M. de Malar

          Today is a big day for Goa. It heralds the public return of a  great son of the soil back into our collective consciousness.
           It's his death anniversary, and exactly 60 years since an enthusiastic crowd inaugurated his statue,  and now Abbe Faria is back in the limelight with an evening's celebration planned at the foot of his iconic monument in Panjim.  
          It's the mysterious pioneer's moment; we should all show up at 6 p.m to demonstrate appreciation and learn more about his amazing life.
Faria's achievements defy belief, considering he was an Indian born in the middle of an oppressive colonial period, in an era where skin colour defined rights and standing. It was frustration over this apartheid that compelled his father, Caetano Vitorino, to take his precociously bright son to Europe,  where higher education was occasionally available without malicious interference of colonialracists.
          The future Abbe was thus forerunner for entire generations of ambitious Goans, who were similarly stifled at home and forced to troop out of the slumbering Estado da India to seek education and opportunity.
          Jose Custodio Faria was exceptional,  however, and his father particularly ambitious. As a young priest at the elite Propaganda Fide college in Rome,  he dedicated his doctorate thesis to the Queen of
Portugal, and gained further notoriety by writing a study in honour of the Pope, who invited him to deliver a Pentecost sermon under the magnificent ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. At just 24, this charismatic young Indian was already being referred to with the  honorific ''Abbe," and drawing interest in the corridors of great power that stretched between the Vatican and the Catholic powers that dominated Europe.
          He was invited to the Queluz Palace, with the Queen and her court in attendance. Young Faria climbed up to the pulpit, and froze; his poise lost at the sight of the dazzling luminaries. Abbe Faria's father whispered to the panicked priest in our robust mother tongue, ''hi sogli bhaji, kathor re bhaji." And get on with it our Abbe did; the relieved young man never forgot how powerful a few words of suggestion can be in impacting human behaviour.
          Don't get the wrong idea based on encounters with European aristocracy. Abbe Faria and his father were true Indian patriots before such concepts were coherently articulated.  
          The older man bore lasting anger about corrosive Portuguese racism and was key plotter in the Pinto Rebellion of 1787, the second anti-colonial resistance movement in history. The main conspirators were priests, disaffected, like their leader, by crushing colour prejudice in the church hierarchy. The son was also a stalwart in the anti colonial cause, and fled to Paris when his father's subversive role was discovered.
          There, he reportedly approached the visiting Tiger of Mysore, Tipu Sultan, to make common cause with the Goan resistance, to expel the Portuguese. Abbe Faria threw himself passionately into the tumult in France, led a battalion against the national convention, languished in the Bastille (from where he is credited with inventing the modern version of a popular board game), and emerged to wage an acrimonious public battle with Anton Mesmer, about the nature of hypnosis.
          History has comprehensively proved Abbe Faria the victor, his was the first genuinely scientific approach to the question; his research and findings provide many crucial underpinnings for modern psychotherapy, for essential analysts like Freud and Jung.
          All this, plus immortalization by Alexandre Dumas in The Count of Monte Cristo and yet we Goans have lost  contact with Abbe Faria's important story, forgotten to keep his legacy  alive,  neglectedto appreciate his significance.
          We Goans were fully globalized, seamlessly both Eastern and Western, centuries before the rest of India and the world and Abbe Faria must be acknowledged as the first exemplar in a distinguished line of what we now call NRI's.
           His story is very typically Goan in context, quite emblematic of the best elements of our character. There is fierce independence and uncompromising quest for opportunity wherever it may lie, there is spectacular cultural and linguistic fluidity.
           There is remarkable adaptability to circumstance, and the authentic Goan soul that thrills to the sound of our precious mother tongue.
          It's such a wonderful tale,  it is a great Goan narrative, and today we will honour the life and legacy of Abbe Faria on the Panjim waterfront, and welcome him back into our prideful pantheon of true Konkani heroes.

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