Born in Navelim, in the salcete country of Goa in 1829, Dr Francisco Luis Gomes was a versatile Personality. A linguist, thinker, master of several European and Indian languages, doctor, writer, orator, economist, Social activist, physician- surgeon, politician and a freedom fighter, he represented the voice of the public in Lisbon parliament, Portugal. Dr Gomes was always very proud of time when Goa was yet to be integrated into Mother Indian Politically, and the latter had yet to gain independence from colonial rule.
He was a great Goan parliamentarian and was revered as a people’s man who strived to work for the welfare of the masses. He left no stone unturned to fulfill the needs and wants of the people of Goa. His impeccable personality and integrity of character left an indelible impact on the people of Europe. His remarkable singular achievement was the eventual abolition of marriage and death tax.
The author, late Prof. Olivinho J.F. Gomes was a well known poet, historian and a sociologist of repute. He was formerly with the Indian Administrative services: served as Professor of Konkani language Dean, Faculty of Languages and Literature and the Vice- Chancellor of Goa university. He has to his credit a few books including Goa and Konkani Folk Tales.
Along the western seaboard of India there sprawls a strip of fertile land know as the Konkan. It is walled on its eastern side and shielded by the Sahyadri mountains or the western Ghats that intercept the rain- bearing clouds moving in from the Arabian Sea towards the east, and shower abundant rain on it. The Konkan has been a well known ancient Janapada or settled region of the Indian subcontinent. It stretches along its western coast from the Thane district in the north, down to Mumbai, Raigad, Ratnagiri and sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra state, through the state of Goa, and onwards down south through the north Kanara, udupi and South Kanara districts of Karnatka and up to kerala. However, the region comprising the state of Goa, and the adjoin coastal parts of Maharashta and Karnataka, taken together bears this name prominently, which constitutes essentially the Konkani- speaking region of the country.
Though the state of Goa is small in size, its existence can be seen mush before the Protuguese take –over of the territory in 1510. The Goa region included the present districts of sindhudurg and part of Ratnagiri. In the north, today it belongs to the stats of Maharastra and parts of the Belgaum and Karwar districts that are included in the state of Karnataka. Nevertheless, it has produced a relatively large galaxy of great men and women who shone in varied fields of achievement, many a time known to the rest of the country and the world as being Goans or Konkanis. But they themselves were always proud of and flaunted their origins in this blessed land, unobtrusively or explicitly, when the need arose sometimes in their speech and sometimes In writing. They had many a time perforced to submerge their distinct and real personality under more dominate culture and political entities with which they had to identity themselves for survival or because of some affinity in that direction.
Outstanding examples in this regard are justice K.T. Telang and Chandavarkar, sanskritologist R.G. Bhandarkar, Oali pundit Dharmand Kosambi, historian numismatist D.D Kosambi ,physician – historian B.D. Laad, painters F.N. Sousa, V.s.obaGutru, Prafulla Dhanukar , dramatist Giridh Karnand , atomic –energy expert Anil Kakodkar , financial wizards pais of Manipal, singers Lata mangeskar and Asha Bhonsle , classic vocalists kesarbai Kerkar , Moghubai kurdikar, Shoba Gurtu, musicisans Abhisheki and Chan davarkar, pop sionger Remo Frenandes, star scientist R.A. Masheelkar, Badminton star Praksh Padukone, cicketers sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble , tennis star Leander Paes and many more.
Consider as the greatest Goan of all time who deserves to be included in the adornment of its distinguished Hall of Fame, for he is not well known to the rest of India as yet. Dr Francisco Luis Gomes(1829-1869), a multi faceted personality and a world- renowned economist , historian , biographer, polyglot journalist , parliamentarian and man- of – letters. In complete someone extraordinary. Hailed as a genius and ‘the prince among intellectuals’, he illuminated with the eternal glory of the two great illuminated with the eternal glory of the two great civilisations: The Eastern and the spheres of human endeavour. In Europe, he won numerous awards in a brief period of less than nine years for his literary, historical and economic studies, in particular, profuse encomiums from internationally known stalwarts of the time such as the famous French historian poet novelist and statesman, Alphonse de Lamartine, eminent economics M. Lame Fleury and Michael Chevalier, and Elias Rgnault, M. Boudrillart, the prominent publicists of France and leading economist – philosopher John stuart Mill of England. He was invited to be a member and elected with honour to the learned academies of political, economic, medical and moral sciences in this countries , including those in Paris, Lisbon and Cabiz (Spain), with the elite Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium) having conferred on him its prestigious honorary doctorate in social and Political sciences. Universities in Europe vied with each other for an opportunity to confer their honours on him. And he won praise sometimes from unexpected quarters, with even a cantankerous ctieic like George Bernard shaw doing him the honours posthumously on the basis of his writings.
In Portugal, his admires were legion, including Pinheiro chagas, the outstanding historian, journalist, man-of- letters and an all- round achiever that country has produced, Antoni Feliciano de \castilho, the leading litterateur and critic of the tome, Tomas Riveeir, the distinguished poet and scholar, who in a momentary flash of a vision, called him the’ star of the ‘East’, and prophesied that he would be known, after his death, as a brilliant denizen in the Indian pantheon. Luciano Cordeiro, noted publicist and prominent political leader, who, after referring to the great gifts of Gomes as statesman, orator, journalist and historian, disclosed the fact that his name was nominated several times for a Cabinet post in the Royal Council of Ministers, in Lisbon, which he declined consistently, as he might have thought that it would curtail his freedom of expression and his ability to probe into and expose possible abuse of power and corruption among politicians and functionaries in high places. But he could also possibly be on account of his uncertain and deteriorating health that might blunt his functioning and impair his independent stance that he staunchly wished to take in parliament.
He was even praised while in Goa, as a rilliant yoing man, for his rich intellectual gifts by the great Portuges- Konkani scholar Dr J.H da Cunha Rivara, for the specialised notes on konkanu linguistics that he provide him with on a descriptive grakker of his sashttti variant of that language, his mother – tongue. Rivara later appended that linguistic study to his own ‘Ensaio Historico da Lingua Concani’(1858) (Historical Survey of the Konkani Language) alongside his edition of the first printed Konkani grammar of Thomas Stephens (1540-1619), originally published posthumously in 1640.
He was par excellent a patriot to the core. His intense nationalism was not confined to hjis tiny homeland of Goa, but extended far beyond its borders to embrace the whole country of greater India, which he proudly considered as his own. He was appointed as a member of the Indian Medical Council, and travelled and met people, though he was a home and acclaimed in the Europe of that time for his brilliant multi- pronged intellect. In a letter dated 5 January 181, he wrote in French to Alphonse de Lamartine, one of the most popular and distinguished poets. Novelists and historians of his time, delivered to the latter in Paris by his friend, engineer- architect, M. Avila, as an introduction of himself and the place he hailed from, he asked for that country which he proudly flaunted as India, freedom and light.
The English version of this letter is as follows:
“I was born in India, once the cradle of philosophy, poetry and history, but now (under the British yoke). I belong to tha race which created the mahavharata and invented the game of chess, the two conceptions of the intellect that bear in the, something of the Eternal and the Infinite, But this nation which formulated its legal codes in poetry and fashioned its politics in a game, is no longer alive. It survives, imprisoned in its own country, exhausted by its own fertility and eclipsed in the very splendor of its glory. This bird, fluttering against the irons of its cage, has lost its own feathers, on the wings of which it once soared above the Himalayas. Weeping over the freedom of which it has been despoiled and the light that has fled, this nightingale has forgotten its song, the strains of which once echoed in the heavens… I ask for India freedom and light…..”
This was the first Indian voice to demand freedom for India, close on the heels of the spontaneous uprising but disorganized and consequently failed ‘ Sepoy Muntiny’, of 1857, that was later labeled as the first cry of Indian independence. That voice of revolt and the persistent demand for liberality and freedom, which was the thrust of his characteristic appears in almost all his variegated writings, whether in the matter of freedom of the press or of trade or any other action aimed at development of human and natural resources, giving primacy to the people and involving them in all development that mattered. It infused in them a rare vital dynamism that shook the despotism of authority. It was a mere coincidence that the ship carrying the body of Dr Gomes, (as just forty years old, he died on the way back home in it, on 30 september1869, exhausted by the hectic pace of his intense work, which was all accomplished in a brief period of nine years and mined with tuberculosis, then a lethal disease, but with his blissful soul longing for home) touched the port of Porbandar, in today’s Gujarat State of India on 2 October. On this very day, Mohandas Karamchamd Ghandhi was born, who later as the Mahatma, carried forward with dogged persistence and rather frustrating but overwhelmingly the successful non- violence movement.
Whether one believes or not in the doctrine of Karma and transmigration of souls, it is a traditional understanding, or one may call it even superstition. In India at least, these great geniuses are born again and again in order to fulfill in fulsome measure their chosen task or allotted mission that might have been left unfinished after their death. Lord Krishna says it as much in his prophetic utterance: sambhavami yuge (we assume incarnation from age to age) in the Bhagwad Gita. Considering it as a mission of God Himself, Dr Gomes might have been re-born as M.K. Gandhi, his own countryman and in the self- same Indian territory, to carry out the mission entrusted to him by destiny. The stark coincidence and precise convergence of these two great personalities is remarkable indeed! Only the efforts of Dr Gomes need to e known universally.
But Dr Gomes had asserted further in the same letter to Lamartine, part of which is not often but hardly quoted: “Those titles should be enough to recommend me to you who admire my country and love mankind. As for myself, I am happier than my fellow citizens” that he termed those living in the rest of India, whom he considered as his own countrymen, for as he set himself aside earlier by stating:”I am free” and buttressed this classic language that “I am a full- fledged citizen “. For Portugal considered Goans and people of its ‘overseas provinces’ or colonies, as its own citizens with equal rights for all, while his compatriots under the British rule were not ‘citizens ‘like him under the Portuguese, but only treated as subordinate resented and grieved over in that letter, as it comes through clearly and rather strongly in his deft handling of the French language in wording it.
Lamartine is reported by M. Avila, who was the bearer of that celebrated letter, to have been overwhelmed by its contents and with tears of admiration in his eyes, exclaimed in sheer joy.”tres jlie! Tres charmante!.. Votre ami est unvrai talent. Quel age a – t il? Je friend is a true talent indeed. What’s his age? I wish very mush to see him.” He had the opportunity to see him in person soon thereafter when Dr Gomes was invited to Paris for an universal exhibition and was feted by him and other French intellectuals of the time, with a banquet hosted by them in his honour, to the great yet humble elation of Dr Gomes who hardly expected such homage. From then onwards he became the toast of the French intellectual establishment in particular and of Europe in general and was showed with praise for his perspicacious studies on various subjects concerned with trade, commerce, economics and government.
After his untimely death in his fortieth year in 1869, due to tuberculosis, he was honoured by his countrymen as well as learned academies and societies all over Errope with glowing tributes to his multu- faceted persokalitu. His life- size state in black stone mounted on a pedestal stands imposingly amidst the Camplal riverside garden in Panjim, Goa, overlooking the river Mandovi gliding past the city to embrace the sea, with a relic of an old Portuguese cannon of the Banastari fortress, opposite to him on the other side of the avenue, targeted river – wards. The status was installed to celebrate his birth centenary, with the foundation-stone being laid on 31 May 1929, a loving homage to his yeoman service to India and the world.
The tell- tale tribute of an inscription in Portugese on its pedestal reads as: “ A glorious memoria/de/ Dr Francisco Luis Gomes/ Devotado Campeao de Liberdade /Orador/Eloquente/ Eminente Homem do Letras/ Erudito Econmista/ Patriota/ Que dedicou todas as faculdades/Do seu Brihante Espirito/ Ao Bem da India e de Portugal/ Pelo Centenario do seu Nascimento – 1829- 1929”. In its English version, it may be read as: “To the glorious memory /of/Dr Francisco Luis Gomes/ Devoted Champion of Freedom/ Eloquent Orator / Eminent Man –of –Letters/ Erudite Economist/ Patriot/ Who dedicated all the faculties of his brilliant mind/ For the good of India and of Protugal/ On the occasion of the Centenary of his birth- 1829- 1929.”
That was the vivid testament of the people in his honour that would assuredly immortalize any man who bore those most deserving and impeccable credentials that Dr F.L. Gomes had in overwhelming abundance and devoted them totally for the common weal.
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