Goa lost a multi-faceted personality; Dr Suresh Gundu Amonkar

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 08 December 2019 21:30 IST

The Social Media is full of tributes today, paid to Padma Shri Dr Suresh Gundu Amonkar, who died at 84, fighting deadly cancer bravely while simultaneously creating valuable literature till his last breath.

And  these are not mere tributes with RIP or Om Shanti, but also many students of New Goa High School, Mapusa recalling how Dr Amonkar and his wife late Sudha Amonkar made them what they are today.

His cadaver will be kept from 9 am to 4 pm at New Goa High School in Mapusa for people to pay homage, after which his body would be donated to Goa Medical College as per his last wish.

Sureshbab & Sudhabai was one of the most respected couple of Bardez taluka and also an inspiration for all the teachers across Goa.

To quote a few, the New Goa High School created many students, who became big names in their careers - Rev Allwyn Barreto, a Catholic Bishop;  Dr Satish Shetye, Director of National Institute of Oceonography (NIO) as well as Vice Chancellor of Goa University; Manohar Parrikar, Defence Minister of India & Chief Minister of Goa.

Gundu Sitaram Amonkar Vidyamandir was a school his father had started in 1943, leaving a teacher’s job in Sacred Heart of Jesus High School at Parra, with mere 184 students. Today, it has a strength of 1600 students.

Started in a rented house with no financial assistance from then Portuguese government, the school was renamed New Goa High School after Goa’s liberation in 1961, by his son Dr Suresh. 

As his father fell ill in 1959, Dr Amonkar left his teaching job at Goan School, Mombasa in Kenya and came back to take over the reins of the school and reach the school at new heights.

Besides winning Goa State Teachers Award in 1978, Dr Amonkar was also the Chairman of newly set up Goa Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education for two terms from 1980 to 1988 and also the Director of State Literacy Mission & Adult Education from 1989 to 1991.

He was the Secretary/President of Goa Headmasters’ Association, Chief Commissioner of Goa State Bharat Scouts & Guides and member of Educational Council of Goa Daman & Diu. He was also the president of Council of Boards of Secondary Education (COBSE) for one term.

Dr Amonkar also had a stint in politics, winning Mapusa municipal council elections twice and serving one term as the Municipal Chairperson. He had also once contested Mapusa Assembly seat as a Congressman under the leadership of Purushottam Kakodkar.

Besides playing active role during historic Opinion Poll and also penning down a book on Opinion Poll, he remained active throughout the Konkani literary movement.

While he was conferred with Padma Shri in 2009, Parrikar in his last days had appointed him Chairman of Goa Konkani Academy. But he could not contribute much as he had a relapse of cancer for the third time.

As the deadly cancer caught him while his beloved wife Sudha left him, Dr Amonkar fully concentrated on translating spiritual books of all religions into Konkani besides some classics of World literature.

He has translated `Dhammapada’ (a book on teachings of Gautam Buddha) from Pali into Konkani, for which he received Sahitya Academy Translation Award in 1999.

His translation of ‘Thirukkural’ (a Tamil Classic) into Konkani in 2004 was honoured with the Late Shyam Kakodkar Award by Konkani Kala Kendra.

His translation of `Dnyaneshwari’ from Marathi into Konkani in 2005, bagged the Gurukul Pratishthan, Pune felicitation award.

Besides this, he has also translated  `Bhagwadgeeta’ from Sanskrit into Konkani in 2002, `Japuji Saheeb’ (a book on teachings of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh) from Punjabi into Konkani in 2008,  `Gospel according to St. John from the New Testament of the Bible’ in Konkani was published in 2009 and Fr Stephen’s ‘Christ Purana’.

Besides `Zenacho Dishtavo’ in 2013 he also translated `Jakata Tales’ and `Zen Katha’.

At present he was working on translations into Konkani ‘Manache Shlok’ by Ramadas Swami as well as writings of Shakespeare.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE LAST MEDIA INTERACTION  WITH DR SURESH AMONKAR, THE DAY MANOHAR PARRIKAR DIED, ALSO SHARING HIS EXPERIENCE OF BRAVELY FIGHTING CANCER

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“Professor Suresh Amonkar, I Presume?” ~ A Meeting in Goa in 2017

(by Marci Pereira – February 2017 – “Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School Project”)

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In writing this piece, echoes of that famous meeting between the ‘New York Herald’ journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, who was despatched by the newspaper to Africa, to go in search of the renowned Scottish Missionary/African Explorer - David Livingstone, who had gone missing for over 4 years, come to my mind. You will understand my reason, later herein, for borrowing the title from that episode, which transpired in November 1871.

My Visit to Goa in January/February 2017

I have only just returned after a 4-week stay in Goa, which has now become an annual ritual since 2008, in having to attend to my wife, Agnela’s, family-home matters in Benaulim. Because of my connection to the “Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School Project”, I felt a strong urge to go and visit Professor Suresh Amonkar, on this occasion, who I knew was settled in Goa. The Professor is just one of two surviving members of my former school staff. I finished school back in 1958, ~ fifty-nine long years ago – which was the last time we did meet. That would have been in a teacher-pupil relationship. Even though a senior myself now, I still hold my teachers with much affection, admiration and respect, for the education I received at the school.

From my reading and research, I was aware that the teacher, who I knew as Mr Suresh Amonkar, was now a highly acclaimed educationist/social worker/scholar/historian/writer, not only in Goa, but all India and internationally. To be granted the highest Indian National Honour of “Padma Shri” (equivalent to a Knighthood in the UK) in 2009, puts into perspective the distinction and recognition he has accomplished, largely for his academic excellence, writing and service to education in India. In my personal assessment, he ranks very high amongst the most celebrated, eminent and gifted members of former Mombasa Goan School/Sacred Heart School staff and ex-students to date, in terms of personal standing, status, national renown and widely recognised contribution to community and society. A multi- gifted and richly fulfilled life, in my opinion.

As a subscriber of the Goan Voice (UK), combined with the Google research I indulge in, I was familiar with the Professor’s illustrious and distinguished standing and had seen a couple of most recent media pictures of him. Therefore, I had a vague idea of what he looked like after nearly six decades or so. On the other hand, in all probability, the Professor is most unlikely to have remembered who ‘Marci Pereira’ was, after all the countless number of students that would have passed through his care, during his many active years as a teacher. I was as little-known back in 1958, as I am today, amongst our school community.

I arranged to meet the Professor at his home in Mapuça on Tuesday 14th February, “around mid-morning” depending on the Kadamba public transport services to get me there from Margão. Not knowing Goa all that well, I must have allowed more time than I should have, because I was in Mapuça well before 9am. Armed with the “GS Amonkar Vidya Mandir” address, I decided I will walk from the coach station to the “Altinho” district of the city, to kill time. After a couple of enquiries with fellow pedestrians, along the uphill road, I locate the distinctive sky-blue façade of the Vidya Mandir (School) and then the Professor’s home, immediately behind it. I was greeted at the entrance by a welcoming young man ~ his son Siddharth, who ensured I was comfortably seated in the lounge, before announcing to his dad that the visitor had arrived.

That Unforgettable Moment

The Professor entered, bounding in with energy and a warm welcoming smile. A huge ‘bear-hug’ followed, just as if, two long separated friends have re-united again, after ages. That embrace was an ecstatic moment for me. Yes! What I would describe as that ‘Livingstone/Stanley moment’. This however, surpassed that event, as it is recorded that Livingstone/Stanley exchanged just a handshake. You will now understand the reason for my choice of title to this piece.

When I had arranged to meet over the phone, the Professor had hinted that he was undergoing treatment. However, I was pleasantly surprised how well he looked ~ distinguished sage-like beard, physically nimble, mentally sharp and alert and anxious to cover as many topics as we could pack in. His recall of memories of old ~ Mombasa plus Goan School ~ during our hour-long conversation over tea, and a helping of ‘Shiro’ (Semolina Halwa), is most memorable and will remain so forever, with me. What? The Professor ~ Eighty-two years old? I would not believe it. Not a sign of stress or illness in his looks, whatsoever. He attributes his state of physical and mental health, to his profound belief in “Positivity”. Will be difficult to find anyone more positive in outlook, than Professor Amonkar. Although a Hindu, his devotional adherence to Buddhism will undoubtedly have had something to do with this too.

Introduction to ‘His Hallowed Inner Sanctuary’

The Professor took me into his ‘Hallowed Study/Library’ and pulled out manuscripts of his latest ‘monumental masterpiece’, work-wise: His Konkani Translation of the ‘Krista Purana’, from the original Marathi version, written by an English Jesuit Priest (Yes! English) ~ Father Thomas Stephens SJ ~ way back in 1616 (!!!!). The sheer scale of this mammoth exercise will become evident from the description of the Krista Purana below. Also, a brief introduction into who Thomas Stephens was, will enrich the understanding of the spiritually illuminating task the Professor had taken on.

Thomas Stephens (Jesuit) & The Krista Purana

Thomas Stephens was the son of an English merchant, who was born in 1549 in Bushton, Wiltshire, England, and studied in Oxford, before converting to a Catholic. That was in the period of the English Reformation, when it was futile to practice Catholicism, as there was rampant persecution of Catholics. Despite the immense dangers, Stephens and some of his close friends, amongst them, the Jesuit Priest, Edward Campion (a revered English Martyr, who died at the age of 41 in 1581 and was duly canonised in 1970), and Thomas Pounde, another convert, kept Catholicism alive, by secretly ministering Catholic families in their homes. Stephens and Pounde were planning to flee to Rome, when Pounde was arrested in London in 1574, and incarcerated for 30 years (!!!!), because of his faith. Stephens managed to slip away and get to Rome, where he entered the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1575. Pounde was made a Jesuit Brother by letter, in absentia, in 1579, thought to be through Stephens instigation.

Stephens despatched to Goa as a Jesuit Missionary

Stephens was despatched to Goa, via Lisbon, by the head of the Jesuits, Father General Everard Mercurian. He arrived in Goa on 24th October, 1579, and is thought to be the first Englishman to set foot in India. He fell in love with the land and the local language. It is recorded that he spent most of his pastoral years in Salcete (!!!!) as parish priest in: Margão, Benaulim, Navelim and Marmagoa, amongst others. It is reported that he began writing the Krista Purana when in Benaulim ~ my wife, Agnela’s village (!!!), where we have just returned from. He is best remembered for his linguistic and literary scholarship and is regarded as the Father of Christian Literature in India.

He learnt Marathi and in 1616 went on to write the ‘Krista Purana’ in that language, in Roman script ~ an epic poem, to spread the message of Jesus Christ, adopting the literary form of the Hindu Puranas. [English Dictionary definition of Purana: Any class of Sanskrit sacred writings, characteristically recounting the births and deeds of Hindu gods and the creation, destruction or recreation of the universe]. The Krista Purana retells the entire Christian story, as per the ‘Old Testament’ and the ‘New Testament’ in a lyrical verse format. It comprises of 11,000 (!!!!) stanzas of four verses each, in 49 chapters. Imagine the monumental task Professor Amonkar had undertaken in translating all that, into Konkani, in two massive volumes. The Professor’s completed work is scheduled for release on Wednesday 22nd March, 2017 ~ his birthday. Thomas Stephens would have been proud of this achievement by a true son of Goa, a Konkani scholar. I certainly am.

Father Thomas Stephens died in Salcete in 1619 at the age of 70. Before he passed away, he also produced the first printed grammar of what is now called ‘Konkani’, as well as a Catechism in Konkani. Phenomenal character. More Goan than I am.

Selection of Professor Amonkar’s Other Literary Works

Apart, from the above mentioned, Krista Purana, which is translated from Marathi to Konkani, the Professor exhibited and mentioned several of his previously published works that include:

a) Translation of the “Dhammapada” from Pali to Konkani.

(This is a book on the teachings of Gautam Buddha).

b) Translation of “Bhagwadgeeta” from Sanskrit into Konkani.

c) Translation of “Thirukkural” ~ a Tamil Classic ~ into Konkani.

d) Translation of “Jnaneshwari” from Marathi into Konkani.

e) Translation of “Japuji Saheeb” from Punjabi into Konkani.

(This book is on the teachings of Guru Gobind Singh).

f) Translation into Konkani of “St John’s New Testament Gospel” in the Bible.

Extraordinary Work Ethic & Discipline

Sitting in that Study/Library I felt overwhelmed trying to take in the sheer wonderment of this exceptional linguistic scholar/writer. The above listing is only a selection of his extensive work to date. Just scanning the eye through (a) to (f) above, reveals his scholarly expertise in the following languages: English, Sanskrit, Marathi, Tamil, Punjabi, Pali and of course, Konkani. Apart from all that, he also commands French and I am sure, other languages, I am not aware of.

What is further astounding is that all his manuscripts are handwritten in beautiful long-hand style. No typewriter, PC or Laptop around. Just imagine the discipline this approach demands for amendments/revisions, corrections, data- storage, compilation of texts/documents/volumes, ease of reference and the like, which we are now so accustomed to, and expect, with digital technology and computers in our everyday possession.

To study and master such widely diverse multi faith-based philosophies, would have required profound understanding of the subject matter, and most of all, an in-depth spiritual connection with each of the faiths in question. Furthermore, imagine the time for comprehension and assimilation that will have gone into each of the works accomplished. I was dumbfounded by the sheer intellectual discipline and religious connection that will have been necessitated, in each of the above-mentioned publications. An exceptional scholar, indeed. Talk about discipline ~ up to the present time, the Professor puts in a 6-hour day, Monday to Friday, in his intellectual pursuits.

Retirement? What’s that?

Early Educational Influences

Despite being a devout Hindu himself, his interest in other faiths, began very early ~ during his university days. The Professor studied at Wilson College in Bombay when he was sixteen and to the utter surprise of his Scottish Principal, opted for ‘Christian Scripture’ when doing his BA Degree. Here is an extract of an interview, “Times of India” had with him, in 2015:

‘ ……”You are a Goan Hindu and you want to attend Bible class?” the Principal, in a strong Scottish accent asked. “I’m interested in the Bible. I have Catholic neighbours in Goa and besides Christmas and Easter I don’t know anything about Christianity,” the young Amonkar replied.

“Get a letter from your father, saying he has no objection”. Amonkar’s liberal-thinking father granted him permission and what followed were three years of classes. …….’

For his MA Degree, his study choice was the: ‘Book of Job from the Old Testament of the Bible’. His rich achievements/accomplishments to date, bear the hallmark of that wholehearted parental encouragement/stimulation he received during his upbringing and early education. It set him on his quest for further learning, knowledge and self-enhancement. Ample evidence of that, herein. Apart from the distinction of the Padma Shri, the Professor holds numerous distinguished and eminent national awards and accolades for his extensive work. An awe-inspiring picture of him, accepting the Padma Shri from the President of India, graces his lounge, alongside the citation itself.

I felt truly privileged and honoured to have been taken into the Professor’s ‘inner sanctuary,’ of his intellectual ‘quarters’. With so many deeply researched self-publications in his armoury, I expected to see mounds/stacks of paperwork, files, books, reference material, etc., piled on and around his desk. No such thing. Everything so neatly filed and shelved. Mark of a truly methodical and organised mind. You want to see my study in contrast.

Memories of Mombasa and the Mombasa Goan School

a) Teacher of English Literature

Professor Amonkar had 4 years at the Mombasa Goan School, between 1956/1960. During our meeting in Mapuça, one of his questions to me was: “Did I teach you?” My reply: “Yes Sir, Literature ~ when you had just arrived, probably in Form 1 or 2”. I revealed to him that I always connected mention of his name, with the first literature reading book he introduced to my class, titled: ‘On the Edge of the Primeval Forest’ by Dr Albert Schweitzer.

What was it about? Albert Schweitzer, who was born in Alsace (then a part of the German Empire), was already a famous musician, theologian, philosopher and writer, when in 1913, he left the comfortable life he led amongst the intellectual elite of Europe, to pursue a daunting path of personal service as a missionary Doctor, to the suffering natives of French Equatorial West Africa (present day Gabon). The book describes his first visit to Africa (1913 to 1916) when he and his wife, Helene, established a hospital in Lambarene, on the River Ogowe, way out into the uncharted depths of the tropical wilderness, then. He describes their experiences in that hostile environment, fighting diseases like sleeping sickness, malaria, leprosy and combating armies of ants, snakes and spiders in the primeval forest. His accomplishments as a “Jungle Doctor”, earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his “Reverence for Life” philosophy and work.

By strange coincidence, in the context of this piece on Professor Amonkar, Dr Albert Schweitzer was in the very same mould as the earlier mentioned, Dr David Livingstone. Both: European Medical Practitioners, Adventurers/Explorers of uncharted Equatorial Africa, renowned Humanitarians, Christian Missionaries, who together with their wives, advanced their faith through personal contact and work with the natives.

b) Acclaimed School Drama Production

During the tea recess, the Professor brought out his cherished Scrapbook that contained memories and cuttings of some of his life’s accomplishments. He flicked through the pages that had a mix of printed material, pictures, photographs and the like. A proud moment was when he got to the school drama presentation of “Antigone”, which he had produced and directed to such a high standard, that it received praiseworthy acclaim in the ‘Mombasa Times’, and from the Principal of the Mombasa Teachers Training College and members of the Mombasa Theatre Group.

The original copy of the four-page brochure, generated some excitement in me in seeing the many familiar names, both of staff and ex-students during my time, as follows:

Producer & Director: Suresh Amonkar; Stage Manager: Edmund Cordeiro;

Costume Designer: Adelaide De Souza (Mrs JV); Setting: Daniel De Souza/Simon Rapoz;

Décor: Constantine Correia/James Pereira/Zohrabi Sheikh; Prompt: Menino Furtado;

Stage Assistants: Felix Pires/Terence de Cruz; Business Manager: Andrew Baena;

Music: Mr R H Zimmerlin.

All recognisable names, during my time at the school. Recognise any of the following members of the Cast? Some of these will probably be family members, classmates, friends, neighbours or acquaintances, perhaps? CAST: 1) Amina Sangrar; 2) Vivien de Mello; 3) Phillip Zimmerlin;

4) Peter George; 5) Francis Cardozo; 6) Gilbert De Souza; 7) Jamil Sangrar; 8) Hazel Coelho;

9) Mustafa Said Ali; 10) Benjamin Doshi; 11) Darrel Siqueira; 12) Joseph De Souza; 13) Flavian Tavares; 14) Tony Mascarenhas; 15) Yvette Faria; 16) Francis Lobo; 17) Anthony Coutinho

18) Reginald Harry. Likely to be a talking point for ex-students, I am sure. Who remembers whom?

That brochure certainly brought back fond memories of the school days and of the production itself, for me. A synopsis of the drama story will not be out of place at this juncture, to help recollect memories of that production.

“Antigone” the play, is a classical Ancient Greek tragedy written by Sophocles around 442 BC. The action follows on from the Theban civil war. Antigone’s two brothers, Eteocles and Polynices, died fighting each other for the throne of Thebes, after Eteocles had refused to give up the crown to his brother, as their father Oedipus had prescribed. Creon, the new ruler of Thebes, issued an edict that Eteocles is to be honoured and Polynices is to be disgraced by leaving his body unburied on the battlefield (a harsh and shameful punishment at the time).

The play begins with Antigone vowing to bury her brother Polynices in defiance of Creon’s edict. Creon, furious at this wilful disobedience, takes harsh action against Antigone, who challenged him over the morality of his edict and his deeds. The story unfolds where Antigone proceeds to take her own life first. Then Haemon, Creon’s son, who was betrothed to Antigone, and who tried hopelessly to reason with his father, takes his own life when he learns she is dead. Creon’s wife, Eurydice, distraught over the loss of her son, follows suit. By the time Creon, comes to his senses, following the impassioned pleadings of his counsellors, including a blind prophet, Tiresias, it is far too late ~ he had already upset the gods, who were meting out their retribution. The underlying themes in the play touch upon: a) Civil Disobedience b) Natural Law and Contemporary Legal Institutions c) Fidelity d) Portrayal of the gods e) Love for family.

[One moral of the play: Gods punish the proud. However, punishment brings wisdom].

c) Recruitment as Teacher

The Professor vividly remembers how he came to be recruited to the Goan School. The Principal, Mr Ildefonse De Souza, on a recruitment drive for two teaching staff, travelled to Poona to interview suitable candidates. The Professor was recruited, alongside his good friend, the late Mr Edmund Cordeiro. The two had studied together in Bombay and forged a close friendship. Mr Ildefonse put the young teacher Suresh, in charge of Literature and Drama Activities. He has fond memories of sharing a rented apartment with Edmund Cordeiro, Constantine (Custa) Correia, Andrew Baena and Tony Miranda in Ganjoni, within easy reach of the school. Other close friends he recalls, during his time in Mombasa, were the late Dr Neves Pereira and the late Mr Leo Noronha.

He produced a self-portrait of himself from his scrapbook, taken at the time he arrived in Mombasa. “A really youthful Suresh Amonkar”, I remarked, noting that he was not much older than me, when he first came out to teach. Barely six years difference in our ages. I further observed that I remembered him looking very stylish with those ‘flashy’ sun-glasses he wore. “Ah Yes! Ray-Ban”, he remarked. They were the rave and a much sought-after brand at the time, I recall.

d) London School of Economics (LSE) Scholarship Award

Whilst at the Mombasa Goan School, the Professor was awarded a British Council Scholarship to study at the London School of Economics (LSE), in 1961. He was to take Economics and History. As events would transpire, he had to turn down that award and promptly return to Goa, on learning of the sudden illness of his father, the Founder and Principal of the ‘New Goa High School’ (later named “GS Amonkar Vidya Mandir”) in Mapuça. The Professor went on to assume responsibility for that school and thus opens up a vibrant and illustrious new chapter in his academically rich life.

I happened to enquire of him how he felt about missing out on that LSE Scholarship. His reply was something like: “Marci, I feel blessed, because I am sure if I had gone to the LSE, I would have most certainly landed up making a new life somewhere in the English-speaking West, as so many of my other compatriots”. Seeing his quality of life, his formidable accomplishments, respect, recognition and renown in Goa/India, what a ‘Blessing’ indeed, in my opinion ~ for him, his family and Goa. Just to put this point into perspective, on the day I met the Professor, ‘Times of India’ had an interview appointment that same afternoon, to do his story about the Krista Purana launch. I note too, that ‘Goa Herald’ had a feature done on him a few days after our meeting. The magazine “Goa Today” that had awarded him “Man of the Year 2010” title, had an interesting spread on his life, in the latter-half of 2016.

GS Amonkar Vidya Mandir (formerly ‘New Goa High School’ – Established in 1943)

Describing Professor Amonkar’s role and contribution in developing and running his family school in the north of Goa, rated as outstanding, will take a full chapter in its own right. This is quite apart from his other pursuits as a renowned Educationist in India. Deservingly, I have dedicated a complete section on the “Accomplishments of Suresh Gundu Amonkar” in the “Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School Project”, which contains so much more on his illustrious career. However, it is noteworthy at this point to disclose that the Professor fondly drew my attention that Mr Ildefonse De Souza and Mrs Adelaide de Souza (Mrs JV), also taught at his school, on returning to Goa, after their retirement from the Mombasa Goan School.

The Professor is still the Chairman of his School Board. His sons are also on the Board. The school is now incorporated as a Trust. Hence the new name: “GS Amonkar Vidya Mandir”.

Former Renowned Alumni of the School:

Apart from the Professor himself, these include: a) Bishop Alwyn Baretto

b) Chief Minister of Goa: Mr Manohar Parrikar.

Educational & Professional Appointments

Here is a brief summary of Professor Amonkar’s impact on Education in Goa/India:

a) 1960 – 1980 Headmaster of ‘New Goa High School’

b) 1980 – 1988 Chairman of ‘Goa Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education’

c) 1989 – 1991 Director of ‘Goa State Literacy Mission & Adult Education’

Other Official Posts Held:

d) 1962 First General Secretary of ‘Goa Headmasters Association’

e) 1976 – 1980 President of ‘Goa Headmasters Association’

f) 1985 – 1991 Chief State Commissioner ‘Goa Bharat Scouts Movement’

Published: Handbook for Headmasters & Teachers

‘Honesty is the Best Policy’

The following event in the life of this exceptional man has endeared me to him even more. Being one of our very own, it makes me really proud to record this. It was during his tenure as the Chairman of the ‘Goa Board of Secondary & Higher Secondary Education’ and featured in the ‘Times of India’, as per this extract:

‘……. In the 1980’s, he stood his ground when the Lieutenant Governor pressured him to show him the answer papers of a candidate. Amonkar told him point blank he would do no such thing as the papers were confidential and could only be disclosed should there be a judicial probe. As is generally the reward for honesty, Amonkar was served with a show cause notice and harassed. At the same time he was offered the post of Registrar of ‘Goa University’. But he didn’t budge. “When you stand up for the truth, you have to carry the lonely cross.” His tough stand helped uphold the Board’s autonomy. ……….’

Those familiar with the politics of India will know that it takes a brave man to stand in the way of State dignitaries, officials, powerful business people and politicians. The story of the late Fr. Bismarque Dias, stands foremost on my mind and with some irony, the above extract resonates with that Bible story, when Jesus had to confront Pilot, who enquired: “Truth? What is truth?” The Professor has shown he is made of exceptional moral fibre and integrity.

A Proud and Dedicated Family Man

Wife: Sudha (Passed away February, 2015). A Post-Graduate Teacher who also served as Headmistress of ‘New Goa High School’.

Married: 30th April 1960

Children: Three Sons ~ 1) Siddharth (Electrical Engineer) 2) Raj (MBA) 3) Gautam (Structural Engineer. All in Goa, running their own businesses.

Grandchildren: 6

The Professor is a nature-lover with a huge interest in birds and fauna/flora.

Bidding Farewell

After a richly absorbing hour or so, the arrival of two other publication-related visitors, was a hint of the busy schedule the Professor had that day. ‘Times of India’ had an appointment that afternoon as well. I stood up to leave and the Professor followed, to see me off. Bang by his door, on the outside front wall, was this huge wooden wheel mounted into the wall, as a show-piece. I happened to enquire what the story was, to that wheel. “No story. Just a collector’s piece” he remarked.

It is a bullock-cart wheel, which as it happens, is now consigned to the ranks of a museum exhibit. These carts are rendered ‘extinct’ by the emergence of petrol/diesel engines in Goa. To me it brought back recollections of how such a ‘humble wheel’ has been the driving force of the industrial revolution taking place all around. The wheel also carries many more significant historical symbolisms in India, one of which was Gandhi’s philosophy in urging the people to adopt the ‘Spinning Wheel (Darkha)’, to foster economic independence during the struggle for self-rule. However, the cart wheel at the Professor’s home was a reminder to me, of both, the humility and remarkable intellectual ‘productivity’, generated by this outstanding man, who has so much to give to the world still, I feel.

The Professor bade me farewell with a tight embrace and the parting words: “I FEEL ENERGISED”. Truly, it is I who felt energised. I emerged so enriched from that meeting and it has proven a source of inspiration and immense self-satisfaction. I have learned so much from and since, that encounter. Am so proud of this extraordinary school luminary ~ Professor Suresh Amonkar ~ who was my teacher at the Mombasa Goan School.

Project: “Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School” e-mail: [email protected]

December 2019 Update

My last communication with Professor Suresh Amonkar was an e-mail I sent him, just last month, dated

14th November 2019 as follows:

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From: M Pereira

Date: Thu, 14 Nov 2019 at 16:15

Subject: Does this piece resonate with you Professor?

To: Professor Suresh Amonkar

Dear Professor

Came across the attached piece in the London Times, 5 days ago - bound to generate a sense of pride in you, as it did me. Something to add to my research. Imagine, going back to more than 50 years and also in a teaching context? Thank you for your vision and foresight. Reason to be proud.

Hope you and your family are keeping well and the rains have now stopped in Goa.

You take care.

Kind regards

Marci Pereira

Project: 'Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School'

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Nicola Woolcock’s Report in ‘The Times’ dated 09 November 2019:

Headline: “Poorer pupils learn to benefit from Classics”

“Latin and the works of Sophocles are no longer the preserve of public schools thanks to a project that links professors with underprivileged teenagers. An initiative between Kings College London (KCL) and Newham Sixth Form College in east London offering lessons in Classics to bright sixth-form pupils is now in its second year.

Students from disadvantaged backgrounds with high academic potential can attend the classes, which are designed to inspire and engage them in challenging topics that are often the preserve of private schools. Lecturers cover subjects including ancient literature, religion, theology, Persian history and philosophy. Some teenagers from neighbouring state schools also attend.

The students act out Greek plays such as Antigone by Sophocles and are encouraged to consider Classics as a degree.

Edith Hall, a Classics lecturer at KCL said: ‘We wanted to enable the students from Newham to understand the richness and relevance of the classical world. They have a unique opportunity to engage with world-class

lecturers. ………………………..”

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Professor Suresh Amonkar, produced that Greek Classical Drama: ‘Antigone’ at the Mombasa Goan Institute in July 1958. That piece above, in The Times, refers to the value of teaching of the works of Sophocles in modern day Britain (2019)!!! Just goes to show what a visionary teacher the Professor was.

Uncharacteristically, I did not get a reply to my e-mail above, from the Professor. I was not to know that he was ailing in hospital then, until news came that he passed away on Sunday 8th December 2019.

The last time I met him, ever so briefly, was in March this year (2019), when I visited Goa. I happened to be on business in Mapuça, and called on him, unannounced. Unfortunately, he was just on his way out to a meeting. He proudly confided that he had just completed his latest translation project: ‘Shakespeare’s Works’ from English into Konkani, intended for schools, which was to be released shortly. He embraced me and his parting words were: “Marci, I thought you were going to come and spend some time with me?”.

Not to be. What a truly outstanding and exceptionally gifted man.

R.I.P. Professor Amonkar

Project: “Archiving Memories of Mombasa Goan School/Sacred Heart School”

- Marci Pereira, Wirral, Merseyside, UK | 10 th January 2020 01:41

 

On behalf of Custa Correia and family:

To Sudha and family, our deepest sympathies to you on the loss of my roommate, co-teacher and great friend in Mombasa.

- Joy Correia, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada | 12 th December 2019 02:58

 

It was sad to read the email from my nephew Lucindo Faria early this morning of the passing of Suresh Amonkar, the last of the Amonkar/Borkar brilliance.

Suresh's father the late G.S. Amonkar was a teacher for

years at Sacred Heart High School ,Parra under my

father Alphonsus Ligouri DeSouza , who helped Suresh father to open his school in Mapuca.Suresh elder brother Babi and i were class mates and passed Matric in 1948.

The whole Amonkar family were not only our neighbours in Verla ,but were in and out of our house always. My naval

years kept me away from home from 1950 till liberation in 1961 and when i came back to Goa , visited the Amonkars constantly , his mother was "ayi " to me and Suresh ,

Sudha and myself socialised and had fun just remembering our youth together.When i was in Goa this year from February to May , i visited him pretty often and learnt from him his work on translations of the teachings of Gautam Buddha from Pali into Konkani and many of his other projects.

May his brilliance always be remembered , and may his sons ,daughters in law and grand children cherish all that he did and accomplished following a life of prolonged illness,dedicating his work for the modern youth to educate themselves and live a God Fearing life of everlasting peace.

May his Soul Rest in Peace.

Walter DeSouza

- Capt.Walter DeSouza, Pleasanton,East Bay,Ca.,USA | 09 th December 2019 12:31

 

Shri.Sureshbab was a multifaceted personality..a teacher,a philosopher,a guide...and a good human being..We pray Almighty God that his soul may rest in peace

- Dr.Sitakant N.Kamat-Ghanekar, Panaji-Goa | 09 th December 2019 03:28

 

I have met and interacted with Suresh Amonkar. He was a linguist. Although I am Tamilian, he taught more about Tirukural. He has taught many students, who have held good positions and will continue to guide future generations

- Vilasini Shanbhag, USA | 08 th December 2019 23:11

 

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