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A Lion’s Heart

Fideles Pereira


The story of my extraordinary dad

This is the story of my wise old man, Fideles Pereira. I love him not just because he’s my dad but for who he is and what he stands for. He’s a retired headmaster, Ex-President of CRCC Club, Ex-President of Mando Festival Committee, toastmaster and overall gentle man. Fideles Pereira, 76, triumphed over many challenges, and he instilled the same indomitable spirit in me.

My dad served as headmaster of St. Bosco’s High School in Chinchinim for nearly three decades, and he was in the teaching line (is there a more noble profession on earth?) for his entire career. Despite being born with a congenital defect of the right foot, he has never let this handicap hinder his personal growth and professional success. He underwent an operation as a child, but it failed and led to gangrene, forcing him to miss a year of school and leaving him with a lifelong limp.

After passing St. Bosco’s High School in Chinchinim in 1956, he wanted to pursue his studies in Mumbai. “There were no higher educational institutions in those days in Goa. I decided to move to Bombay to pursue my studies as this was the only option available due to my handicap.”

These were tough times for Goa and for him. My dad was a member of Azad Gomantak Dal and Indian National Congress, revolutionary outfits devoted to ending the Portuguese colonial rule that had been in effect since 1510.

“I could not get my visa to join for higher studies in Bombay. So, I tried to cross the border of Goa at Majali with some others. It was a very harrowing experience for all of us.”

“We missed the agents who were helping people to cross the border. We had to walk through ploughed fields, wade through waist deep water, walk in forested areas, climb hilly regions and brave rough terrain and heavy rains for nine days …”

Finally, they caught up with the agents. But before they could cross the border and blend in with the Maharashtrian masses, Indian officers arrested all of them, including the agents, at Majali.

My dad stayed at the Majali police station for eight days, before being sent back to Goa. He later learnt the bitter truth about the arrest of the agents. The police were on the watch for them as they were involved in the illegal smuggling of liquor from Goa to Mumbai. Neither my dad nor his peers at the time had any idea that in the presence of those agents, they were sitting ducks!

After his release, he reached the Portuguese police post at Pollem. One of the Goan policeman remarked, “Bhienaka re, tumi Goia pavleat.” (“Don’t be scared. You have reached Goa.”). There he spent a night before being shuttled to Canacona police station, from where he would try to make his way back to his home in Chinchinim.

 The problem is that he didn’t have a single paisa to ferry him home! That didn’t stop him from boarding a bus and asking a shopkeeper he knew to lend him a rupee to pay his fare. My dad was just a 19-year-old lad at the time. After the ordeal, he fell sick, and it took months to recover.

In 1957, he caught a lucky break. My dad managed to procure his Documento de Viajem, his passport, and travelled to Mumbai without any hassles.  He joined first year of Arts in St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai.

Three years later he graduated in Sociology and Psychology, and with a determined outlook went ahead to complete his post-graduation in History. There were financial crunches due to Portuguese rule. But he managed with the help of some relatives in Mumbai.

Returning back to Goa in 1963, two years after liberation, he joined his alma mater, St. Bosco’s High School, as part of the teaching faculty. Armed with B.Ed (teacher’s training degree) in 1969, he took over as headmaster of the school in the same year till he retired in 1997.

He has raised countless toasts for weddings without charging a single fee to the bridal couple. He is very interested in sports and to this day you can find him in animated discussions about football, tennis and cricket. He was a two-term President of Clube Recreativo Cultural de Chinchinim.

He has been very active in the Chinchinim Church, serving as both Secretary and Vice President of the Chinchinim Parish Council. He’s also a past President and current member of Chinchinim Mando Festival Committee, which organizes Mando competitions annually.

My dad says, “I am now enjoying a quiet retired life. I am blessed with a beautiful family. It is great satisfaction to see my students in different fields – medicine, engineering, sports, chartered accountancy, shipping, academics, etc. I had to face many hardships and challenges in my life, but my faith in the Lord and positive outlook kept me going forward. ”

I caught up with a few people who have known my dad over the years.

 Mr. Devdatt S. Lotliker, an ex-student who works at Zuari Agro Chemicals Ltd., says, “Punctuality and discipline was his main agenda in the school. He used to maintain good rapport with everyone in the school. He was like a military chief to me.”

Allen Viegas, Secretary of Mando Festival Committee, Chinchinim says, “He reminds us that Mando is the essence of Goa and it is because of people like him that traditions are kept alive.”

Flaviano (Flazo) Cardozo, a senior citizen from Chinchinim quips, “He is a gentleman and honest, well respected in the society.”

Bosco Cotta, advocate and ex-student of Sir Fideles says, “He commanded respect by being a friend, mentor and always willing to help in our difficulties. Till today whenever I meet him it is with fond memories which are still treasured.”

Fideles Pereira has lived a life that matters. Not by accident, but by choice.