By Anish Esteves
28th August marks the 100th birth anniversary of Dr. Sarto Esteves, a journalist and author of several notable books.
Sarto Esteves was born in Solvá, Raia, Goa, then a Portuguese colony, on the 28th of August, 1919 to Roque Piedade Felicio Esteves and Argentina Maria Esmeralda Geneciana de Piedade Quadros e Esteves. He was one of nine children in the family. He lost his parents at a very young age and later came to Mumbai for his education. He studied first at Antonio De Souza High School, Byculla and later at St Mary's High School, Mazagaon, and excelled throughout his school career, winning many prizes. He then continued his college education at St. Xavier's College, Mumbai. He received his Doctorate in Political Science from the Bombay University in 1972. Besides being a communications specialist, he was a freelance journalist for over 50 years and an author of around 20 books, whose subjects ranged from politics to religion to Goa. Some of the books, authored by him, which several people remember to date are:
Goa and its Future (1966): This book deals briefly with several aspects of life in Goa, notably its history, scenic beauty, culture, natural resources and political conditions.
Politics and Political Leadership in Goa (1986): This book gives brief information on Goa and its historical past mainly with reference to political conditions during the Portuguese regime. This is followed by a consideration of the type of leaders that the revolts staged by Goans against Portuguese colonialism threw up. The latter part of this book is devoted to analysis of political leadership in Goa from the time of Liberation up to the time of general elections in 1984.
Freedom To Build Not Destroy (2002): This book demolishes some of the contradictions in the interpretation of the constitutional provision of right to religion and reiterates the fact that the Church had never used the façade of charity for conversion.
Christmas: The Festival of Peace, Love & Justice (2007)
He was a relentless contributor of articles to the pan-India press particularly on the subject of minority rights, Goan politics, secularism and communalism. His writings had a finesse of their own, bore the stamp of refined scholarship and exuded a cultivated style that very few people can match. They were a testimony of his faith and patriotism. As a thinker and intellectual, he was very concerned about the monster of communalism that threatened the stability and integrity of India, and the manner in which all types of disruptive and disintegrating forces were being allowed to gain supremacy by the powers-that-be. His articles in the Catholic newsweekly, The Examiner, were a regular contribution especially in the Christmas issue. He had also published well documented papers on a number of subjects which occupied prominent positions and appeared as editorials in leading publications like The Secular Citizen and Indian Currents from Delhi. As a young man, he was an active member of the Men's Sodality in Mumbai. Later he moved to Chembur in the early 1960's and became an active parishioner of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Church (OLPS) and a confidant of the Redemptorist Fathers too. He was the one instrumental in helping the first principal of OLPS High School, Late Fr. Brian McGrath, an Irish Redemptorist, to raise funds for the school building and this was the beginning of a long association between the Redemptorists and the Esteves family which continues to the present.
My memories of Grandpa
My Grandpa, or Pa as my younger brother and I addressed him, was extremely fond of us. He doted on us, as young children and whenever we fell sick, he used to get really worried about us. He was not at peace till Mum made an appointment with our paediatrician and brought home at least a day’s worth of medicine. On days when we were gripped with high fever, it was he who kept reminding Mum to check our temperature at regular intervals and give us our medicines.
As we grew older, he took personal interest in our studies, and tried to inculcate in us the habit of reading, a habit which has remained with us. After all, being surrounded by books of all types in our mini-library at home, we were exposed to books on politics, Goa and religion. To Grandpa, his books were the most precious possession. He used to often say, “There is wealth in these book-cases of ours.” In fact, once, when one of the legs of a book-case broke off and could not be repaired, I think Grandpa was the one who was affected the most. One vivid memory that I have of him, is that he was always surrounded by books and newspapers, constantly writing in his free time. He wrote his last book on Christmas at the ripe old age of 88, after which, failing eyesight prevented him from doing any more writing.
He was a true-blue Goenkar and often introduced himself to others by saying, “I am Sarto Esteves.” When non-Goans looked at him quizzically, wondering from which part of the planet he came from, he would then add, with a big smile on his face, “Aum Niz Goenkar.” That much was his love for Goa, and something that he was really proud of. On our annual visit to Goa, during the May vacation, it was Grandpa who showed us around and explained various things that one would normally find in a typical Goan village, something that we Mumbai-bred children knew very little about. On a typical day at home, Mum had to serve him a cup of rice water, into which he would religiously add a teaspoon of sugar, which was the Mumbai equivalent to the Goan pej (rice kanji). Very soon, my brother and I started demanding the same beverage from Mum daily, (of course the sugar being the main attraction).
He was fond of authentic Goan food, like xitt-codi, and fried fish and it is from him that we have inherited our love for sea-food. Although he did not have a sweet tooth, there was one dessert that he would never say no to and that was bebinca. Besides bebinca, he would only eat the home-made chocolates made by my Mum. At the age of 85 +, when one of the parishioners met him in the church compound and asked him what the secret to his longevity was, without batting an eyelid, and with a twinkle in his eye, quick came the reply, “chocolates.” In addition to the above, he enjoyed a daily peg of brandy, (preferably Real’s), which however he would firmly tell my brother and me, was his daily dose of medicine, recommended by the doctor, in order to keep him in good health.
Grandpa was very fond of listening to classical music and Goan Mandos. He encouraged us to listen to the same, rather than the “noise” that we youngsters sometimes enjoyed listening to. After all, he was a very calm and quiet person, and hated to hear anyone shouting or speaking loudly to each other, even across the sitting-room.
Dr. Esteves passed away on the 25th of October, 2012, at 93, in Chembur, Mumbai. A scholarship in memory of Dr. Esteves was instituted at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour High School, Chembur in 2017.
Anish Esteves is a writer and blogger. He is the grandson of Esteves Sarto. You can follow his blog here.