Bengaluru: George Fernandes lived a multi-faceted life fighting for the poor and less fortunate, speaking several languages to connect strongly with people and even briefly running a Konkani news magazine before entering politics.
Family and friends of ‘George Sahab’, as he was fondly addressed by many, recalled his legacy as his ashes were Friday buried at a colonial-era cemetery in the heart of Delhi, a day after his mortal remains were cremated.
Bengaluru-based younger brother Michael Fernandes, 84, said he was named George by their mother after a famous British monarch, with whom he shared the birthday.
“My mother had named him after King George V as he liked him and the monarch too was born on June 3,” he said.
George Fernandes was born in 1930 in Mangalore to John Jos and Alice Martha, and faced several struggles in life before climbing high on the ladder of politics.
“In 1946, at the age of 16, he was sent to St Peter’s Seminary in Bangalore, where he also picked up Latin. He did not wish to continue his life at the seminary and so after a few years moved away from it,” Michael said.
“My mind is flooded with his memories. I lost a brother, the country lost a leader and a multi-faceted man,” he said.
Fernandes died at his residence here Tuesday after suffering from Alzheimer’s disorder that had left him debilitated.
“He had lost his memory and speech abilities, but not many will believe that he was a polyglot and spoke many languages, including fluent Marathi and Kanadda. Konkani was his mother tongue. And he would not recognise me due to Alzheimer’s, but whenever, I would speak in Konkani, his eyes would pop up,” Michael told PTI.
L Kalappa, 65, general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Kisan Panchayat’s Karnataka unit, who had travelled from Bengaluru to pay respect to Fernandes and attend his cremation, recalled the letters that Fernandes used to send to him in Kanadda.
He shows a photograph of a handwritten letter written by Fernandes in Kanadda in 1987 when he was staying in Hauz Khas.
“He was fluent in Kanadda, as he was born and raised in Mangalore. And, whenever he visited Bangalore or interacted with workers, he spoke in Kanadda only. He spoke many other regional languages too that allowed him to connect to people in a much stronger way,” he said.
He could also speak Bengali, Tamil, Tulu, Malayalam, besides English and Hindi.
“In Bombay, he would make his fiery speeches in Marathi and in Bangalore in fluent Kanadda. That is the legacy of George Sahab,” he said.
Michael also recalled the time when he ran a news magazine — ‘Konkani Yuvak’ in his mother tongue in late 1940s.
“It was a Konkani publication and he ran and edited it briefly. It faced some problems and eventually after a couple of years, it folded,” he said.
His admirers had earlier come from Mangalore to Muzaffarpur and Noida to Roorkee to his residence to pay respect after his death, many recollecting stories and anecdotes associated with ‘George Sahab’.
The Kaushiks, a doctor family couple, came from Roorkee to pay tribute to him, said even as a defence minister, he did not seek any security cover and his doors were always open for people, literally.