Different images flit across one's mind when interacting with Union Minister Emmanuel John Oscar Vincent Fernandes. The first is of Indira Gandhi's darshan darbar (people's court).
Different images flit across one’s mind when interacting with Union Minister Emmanuel John Oscar Vincent Fernandes. The first is of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s darshan darbar (people’s court). Oscar Fernandes has emulated the model. He spends his day listening to people’s woes in the visitors’ room adjacent to his ministerial chamber. The second image is of a child sobbing helplessly for his mother. Fernandes cries incessantly at the mention of ‘mummy’. He is inconsolable as he recalls her courage in standing up to police atrocities in Udupi in Karnataka. Between choking over and apologising for his “emotional state”, Fernandes relates the story.
A distraught neighbour was being threatened by the police with an eviction order. “Here was this lady pleading for reprieve from the burly cop who kept abusing her. Her children were terrified. Mummy defied him and flung a rulebook at him. I witnessed this and kept imagining that one day this would happen to us.” This, despite the fact that his mother, Leonissa, was the first lady magistrate of the country. Lala Lajpat Rai, Fernandes says, mentioned ‘mummy’ in his book.
The third image is that of a schoolboy at assembly. Barring the uniform, 65-year-old Fernandes is like a teenager when he talks about school. He springs to his feet, hands folded in prayer and eyes closed. Within minutes, the room resonates with Sanskrit shlokas which Fernandes sings at an unbelievably high pitch. For someone who never learnt to sing, Fernandes is quite good. But what he does better is Bharatnatyam. He, along with his sister, was formally trained to dance.
The one fact that Fernandes keeps under wraps is that he opted out of university to make it possible for his sister, Charlotte, to graduate. Unable to educate 12 children, his father gave him a “you or your sister” choice. Charlotte went on to become a lawyer. This Fernandes attributes to her “broad forehead”. He believes that those with large foreheads are intelligent and always succeed. Considering his own is somewhat camouflaged by a lock of hair, styled to fall just so, it is difficult to judge which ‘type’ of forehead Fernandes has. He, however, spent years farming and finally bagged a national award for the highest yield in paddy.
Fernandes wears two wedding bands: one gold, the other silver. The gold for when he married Blossom and the silver when, 25 years later, there was a replay. The two were back in church and Oscar led Blossom down the aisle, exchanged rings and kissed her. All because his son, Oshan, flipping through their wedding album, had said: “Since you forgot to invite me to your wedding, we will have another one where I play the best man.” So on August 26 this year, Fernandes married Blossom all over again. “I sang at the anniversary mass and took it to a feverish pitch. Going against convention, the congregation applauded spontaneously.”