The Indian who made a name in Brazil 127 years before PM Modi

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Brazil, the biggest country of Latin America and the fifth largest in the world, was in the news recently for a number of reasons. The country organised the Fifa World Cup this year amid serious protests and then hosted the BRICS summit, which was also attended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

It was because of the sports carnival and the visit of Modi, the new prime minister of India who assumed office just one-and-a-half months ago, that Brazil, a country otherwise not known much to us, became a everyday word in Indian households.

But how many of us remembered the man from India who had served in the Brazilian Army, as an explorer and circus-trainer in the late 19th century? He was born the year Rabindranath Tagore was born and it was his 150th birth anniversary three years ago. His name is Colonel Suresh Biswas.

There are no accounts of Col Suresh Biswas's life for over a hundred years. His first autobiography came out in 1899. Three years later, a family friend of Biswas penned a biography of the latter and it still serves as the most reliable source of information about Bisws.

Biswas, born in 1861 in Nadia district of West Bengal, was a Christian convert. After working at Calcutta's Spence's hotel as a tourist guide, Biswas travelled to Rangoon (former name of Yangon in Myanmar) at the age of 14.

But he could not find any job there and left for London where after going through several occupations, he became a circus animal trainer in Kent. He then reached Hamburg in Germany but was chased out of the country by a nobleman with whose daughter he got engaged in a romantic affair. Col Suresh's next step was the USA from where he landed in Brazil.

Fearless in nature, Biswas had joined the Brazilian Army in 1887 and was promoted through the ranks. The Brazilian monarchy was overthrown in 1889. Biswas became a lieutenant in 1893 and played an instrumental role in defeating the Brazilian Naval Revolt in 1894. His military exploits at the Battle of Niteroi made him a hero overnight and he became a famous name in Rio de Janeiro society.

Col Biswas was a rare Bengali who earned a global name in those days

Biswas, the first Bengali to set foot in Brazil, lectured in colleges in Portuguese whenever he found time out from his circus duty. He had married the daughter of a local physician. Biswas had settled in Brazil where he died at the premature age of 44. The news of his death had reached Bengal two year later and the world still awaits a detailed biography of the man.

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