'Mumbai taught me to embrace religion'
Outgoing Brazilian Consul General on how her tenure changed her life and on being one of eight female CGs in the city
When Rosimar Suzano was deployed at the Brazil Embassy in Israel in 2001 to handle local politics, she was introduced to books and novels that piqued her interest in India. Around the same time, she noticed how a large number of soldiers, having left the Israeli armed forces, would head here to 'decompress'. Suzano was intrigued, and so that same year, she packed her bags and took her first trip to India, with a bunch of friends in tow. "I wanted to expose myself, test my own emotions and draw my own conclusions regarding the cliches about India. Before coming here, I had only known of how poverty had gripped the country," she tells us.
The trip began with some shock.
"This was around Diwali. After spending the first day in Old Delhi, we took a train to Varanasi. And was I in for a surprise! The crowd bothered me, the number of people that had flocked to the region even scared me a little. And I wondered, if I'd ever be able to like this country and its people." But on the third day, she took a boat ride. And, amid a thick morning haze, which blanketed the Ganges River horizon, she realised how deeply she had fallen in love with India.
While that trip lasted a week, she returned again in 2008 as a tourist and later in 2015 when she took charge as the Consul General of Brazil in Mumbai. Ever since, the Rio-born has made various efforts to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. In her four-year-long tenure here, she hit a milestone when India hosted the 8th BRICS Summit in Goa in 2016, thus bringing together the heads of government of the five member countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—under one roof. "It was an incredible experience. That event saw the presence of several Brazilian diplomats in India, including the then President Michel Temer. We not only managed to bring them here, but Brazil and India also ended up signing about five memorandums."
Seated in the consulate office at Nariman Point, Suzano, who is preparing to leave for Brazil by the end of July, says it has been an emotional journey. Before being appointed the Consul General, Suzano had come to Mumbai in 2008. "It was a memorable tour. But the city took me by surprise in 2015 when I came here as a diplomat and not a tourist," she says, adding, how the city's infrastructure had transformed in a span of seven years. "The Bandra-Worli Sealink, the new T2 Airport and the Metro amazed me. I thought living here would be easy." But the first three months were challenging. "When you take on a new post in a different country, you have to start from scratch, meet new people and introduce yourself. It can get exhausting."
The 56-year-old, however, managed it gracefully. Today, she adds, her professional circle is also a part of her personal journey. "Born in the suburbs of Rio, I come from a lower social background. The money situation was always tight when I was a kid. But I studied hard, and eventually cleared my exams at the Brazilian Diplomatic Academy. My career helped me climb up the social ladder, but I remained grounded. It is very important for diplomats like me to remember where we come from," she shares, adding how her stay in Mumbai introduced her to the significance of embracing religion. "I am born in a protestant family. My father was a priest, which meant going to the church every day. It was only when I grew up, that I realised how spirituality and religious belief need to come from within," she shares. Before coming to Mumbai, a friend gave her a book by a French author. "He mentioned how India is about religion. And it was only when I got here that I learned how important it is for Indians to follow their religious traditions. Today, I connect to many things and people religiously, and I only have Mumbai to thank for it."
For the last four years, Suzano has woken up to views of the Arabian sea from her Gateway-facing apartment in Colaba. Needless to say, her favourite spots in the city tend to be in South Bombay. "I love frequenting Kala Ghoda and the NCPA, absorbing the rich Indian culture and art, one weekend at a time."
Chef Guto Souza
While she sees potential for Brazilian artistes and entrepreneurs here, she points out there are only 500 Brazilians living across India. "During my term in Mumbai, I have strived to get more and more delegates here, to promote our culture and tradition." And she succeeded when chef Guto Souza opened up Boteco in BKC in 2017. "While at present it is the only Brazilian restaurant here, we are hoping more and more like it will sprawl out in the near future," she says. The problem, she feels, is that Brazilians have been hesitant in tapping the Indian market. "Comparatively, there are many Indian investors in Brazil. We have been unfortunate and only now realised the importance of the Indian market," she adds.
But, Suzano has worked towards changing this. Ever since she took charge, her focus has lied in the agricultural sector. In 2017, the Baramati Agricultural Trust in Maharashtra signed an MoU with the federal university of Minas Gerais for a student exchange programme. "This programme will facilitate sharing knowledge in the field of agriculture and animal breeding between the two countries," she explains. She also was successful in achieving a new feat in the educational sector. After years of negotiations, she has re-established the Lectorship Programme in Portuguese language and social studies at the University of Goa. She also hopes on replicating the programme at Mumbai University.
The second female Consul General appointed at the Brazil Consulate in Mumbai, Suzano says she never faced gender discrimination during her term. "In our consulate community in Mumbai, we are a total of eight female Consul Generals appointed here. We are on the rise, and definitely here to stay. Men can deal with it," she adds, chuckling.
Catch up on all the latest Mumbai news, crime news, current affairs, and also a complete guide on Mumbai from food to things to do and events across the city here. Also download the new mid-day Android and iOS apps to get latest updates
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Masterchef finalist Karishma Sakhrani's breakfast tutorial!