Tuesday, July 13, 2010

scribendi cacoethes

"And the winner is . . ."

The Octopus with sapient eye
Fixed his gaze upon twin boxes.
Around, agog, stood homo sapiens
In many different shapes and sizes.

Bright hues and bands horizont-ic-al
Please octopodes and such beings nautical.
Taking his time he pondered the flags
That marked each box, before he chose
- Ah, which is the team? - and swallowed his morsel.
The winner again! He knows, he KNOWS,
This oracle in the aquarium.

But does he really? Or was it just silly
Of homo sapiens, whose superstition
Fulfils the very prophecy
Brought forth by foolish question?

The Octopus with sapient eye
Looks on with gaze that seems sardonic,
As homo sapiens, his keeper mighty,
Through folly falls into a panic.

©2010 by Ruth Heredia

Panic is the unreasoning fear associated with Pan, a sardonic deity who appears to favour beasts over men (justifiably, perhaps), and who, together with Dionysos, represents the power of emotion, instinct and unreason, as opposed to Apollo, who represents the power of thought, harmony (produced by balance and discipline) and reason.
Meanwhile, AFP has a photograph that summarises one person's view of the recent World Cup hoopla:

Friday, April 30, 2010


by William Butler Yeats

In 1935, on his 70th birthday, Yeats received a gift from his friend Harry Clifton: a piece of lapis lazuli dating from the Ch'ien Lung period (1731-95). A description of the object begins at the verse, "Two Chinamen . . .” Yeats had long been impressed by an idea of Nietzsche, that tragedy, individual and public, should be faced bravely, gaily.

(For Harry Clifton)

I have heard that hysterical women say          1
They are sick of the palette and fiddle-bow.
Of poets that are always gay,
For everybody knows or else should know
That if nothing drastic is done                        2
Aeroplane and Zeppelin will come out.             3
Pitch like King Billy bomb-balls in                    4
Until the town lie beaten flat.

All perform their tragic play,
There struts Hamlet, there is Lear,
That's Ophelia, that Cordelia;                          5
Yet they, should the last scene be there,
The great stage curtain about to drop,
If worthy their prominent part in the play,
Do not break up their lines to weep.                6
They know that Hamlet and Lear are gay;
Gaiety transfiguring all that dread.
All men have aimed at, found and lost;
Black out; Heaven blazing into the head:          7; 8
Tragedy wrought to its uttermost.
Though Hamlet rambles and Lear rages,
And all the drop-scenes drop at once               9
Upon a hundred thousand stages,
It cannot grow by an inch or an ounce.            10

On their own feet they came, or on shipboard,
Camel-back; horse-back, ass-back, mule-back,
Old civilisations put to the sword.
Then they and their wisdom went to rack:
No handiwork of Callimachus,                          11
Who handled marble as if it were bronze,
Made draperies that seemed to rise
When sea-wind swept the corner, stands;
His long lamp-chimney shaped like the stem     12
Of a slender palm, stood but a day;
All things fall and are built again,
And those that build them again are gay.

Two Chinamen, behind them a third,
Are carved in lapis lazuli,
Over them flies a long-legged bird,
A symbol of longevity;
The third, doubtless a serving-man,
Carries a musical instrument.

Every discolouration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a water-course or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows
Though doubtless plum or cherry-branch
Sweetens the little half-way house
Those Chinamen climb towards, and I
Delight to imagine them seated there;
There, on the mountain and the sky,
On all the tragic scene they stare.
One asks for mournful melodies;
Accomplished fingers begin to play.
Their eyes mid many wrinkles, their eyes,
Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.

--William Butler Yeats
[Written July 1936, published 1938]

1. "hysterical women" – obsessed by fear of the coming war
2. "nothing drastic is done" – to stop the aggression of the Fascists and Nazis
3. Zeppelin – a German airship; Zeppelins had bombed London in the 1914-18 war
4. King Billy bomb-balls – In an Irish Protestant ballad, The Battle of the Boyne, we find:
King James has pitched his tent between
The lines for to retire
But King William threw his bomb-balls in
And set them all on fire
5. Hamlet…. Lear…. Ophelia…. Cordelia – Hamlet and King Lear are very serious, tragic plays. But Yeats did not think any tragedy was an excuse for emotional wallowing in the audience (therefore the "hysterical women" of line 1), as it can never be for the (professional) actors
6. "lines to weep" – see previous note
7. Black out – 1) darkening stage in a play; 2) darkening lights as measure against air-raids; 3) temporary loss of memory or consciousness. Yeats 'means' all three, but not oppressively so
8. "blazing into the head" – Yeats thought that Shakespearean heroes (Hamlet and Lear are the prime examples) conveyed "a sudden enlargement of vision, an ecstasy at the approach of death" (N. Jeffares), quoting Lady Gregory (Irish dramatist): "Tragedy must be a joy to the man who dies."
9. drop-scenes – curtains let down between the acts of a play
10. "It" – tragedy of the highest
11. Callimachus – Greek sculptor of late 5th century BC, famous for his technical skill and ingenuity
12. "lamp-chimney" - according to Pausanias' Description of Greece, an ingenious golden lamp invented by Callimachus hung in the Erechtheion,which needed to be refilled with oil only once a year, and above it hung a bronze palm branch which trapped any rising smoke.

Lapis lazuli is a highly prized semi-precious stone of a very deep blue colour. Lapis is the Latin for 'stone', lazuli ultimately derives from the Persian name for a place where the stone was mined, Lazvard.

[Acknowledging debt to Norman Jeffares' books on W.B. Yeats]

Saturday, April 03, 2010



Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise,
Weav’d in my low devout melancholy,
Thou which of good, hast, yea, art treasury,
All changing unchanged Ancient of days;
But do not, with a vile crown of frail bays,
Reward my Muse’s white sincerity,
But what thy thorny crown gain’d, that give me,
A crown of Glory, which doth flower always;
The ends crown our works, but thou crown’st our ends,
For, at our end begins our endless rest;
The first last end, now zealously possess’d,
With a strong sober thirst, my soul attends.
‘Tis time that heart and voice be lifted high,
Salvation to all that will is nigh.


Salvation to all that will is nigh;
That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Lo, faithful Virgin, yields Himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and yet though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he will wear
Taken from thence, flesh, which death’s force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy son, and brother;
Whom thou conceiv’st, conceiv’d; yea thou art now
Thy Maker’s maker, and thy Father’s mother;
Thou hast light in dark; and shutt’st in little room,
Immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb.


Immensity cloister’d in thy dear womb,
Now leaves his well-belov’d imprisonment,
There he hath made himself to his intent
Weak enough, now into our world to come;
But Oh, for thee, for Him, hath the inn no room?
Yet lay him in this stall, and from the Orient,
Stars, and wisemen will travel to prevent *
The effect of Herod’s jealous general doom.
Seest thou, my soul, with thy faith’s eyes, how He
Which fills all place, yet none holds Him doth lie?
Was not His pity towards thee wondrous high,
That would have need to be pitièd by thee?
Kiss Him, and with Him into Egypt go,
With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe.
*prevent: not forestall, but anticipate, be ahead of


With his kind mother, who partakes thy woe
Joseph, turn back; see where your child doth sit,
Blowing, yea blowing out those sparks of wit,
Which Himself on the Doctors did bestow;
The Word but lately could not speak, and lo,
It suddenly speaks wonders; whence comes it,
That all which was, and all which should be writ,
A shallow seeming child, should deeply know?
His Godhead was not soul to His manhood,*
Nor had time mellowed Him to this ripeness,
But as for one which hath a long task, ‘tis good,
With the Sun to begin his business,*
He in His age’s morning thus began
By miracles exceeding power of man.
*As perfect man, Christ had a soul distinct from his Godhead
*probably to be pronounced as busyness


By miracles exceeding power of man,
He faith in some, envy in some begat,
For, what weak spirits admire, ambitious, hate;
In both affections many to Him ran,
But oh! the worst are most, they will and can,
Alas, and do, unto the immaculate,
Whose creature Fate is, now prescribe a Fate,
Measuring self-life’s infinity to a span,
Nay to an inch. Lo, where condemnèd He
Bears his own cross, with pain, yet by and by
When it bears Him, He must bear more and die.
Now Thou are lifted up, draw me to Thee,
And at Thy death giving such liberal dole,
Moist, with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul.


Moist, with one drop of Thy blood, my dry soul
Shall though she now be in extreme degree
Too stony hard, and yet too fleshly be
Freed by that drop, from being starv’d, hard or foul,
And life, by this death abled, shall control
Death, whom Thy death slew; nor shall to me
Fear of first or last death, bring misery,
If in Thy little book my name Thou enroll,
Flesh in that long sleep is not putrefied,
But made that there, of which, and for which ‘twas;
Nor can by other means be glorified.
May then sin’s sleep, and death’s, soon from me pass,
That wak’d from both, I again risen may
Salute the last, and everlasting day.


Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sun, and Son,
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation
Have purely wash’d, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away;
Lightens the dark clouds, which He treads upon,
Nor doth He by ascending, show alone,
But first He, and He first enters the way.
O strong Ram, which hast batter’d heaven for me,
Mild Lamb, which with Thy blood, hast mark’d the path;
Bright Torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with Thy own blood quench Thy own just wrath,
And if Thy holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

~ John Donne

quirks and quarks

Why is it that warm yields, not warmness but warmth, yet cool yields, not coolth but coolness?
When the powers that decide on what is acceptable ‘modern usage’ accept all sorts of modern crudities, barbarisms, and real solecisms (the infamous “hopefully”), yet exclude some beautifully expressive words which our forefathers used, (with discretion or boldness as the occasion required), one asks: who are these powers and by whom appointed?
Coolth does not match coolness for fusion of sound and sense; that much is true. But what of “hopefully” misused?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


The Power of the Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie -
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find - it's your own affair -
But . . . you've given your heart for a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!);
When the spirit that answered your every mood
Is gone - wherever it goes - for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.

Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept 'em, the more do we grieve:
For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long -
So why in - Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

~ Rudyard Kipling

scribendi cacoethes


The dog was in possession before the girl came. He owned her father first and reluctantly allowed his wife, her mother, into his family. In fact, he did all he could to keep her out, jumping on to the sofa or bed if he found husband and wife seated together, and pushing the intruder away. But she was fond of animals, too, and the dog soon gave in to her blandishments. He was jealous of his rights but not ill-natured.

The girl's parents wondered how he would respond to her arrival. They need not have done. He took the addition to his family as he might have done a pup of his own fathering – or a Buddha. The dog was Tibetan, a Tibetan spaniel. In the monasteries his ancestors had all aspired to be Dogs of Fo, guardians of the Buddha, and to that end had learned how to guard first the Buddha's house.

His name was Teddy. The little girl could manage that. It was not so great a distance from Da-da to Te-dim. Dog and girl were almost inseparable. When she was old enough for a rusk or a biscuit, she gravely shared it with Tedim, turn and turn about, both seated on the rug in amity.

Looking on once was a pair of doctors, her aunt and uncle, both very strict with the mother about childcare and hygiene. "What about this, then?", she asked them, pointing to the two on the rug. "Some things we must leave to God", was the inconsistent but fond reply.

One day, when she was older, the girl's cousin came to call along with his parents. He was notoriously ill-behaved. When the two rose to leave, the dog darted out of his accustomed place and seized the boy's ankle. Did not bite him, merely held him fast. At once there were cries of "Bad dog!" The girl's father was mortified. But the girl's ayah had seen, herself unseen, what the boy had done before. He had slipped into his pocket a toy he coveted. Tedim, her own Dog of Fo, was not going to let his little girl be robbed.

The father went on transfer to a northern district. He was both District Magistrate and Collector of Revenues. Every so often he held court outdoors, hearing grievances, settling disputes. The dog sat by his side. Occasionally he strolled among the men sitting cross-legged on the ground. Once he growled a low soft sound. He did no more. Only a growl as he stood beside the man and looked him over. There was a moment of apprehensive silence and then a loud burst of laughter. "Your dog is wise, Sahib", the other men cried, "he can smell out a troublemaker and a dishonest one."

As the girl grew into her fourth year the dog, not quite a pup when he was passed from hand to hand to end up with her father, the dog grew older still. That is the way with dogs. But he loved as faithfully and was no less beloved. Yet a time came when the three he claimed as family must go for a short while to a distant city where he would not be welcome to their hosts. It was the briefest absence. But it was in winter. Winter in that place was severe. The dog was immovable from his place in the verandah, where he could see the motorcar turn into the gate. He neither ate nor drank. The servants placed a rug beside him; they dared not lift him on to it. They ventured to cast another over him. His gaze fixed, he took no notice.

When his family returned, the dog lay still, unable to rise and greet them. He was not dead but near death. Pneumonia took so many human victims, why not an ageing dog? Yet they tried to save him. Frantically they tried, sparing no effort or expense.

The household, the office, the very town held its breath and commiserated. What would the Sahib do without his faithful dog, the wise one? The Sahib was like a man possessed, they said. He had driven all the way to the big town, to Ahmedabad, with the dog, seeking a better doctor.

The dog seemed to revive, but the strain stopped his brave faithful heart. In this moment of her first encounter with death, the girl's world seemed to fall apart. "Bring him back," she yelled, beating with her small hands at her father's legs. Here was the all-mighty, this giant who kept her world together: he must bring Tedim back. But he could not. His eyes red and swollen with unshed tears, he did not mind her wild cries and blows. Her weeping mother gentled her away.

They buried Teddy on a knoll in the sprawling compound, near the much-loved horse of a previous British Collector. A grave mound was raised over him and shaped in steps, with a shallow concavity to hold flowers country fashion. It was the mali and others who shaped it lovingly. A headstone was made and set up.

There would be other dogs and other losses in the grown woman's life. At least one dog as dear and losses as grievous. But the memory of that first one still reduces the old woman to tears.

~ E.M.R.H            26 September 2009

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

scribendi cacoethes


I have an old and valued friend,
His name is Boozleby.
His coming into my life was strange,
As strange as it could be.

One morning as I picked my way
Through the obstacle-strewn course
This city call its pavements, I
Was caught and held by a force.

It came from below eye level,
A little way to my right,
And there was Mr Boozleby –
My friend to be at first sight.

He sat on a salesman's carpet
Set out upon the flagstones.
At once my mood was lifted,
Forgotten my grumbles and moans.

The salesman had lions and leopards,
And all sorts of other creatures:
Bears, deer, cats, rabbits – and dogs,
But only one with such features.

His eyes held my gaze, he leaned forward,
Looking eager, alert, he said:
"Won't you take me out, please, won't you walk me?" –
To the salesman his price I paid;
No haggling to take home a friend.

An odd fellow he was, clearly mongrel,
Not quite beagle, nor dachshund, nor any
Breed of dog I've seen or known.
And though his siblings were many
Not one of them matched him for style.

They were dull-eyed, lop-sided, stuffed toys;
He was velvet-furred, compact and cuddly,
But dignified, earnest, never silly.
In my basket I took away Boozleby.

His reception could only be friendly,
He seemed real, and had such a serious look.
On my bed he has sat ever since,
Upright, next my pillow and prayer book.

My life would have been rather different,
Had not Boozleby stopped me that day.
On that grey and dreary morning,
Had I not heard a gruff voice say:
"Please, won't you walk me?
"I'm your friend. Please take me away."

©2008 by Ruth Heredia

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
Forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind,
In purer lives thy service find,
In deeper reverence praise.

In simple trust like theirs who heard,
Beside the Syrian sea,
The gracious calling of the Lord,
Let us, like them, without a word
Rise up and follow thee.

O Sabbath rest by Galilee!
O calm of hills above,
Where Jesus knelt to share with thee
The silence of eternity,
Interpreted by love!

Drop thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of thy peace.

Breathe through the heats of our desire
Thy coolness and thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind and fire,
O still small voice of calm!

~ John Greenleaf Whittier, 1872

Monday, March 08, 2010

Tree & Leaf

DR MANOEL AGOSTINHO DE HEREDIA (1870-1937) ~ 7th and final instalment

Chapter VII


Families were large in those times and the Heredia family was no exception. Nine girls and four boys. The two eldest were girls, born in Goa - Ana Florinda at her maternal grandmother’s home in Quitula, Aldona, on 8th June, 1898 and Luzia at Chorao on 11th July, 1900. The next child, named Luis after his paternal grandfather, was the first of the eleven children born in Bombay. He was born in 1902, when the family was residing in the Goan enclave of Cavel, off Girgaum Road, at premises rented from Mrs. Athaide, (grandmother of Ana Florinda’s second daughter Dulcinea’s husband, Swithen Rodrigues). Luis (who died in infancy) was followed by Emilia (16.9.1904), Olga (20.9.1906) and James Nathaniel (28.10.1908) - all born at home in Cavel. After the family moved to Dabul, it was joined by Albert Francis (24.11.1910), Eleanor (18.7.1912) Rachel (1914) who died in infancy, Frederic Joseph (27.6.1917), and Angela (15.1.1920). Teresa (7.3.1926) and Maria Augusta (28.5.1929) saw the light of day in nursing homes, while the family was residing at Lamington Road (in the YMCA Students Branch building that contained two flats, the other of which was rented by Charles Mark Correa) and at Asian Building, respectively.

It was a large and lively family, even after it was reduced by the marriages of Ana Florinda (1919), Luzia (1921) and Emilia (1925). The departure of the two other girls married in Manoel Agostinho’s lifetime, occurred after a considerable interval - Eleanor’s in 1932 and Olga’s in 1935. The four elder girls acted ‘mother’ to the younger children, getting them dressed for school and for Sunday mass, helping with their homework, settling disputes. In return they levied a kind of droit de soeur – right of first taste from the dinner plates of the younger children, who dined at first sitting, before the elders.

It was a high-spirited, laughter-loving family, a handful to manage, as Ángela Mericia well knew, but she had learned how to divert them from mischief with Konkani folk tales (many with a Jackal as hero), with Goan seasonal sweets, and when necessary, with timely chastisement.

As was to be expected, music was an important element in this family’s enjoyment of leisure. Piano, violin, voices all were pressed into service of an evening. All hankered for more, for a gramophone, and there was great rejoicing when Manoel Agostinho brought home an H M V table grand model behind whose louvred grill opera stars, jazz bands and great violinists and pianists lay hidden, to spring to life at the spin of a turntable. It revealed a whole new world of music, which nourished this music loving family on the best of the world’s music. It cost a fortune in those days, the equivalent of Rs.10,000/- in today’s [1987] money. Manoel Agostinho had no ear for music but he knew how much music meant to his wife and children, and he thought the money well spent. Reading, however, was an interest that he shared with his children. There was never dearth of reading matter in his house, and the books were as varied in subject as some public libraries could offer - fiction, history, biography and of course science, in English, French and Portuguese. Manoel Agostinho was gifted with intellectual curiosity, which was aroused in his children as well, in after-dinner conversation by his references to characters, events and knowledge that could be looked up in books.

The accomplished, good-looking Heredia girls, of lively disposition yet modest withal, were inevitably sought out by eligible suitors. Ana Florinda was destined for the medical profession, when fate, in the form of Charles Mark Correa, decreed otherwise. Son of a Goan family from Moira settled in Hyderabad, Charles Mark was an officer of the Military Accounts Service who, having been on active service in Mesopotamia (Iraq) during World War I, had been seconded to the Bombay Government as Examiner of Local Fund Accounts in the Accountant General’s Office. Lean and masterful as he was, few could endure a cold look from his yellow-green eyes. He had an incisive intellect, was a brilliant conversationalist, had a magnetic personality. Only ten years younger than his father-in-law, and two years older than Ángela Mericia, he was more a brother to them than a son-in-law. When Manoel Agostinho sold his horse carriage to raise money after the debacle of his shipping venture, it was Charles Mark who counselled him to buy a motorcar forthwith, to maintain his credit in business circles, and Manoel Agostinho took his advice, to great benefit. Widowed after only eleven years of marriage, Ana Florinda with her four children (the last, also named Charles Mark, born a month after his father died at Hyderabad in 1930), spent the school vacations in her parents' home at Bombay, to which the family moved permanently from Hyderabad the year before Manoel Agostinho died.

The next to take a Heredia girl, Luzia, from college was Francisco Correia Afonso, brilliant English scholar and Latinist, who had topped the list at every examination of Bombay University, from matriculation to M.A., and ultimately secured an honours M.A. degree at Oxford, where he achieved fame as a debater at the world's most famous debating society, the Oxford Union. The Correia Afonso house in Benaulim, a stately home in every sense of the word, was the scene of the wedding, and ever afterwards remained hospitable to Manoel Agostinho's family, as the Heredia homes in Dabul and Asian Building were to the Correia Afonso family.

Emilia, accomplished pianist and singer, was sought and given in marriage in 1925 to Captain Albert F. da Costa, a Civil Surgeon of the Indian Medical Service, who had served in an exclusive Gurkha regiment, to whose Officers' Mess he was the only Indian admitted.

Seven years later Eleanor left college to marry Jose Lobo, from Moira, who was an officer of the Imperial Bank of India, (now State Bank of India) and a talented violinist and singer.

The last daughter to marry in Manoel Agostinho's lifetime was Olga, who had passed out of medical college with distinction and a gold medal. Her match was Dr. Jeronimo Caetano Saldanha ('Jerry') who, after matriculating and graduating in medicine from London University, continued to practise in London until his marriage in December 1935, at Saligao. After the wedding, the couple spent two years in -London, during which Jerry earned Membership of the Royal College of Physicians, and Olga post-graduate qualification in gynaecology. They set up a consultancy practice at Bombay shortly before Manoel Agostioho died.

Everyone of these brides, their husbands and their families remained dear to Manoel Agostinho and Ángela Mericia. Their girls were married without any initiative on their part - their parents were, in a sense, deprived of their daughters. Angela stayed single. Teresa married a naval officer, Henry Menezes of St. Matias, Divar. Maria Augusta (Margot) married Leonard Freitas an engineer in the Indian Railways; both these marriages took place after Manoel Agostinho’s death.

But the settlement of his sons' careers was a different matter.

Always valuing his practice more than his business enterprises, Manoel Agostinho wanted his eldest to be a doctor. When he realised that it was Albert Francis who wanted to be a doctor, he changed his plans for the eldest son, and so James Nathaniel went to commerce college and, with specialisation in Actuarial Science, the basis of life insurance risk assessment, he entered upon a highly successful business career. James Nathaniel also became Vice-Consul for Brazil and, after his father's death was appointed Consul-General for Brazil in his father's place. Albert Francis took over his father's practice, and won even higher distinction as honorary professor in the Grant Medical College, and international recognition in the form of the Pope John XXIII Award for the best paper read at the Catholic Asian Doctors' Congress in Japan (October, 1968).

Manoel Agostinho' s own career as physician and entrepreneur was thus the foundation on which his two sons raised the Heredia name even higher, so that the road adjacent to Asian Building bears the name of J. N. Heredia, commemorating his son's services to Bombay as Sheriff and also, indirectly, his services to his native land as promoter and Vice-President of the Goa Liberation Council.

Manoel Agostinho died before he could carry out his intention of sending his third son Frederic Joseph to London to qualify as a barrister. But his two elder sons acted in his place by making it possible for their brother to study and appear at the competitive exam for recruitment to Central Government Services, in which he has achieved a name not unworthy of the family traditions.

Ángela Mericia was ever her husband's active partner in all things including his business affairs - which she did not profess to understand but grasped intuitively because of her total rapport with him. There were occasions when, in exasperation - real or feigned could not be made out, since her manner might seem heated but not her utterances - she would say (in Portuguese) "you and your mathematical reasoning". Driven to distraction by circumstances or her children's mischief, her favourite exclamation was (in Konkani) "God give me patience and love".

A warm-hearted wife, mother and friend, she had a Martha-like dedication to domestic tasks and also a Marian devotion to her Christian faith, which she passed on to all her children through teaching and example.

With his strong-minded, warm-hearted wife by his side, Manoel Agostinho became an exemplar of a paterfamilias, to be admired, respected and loved by his posterity, to whom he has left a name for upright and responsible conduct in every vicissitude of a life full of achievement.


New every morning is the love
Our wakening and uprising prove;
Through sleep and darkness safely brought,
Restored to life, and power, and thought.

New mercies, each returning day,
Hover around us while we pray;
New perils past, new sins forgiven,
New thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven.

If on our daily course our mind
Be set to hallow all we find,
New treasures still, of countless price,
God will provide for sacrifice.

Old friends, old scenes, will lovelier be,
As more of heaven in each we see;
Some softening gleam of love and prayer
Shall dawn on every cross and care.

We need not bid, for cloistered cell,
Our neighbour and our work farewell,
Nor strive to wind ourselves too high
For sinful man beneath the sky:

The trivial round, the common task,
Would furnish all we ought to ask, -
Room to deny ourselves, a road
To bring us daily nearer God.

Only, O Lord, in thy dear love
Fit us for perfect rest above;
And help us this and every day
To live more nearly as we pray.

~ John Keble, 1827

Saturday, March 06, 2010


Part of an entry posted in September 2007, repeated for the convenience of members of the Rafael Sabatini (Yahoo) Group:

THE LION’S SKIN ~ a chronology

(as all the action is confined to 1721, only the month and the day/date will be given) [There's no reason to think that Sabatini bothered about Gregorian or Julian calendars and when exactly the reformed calendar became effective in this or that country. A simple ready reckoner would have supplied such needs as he had, I believe. Sabatini gives us only four indicators of the time: Chapter I is set in April; Chapter II is set in May; the day of the thwarted mock-marriage ends with a night of full moon; Sir Richard is buried on a Monday.]
April ~ Prelude in Paris gives the back story and sets up the plot machinery.
May (we are not told what part of the month) ~
Day 1 (of the action) ~ Justin Caryll, having landed at Dover the previous day, arrives in Maidstone; incident at the inn; Lord Ostermore, Hortensia and Justin reach Croydon by nightfall; encounter in the garden. [If the full moon is to be taken seriously, then this would be Sunday, May 11.]
Day 2 ~ Arrival in London; Justin seeks out his friends from college days and after
Day 5 ~ Incident in the park. [Wharton's line about Dulcinea is probably a quotation from a poem or a play not presently traceable; it cannot be taken literally as an indicator of the date because of the full moon that was specified for the end of Day 1.]
Day 8 or 9 ~ At White’s Rotherby challenges Justin to a duel; Sir Richard visits Justin and is followed back to his own lodging
Day 9 or 10 ~ The duel. [If we take the first day as May 11, this is May 19 or 20.]
(4 weeks later it is June, but when exactly we can only guess) [It might be June 15.]
June ~
Day 1 ~ Incident in the arbour at Stretton House
Day 2 ~ Justin leaves Stretton House
5 days later (evidently a Saturday) ~ Justin visits Sir Richard at dusk; Green’s man shoots Sir Richard, who dies. [If Day 1 is June 15, Day 7 is Saturday, June 21.]
Next day (Sunday) ~ Justin mourns
Monday (Sabatini specifies) ~ Sir Richard is buried; Hortensia reveals her feelings and wishes to Justin
Next 2 days ~ Justin struggles with himself
Following day (Thursday?) ~ Justin goes to Stretton House to ask Lord Ostermore’s permission to marry Hortensia: Lord Ostermore has suffered a stroke; he dies without recovering consciousness; climax of action; conclusion.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Tree & Leaf

DR MANOEL AGOSTINHO DE HEREDIA (1870-1937) ~ installment #6

Chapter VI


The stream of Manoel Agostinho’s commitment to Christian principles of conduct ran silent as well as deep. At Mass he was quiet, absorbed in the liturgy and oblivious of the rest of the congregation. Holy Week services in those days were prolonged, and recited or chanted in Latin. Unable to follow the liturgy, congregations either fell to reciting the rosary or fidgeted. Maundy Thursday rituals were particularly arduous. Not only did they go on for hours, but convention required one to visit seven chapels and churches between dawn and dusk.

Manoel Agostinho was strict in observance of this convention and it frequently fell to my lot to accompany him. There was enough that was dramatic in the church services to keep boredom at bay, washing of the feet, extinction of one of seven candles on a great candelabra as each part of the solemnly-chanted vespers ended, and the startling effect of the clatter (of the officiating clergy and acolytes thumping their books) that broke out when extinction of the last candle plunged the church into darkness, which was relieved by emergence from behind the altar of a deacon bearing a single taper. But the meaning and significance of this drama was in the missal in which he followed the services throughout the Holy Week from Palm to Easter Sunday. That many of his children, their children and grandchildren take missals with them to church services is one instance of his spreading the Good News by example.

The influence of his silent but robust faith was felt beyond his family circle. His well-to-do Hindu, Parsi and Muslim patients were in the main piously inclined; able to see beneath the healing touch which he seemed to possess, his constant desire to raise up the sick; to cure them. Diligence, patience, simplicity of the soul, these in their eyes were marks of a virtuous person and they came to esteem a religion whose adherent bore witness to these gifts which are, though this be unknown to them, gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Not all whom he treated gratis or at a reduced fee, were coreligionists. Less well-to-do patients from these same communities, whom he helped in this manner were perhaps even more aware of his empathic interest in their condition.

Inevitably, advantage was sometimes taken of his willingness to treat all men as brothers. Late one evening, two persons to entered the Kalbadevi dispensary at closing time and one earnestly pleaded for his sick friend to be examined, despite the late hour. Removing and placing on his chair back the jacket that he had that moment assumed, Manoel Agostinho took the sick man into the examination room and, having found nothing seriously wrong with him, prescribed rest and left the dispensary for home. It was only after reaching home that he found his wallet missing from the breast pocket of his jacket. He did not think of enlisting police help to recover his lost property. But two days later, an old patient of his came to the dispensary with his missing wallet and the thief, who had spent its contents on a drinking spree, and in his cups had boasted of his coup.

Urged to accompany captor and captive to the nearby police station, Manoel Agostinho refused to prosecute one who had yielded to a temptation that, but for his own thoughtlessness, might not have come [the thief’s] way. This story went around the kudds and enhanced public regard for “the good doctor”.

Dispensary patients were not charged for consultancy, but paid for the prescribed mixture, pills or ointments which were dispensed by a compounder according to the doctor’s prescription, and delivered on the patient tendering payment. When the dispensary closed for the day, the compounder would hand over the day’s takings to the doctor, who would take the cash home and have the amount entered in an account book maintained by Ángela Mericia. Some time after a new and very smart compounder had been engaged, she noticed that takings had begun to fall off and having ascertained that the dispensary practice had not dwindled, she had a family friend undertake a discreet audit of the dispensary accounts, which exposed the new compounder’s embezzlement. The sums embezzled amounted to several thousand rupees, none recoverable, as the culprit claimed to have squandered all of it in speculation. Urged to make an example of the man by having him prosecuted, Manoel Agostinho again refused to take what he felt would be a vindictive step. This story, too, went the rounds; while some belittled his soft- heartedness, most saw it as an act of Christian forbearance.

There is no doubt that Manoel Agostinho was what in modern parlance would be described as a ‘soft touch’. Many were those, and mostly undeserving, who took advantage of his response to a sob story. However, his earnings from his practice continued to rise and Ángela Mericia’s remonstrances about his ‘throwing money away’ in misplaced generosity were met by the reply - ‘but it keeps coming back to us’, which she could not contradict.

The acid test of his commitment to Christian values was the financial crisis precipitated by the failure of the ‘Maji Agbott’ venture. Bankruptcy was the easy and accepted way out of such predicaments. But not for one who felt bound to meet his obligations in full, whatever sacrifices this entailed.

In this resolve, he had Ángela Mericia’s whole hearted support. She reduced domestic expenditure by economising wherever she could without attracting attention. But her children experienced, the younger ones uncomprehendingly, what might euphemistically be termed a ’simplification’ of the meals they had been accustomed to, and the continued use of clothing that in the past would have been replaced. Having cut the household expenditure, she raised its revenues by manufacturing, bottling and labelling, at home, a pharmaceutical product named ‘Angelic Balm’ which was sold at the dispensary as a remedy against coughs, colds and muscular pains.

That the product became popular is evidenced by burgeoning sales, income from which contributed not a little to liquidating her husband’s debts. This proved two Christian teachings - ‘cast thy bread upon the waters, and it shall return to you manifold’, and ‘God helps those who help themselves’!

Manoel Agostinho’s Christian outlook was no less evident in his family life.
Tree & Leaf

DR MANOEL AGOSTINHO DE HEREDIA (1870-1937) ~ instalment #5

Chapter V


Goans who have not known Goa as it was in the first half of this century can have no idea how different it was from contemporary Bombay. Only two modes of travel between the places were available, both of 24 hours duration. By train the transition from the crowded city’s dangerous traffic, tarred streets and many-storied buildings, to the murmurous quiet, red mud roads, and neat bungalows of a Goan town or village, took place insensibly. By sea it was different. Steamers were less familiar vehicles than trains, moving their human freight in a state of suspended animation, as it were, until their disembarkation at Panjim or Mormugão- a sudden transition that jolted the senses. At any rate the change never failed to impress me. It was like going back in time, and into a different yet familiar world.

There was not one of Manoel Agostinho’ s family who was not attached to grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins in Goa, and who was not happy in their company. All experienced the indescribable satisfaction of belonging, of a shared identity through such relationships, and in the sights and sounds of Goa, the unique flavour of its fruits and its cooking. It hardly ever occurred to any of them to think of any place but Goa for their May or October vacations. It was seldom possible for Manoel Agostinho to accompany Ángela Mericia and their children on such annual changes (mudança in Portuguese), but when it was, it was difficult to judge who enjoyed the occasion more, he or his family. The same could be said of his reunion with his priest brother, Canon António José, and his uncle-in-law Julio da Costa. António José lived in the house,* that both brothers built jointly when he returned from the Missions to the island of Divar.

For his many friends, too, Manoel Agostinho’s presence in Divar on holiday was a much-prized opportunity to enjoy his company and incidentally, to seek his advice on a variety of matters. And quite a few who could not claim even previous acquaintance with him undertook the journey to Divar, then less comfortable and more time-consuming than it is now, to consult him as a physician, a businessman or simply a man of affairs.

The most memorable of his visits en famille were in December 1921, when he gave away his daughter Luzia in marriage to Francisco Correia Afonso, at Benaulim; and in December 1935 when he did likewise at his daughter Olga’s wedding to Jerome Caetano Saldanha at Saligao. The tornaboda (return marriage celebration by the bride’s parents) in 1935 was especially memorable not only for its gaiety, but also because it was Manoel Agostinho’s last visit to Goa. Six months later, he suffered the shock of António José’s unexpectedly early death from a massive heart attack that felled him almost instantaneously. Then ailing with bronchial asthma, Manoel Agostinho could not travel to Divar in time to bid his beloved brother a last farewell.

The manifestations of Manoel Agostinho’s Goan identity extended beyond indulgence of his personal delight in all things Goan. In Bombay, where most of his lifetime was passed, there was a sizeable Goan community whose welfare and progress could not be deemed to be secure in the hurly-burly of a great city, a melting pot of communities drawn from the length and breadth of India in search of employment. Diocesan clergy and members of great religious orders, such as the Jesuits, Franciscans, and nuns of Jesus and Mary, were able to minister to spiritual needs. But the community’s social and economic security and progress called for organised efforts in fields that only lay leaders could be engaged in. Fortunately for the community, it had no lack of such leaders in every walk of life. They were a1most without exception drawn from the intelligentsia; not demagogues, but men of the medical, academic and 1egal professions, as also engineers and administrators. Names that remain memorable over this stretch of time are John Philip de Quadros the judge, Caetano Paulo da Cunha the solicitor, Dr. Socrates Noronha, Municipal Health Service Chief, George Moraes the engineer, Dr. Leandro Mascarenhas popular physician, Dr. Jos Alban D’Souza, Municipal Corporator, Legislator and Mayor of Bombay, Armando Sequeira of the Bombay High Court, John Santos of the Indian Audit & Accounts Service, Professors C.D. Pinto, Francisco Correia Afonso, Manoel Colaço, Armando Menezes, Justino D’Souza, Avertano Correia Fernandes and hotelier Norbert D’Souza.

In this galaxy, Manoel Agostinho was one of the many stars. That his was not a negligible contribution to the cause was recognised when a gathering of representatives of all sections of the community was convened by the Instituto Luso Indiano (ILI), at its own premises in Bombay, to acknowledge and pay public tribute to his services to his compatriots over a quarter century.

The ILI (which had no inhibitions in styling itself ‘Luso Indiano’ despite pejorative implications of the expression) was not the only Goan organisation to which Manoel Agostinho gave time. A more direct and, in material terms, more effective organisation supported by him was the ‘Associação Goano do Mútuo Auxilio’, a mutual insurance society that cultivated provident habits by offering life insurance on the easiest possible terms. The society built a large (for its time) three-storied building in the Goan enclave of Dabul (off Girgaum Road) as an investment in real estate. This housed the society’s Office, a large hall and library of the ILI, and several flats. Amongst the tenants, all Goans, was Manoel Agostinho, and it was from this home that his three elder girls left to get married.

Manifestations of his Goan roots were not confined to persons of his own faith. Proud of his Goan cultural heritage, he developed cordial relations with the progressive and important Saraswat community of Bombay - the Chandavarkars, Lads (‘Lauds’), Welingkars and Moolgavkars making them family friends. Nor were humbler classes of Goan immigrants overlooked. He was a welcome visitor to the clubs (kudds) in which they resided away from their homes and families, in the precincts of Dhobi Talao and Girgaum. When a kudd celebrated the feast of their patron saint, Manoel Agostinho was often an honoured guest.

Having burgeoned, in his multifarious activities, into a man for all seasons, his Christian faith remained the root and foundation of his Goan identity.

*On Ángela Mericia’s death, the house passed to James Nathaniel and in turn to his first-born son Christopher, who after extensive renovations and improvements named it “SAUDADES” on the occasion of the 50th death anniversary of his grandfather.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Tree & Leaf

DR MANOEL AGOSTINHO DE HEREDIA (1870-1937) ~ installment #4

Chapter IV


Between demands of his profession and his business interests Manoel Agostinho’s hands were full enough for him to have excused himself from the social circuit of his time and place, with the plea "I cannot spare the time". But he was one who, in the poet’s words, "prized laughter and the love of friends." He drew congenial souls to his home like a magnet.

His earliest and staunchest friends were Francisco (Tio Fancu) Gomes Pereira, Nicolau Manuel (Manu) D’Sa, and Matias Xavier (Tio Motishair). Manu was in the service of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway (G.I.P.) retiring as Superintendent in the General Manager’s Office at Bori Bunder (Victoria Terminus). Tio Fancu and Tio Motishair were employed in the Eastern Telegraph Company - forerunner of today’s Overseas Communications Service (OCS). All three were natives of Divar, therefore compatriots of Manoel Agostinho. They were devoted to Manoel Agostinho and Ángela Mericia, at whose home they were frequent, and always welcome, visitors. Bachelors all, there was a sort of artless, innocent gaiety in everything they did and said. Their kind would be uncomprehended in today’s supercharged world if they could have existed within such a world untouched by it. During Manoel Agostinho’s lifetime they had led untroubled, useful lives. Manu D’Sa was the mainstay of a demanding English General Manager’s office, and besides, an exceptionally competent churchwarden. They were never the same after Manoel Agostinho’s death.

Besides these three, whose personalities are remembered because they took an avuncular interest in Manoel Agostinho’s younger children, there were a host of friends whose names only come to mind fifty years after his death: Ottaviano Ferreira, whose father raised paddy on a vast scale, for export to Bombay and Africa, on a river island (Corjuem) of which he was sole proprietor; Dr Florencino Ribeiro, (uncle of the famous Julio Ribeiro, Director General of the Punjab Police), who was the friend to whom he entrusted the local direction of the Bardez Electric Supply Co.; António Maria da Cunha, Editor of the Goa daily “O Heraldo”; Meyer Nissim, suave, always dapperly dressed, financier and confidant of the great Baghdadi Jewish houses of Sassoon and Kadoorie; Ambalal Sarabhai, founder of the Ahmedabad Spinning and Calico Manufacturing Co. (Calico Mills), - whose brilliant son Vikram set up the National Physical Laboratory, the Ahmedabad Textile Industry’s Research Association, the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmedabad) and was Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission when he died; and Caetano Paulo da Cunha, in his heyday a leading solicitor of Bombay.

A Brazilian from Sao Paulo, Dr. Horacio Neves, had visited India to buy hessian (required for bagging coffee), and humped cattle called ’zebu’ in Brazil (for cross breeding with his native cattle in order to make them resistant to drought). Neves came to Bombay and made Manoel Agostinho’s acquaintance through the Spanish Consulate. Enamoured with India, Neves was able through Manoel Agostinho’s efforts, to attend a Goan Saraswat Hindu wedding, for which he arrayed himself in the traditional gala dress of a Saraswat. Neves conceived a high regard for Manoel Agostinho’s personality and talents. After returning to Brazil, he brought about Manoel Agostinho’s appointment as Honorary Consul for Brazil at Bombay, in the year 1923. As a member of the Consular Corps, his attendance at Government House balls and dinners became more frequent.

It is difficult to say who enjoyed those glittering social events more - he, for whom they afforded opportunities for conversing with persons of equal mental calibre and shared interests, or Ángela Mericia, who loved music, enjoyed dancing - the quadrilles especially - and who appreciated the musical entertainment.

A man in Manoel Agostinho’s position received numerous invitations to weddings, many of which he attended, despite other demands on his time. The lower the social status of the newly-wedded couple, the more likely that one or other partner would be a patient of his and therefore entitled to special consideration. He was much in demand for raising the bridal toast, and while his addresses were quite free from the broad humour and bombast that was customary on such occasions he was capable of holding attention and touching hearts with the simple directness of his utterances. His tact was unfailing. When, contrary to the pattern, a bridegroom began sobbing on his mother’s shoulder, during a reference in the toast to the parents’ sorrow at parting with a daughter leaving home as a bride, Manoel Agostinho quelled an incipient explosion of laughter by speaking of the constancy of a mother’s love, and extolling a son who could remember it, even on his wedding day. On another occasion, the collapse of a tiered wedding cake, cut too forcefully by the bridal pair, provoked a gathering storm of coarse jests, which he stilled by instantly commencing his toast, and characterising the event as a happy augury for the couple’s future successes in overcoming life’s obstacles.

His sociability was most apparent to house guests, to whom his home was a welcome staging post on their journeys to and from Goa. Most were, of course, kinsfolk, relatives by marriage in the main, for he numbered only brothers among his siblings, only one of whom married. All the sons of Ángela Mericia’s uncle, Julio da Costa, who were in the East African Government service, regularly stayed over with their cousins when travelling on home leave. The eldest, António Vicente, was the favourite cousin; his biennial or triennial visits were eagerly anticipated by the younger children especially, for he never failed to take them out for a cinema show and an ice-cream treat. But quite a few house guests were neither kinsfolk nor friends, they were mere acquaintances, coming with a recommendatory introduction from a relative or a close friend.

Love of music, so characteristic of Goans, drew many to Manoel Agostinho’s home for performances of classical music, in which his eldest girls took part, being fairly accomplished in the piano, the violin and the vox humana. Performers who later gained international fame, like Olga Craen (née Athaide) participated in these cosy concerts.

Uncharacteristically, refreshments offered on such and most occasions, at Manoel Agostinho’s home, were non-alcoholic drinks like orchata, and Xarope de brindão; he was abstemious, perhaps because his vigorous physiology and sanguine temperament needed no stimulant.

Transplanted, of course of his own wish, at the age of thirty, Manoel Agostinho bore flower and fruit in Bombay’s hot house environment, but what the social world saw always was quite essentially Goan, a sanguine, sociable and deeply religious man.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tree & Leaf

(1870-1937) ~ installment # 3

Chapter III


The first quarter of the twentieth century saw Bombay’s emergence as rival to Calcutta to be commercial, industrial and financial capital of India. Amongst many factors contributory to this development were the enterprise, business acumen and access to sources of capital of great merchant houses like Tata, Mafatlal and Khatau who even today are names to conjure with. These great houses were Bombay-based but their operations were nationwide.

Circumstances were consequently propitious for Manoel Agostinho to avail of acquaintances and friendships that had been made through his medical practice, in order to venture into the business world. But mere inspiration to become an entrepreneur was not, and never has been, enough; the aspirant must have a grasp of business principles and practices, and an understanding of the complex linkages between owners and users of funds; above all, he must possess credit-worthiness. That Manoel Agostinho was able to win all these pre-requisites within a decade of residence in Bombay is the note-worthy feature of his career as entrepreneur.

He was quick to realise that the accelerating tempo of business activity must inevitably spur demands for all types of insurance; that an. insurer could expect to prosper only if the risks insured were correctly assessed , and that his professional expertise and, yes, integrity, could be his contribution to the capital needed for promoting a life insurance company. Amongst his circle of acquaintances he identified two who were suitable and willing to be his partners in such an enterprise.

This was the genesis of the Asian Assurance Company Limited, whose Managing Agents were S.H. Mehta & Company. The first initial stood for Dhirajlal P. Shroff, a merchant banker of Surat, related to leading Gujarati business houses, like that of Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas; the ‘Mehta’ was Jamnadas M. Mehta, Bar-at-Law, a brilliant lawyer and political activist who later became a Minister, and the middle initial was, of course, Dr Heredia.

Many Goan relatives and friends subscribed to the share capital of the ‘Asian’. Names of well known businessmen also figured in the Shareholders’ Register; amongst them, that of Abdul Tayeb E. Maskati after whose merchant-prince father the great Maskati Market in Surat had been named. Later, Maskati’s father-in-law, Dr. Taherali M. Kajiji, LL.D, joined the "Asian’s" management with the designation of Managing Director, his responsibility being the signing of insurance policies. Dr. Kajiji’s impressive presence, his high social standing and his reputation for probity were a shield against the spread of any damaging rumours by rival insurers.

Of cardinal importance to the stability and prosperity of an insurance company was and continues to be the wise and provident investment of funds that accrue from premium income. This function was initially assigned to the Managing Agents, that is, the triumvirate of Shroff, Heredia and Mehta. It was not long before Shroff and Mehta delegated this power to Manoel Agostinho, having been satisfied that he could be trusted. Thus, he became the de facto Chief of Investment, as well as Chief Medical Referee of the Company.

At the time of his death, the ‘Asian’ had attained the top bracket of Indian insurers, and under the stewardship of his son James Nathaniel retained that position until life insurance business was nationalised in 1956.

Pressed by compatriots to give some attention to Goa’s development, Manoel Agostinho promoted, along with an able engineer, Mr. R.D. Char, (who went on to establish a battery manufacturing company that has been a leader in this field till recently), the Bardez Electric Supply Co. Ltd., at Mapusa, and the Daman Electric Supply Co. Ltd., at Daman. Both plants took firm root in their native soil.

There never has been a successful entrepreneur whose track record is totally free from failure. Manoel Agostinho’s one failure was a steam navigation company. It was styled the "Maji Agbott Co.," because it was meant to provide Goans (and other Konkan coast dwellers) an economic alternative to the steamers that Killick Nixon & Co.( a Managing Agency firm that managed a score of trading, mining and manufacturing companies) plied between Bombay and Goa, under the flag of the Bombay Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. (One of my earliest childhood memories is standing on the deck of the S.S. Britomar before it set out on the Maji Agbott Company’s inaugural voyage).

This venture challenged an established shipping monopoly, backed by massive resources and, tacitly, by British power. It would have been a miracle if it had succeeded. However, it afforded Manoel Agostinho one more valuable acquaintance - that of the redoubtable Narottamdas Morarji, founder (along with that pioneer industrialist Walchand Hirachand) of the first Indian shipping company - The Scindia Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. Many years later, when occasion arose for his son James Nathaniel to set up an organising office of "the Asian" to do insurance business in Sri Lanka, Seth Morarji arranged the necessary introductions to the Sri Lankan officials and to Sri Lankan businessmen, through Scindia Steam’s Colombo agents, Narottam Pereira & Co.

Manoel Agostinho’s earnings as a physician would not have sufficed for him to rear and educate his eleven children, to get enviably good matches for all his daughters who reached marriageable age before his death, and to settle the two sons who had acquired professional qualifications by that time - James Nathaniel, a commerce graduate specialised in actuarial science, having joined "the Asian" management as Secretary in 1932, and Albert Francis, a graduate in Medicine and Surgery, having relieved his father in the Kalbadevi dispensary two years later. It was Manoel Agostinho’s business earnings and profits that made up the difference.

His medical practice and his business ventures were each by themselves full time occupations. One marvels that he should have been able to give each occupation full attention without prejudice to his management of the other, over a span of twenty-five years. That he did this, and also led an active social life, participating in every significant event, in the Goan community in particular, seems incredible.

Manoel Agostinho as a ‘Sociable Man’ is as much a phenomenon as he appeared as ‘Physician’ and as ‘Entrepreneur’.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Tree & Leaf

~ installment # two

Chapter II


A dictionary defines ‘physician’ as ‘a doctor of medicine other than a surgeon’. Nowadays, the category of ‘doctors of medicine’ itself is subdivided into specialists in the branches of medicine - paediatrics, gynaecology, psychiatry, and the like. Numerous and ever-proliferating aids to diagnosis are also available, offering the apparent certainty of objective, quantified tests of every part of the human organism, by high technology processes and apparatus. These aids naturally outweigh the unaided judgement of an individual medical practitioner, in the eyes of even those who can ill afford their expense. And so medical treatment today is, worldwide, impersonal and unfeeling for all its efficiency.

Dr Heredia was one of that near-extinct class of physicians known as ‘general practitioners’ (‘GP’s for short) who were able to diagnose and prescribe treatment for most diseases and ailments, referring to specialists only such cases as needed major surgery or specialised medical advice. With few technical aids to assist him in diagnosis, a GP had to have a considerable (and constantly expanded) body of knowledge and experience in order to be a successful diagnostician of a wide range of diseases and ailments. From successful diagnosis to the achieving of his patient’s cure, the GP needed, besides knowledge and experience, ability to inspire a patient with faith in his own recovery, a potent if little understood factor in curative medicine.

That Dr. Heredia commanded all the requisite qualities of a GP is apparent not only from his large practice, but also from his successes in treating cases that other doctors and even recognised specialists had deemed to be hopeless.

In the first few years after qualifying to practise medicine, Dr Heredia served as Medico de Partido (Panel Doctor) to the village communities of his native island Divar and of the neighbouring island of Chorão. That the people of Chorão contributed materials and labour to build him a dwelling on their island is evidence of their desire for his professional services. But he felt drawn to Bombay by his recollections of an earlier visit there, undertaken at the invitation of his co-brother-in-law, Major Caetano Fernandez (‘Tio Caetaninho’, who had married Ángela Mericia’s elder sister Analia) to be locum tenens for the duration of the latter’s travels in Europe. *[This history, as related by Julio da Costa in his memoir, is more full than the one here set down. Tio Julio’s account follows, in a different coloured type to differentiate it.]


[interventions by EMRH in italics between square brackets]

Agostinho's friends and well-wishers were many, and from all strata of Goan society. Among his highly-placed friends was Frederico Salvador Ferreira, lord ('Senhor') of an entire island, fertile and extensive in area, called Corjuem. Frederico Ferreira and all his family had great regard for Agostinho's skill as a physician; and personal esteem for him as a friend. This 'Grande Senhor' had three sons Carlito, Octaviano and Heliodoro, and a daughter [Herminia] who was married to a lawyer of Margão [José Felipe Alvares]. In the house of Frederico Ferreira, no party, however intimate, ever took place without an invitation to Agostinho, and invariably the Ferreira's own steam launch or pinnace was sent to fetch him to Corjuem and take him back to Chorão. But Agostinho was not merely invited to dinners and galas; he was also consulted as a medical practitioner, and his advice was sought in financial matters. He was adviser as well as friend of the entire Ferreira family. This friendship came to his rescue in the year 1895, when an incident took place that became a turning point in Agostinho's life.

In that year the President (i.e. Mayor) of the Municipal Chamber of Ilhas was a Portuguese official named Gomes da Costa, - an ambitious man, hungry for power. This official wanted his salary to be increased~ The Municipal Councillors were disinclined to support him, and several, amongst them Agostinho, voted against the proposal. Gomes da Costa was infuriated, and sought an occasion for revenge.

In that same year a mutiny had taken place in army units stationed in Goa, in which both Goan and Portuguese troops participated. In fact Gomes da Costa himself had been responsible for this mutiny. But he accused the Municipal Councillors who had voted against him of having been in league with the ring-leaders of the mutiny, and sought to have them arrested on this false charge. He approached the Governor of Goa for this purpose, and in Agostinho's case he cunningly reminded the Governor that Agostinho's priest brother Antonio José had made a representation to the Portuguese Minister for Colonies against the discriminatory treatment of Goan missionaries vis-a-vis European missionaries in the Patriarchal Mission of Aleppey. By playing on the Governor's feelings in this manner, Gomes da Costa succeeded in obtaining from him a warrant for Agostinho's arrest.

Before the warrant could be executed, Agostinho's well-wishers in Panjim had warned him what was afoot, and advised him to flee Goa. At this very juncture my sister, Ana Conceiçao, was to take her daughter Analia to Bombay, where Analia was to wed Dr. Caetano Fernandes, from Honavar, North Kanara, who had a well-established practice in Bombay. This circumstance decided Agostinho to seek refuge at Bombay until the storm over his head blew over. I determined to keep him company. It was known that henchmen of Gomes da Costa were lying in wait for Agostinho at Panjim, expecting to have him arrested at the ferry wharf itself, in case he attempted to flee Goa by the steamer plying between Panjim and Bombay. Agostinho therefore decided to escape overland by walking over the border to the port of Vengurla (in British India, Ratnagiri District), where he would be able to board the same steamer en route from Panjim to Bombay. As the authorities were presumably watching the road as well as sea and rail routes out of Goa, Agostinho chose to use jungle tracks through Pernem and Neibaga, over the border into Savantwadi.

For this plan, a guide familiar with the ways through the jungle was required. It was Frederico Ferreira who came to Agostinho's rescue; he provided a trustworthy guide, and provisions for the travellers (whose number had by this time swelled to four, by the addition of the guide and a friend, one Francisco Paulo Gomes). We set out from Corjuem and reached the border the same night. After an overnight rest, we resumed our journey and reached the ferry wharf at Vengurla late at night, just in time to board the steamer from Panjim. Among the passengers who had embarked at Panjim were my sister Ana Conceiçao and her daughter; also Frederico Ferreira's youngest son Heliodoro, who was to seek specialist medical treatment for his ailment at Bombay, under Agostinho's supervision.

We attended the wedding of my niece Analia which took place soon after we arrived in Bombay. Her newly-wed husband, Dr. Fernandes, was a shrewd judge of men: he had a flourishing practice, and discerned in Agostinho one with sound knowledge and much experience of medical science. He invited Agostinho to work as his assistant during his stay in Bombay, and Agostinho accepted. We remained at Bombay, in the house of my brother- in law Jujut Simoes at Mazagaon. After the Goa Government's suspicions regarding Agostinho were dispelled, Agostinho and I returned to Goa, where he resumed his duties at Chorão.


Dr. Caetano Fernandes had not forgotten how ably his co-brother-in-law Agostinho had performed as his assistant during his enforced stay at Bombay. Dr. Fernandes' practice had grown, and he planned to travel in Europe. He offered Agostinho attractive terms to look after his practice during his absence from Bombay, and thereafter to work as his assistant on a permanent basis. Agostinho accepted the offer, and moved to Bombay in the year 1900. After settling down in his new assignment, he secured accommodation for his family and brought his wife to Bombay, along with their two infant daughters. In order to raise funds for furnishing his new house-hold, he sold his Chorão dwelling and all its contents.

By the time Dr. Fernandes returned from foreign travel Agostinho's reputation as a skilful physician had spread, attracting more patients than before to Dr. Fernandes' consulting rooms. His co-brother-in-law was not entirely pleased with Agostinho's success as locum tenens. It was not long before Agostinho found it expedient to set up in practice on his own.
etc. [A romantic detail omitted by Tio Julio is that there were some small creeks and brackish streams requiring the use of a tona (a sort of canoe made from bark); and the crossings were made possible by the ready cooperation of fishermen and hamlet-dwellers.]

Tio Caetaninho readily agreed to transfer to Manoel Agostinho that sector of his huge practice that was based at a dispensary on Kalbadevi Road. According to a cousin, a sum of Rs.13,000 was the consideration paid, the equivalent of not less than five lakhs of rupees today [1987!]. Manoel Agostinho could not have raised even a fraction of this sum from his savings from a few years of community service, nor from his wife’s dowry, for he had foregone it. He could only have raised this amount by borrowings.

However, it was an investment that repaid itself many times over. Kalbadevi was then the hub of a greater business centre than the Fort. The great merchant houses – predominantly Gujarati-speaking Vaishnavas, Jains, Bohras, Khojas and Kutchi Memons - were clustered in the three or four city wards adjoining Kalbadevi. The Goan community, too, was settled within the same wards in the parishes of Cavel, Dhobitalao, Sonapur and Dabul. The Cathedral, founded when Bombay was Portuguese, was in Bhuleshwar, scarcely four furlongs from what had become Dr. Heredia’s dispensary.

His practice soon grew, encompassing at the high end, rich merchant families, who rewarded his services with business insights worth far more than his fees, and Goan seamen, waiters and domestic servants, at the other end poor patients whom h treated at nominal or no cost. From his wealthy patients he derived inspiration, ideas and collaboration for subsequent ventures into business. From his poor patients the returns were hardly less rewarding: enduring respect, regard and esteem for him, and for every descendant of his name.

It was not merely his professional skill and the high percentage of patients cured, that won him such rewards. His bedside manner, comprising the courtesy, consideration and sympathy that every patient received from him, not only hastened recovery, but won their grateful affection.

Many were the "hopeless cases" that recovered under his tender care. When the only son of his former tutor contracted tetanus, (for which there was no known cure) it was Dr. Heredia who undertook to treat him, and saved his life. His son-in-law, C.M. Correa’s first-born infant son, William Raymond, went down with pneumonia, and the leading physician of the time, Dr .Judah, had told the anxious parents that he had no hope of saving their child. Refusing to acquiesce in this expert’s opinion, Manoel Agostinho took charge of the case, and the boy recovered.

Manoel Agostinho’s professional integrity ensured timely referral to specialist consultants of cases in which a second opinion seemed to him expedient in the patient’s interest. Thereby, he came to know every one of Bombay’s many specialist consultants in every branch of medicine and surgery. With many of them, acquaintance ripened into enduring relationships of mutual esteem, even of friendship. Soon, his reputation attracted patients from Goa to Bombay in search of better facilities for treatment than those available in Goa or in the many Indian mofussil towns that had sizeable Goan communities.

Again, it was his reputation for integrity that led to his appointment as Medical Examiner to the Government of Iraq by Mr. E.W. Perry, an ICS officer, who acted in the capacity of Agent to the Government of Iraq (then under the aegis of the British Crown.) Once again, it was the reliability of his opinions on the medical examinations of life insurance prospects that inspired confidence in the quality of business underwritten by the Asian Assurance Company Limited, which he helped to found in the year 1910.

There is no doubt that Manoel Agostinho’s professional abilities were the foundation of the thriving practice that he built up within a decade of arriving in Bombay, and that relationships which grew out of his practice in turn provided the bases for his subsequent successes as an entrepreneur.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Tree & Leaf

In response to the cache of old photographs received from a cousin, Monica Rebello Gonsalves, this memoir, illustrated by a precious photograph lost to the family in a fire that consumed Asian Building, Bombay, in 1947, and now most wonderfully made available by Monica.


By Frederic Joseph Heredia

[extracts from Prologue]

Happily, my grand-uncle Julio da Costa’s ‘Personal Memoir’, an English translation of which was published in April 1981 for circulation to Manoel Agostinho’ s descendants, records nearly all that could be said about Manoel Agostinho’s personality and traits, by one who was his boyhood companion and later his uncle-in-law.

To one who knew him in his lifetime, my cousin Peter D’Souza, I am indebted for many details of Manoel Agostinho’s life in Bombay, that only he could have known or confirmed. For the rest, the facts must speak for themselves: a Goan physician who migrated from rustic surroundings with no resources other than his talents and his character, carved a notable niche for himself and his family in the commercial life of a great industrial city, and in its exclusive social milieu, without compromising his faith or his ideals.

[all parentheses in italics between square brackets are by FJH’s daughter EMRH]


Chapter I


Early photographs of Manoel Agostinho show him with a beard, neither trimmed nor full, but following somewhat closely the lines of his face, and apparently curly. In my earliest memory he had no beard, but wore a moustache of the fashion called ‘toothbrush’. His hair was cropped close to the head, and was brushed, not combed. For his times, when men’s average height was appreciably less than it is now, he must have been considered tall. His height was not less than 5’ 9", and he always held himself straight, so that he seemed taller.

A high forehead, aquiline nose, and deep-set but brilliant dark eyes could have made his countenance intimidating, but for a mobile mouth, and an unexpectedly sweet smile.

His broad, arched chest evidenced the vigorous physiology of a man given to walking fast over long distances. In the first few years of his stay in Bombay, he used to walk a great deal - three miles from home to dispensary, and thence on visits to patients (and they were many) who could not send a private carriage or a hack victoria to fetch him.

Weekdays, he left home after an early breakfast, to return at nightfall. During epidemic seasons of enteric fever, cholera, smallpox, plague, he would return even later, and then change into clean clothing before greeting his children. These would flock around him seeking his blessing - the bênção customarily sought in Goan homes, from parents and elders, usually after the evening ‘Angelus’ or after recital of the family rosary at nightfall.

Those of us children who were at school and college rarely saw him on weekdays. And on holidays other than Sundays and great feast days, the uncertainty of his return for a mid-day meal entailed our eating lunch separately. It was only in his declining years that he took an afternoon siesta on weekdays. Family gatherings were consequently possible only at dinner times.

It was at the dining table that he indulged his abiding interest in his children. Etiquette required children to keep silent and to speak only when addressed by a parent or an elder. So he would speak to each child, listen to their responses, and would draw upon his wide ranging knowledge of science, history and literature to foster their intellectual curiosity.

I never saw him moody or abstracted when dining en famille. He was ever lively in his conversation, sometimes gently teasing, and fond of humorous anecdotes over which he would laugh till tears came to his eyes.

Being prevented by the exigencies of his profession from joining his family in daily prayers, he would be all the more absorbed in his devotions at Mass on days of obligation and especially during Holy Week observances, which in those days were more taxing than they are now. He always carried a missal to church and followed the liturgy with unobtrusive devotion.

While it was Ángela Mericia [his wife] who taught the children to pray, to shun misbehaviour, and to know their catechism, it was from Manoel Agostinho’s deep faith that his descendants have gained some intimation of the treasures laid up in heaven for the believing Christian.

He dressed well, and without being dandified, cut a fine figure, especially in evening dress: only ‘tails and white tie’ in his time were worn for a ball at Government House, or for a night at the opera, usually one staged by an Italian company at what was then the ‘Royal’ Opera House. In summer, he wore cream tussar silk suits, with waistcoat, and in winter cashmere woollen suits. To daytime receptions such as a wedding or a garden party at Government House, he would wear morning dress - black cut-away tailcoat, ‘pepper and salt’ striped trousers, spats, and the regulation white sola topi.

On such occasions Ángela Mericia dressed in the height of fashion, sometimes in gowns ordered from Europe - from Au Bon Marché, and Oxendales. Nor were the daughters left out in the acquisition of finery; arrival of a parcel from France or England was greeted with cries of joy, and distribution of its contents with shrieks of delight. Doubtless, the sons also shared in the ‘goodies’, but not in my time!

Manoel Agostinho had a pleasant baritone voice, which was never raised in excitement or in anger. His English was fluent and grammatical, and spoken with a barely noticeable Continental accent. He spoke and wrote Portuguese better than most Portuguese, and was much at home in French, having absorbed most of his scientific, historical and literary education through French authors.

He had no hesitation in taking to the dance floor at balls and weddings. But he did not possess what is called ‘an ear for music’, and was probably an indifferent dancer. What he lacked in both respects was more than compensated by Ángela Mericia.

Manoel Agostinho the man was physically vigorous, mentally active, of equable temperament, ever inclined to the optimistic view, and open-hearted with all. Altogether a vital and attractive person. No wonder he had a very large circle of friends, besides being respected and adored by his children.

Monday, February 08, 2010

scribendi cacoethes


for CS and TS

The pup he strained upon his leash,
Whiskers stiff, eyes fixed, ready to leap.
Sunflowers dropped petals, stirred by the breeze
That ruffled cypress, bent corn, lofted crows,
Rising, rising, to set some stars a-spinning.

She watched them, pain receding,
As the breeze dropped, stars paused,
Corn, crows, cypresses and sunflowers stopped
Pretending to be real;
While the pup -
Went back to being stuffed.

~ E.M.R.H. 8 February 2010

Saturday, February 06, 2010

scribendi cacoethes


How needful to hope that I will be read
Long after this feeble body is dead.
To dream that the words which danced in my mind
Another, a stranger, will pleasing find;
One whom I never can speak to or meet
Will be my friend - that thought is sweet!

The truth, alack, is a tale oft told:
My books will never be bought or sold,
But remain unfinished, incomplete, unread,
For I'm remaindered before I'm well dead!

~ E.M.R.H. 6 February 2010