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.