20:OVERSEAS LEAVE IN INDIA
First class passages both by rail and sea were booked for us, and early in December 1959, we found ourselves in Bombay. The voyage from Mombasa to Bombay had been trouble-free and most enjoyable, and Clyde and Andrew were so well behaved throughout the trip that they won the admiration of many of the passengers and crew, including the Captain of the passenger steamer, the SS Kampala. My younger brother, Wilfred, had very kindly hired out a spacious bungalow for us by the seaside in the fishing village of Verso. The house itself was very large, but as it had been unoccupied for some time, it was in need of a thorough spring cleaning; thanks to the efforts of a cousin of mine (Tony Sequeira) who secured the services of a chimney sweep-cum-handyman, the bungalow was thoroughly cleaned out and made more habitable, but not without the untiring efforts of Elsie herself. I thought of what this village must have been like in its heyday, especially when the British were still here. The area had an ideal setting – spacious and well-appointed houses, many with neatly kept gardens, and almost all the bungalows commanding an excellent view of the sea. Some of the well-known Indian film stars lived in this area – a perfect retreat for those who worked in the city.
One of the reasons for arranging my leave at this time was also because of my elder brother’s ordination to the priesthood at Poona in 1960. This was an occasion I wouldn’t miss at any cost since it also provided an ideal opportunity for a grand family re-union. We made Versova our base, and while living here had its advantages, the great disadvantage was its remoteness from the city centre, and the time it took to get from one end of Bombay to another. We spent a few weeks here, and my younger brother who worked as an Accounts Executive in an advertising firm in the city, made Versova his temporary base too. The rent of the seaside bungalow was quite high and since Wilfred was bearing the brunt of this expense, I did not feel it was fair to take advantage of his generosity – in any case, my own income could not stand this little luxury for very much longer. Accordingly we moved down to Belgaum where Elsie’s grandmother lived, and here spent some days before moving on to Poona in readiness for the big occasion. For the first few days following our arrival in Poona, we stayed at a nearby Goan-run guest-house. From here, together with my younger brother and several other relatives and close friends, we attended the ordination ceremony at De Nobli College; there were several of his Jesuit friends who were also ordained on that day. The whole ceremony was very impressive and was conducted by the Bishop of Poona. The next day, my brother celebrated his first Mass at the Convent of Jesus and Mary (the very convent which my mother once attended); Wilfred and I were privileged to serve at this Mass, but the greatest honour was reserved for Clyde – for it was on this day (25th March 1960) that he made his first Holy Communion at the hands of his uncle. Certainly a day to remember! After the Mass, a modest reception was held for assembled friends and relatives, an occasion much enjoyed by all those present.
While at Poona, we also had the pleasure of meeting an old friend — Beatrice Soares (the widow of the late Edward Soares, the unforgettable Principal of St. Thomas’ High School, Aldona, Goa, where I spent three years). She and her two daughters, Meera and Theresa went out of their way to help and entertain us, and while the girls would willingly babysit for us, Cyril, her eldest son, took us round Poona on our numerous shopping errands. Through him, we were also able to visit the Military Academy at Khadakvasla -the Indian equivalent of Sandhurst, where we met some of the officers and cadets. At Poona, we also met, for the first time, that famous Goan artist — Angelo da Fonseca who was married to a cousin of mine (Ivy Menezes). Angelo was a very quiet and unassuming individual (as all great men are) but very warm at heart. He had travelled extensively throughout Europe exhibiting some of his paintings, many of which still stand in some of the Jesuit Houses in and around India. Angelo and Ivy lived in a little cottage (Arcene Lodge Cottage) with their only daughter Yessonda (a beautiful and bright young girl). Through the kindness of a grand-aunt of mine (Aunt Mary) we were allowed the use of one of her houses at Kirkee, a town not far from Poona. In this town lived a much-loved cousin of my mother (Aunt Horty -God bless her soul), who often went out of her way to make sure that we were comfortable; she even found a place for Clyde at the little nursery school she ran from home. She was a very generous person who often forgot her own problems and difficulties while making others happy. Because of these good natured people, our stay at Kirkee turned out to be a pleasant one and it was very fortunate that while still here, we were able to visit Mrs. Fernandes of ‘Ferns Pickles’ fame. We had now spent nearly a month at Kirkee and as the days for our return to Africa were fast approaching, we decided to move back to Bombay, where we stayed at my uncle’s rented flat at Gregory House, Dadar. After a few days stay here, we left for Mombasa on the B .I. Passenger liner, SS AMRA. We were very sorry not to have been able to make the trip to Goa on this occasion due to circumstances beyond our control. Following the Indo-Portuguese dispute over the future of Goa, the border had been closed, and the new route involved a long and troublesome journey. We were showered with gifts before we left Bombay, and I felt truly sad to be leaving them (my brothers and relatives) behind after a long and very enjoyable holiday. I was also very conscious of the great amount of trouble and expense incurred by my younger brother Wilfred in arranging the holiday accommodation for us.
The return voyage was extremely pleasant, and with Clyde and Andrew giving us little or no trouble, and with several of the passengers eager to fuss over them, we had plenty of time to ourselves. I have always found that the sea voyage was the best part of the holiday – the leisurely and care-free days, the fresh sea air all around, the appetizing menus and the lively entertainment -what more could one wish for?
Our plans were to spend a day or two at Mombasa and then move on to Machakos since it was almost certain that we would be returning here.