By Brig Ian da Costa (Retd)
From the Diary of an Infantryman
The Nagpur Goan community in those days (1940s) was small but well knit and spirited. The Goan community consisted of a happy lot of people, whose world revolved around the St Francis de Sales (SFS) Cathedral, the Catholic Institute, SFS School and College, St John’s School, St Joseph’s Convent, the Catechist Convent run by the Sisters of Charity, the seminary on Seminary Hill and a few other special Church institutions.
Most boys and girls joined the Catholic Youth Movement (CYM) and the John Berchmans Club (JBC) and played regular outdoor games in which they excelled. Of course billiards, cards, table tennis, badminton and basketball were also popular.
Just opposite our house was a Goan stronghold known as the T. (Timothy) Fernandes Compound, that housed about a dozen Goan families. Timothy Fernandes (Sr.) had five buildings of various shapes and sizes built to house the families of his son Norbert (a piano tuner). His wife Sybil kept single Goan girls as boarders. Mr. T Fernandes had four daughters, including Grace, Lucy and Eedie. The eldest daughter was married to Avitus Carneiro, an Under Secretary of the Government of Madhya Pradesh.
His eldest son Terrence was an outstanding civil engineer and dealt with stress construction as needed in earthquake-affected Japan, which he visited at least once a year on lecture-tours cum consultations. He settled in Germany after marrying a German girl and they have one son. Carneiro’s second son John joined the Indian Navy through the NDA (National Defence Academy) and retired as a Commodore. His other sons were Noel and Timmy and two sisters Philomena and Regina. Reis Fernandes, a merchant navy man, married Eedie; Grace married Mr. Dias and their son Ralph was a pianist in Jack Furtado’s dance band.
Mr. Monteiro, who was serving in a Madhya Pradesh government department in Nagpur and was later transferred to Goa as a head clerk in the Police Headquarters, Panjim, after Liberation. He had married Lucy. They had three children, a son Tony (Chintoo) and two daughters.
A host of others like the Gonsalves family, were in trades like driving and mechanics. Then there was Aquino, the fridge mechanic, who married Juvene, the eldest daughter of the Gonsalves family; the Lopes family (two boys, Frederick, Wilson and a girl); the two Pinto families — from Calangute: William Pinto and his wife Mary did a lot of work for the community and the Church; the old man and his sons mainly working in the Central Bank.
John, the elder son, married Aida D’Souza also of Nagpur and Tony, the younger boy, died of a heart attack when quite young. Amy married a boy from Karachi and went to Pakistan in the early 1960s and Teresa and Eulalia the two spinster sisters are still holding the fort. The other Pinto family had Carmelene and her brothers Peter and Alex. The Francis family with the old man Ben who was head clerk in Bishop Cotton High School, lived on the first floor of a front building.
Mrs. Alice Francis, from Saligao, was a great organizer and cook for picnics and family get-togethers. Their elder son Basil, who was a good footballer, joined the Merchant Navy. Kevin, the younger son, was in the Railways and their daughter was Elaine.
Also living over there was Cecil D’Lima and Ophelia D’Costa, his wife, the latter had represented India in hockey; Lawry Pereira and Doris Perris and a few others whose company I have enjoyed, but whose names I have forgotten over the decades. There was also Lipton Rodrigues and wife, with their daughters Conchita and Luxy, who later won a beauty contest in Bombay. The Noronha family included Cajetan, Pascal and Bonny.
A little down the road and opposite the famous Palace Talkies (Bharat Cinema) lived the Rodrigues family, who would tune the pianos of every second Goan home. There were several Rodrigues families and they were known by different distinguishing names such as the ‘Burma’ Rodrigueses, as they had returned from Burma during the Second World War. On the other hand, the ‘Kharagpur’ Rodrigueses were Railway people, last posted at Kharagpur before coming to Nagpur.
Our very own Inez Cotta Carvalho, who later was well known as a politician in Goa, and her sister Eula, both played hockey for India in the 1950s.
Beyond, on a street just before the Jubilee Bakery resided the Nazareth family, the Francis D’Costa family (who had a band) and the D’Lima family with two daughters, one of whom was Ruby and son Percy who was my classmate and who has now resettled in Bombay. Joe Fernandes and brother-in-law Bhatiya Joe and their families ran the Jubilee Bakery. Their daughter Anita married my Nagpur neighbour and classmate Raymond Vaz who was a pilot in the Indian Air Force and who died in an
air crash in the late 1960s while posted at Ambala. Jubilee Bakery is still being run by the other Fernandes daughter. They also had a brother Steve who played the guitar.
Opposite Bharat Cinema and adjacent to the T. Fernandes Compound lived the two brothers Leo and Joe Dias and Joe’s family — his wife Flory, daughters Gladys (Honey), Celine and Iris, and son Cecil. They came to Nagpur from Karachi in the early 1950s. Leo was a bachelor and a wonderful party man who played the mandolin and the mouth organ with finesse.
Further down in Tent Lines we come across Cary Menezes and wife Helen. Their sons Denis and Stanley were very successful engineers. Terrence, after graduating, spent most of his life in Bombay and Rita the younger daughter was a close friend of my sister Dr. Marie Mignon. Beryl, the elder sister, was
married to Cajetan D’Souza who the brother of Archbishop Eugene D’Souza and served in the Police.
Then there was Cozy Nook, home of Brig. George D’Souza and Doreen and their three children. His daughter Merlyn married Major Boyce D’Souza, her younger sister Jojo married Cmde. John Carneiro and finally settled in Bangalore. Brig. George’s son Charles joined the Air Force, but sadly died very young of cancer. Archbishop Eugene, Brig. George and Cajetan had another brother Rev. Fr. Jack, who also died of cancer.
PHOTO: The author’s father, a polo player circa 1920.PHOTO: The author’s grandfather and grandmother. PHOTO: Dad and Mum at Nagpur, around 1962.
Later, Cozy Nook was occupied by Lt Cdr Stanley Fernandes and his family. He was the Naval NCC Officer Commanding in Nagpur. Stanley’s younger brother Wing Commander Trevor Fernandes retired from the IAF and settled in Bangalore. One brother Lt Col Herman Fernandes married Vera D’Souza, sister
of Willie, Conrad and Lt. Col. Gilbert D’Souza of Third Rajputana Rifles of Sadar Bazar. At the end of the war in 1965, my company relieved Gilbert’s in the Hajipir Bulge and our companies changed positions at a border post in Poonch in J&K. We had a drink and dinner together, and I fondly remember that night in September 1965. We were both Majors then. He ensured that his boys caught some trout from the Poonch River flowing just next to and below the post, so that we could have fried fish in the Goan style.
Then there was Mr. L.G. D’Souza who worked in the insurance sector and his wife Julie with their large family. The Colaco family included ‘Sir’ Jacky, my teacher who married Meena Monteiro. Marie Colaco, his sister, married Joe Francis from Saligao, and lived in Mhow, MP, but has come back to roost in her husband’s ancestral village like me. Bernadette Collaco is still holding the fort in Nagpur.
There was the Dalgado family who lived beyond the Jubilee Bakery, consisting of Carmo (who died in a tragic drowning accident at Calangute beach many years ago), his sister Julie and younger brother Peter who joined the Maratha Light Infantry as a Short Service Commission Officer and went back to the Reserve Bank of India to retire as Assistant Chief General Manager. He has settled in Panjim in Goa and I have bumped into him a couple of times here.
Going down Tent Lines, one came to the junction where the road branched off to St. Joseph’s Convent. At the junction of the road lived the Nazareth clan in their home Angelic Nest on one side. It had two identical houses joined together where Adv. Carlisto and Melita (my Dad’s sister) used to live with their only son Austin, a brilliant pianist who played for Francis D’Costa’s dance band. In the other wing lived Adv. Romulus Nazareth with his wife Antoinette and daughter Joy and son Stanley who married Amelia from Aldona and retired from the Air Force as a Wing Commander in the Ground Engineering Department.
On the opposite side of the road lived George Nazareth and his brothers Adolph and Merwyn, who
had lost one eye while throwing stones to pluck fruit from a tree. George’s wife was a crooner in
Francis D’Costa’s band. The other band in Nagpur was Jack Furtado’s and he had Ralf Dias, Lesley
Lazarus, Philip Peters and Demonte, among others, playing for him.
PHOTO: Archbishop Eugene Louis D’Souza , M.S.F.S. of Nagpur (1917-2003), at a function in the city, around 1953.
On the next block lived Willie Lobo and his daughters — Marie, the ladies table tennis champ of Vidarbha for several years, and Cynthia Lobo, who married a local young man, Norman D’Souza. The D’Cruz clan from Sonarbhatt, Saligao was next. They had trekked back from Burma during World War II.
Col Victor D’ruz was the eldest son and was in the Burma Medical Corps. Arnold, the younger brother, was the Conservator of Forests of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Then there was Sophie and her daughters Patsy and Muriel. Winnie a spinster used to play the organ at church for decades. Bertram, son of Col Victor D’Cruz, retired from the EME (Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers), as a
The Athaides who lived alongside. There was old Mamthia and young Mamthia who were believed to have the power to remove spells of evil eye (deesth). Avo was a son of the house and he was the Commercial Superintendent of Central Railway at Nagpur. Next on that road lived F.X. Rebeiro and his wife Maxi Milan and their son and two daughters, one of whom was Angela. Going on to the Railway Station Road was Dr. Edwin Rosario and Gina, his charming wife, with their sons, Kenneth and Keith and daughters, Valerie and Sarita. He was the Superintendent of the Nagpur Medical College Hospital for
years, before settling down in Bangalore, where he was once again a hospital medical superintendent.
His brother-in-law Joe Rodrigues and Lily and family also lived in the same building. Joe was a senior officer in the Home Guards. Joe had been a prisoner-of-war in Singapore during World War II, when the allied troops surrendered to the Japs. He had then joined Subhash Chandra Bose’s forces of the INA (Indian National Army) at that time.
Coming back to the St Francis de Sales Cathedral, in the same compound were Prof. P.J. D’Souza and family with his son Arnold, daughter-in-law Muriel and family. Both taught in St Francis de Sales High School. Arnold also had a stint in the Nagpur newspaper The Hithvada and later relocated to teach in
Bombay. Just opposite them on the other side of the Kamptee Road lived A.J. Fernandez and his sons Cyril, Ivan, Sydney and Guilherme (Gilhu) and their sister, Girlie.
Then there came the D’Costas’ bungalow and big compound. Crispin, the eldest sister, was a teacher and the matriarch of the family. Jerome managed the mining company after the father expired. Mark, Hubert, Peter (Pitlu) and Michael were the other brothers. The other three sisters were Ophelia and
Norma who had played hockey for India and Lola, who was a teacher. Norma married Major Eddie Fernandes of Belgaum and Oxel, Bardez.
PHOTO: Rough map of parts of Nagpur mentioned in this chapter including the Bishop Cotton School, Liberty Cinema, Dongajji’s Compound, Government Improvement Trust, Catholic Institute, St Francis de Sales, St Joseph’s Technical School.
A stone throw away was dentist Dr. C.J. Baretto, who had four sons in the services, Brig Terrence and family with daughters, Mira and Myra, and son Amir. The other Baretto sons were Wing Commander. Cecil who was also a dentist both in the Army and the Air Force; Brig. Noel and Marie Louise, his wife, who was in the Air Defence; Lt Gen. C.A. (Bobby) Baretto of the Engineers Corps and Vivian who was a doctor and who after a stint in Bombay, moved on to the United States. They had one sister Wilma, who married Mario Miranda who had settled in Bangalore.
Further down that road lived Amaranth Fernandes (headmaster of SFS) and family with daughters Cynthia, Hyacinth, Helen and only brother Keith. Mrs. Fernandes was from the Vaz family that lived across the road and the two families finally merged in the Vaz house when the Fernandes’ house which belonged to the Diocesan Board was pulled down to be rebuilt.
PHOTO: A party at the chateau, circa 1959.
The next road was called Direct Road and there lived Major (Dr) R.A. D’Souza and family with his two daughters, Margaret and May, and their only brother. Then there was Lawrie D’Cunha and Mabel (who was my teacher in Class IV in SFS); Kenneth D’Souza, a bachelor and my teacher in Maths and
Science, lived with other members of the D’Souza clan there. Dr. Domitila D’Souza and the Peris family lived there, Doris and her sister Betty. The Fialho family came next. The father was an expert motor mechanic and ran a repair garage. Manuel was my class mate but the lure of being a mechanic drew him to join his father before he could finish school.
Tony is now here in Arpora after retiring from Air India as a Flight Purser and takes a keen interest in training Goan youth physically in his private gymnasium in Arpora.
Another section we did not visit as yet was the remaining part of Kamptee Road from the junction of Direct Road and Gaddi Gudam. There lived the Noronha family consisting of Anne, Joe, who married Marie Castelino, and their children and Leena the youngest sister who was a good pianist. The eldest brother Mick retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army and settled in Bombay. He had married Cynthia who was a very good office typist and an accomplished pianist who taught music and had settled in Calangute, before her priest-son resettled her in a home for the aged in Diamond Harbour, Calcutta.
PHOTO: The da Costa siblings, 2009. Seated (l-r) Dr Olaf, Gilda, Yvette (the eldest), Dr Marie Mignon. Standing Cmde Emile, Ian. (Fr Pradeep SJ passed away in 2005.)
Beyond their house was a double storey building housing a general stores shop on the ground floor owned by the Pintos, who rebuilt the building into a big complex. The Castelino family from Assagao lived on top. Mr. Castelino was an insurance agent. Marie was the eldest daughter and Joe was my class mate. He had Jessie and Teresa as his other sisters.
Further on Kamptee Road were the Azavedo families. John owned and ran John Bros, a restaurant and tea and snacks joint. They had one son Tony who went off to Bombay and daughter Pamela who won a May Queen Beauty contest in Calangute, Goa, and married and migrated to Australia. John Azavedo’s brother Cajetan and his wife ran a cold drink and ice cream corner adjoining John Bros. Both outlets were doing well and showed off our Goan entrepreneur skills in this line of restaurant management. Opposite them was the Dalgado Stores, which was a general store run by another Dalgado family.
Then in Clarke Town we had our cousins from Piedade, Divar, Mr. Anton Da Costa, Aida and their family. Jules became a doctor and married another Nagpur girl Dr. Benita D’Souza and they have relocated to Margao, were they have set up the A.V. Da Costa Hospital in Fatorda. Olga, the only elder sister, did her MA and married William (Billy) Correa of Bombay.
Aires became a neurologist and settled in the UK after marrying an English girl. Fernando became an engineer, worked with the Salgaocars and kept the ore carrying barges on the rivers and port area free of mechanical trouble. He settled in Fatorda, Margao. He married Dr. Annette Cordeiro, an anaesthetist, from Saligao.
Dr. D’Souza, the Principal of Nagpur Polytechnic, and his family were on the other side of the Tuesday Market. Hazel, the eldest sister, got married and went off to Calcutta. Dr. Benita and her sister Vivienne — who married Col Neville Dias of the Signals who later transferred to the Infantry and served in the Madras Regiment — have now settled in Bangalore. Then came the two lieutenant colonels Drs. Ivan and Rukmani Lobo who also have their clinic next to them! My Dad and Mum were Rukumani’s god parents.
Further down in Clarke Town was Ligorio D’Souza and family. He was the Director of Education for Madhya Pradesh. One of his sons, Kevin, joined the Artillery and then shifted to the Mechanized Infantry to become its Colonel of the Regiment and the Deputy Chief of Army Staff. Adv. Alvares and Cyril and
Peter Lobo also lived in Clarke Town with their families. Cyril Lobo finally settled in Bangalore like many others from Nagpur.
The da Gama-Rose family had Lt Col Fred da Gama-Rose (Sr.) and his wife Lydia. He was in the Navy Law Department and transferred to the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s Branch. Fred (Jr.) was a silver gunner and his other two sons also joined the Army. One of them was Carl. They had two sisters, one of whom was Valia.
The D’Souza family were also prominent members of the community. We had Major Joe D’Souza, Cajetan, Leslie, Marie and Lydia. Then there was John D’Sa and his large family. They were also called Podha D’Sa family. There were five brothers and two sisters in all. Lt Col Frederick D’Sa was my classmate, joined the Artillery in Army as did his younger brother Kenny. Another brother Sidney and one older brother were active members of the community.
Adv. F.X. D’Souza used to wear a sun hat and cycle around, an example to other youngsters who wanted to ride on scooters and cars. His son Colvin, also an advocate, is settled in their lovely family house in Parra in Goa. His son Clayton is also a young budding advocate, handsome and always smiling.
Next to us on the north were the Vaz family with children Cyril, Douglas, Raymond and Olga being
outstanding athletes. Olga played hockey for India for many years. The brothers were very good sprinters (all Nagpur University champions) and football players. Douglas was also a good basketball player.
The Martin family from Salcete also lived in the same house in Dongajee’s Compound. Behind our house Chateau D’Emilia was the Nursing School; Principal Dora Fernandes, her husband Theophilus and their daughter Marie, who was my godmother, lived on the premises. In Sadar Bazaar we had Dr. and Mrs. Pereira and their sons Eric, Edward and daughter Elsie. Eric also qualified as a doctor and settled in the UK; Eddie, my class mate was in the bank and has come home to roost in Calangute, while Elsie married Lt. Col. Douglas Vaz, who has settled in Salunke Vihar, Pune.
Dr Pereira was the Medical Officer to SFS High School and its boarding. Just opposite Bharat Cinema on Kamptee Road/Lane Junction and adjacent to the T. Fernandes Compound lived Miss Mary D’Souza, in a big building. Augusto Ferrao from Aldona and Perin lived in the same building. Next were Percy Soares and his family (his sons Derrick and Cecil, daughters Joan and Fay). Percy played the banjo in Francis D’Costa’s Band and worked in the Central Bank. Then, alongside were his old uncle and his brother Archie Soares who was an officer in the Territorial Army.
There were other Goans living in Nagpur but their names have faded from my memory though their faces remain fresh and clear in my mind almost like on a TV screen. You can imagine how many they were in number, in those times when outmigration from Goa was the norm. Many villages from Goa were relocated, as it were, in cities like Nagpur. This brief introduction to some of the figures of the Goan community in Nagpur gives a thumbnail sketch of what they did and how they lived, in those times.
The book ‘Diary of an Infantryman’ (ISBN 978-93-80739-48-9) is to be released on December 20, 2013, at 5 pm at the Goa Chambers of Commerce & Industry Hall, Panjim. The function is open to the public.
Ian da Costa’s story begins in the Nagpur of the 1940s. In that Central Indian city, a community of Goans worked hard and smart to build their future. The book also narrates his life in the Indian Military Academy, to serving in Jammu & Kashmir in the 1960s, to forward lines on the border during two wars, the raising of the Naga Regiment, the 1971 War in Bangladesh and more.