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


Monica said...

Wonderful Ruth. Thank you so much for taking the time to write all this out.


Anonymous said...

Nice work Ruth. Keep up the wonderful work

Woodchip said...

Hi Ruth,
Please get in touch with me if you can at
I need to know more about Eleanor de Heredia who married Jose Lobo from Moira and their family. I am writing a book on the families of Moira and I have details for Jose, have now added his wife and believe they had a son called Dr Edwin according to some relatives in Canada. I need to complete the family so it is not mis-represented in the book! Thanks for your wonderful write up! How wonderful,