Nicknamed Legacy

Among the interesting things that lend spice to a Mangalorean's life, are little matters like their nicknames. Funnily, these nicknames were well received by their original holders, who did not take offence - being at times better known by their nicknames than by their actual names. At times though, close family members were touchy and did take umbrage when referred to as so and so's son or daughter. But most, thoroughly enjoy the sheer humour depicted in these nicknames, and admire the ingenuity of those who coined them.

In my childhood, there were dozens of `Mary's having interesting prefixes. Nicknames with hidden humour, like `Kappu-puchche'(black-cat), `Bokul'(tom-cat), and Divod'(rat-snake) were heard mentioned. A terribly tall lady was `Light-house....'; a lame one, was named `Monti......'. Another with chronic flatulence that made her let go freely and noisily in company, was `Padh....Bai'. An English teacher in school, was assigned the prefix `Koitho'(hook shaped chopper knife); a short Physical Director at College was called `Kunta....'. And I have heard of `Komblo-mistry' - a short and stocky Goan violin teacher who
strutted around like a cock. Among scores of others in the galaxy of nickname holders similarly loaded with something special, were many teachers who invariably acquired nicknames thanks to their students for ingeniously putting a finger on the most peculiar trait that instantly described them.

And among those more famous, was Pascalia, better known as `Namaskar' Paskey Bai. The `malgadi' doyen of the Kodiyalbail D'Souza clan, she ruled the local `Wado' in regal fashion in the mid-nineteenth century, much loved and respected by all around. Family lore has it that all who entered her lane, got down on bended knee with their `urmal' (headwear) in their hands and paid obeissance to her with their heads bowed. While the same sources would have us believe that this bowing `namaskar' led to Paskey bai's acquisition of her prefix, a little bird in the community told me another story: The devout lady never missed daily mass at the `Bishop's house' Codiyalbail chapel next door. And after mass, took a round bowing and genuflecting before the statues of various saints placed in front of every pillar inside the church. That these numerous bowings gave this venerable lady her nickname `namaskar'.

Whatever the real reason, she left behind a name, a legendary lineage and an illustrious heritage for her descendents to be proud of. Two of her three sons, Francis and Gregory, dedicated their lives harvesting souls in the vineyards of the Lord, while the third, Bernard, concentrated on keeping her lineage alive. Not many would perhaps know that her brother Minguel's sons, Vitus and George, were among the pioneers to leave the portals of Mangalore for greener pastures, one to become a vice-chancellor, and the other to found a dynasty in Bangalore through 17 own off-springs, aving in the meantime earned for himself the title of `Rajakarya-pravina' from his Royal Highness the `Wodeyar' Maharaja of the erstwhile princely State of Mysore, on whose Executive Council he was a Member. Among Pascalia's sister Martha-mary's grandsons, one joined the hallowed precincts of the coveted ICS, one the diplomatic service of the Vatican, another the IAS, while a great-grandson is currently a General in the army posted in Delhi today. One of her direct grandsons, the Reverend `Shakespeare' Basil D'Souza, also adorned the ministry of our Lord's church for over fifty years. Many others in the present generation, similarly connected, have scaled heights in different walks of life - as doctors, lawyers, engineers, and in the civil services. And recently, a great-great-grandson went on to become the youngest ever Director in the New York Stock Exchange. It's an irony though that most of these today's illustrious ones could very well have no inkling of their own connection with this great lady. I was lucky to ferret out this knowledge from mother, who is Pascalia's grand daughter, which makes me one of those priviledged to be in her direct line of descent. And indeed, it would make me proud to be identified as the great-grandson of Namaskar Paskey Bai.

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Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com


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