In loving memory of the late Flora Maria Mendonca De Sa who sadly passed away on 1st February 2015.
My mother Flora was born on the 22nd of August 1926 in her family home in the Saligao Ward of Cotula. She was the eldest daughter of Wenceslau Piedade Francisco Mendonça and Rosa Aurora Pimenta Rebelo. Being the eldest meant that she was the apple of her parents eye but more so for her mother Rosa, who instilled in her various traits and values.
After her birth, my grandfather Wenceslau joined his older brother Vitinho in the lovely coastal city of Mombasa where they ran a Clearing and Forwarding agency. Some of my mum’s siblings were to be born in that city. After eight years, my grandfather decided to return to his native Goa as he felt more comfortable under the Portuguese rule. As he did not wish to live in a village, he opted for the city life of Panjim very near the Immaculate Conception Church. That flat on the first floor became the focal point of my mum’s city life. As she was not academically inclined, my grandmother brought her up along the lines of being a ‘Dona de Casa’ – which in those days meant that she had to know how to manage a home, crochet, embroider, sew, etc.
My mum thrived among the Panjim social circuit and was a regular invitee for the highlight of the Goan Calendar year – which used to be the Medical Ball. She was always a first choice date owing to her beauty – as I have learnt over the years from many of her contemporaries. In those days, all the young ladies were chaperoned and my grandparents were no different. Grandmother Rosa kept a watchful eye on her daughter and would have a say on all the suitors, which resulted in mum remaining unmarried.
In the hot summer of 1959, a thirty one year old man by the name of Orlando de Sa visited Goa accompanied by friends from the Karachi Goan Association and it was at Calangute beach that he saw a stunning beauty in a one piece bikini. He enquired but was told that she was already asked for and so he returned to Karachi unattached. He returned the following year and again enquired about this beauty but was told that she had left for Portugal, which was indeed true as this beauty had gone to Portugal to complete a course which in current language could be considered as ‘finishing school’. He returned to Karachi yet again. It was in the year 1967 that he was finally dragged back to Goa by his older sister Sylvia and customary to Goan tradition was taken for various ‘entrevistas’. It was at one of the ‘entrevistas’ at his cousin’s house in hilly and green Assagao that he again set his eyes on the very same beauty he had seen all those years ago. She had only come as a chaperone. On enquiry he was told that she was still unmarried and he immediately pursued her and asked for her hand in marriage, but not before taming and convincing the redoubtable ‘Rosa’. This beautiful lady was to be his wife and my mother Flora.
My mother Flora went onwards to her next journey to the city of lights Karachi. This trip made via Bombay was on the ship ‘Dwarka’. She was welcomed by the de Sa family, a scion from that city. In the words of my cousin, Derek, “Tia Flora brought a blast of much needed fresh air into the stuffy, structured lives of the extended family of deSa’s in Karachi when Tio Orlando chose to marry her. Her eagerness to meet people and socialize outside the family was a new path and door to happy transitions. The slowly eroding link to the Portuguese was revived and strengthened and my mother Alba found another person to speak in Portuguese.’ This was an apt description in a nut shell of this beautiful vibrant lady. My mother adopted Karachi has her own and built up many friendships. She used all the skills that she had learnt in her young days to enrich people’s lives through her cooking, crochet, embroidery, sewing, flower making, macramé, etc. She was always willing to share her skills and would gladly share her recipes. She loved intermingling with the younger set and whilst she had considerable dancing abilities (Tango, Foxtrot and Waltz), she still preferred dancing to the latest music. She loved bargaining and would also volunteer to go shopping with family and friends visiting Karachi – on many occasions ensuring good deals for them. She was also very proud of her Goan heritage and would organise Konkani and Portuguese performances for the KGA and parish. She loved participating in Mandos, Dulpods, Dekhnis etc. Mum was a wonderful wife to my late dad and a loving mother to me. She celebrated every single of my childhood birthdays, making and preparing different cakes, and Portuguese and Goan delicacies. She even catered a sumptuous buffet single-handedly for some 100 guests for my First Holy Communion.
My mum Flora was sadly widowed at age 59 after the death of my father Orlando and had to take on the role of father as well. She ensured that I did not break down emotionally and was consistently by my side. We lived with the goodwill of friends and family, which had been nurtured all those years by my parents. I am sure that God and my father made absolutely sure of this.
At age 69 my mother then left on what was to be her last and final journey firstly to Lisbon and then on to London where she set base with me. She used to be very active going to her Tooting, Croydon, Surrey and East Street Markets and would come back happy with the bargains she would manage to wangle her way. She continued to leave a mark with many of our friends who were all presented with toilet roll covers knitted by her. She finally saw me get married. This was probably a difficult time in her life owing to the fact that whilst she wanted me to marry, she was worried that now that I was married she would now be forgotten. Nevertheless we all continued on and she had the pleasure of seeing the births of her two grandchildren Ariana and Jianni.
It was in 2010/2011 that we learnt that my mum Flora had developed dementia and this brought about many changes in her personality. She was no longer the strong and independent minded woman that she had been but instead gradually started to decline. She no longer had interest in cooking, crochet, etc. and this decline was enhanced after her fall last November. During the last six weeks of her life it appeared that she had lost her will to live and more so during her last week when she became bedridden. She would still try and get off but was unable to do so. On the last evening of her life, some friends close to her came over and together with us prayed over her. After they left, we prayed some more and a peace appeared to come over her. She probably felt satisfied that the job she had come for was now complete and that it was time to be united with my late father in God’s heavenly kingdom. I know that she is possibly looking down on us with a smile on her face.