Our ABBA will never be forgotten - A Tribute


No, not the Swedish pop band. It’s what we Mangaloreans lovingly call our grandfathers.

My first memory of him brings me back to Sudhakar uncle’s white Ambassador. He would wait patiently for hours to welcome three Almeida’s flying from Saudi Arabia via Bombay. I insisted on riding shotgun with him, always overseeing the stare he had fixated for all who knew him as Benna master; all I could see was the warm smile he had once he saw his daughter arrive safely.

Not everyone I know may have such an affectionate memory of my grandfather. Known for his firmness and discipline, he had all the ingredients it took to make the quintessential headmaster. Whenever I hear the phrase tall, dark and handsome, I immediately imagine my abba. The finest professor, the perfect husband, a strict father and the most doting grandfather. Benedict Phillip D’souza led an illustrious life teaching generations of kids, guiding many into successful careers and lending a helping hand every step of his way.

I was only 6 years old when I noticed my mother packing my report cards. My very imaginative mind (more on this later) thought she was safekeeping them as for me those mark sheets were the most important document I had laid hands on by then. As we reached my most favorite two storied home in Kemmanu, my mother told me to show my grades to abba, and I will never forget the twinkle in his eyes when he read it and said “You will make me proud one day my Golden girl. Keep it up.“. That was all the motivation I needed for the next decade or so.

Abba would get fixated on the weirdest of stuff. We have all witnessed the year of mastering Sudoku to the months of strictly following the Atkins diet regimen. It never bothered us as the only one who had to face the brunt of his oddities was his diligent wife and our very loving grandmother. Their constant bickering kept us entertained all these years but when all of us met in 2015 to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary from around the world, we knew we were indeed marking a milestone of true love.

My father, let alone my mother, would often reference himself in the context of my beloved grandfather – “Aav Benna master aso zavai” (I am Benna master’s son-in-law). It would often amaze me as to just how many people knew him, but it only catered to my very vivid imagination. Those days when we walked on the sands of our very gorgeous beaches, I knew who to mention if I ever got lost. I pictured either being held for ransom or returning safely to the ever embracing arms of my grandfather.

I think abba is the only person who would unceasingly remind me every year that I was born on the Golden jubilee of Indian Independence. And that’s why I am his Golden girl, having left no stone unturned in making him proud. Even towards the end, he would call each of us grandchildren as he sat on his favorite wooden chair, reading to us excerpts out of Konkani poems and imparting his pearls of wisdom. We miss him dearly and hold forever in our hearts our memories of him. It’s tough but we now bid farewell to this wonderful family man and probably the best role model of them all.

Maybe just like the Swedish pop band, our abba will never be forgotten.

Here’s to the ones that we got.
Cheers to the wish you were here but you’re not.
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories.
And the memories bring back you.

Memories, Maroon 5

Comments on this Article
Belinda, NY Mon, May-18-2020, 12:23
Thanks Riona. Beautifully captured. You could not have written better . I am sure Abba is smiling down at you
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