Sunday, October 16, 2016

CYPRIAN FERNANDES: House of Braganca (2)

Nobility, royalty and people of importance and respect graced the courtyard throughout the centuries. However, centre stage was reserved for the Fado (songs of Portuguese longing) singer. Many billions of tear-droplets kissed the ground and the earth seemed to rejoice at the genius of the Fado singer in bringing every member of the audience to tears; the men, of course, did a very poor job of hiding their tears. They regularly waived their white silk handkerchiefs in the direction of the singer in recognition of the heart tearing pain and agony, especially in the quest of a forlorn or unrequited love, with which the singer painted his imaginary huge portraits and his audience brought them to life in their own imaginations. Love and its pain, it seemed, made for the greatest aphrodisiac or the greatest turn off, depending on which way your wind blew.
The Braganca estate had its own private chapel, a primary school, a fully equipped modern medical clinic and access to all the specialist services at the best hospitals in the nearby towns of Panjim and Mapusa. Their vast estate and business empire were self-sufficient in most things. They were generous too. They used to say there was a Braganca rupee in every church and school built in North Goa. The Bragancas took special pride in the Saligao church whose interiors were adorned with the most gold leaf seen anywhere else in Goa. Most Bragancas are buried in a private cemetery on the estate or in the nearby parishes of Sinquerim, Saligao, Baga, Calangute etc.
Perhaps the title of the greatest socialite to grace the Candolim estate must be reserved for Ricardo’s wife, the stunning beauty, singer, dancer, painter, Dona Isabella. From the noble house of the Albuquerques, Dona Isabella, then a young, yet accomplished 18-year-old, caught one glimpse of the nobleman from Goa, didn’t give a shit that she mistook him for a full blood Portuguese, went up to him at a soiree, kissed him on the cheek and told an absolutely astounded and astonished Ricardo: “I am going to have YOU for dinner (not to dinner … no formal dining was envisaged) soon and then I am going to marry you.” True to her word, they were married within the month, much to the pain and anguish of the folks back home. They fell madly in love virtually from the very first moment she planted her lips on his cheek and they remained cocooned by that love until their last days on earth: each completely besotted with the other. Thus began one of the most famous romances the Portuguese and Goans were privy to in Goa.
They had six children: Teofilio, who managed the estate and business empire in his father’s name, assisted by his younger brother Tomasinio. Both would have preferred the warmer climes of southern Europe and would one day migrate there with their families. The elder daughter Selena Isabella became a nun and has spent her life at the Vatican in Rome. She used to regularly visit both Goa and Lisbon. I am not sure if she is still alive now in 1975. The younger sister Catarina Ana eloped with a Goan toddy tapper and was never been seen again. A third sister, Louisa Mirella, married a Brazilian and now lords over Rio de Janeiro. And then there is Ferdinando, the last of the brood. He has no interest in the family business or its riches and his father has always said, while he is a good young man, his head is always in the clouds, more correctly, in foreign lands and adventure and new experiences.
The Braganca brood were privately tutored at home. The boys matriculated at St Paul’s College, Belgaum and then went to university in Lisbon. The family owned several palatial properties and businesses in Lisbon. The girls were sent to finishing ladies schools in Lisbon. All the boys were sent to Lisbon to lose their respective virginities under the guidance of the friends of the family, of course. Mai, Dona Maria, schooled them in all the school social graces, singing, music (piano, guitar, etc.) and dancing, of course. Teofilio and Tomasinio have their father’s panache, gay abandon, rhythm, and dancing comes easily to them. But Ferdinando was extra special. He wore his mother’s alluring smile, oozing charm. He would walk into a room of strangers and in no time at all he was the man of the moment. His head was a mass of solid golden locks. Unintentionally, he was a heartbreaker. That did not bother his happy-go-lucky lifestyle. He was the apple of his mother’s eye and he loved her so much.
While the Bragancas were no racists, they preferred Portuguese as the language of the house. As employers they treated their workforce with a lot of care and attention but with reservation. However, anyone caught breaking the law was left to mercy of the local courts. Pilferers, thieves, wife beaters were all instantly disciplined or sacked. The children grew up with a smattering of Konkani which they learnt growing up with the Goan children of workers on the estate. The boys who all went to St Paul’s College in neighbouring Belgaum polished their Konkani there. However they never spoke it at home. At college all four brothers were referred to in the Konkani slang of “Paklo” (white).

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