Mangaluru, Mar 29, 2017: A century or a centenary is something incredible; for Gladys it is indeed a glorious achievement to mark the beginning of her 100th year of a life time that is amazing. March 30, 2017, Thursday, she steps into the enigmatic 100s, a rare feat. After 99 years of life one generally expects a human to be a spent force, worn out, sick, confined to bed in the limits of a room, unable to walk ..........sightless, hard of hearing, senseless and generally not so welcome. But, her pleasant activeness and ability to cheer even after a tough life is nothing but an exclusive blessing for her and her near and dear.
Exceptions can always be found, in our smart city of Mangaluru for the quality of life and history here has been legendary. Gladys D’Souza nee’ Currie, in-spite of age is a happy and pleasant person day to day. Cheerful, smiling, holding on to her wheeled walker for support, appearing at all times in the different parts of the Senior Home where this exclusive lady and mother has been of her choice for the last nine years. Well turned out, neat, clean, full of smiles for those around, she lives an active life, enjoying her good fortune and complaining little. Her positive spirit is perhaps the catalyst - many, decades younger are dependent and miserable in different ways - this courageous, determined, positive person does not count the handicaps of advanced age. Her prowess in Caroms and Sudoku for many years have kept her going strong say many who know her.
Gladys D’Souza, (nee’ Currie), hailing from a prominent Konkani Catholic family of Mangaluru city proper; her ascendants were well known ancient residents of ’Candle garden’ between the present Jyothi Cinema and Woodlands Hotel, at the foot hill of the legendary St.Aloysius College. Records indicate that several members of this family, originally called "Correa" worked in Burma in the early 1900s, some took the name of "Currie" caused by language and social nuances, both names are alive among this family spread wide; many returned during WW1 and settled in Calcutta, Bombay and Mangalore. According to a son of the Centinarian, Trevor D’Souza, himself a senior citizen, a Marine Engineer who trained in Calcutta, who has come all the way from Toronto Canada to represent his family and siblings. Many of the extended family have joined in here to make Gladys’ day a very special one.
Gladys was born March 30, 1918, in Rangoon (now Yangon) Burma, now Mynmar; the eldest of 5 brothers (Archie, Oswald/Ozzie, Ralph, Basil, Darwin/Banoo). Her father Casmir Nicholas Currie (Correa) and mother Annie Alice nee’ Menezes. Being the only girl child in the family she was doted upon as an ornament of the family, the apple of her father’s eye he showered great affection and would not tolerate the brothers bullying her in the least, she got the best of childhood. She was educated at the Good Sheppard Convent school in then Rangoon and to this day reads everything possible and her command of English impeccable.
She often mentioned her husband, Joachim Lawrence D’Souza,(1905-54) a marine Engineer in Rangoon port, whom she married on December 29, 1942, gave her as much love and respect as her parents had always done. They had to move out of Burma for good to then Calcutta in the mid 1950s, after her husbands death she tried to occupy her self in teaching at Don Bosco School, Park Circus, Calcutta, but then decided that her priority was to look after the children and the home, which in those times was very hard full time work. She managed to bring up the children to do well in their education and life - helped by her mother, financially she could fall back on her husbands settlements and property share. The 5 Children are Gloria, Pam, Norma, Trevor and Christopher.
Centenarian, Gladys, has been living in Mangaluru since 2008 in a senior citizens home near Rosario Cathedral, Bolar, where reasonable individual care is provided on payment, she has made this choice in full acceptance of her priorities; she was not comfortable and happy in Canada and US as the cold and conditions did not suit her life style. She has always told her near and dear who visit her frequently that she likes her privacy, the food and serene life here in Mangaluru. She has always indicated her dislike for outings and high life recently. She loves to smile and interact with groups who visit and give performances of music in particular at the old age facility she lives. Her best and fun side surfaces when she is at her electronic key board and she regales the audience with her rendering of old western songs and hymns. Her love for music and life clearly shows up in the way even to this day with the support of her wheeled buggy, a type of walker from Canada got for her a few years ago, it is now her closest support perhaps, with the help of the lift which she independently operates is quite mobile.
The Mangalore Ursuline Franciscan nuns who run the facility which has been her home since she chose to come here in 2008 say that Aunty Gladys sleeps very little and is ever alert to be ready and attend religious prayers and exercises, she loves to be present for any kind of community activity at Nympha Sadan. She never misses her food in the dinning room at her fixed place. Eats well for her age and declines any help to eat, the local ’Sannas’ (Idly) being a favourite. She sternly ignores any suggestions that some of her meals be taken in her self contained room (No.20) on the second floor. She insists to come to the ground floor at least 5 times a day. She was surprisingly fortunate to have three of her cousins here in this institution; particularly Ivy Currie who was also in Rangoon with her parents and came back to Mangalore in mid 1940s, Ivy passed away at 98 last year. Marie Correa now in her mid 80s too lives here now, her brother Gerald, who lived here too passed away a couple of years ago. Gladys loves receiving phone calls from her children and grand children who are all overseas. Though her hearing is poor, surprisingly she hears and responds better on the phone. Watches TV in her room at times and seems to enjoy it. Responds to only English and Hindi languages. Her flair and love for music is ever present as her trade mark smile.
Baffling episode: She is a victorious cancer survivor. As recently as 2015, she was diagnosed with cancer of the breast and treated at Muller’s hospital with the support of city’s leading Oncologists. Her son Trevor was down here then too from Canada and the nuns in-charge spearheaded and coordinated the needed care. Though at one stage it seemed a lost battle, the fighter of big battles that Grand Mother and Great Grand Mother Gladys is to many is now in fair health given her age of a full century on earth. Leaving the hospital when she was told that she is fine and will live to 101, she frowned and said ’I will live to at least a 110’, her determination and courage will definitely prevail over all else is are the prayers in unison.
Thousands of Mangaloreans all over the world can be found who were not born in Mangalore, nor lived here, yet came often as children and adults to spend time in the land of their forefathers, with Great Grand parents, Grand parents, elders, country cousins.....their great love and attachment developed to highs of nostalgia and sentiment, a bond with people, life, language, traditions, land, culture, heritage and more.....a bond inexplicable and compelling in the flesh and spirit, like that of Gladys - let us salute all of them too here.
Some feel young at 99, some tired of life at 60; Our age is NOT determined by the mind’s beliefs in a great compelling future ahead.....
By I.J. Saldanha Shet