Mangaluru, Dec 14, 2020: City’s 105 year old great grand spinster lady teacher - Ivy Mary Mathias of Falnir, in the heart of old Mangaluru is a heroic wonder lady born on December 9. 1915........now 105 years. This great personality, explained "My love for a long long time now are my roots here in Kodial, nature and coastal folk of the region are changed a lot since my time, but still have the original affection and care, " She added, " My one deep feeling whenever I was far away to teach and enlighten children, was to return to the land of my forefathers. Now I am always happy that God has gifted me to live here well all these many years". A classic framed picture ( probably taken in 1916) and well preserved shows Ivy as an infant seated with her mother; her grandfather is also seated, her father Eusebius is standing behind them, all in traditional attire of the time and Ivy’s two living elder siblings are also seen. Sometime in the 1987 Lady Ivy moved to her present flat. Now she is more than fortunate that though she has no one of her own generation around, a caring family Marceline, Leena, Meera and Manoj, adopted her as a mother and grandmother and whom she has also stood by in the vagaries of life.
Rooted in the old Family:
The well known community genealogist Dr. Michael Lobo’s publications, the history and origins of Ivy and her folk is clear, she hails from a Konkani Catholic Mathias-Prabhu clan who have lived in the heart of Mangalore; Antony John Mathias, was born in the 1770s, he was the earliest identified member of this ’Mathias Prabhus’, a family hailing from Belman. The first church of Belman was built by this Mathias family; it is stated. The grandfather of our post centenarian Ivy Mary Mathias was Antony Mathew (A M) Mathias (1848-1940) was in the service of the Govt., a ‘Taluk Head Accountant.’ Later he owned a coffee estate and held many ‘honorary’ positions and died at the ripe age of 92 yrs in 1940, rare longetivity at that point in time. Eusebius Piedade Mathias (1882-1948) was the father of Ivy Mary Mathias and her mother Julia Mascarenhas of Bendur , married at Rosario Cathedral in 1909. Ivy was the last of 7 children of whom three survived to be adults - they owned a house beside the present Balmatta New Road, then called ’Nirmala Vihar’.
Teaching has been her first love and forte, she first taught in Nagpur at ‘Providence’, it was the norm then that people went outside to make a life. This has contributed to Mangaloreans spreading far and wide and getting appreciated for their services wherever they have lived their skills and goodness has served the community. With her mind on uplifting the needy, marriage was always on the back burner and she remained a spinster. She recalled the early days some time ago, then she did a long spell of teaching senior classes at popular Loretto School, in Calcutta now Kolkota; Ivy lived on Middleton Road Calcutta. Ivy also did a spell in Karachi before Independence in 1947 which was then part of British India. Her relatives Gladys D’Souza nee’ Currie, who lived in Calcutta and well travelled, passed away in June 2019, here in Mangaluru aged 101 yrs . Ivy never ever lost count of Mangalore and it’s ’progress’, through many of her relatives, in particular a spinster cousin of hers Ivy Currie, who also passed away in August 2016, aged 98 yrs. had lived for some time with our protagonist. This is a known family with longevity printed in their genes or DNA it seems.
An Agnesian - born before the institution:
Dear Ivy, probably, is the only surviving old student of St Agnes from that generation reaching this landmark. While St. Agnes, the first Catholic women’s college in South India and second in the country is entering its centenary, alumnus Ivy Mary Mathias of Falnir in Mangaluru is a coveted 105 years landmark in her life. Born before St Agnes College was established in 1921, she very joyfully recalls her primary schooling at St.Mary’s (Margil) that functioned under the Milagres church in those days. Then she went on like most girls of her time to the famous and first women’s college in South India, St Agnes at Bendur where she graduated with a degree in Arts and later was trained as a teacher at St.Ann’s which is today a great old education hub, near Rosario Cathedral.
St Agnes College, during her centenary Birthday in December 2015 said, "We don’t have old records to check a student’s history. We come across old students who are septuagenarians, octogenarians and sometimes nonagenarians, when they send their children or grandchildren to visit the college or get to hear about them from someone closely associated with the institution. I have not come across any centenarian old student, perhaps she is now one who is known."
Her durable life and habits:
"Centenarian Ivy is truly a pleasant, easy person she is made to live on for sure...she is a bit weaker than on her 100th birthday as is understandable, but Corona has not been anywhere near her", quipped a senior lady Mrs Tilly Peris, who has known her for a long. Devotion to her beliefs is paramount, she always prayed earnestly and wished for everyone to be happy and successful, she got stressed if she saw injustice and unkindness. She said she used to have a few ailments like mild vertigo, unsteady sugar levels, but at present she seems to have outgrown all those and now apart from the normal pains of old age is far better than many much younger to her. Reading, gardening, art work, embroidery were her forte and she was always very neat and tidy. For health she regularly ate fresh peeled garlic and regularly took local ‘herbal bitters’ called ‘Keeraithe Kaddi’, which she grew in her own garden.
It’s amazing to hear about her health and food; it cancels all the advanced scientific opinions seen these days on the subject.....brace yourselves for shock! The accepted theory is vegetables are the best for a healthy and long life – but our centurion Ivy detested vegetables and hardly ate any. Her favorites were all kinds of sea foods, fish, meats, sweets, chocolates and to top it all Ice Cream. Junk food is high on her ‘like list.’ Bananas are her first love among fruits, her food intake was good and she has just normal food like most people. She is very fond of the old genre country and western pop music...like Jim Reeves, Cliff Richard, Elvis Presly and such apart from old Konkani songs. One can see the LP records, kept safely in the showcase, unfortunately the player has succumbed to age! She keenly watches TV - music, soaps and news with good attention and absorption. Her favourites are also religious channels; she is very fond of watching religious ceremonies especially in Mangalore and Vatican. Corona Pandemic has had little impact as for a while she is in a safe capsule and attended to by her caregivers only. Ivy is never counted as an old foggy or invalid by any measure and at 105 is a pleasant person to meet and chat with, Ivy a very alert centurion of prime value to society at large and women’s empowerment too. December 9, 2020 has sure been a red letter day for this grand old lady and many of her admirers who saw her on Video calls, Ivy Mary Mathias in Mangaluru is now a hundred and five but still young in spirit and at her age collected and living a life of awareness - may she live for as long as she desires and be blessed in special ways. She is eager to see another Christmas in all joy and yet the best one by far and NEW YEAR 2021 - wishing all lovely memories and happiness.
Compiled: I. J. Saldanha-Shet.