Mangalore: OZ mum in Mangala in search of her mum


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By John B. Monteiro
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, 5 Aug 2013: If I were hanged on the highest hill, Mother 0’ mine, O mother of mine! I know whose love would follow me still, Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine.  Rudyard Kipling, Bombay-based English writer of prose and verse (1865-1936).

 

Agnes Fernandes has not seen her mother from birth and is now, after 82 years, she has come to Mangala, all the way from Australia, in quest of her long-lost mother – or at least her grave. Her story is best told by Dr Michael Lobo, Mangalorean Catholic community’s historian and genealogist.


Over to Dr Lobo, In January 2013, I received an email from a lady in Australia named Donette Firkins. She was writing on behalf of her mother, who was born in Mangalore in 1931. Shortly after her birth, she was entrusted to the care of St Antony’s Charitable Institutions – and she was baptized there with the name Agnes Fernandes. Some months later she was adopted by a Tamil Christian couple from Pondicherry, who had settled in Singapore. For the first 4 decades of her life, she was based at Singapore, but in the early 1970s, along with her husband (Punjabi Sikh) and 6 daughters (born between 1954 and 1963) she migrated to Perth, Australia. The family has since been based there.

 

 Agnes Fernandes with members of her family

 Agnes Fernandes  celebrating her 80th birthday along with Rev. Fr John Jagerow, the Parish Priest of St. Mary Mackillop, Perth, Australia

 

 

It was not until the year 1969 that she had an opportunity to visit the city of her birth (it should be noted that travelling was a great deal more time-consuming in those days than it is now). Accompanied by her husband and her youngest daughter Donette, she stayed at Moti Mahal, then the leading hotel in the city. Though Mangalorean by birth, she did not know a soul, but she cherished a hope to learn something about her real mother.


As it happened, an elderly nun, then serving at St Antony’s Charitable Institutions (or perhaps at the neighbouring Convent of the Infant Mary) was able to recall the circumstances in which she was left at the home. She was aware of the identity of Agnes’s biological mother, and mentioned that she was in the domestic service of the headmaster of one of the schools in the area. She even went as far as to try to arrange a meeting between mother and daughter. The mother initially agreed to meet the daughter whom she had never seen in 38 years, but later felt emotionally overwhelmed and was unable to go ahead with the meeting. Agnes thereupon returned to Singapore.

 

Another 44 years have since elapsed – 44 years in which Agnes never again set foot in the town of her birth. Till today, that is. In a final attempt to know something about her biological roots, Agnes, accompanied by her daughter Persine, is currently on a visit to Mangalore.

 

Ever since I first heard from Donette some months ago, I have been making some attempts to unearth information. In the baptismal register at St Antony’s Charitable Institutions, Agnes’s mother’s name is entered as Monti Fernandes, but there is no corresponding entry under the father’s name. Her godmother’s name is entered as Santana Souza, but there is no corresponding entry under godfather.

 

At the time of Agnes’s birth in 1931, her mother Monti may have been a young girl of about 20. If alive today, she would be about 100 or even more. Naturally, it is too much to hope that she may still be alive, but if any reader of this article can provide any clue that may help in identifying her, Agnes would be extremely grateful. It is her dearest wish to locate her mother’s grave and pay her last respects to the woman who brought her into this world and possibly to meet any of her relations.

 

It will not be an easy task. The most significant point from which enquiries may proceed is the fact that in the late 1960s she was in the domestic service of a headmaster of a school, probably in the Jeppu area. The headmaster had a couple of young children, whom Monti was looking after. Agnes has the impression that the headmaster was named Francis Lobo, but this name may be incorrect, as I have met quite a few elderly teachers who were in service in the 1960s and they cannot recall any headmaster by this name.

 

Agnes and her daughter Persine are currently staying at the Gateway Hotel, Mangalore. They also plan to visit Goa and Cochin, and will be returning to Perth from Cochin on Friday August 16. If any reader can provide them with encouraging news before they depart for Australia, that would indeed be wonderful – and even if something positive emerges in the months to come, they are fully prepared to come back to Mangalore on a fresh visit.


Going beyond Dr Lobo, the most likely sources would be the descendants of the aforesaid headmaster, specially his children to whom she was governess, and grandchildren colleagues or students of the headmaster, his neibhours, the godmother mentioned above and her descendants. The possibilities are limitless.


I met Agnes and her daughter at Milagres on Sunday. She was effusive about the helping nature of Mangaloreans. My wife told Agnes about St Antony, the finder of lost things, and escorted her to his shrine at Milagres. Agnes believes in the promise of the Bible, Mathew 11-7: ‘…knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’


Agnes is knocking on our doors. Should we not help her in realizing her cherished dream?


I would be happy to receive leads or definite information on Telephone number:  0091 824 2484051 or Mobile number:  0091 9886276608 or email:monteirojohn@hotmail.com

 

 

 

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