Purerose Baptista, notched up a landmark 100 on the scoreboard of her life, yesterday. There was a Mass in the morning and a swinging party with friends and family in the evening at her home. Piety and gaiety came together, as the Bandra resident celebrated her hundredth birthday.
Purerose with son, Marcellus at their Bandra home. Pic/Pradeep Dhivar
Her children, daughter Scarlett Nikitovic (settled down in Belgrade, Serbia, former Yugoslavia, since past over 40 years), had flown down for the very special occasion. Her sons, Darryl, Brian and Marcellus, were all there playing hosts at their mom's bash. Darryl and Brian live in Andheri with their families but Marcellus, who is a journalist who reports on parties, fashion events and hi-society dos, lives with his mother.
Her daughter, Scarlett said, amidst the whirlwind meets yesterday, "I just had to be here for this special occasion, it is rare that a mother is a century old!" Scarlett comes to Mumbai once in two or three years, usually. She has been coming down to Mumbai for her mom's birthday for the last few years annually though, since she doesn't want to miss celebrating her birthday with her.
Purerose, a former junior school teacher, who taught at St Aloysius School and St Andrew's School in Bandra. Post her marriage, she took a break for 25 years, and after that, she went back to teaching at Apostolic Carmel Convent, Bandra. The western suburb has been home to the 100-year-old all her life. Every nook and cranny of Bandra is comforting and familiar. Purerose first lived on the beautiful Chapel Road and today, she lives on Veronica Road, one of those leafy, charming Bandra bylanes full of character and homes that make you think they just don't make them like that anymore.
Purerose has outlived her husband Faustin Baptista, by 30 years. He passed away on September 1, 1986. She found love and support from her family but also her female friends, who in fact, she said, "are her most important memories." Purerose added, "Develop a passion or a hobby, that keeps you going outside of work. It does not have to be grandiose, like travelling to exotic lands. For me," she said while smiling, "it is as simple as collecting boxes, I have a lot of them, small and big."
Purerose, is still very active, she walks aided with a walking stick but can get around without it. As she bustled around, yesterday, post morning Mass, awaiting guests for the party, she was especially happy about Mass. It was held at her home, and conducted by Fr. Joe Abreo (84), who, incidentally, Purerose had taught as a boy, in St Andrews School. Fr. Abreo has written a book called, 'Gossip by Candlelight' dedicated to his teacher. Purerose.
Marcellus said, "She is still a teacher. Today, the 'boys' that she taught, many of them, old men now still refer to her as their foundation." Her daughter Scarlett says, "Mom's a girlie girl. Her favourite colour is pink. She loves to bake and can bake a cake herself!" Her favourite dish is minced meat with hot-and-sweet tomato sauce. Yet, it is her drink of choice, "a small whisky-soda that I have with Marcellus which is the secret of my longevity," Purerose said with a cheeky chuckle.
Marcellus said they talk about him reporting on parties and his mom laughs when he shares the air-kissing ways and dahlings that the party sets stock greeting. Since Marcy, as he is known is the ultimate party guy, he has a collection of bright, zany shirts, which are his corporate or work wear. "She always asks me whether people liked my shirt," he said.
For Purerose, there have been no regrets, if she feels a twinge, it is because she wanted to move from being a tenant of her ground plus one storey dilapidated building, Philomena Terrace, to a redeveloped building. Purerose is holding the fort with the other three tenants no longer in the building. One tenant passed away and the other two have moved to Andheri and Malad. "So many builders have come in and seen the place, but the redevelopment has not taken place…" she says, wistfully.
Marcellus adds, "She wishes at least one day before she passes away, she would have a nice, new house…" Yesterday, though was time for wishes of another kind for this spunky Bandra native. The one that said, Happy birthday, Purerose. We know you have 100 that's the score, but here's hoping you have many more.