The glint of unshed tears

Jan 26, 2016, 08:31 IST | Hemal Ashar

Audrey D’Souza, daughter of a couple who made it to the Bombay tableau during the country's first Republic Day parade in 1950 remembers...

When the television comes on at Audrey D’Souza’s Borivli (IC Colony) home today, it will be a haunting playback to the day her late parents, Edwin and Rose Baptista, represented the city in the first ever ‘tableau’ of Bombay on Republic Day in Delhi in 1950.

Audrey D'Souza (inset), Edwin Baptista and Rose in the first row (second and third from the right)
Audrey D'Souza (inset), Edwin Baptista and Rose in the first row (second and third from the right)

Audrey, architect and social worker (“put the latter down to my dad’s influence” she says) who is at the forefront of a project for setting up an East Indian Bhavan for the community, laughs as she says, “My parents were part of a handful of people picked to stand on the ‘Bombay’ tableau during the first Republic Day parade in Delhi in 1950. The tableau was basically like a ‘float’.”

Edwin and Rose on the tableau (second from l). Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi are seen below
Edwin and Rose on the tableau (second from l). Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi are seen below

For Edwin and Rose, who were dating then, (they weren’t married), the tableau was an experience to cherish, “which they recounted often to their children, my brother and I, mostly at night before we went to sleep in our bungalow at Vile Parle. My mother often, spoke about it, I do not remember my father saying anything about this. He passed away when I was very young, in 1983.”

Audrey’s mother used to tell her children about, “the patriotism that suffused the air in the capital that day. It was not just symbolic, or a show of strength, like it is these days. The nationalist feeling was palpable, it was very close to the heart, mom used to say,” remembers Audrey. Audrey adds, “Mom used to tell us that looking at the people around, you saw the glint of unshed tears, a remembrance of the sacrifices made for Independence which was so new then, the pain of Partition which many had witnessed and the pride of becoming an independent Republic.”

That sobriety is broken by some levity. Audrey chuckles as she continues, “Mom and dad were seeing each other then. Dad convinced mom to come along as part of the tableau. I don’t know how he persuaded her. Things were different for young people seeing each other in those days...”

Audrey also spoke of her parents seeing, “Indira Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Mountbatten. My mom always said it was interesting but not overwhelming seeing them. Pages from the history books seemed to have jumped out and come alive for them, though.”

Now, so many years later, Audrey says she is striving to be even half the person her father, Edwin, prominent social worker in Vile Parle, was.

“Dad was known for his work. The Mayor of Bombay raised a toast at my parents’ wedding in 1960. I remember our home filled with people from 7 am, asking for all kind of help. Dad always believed in giving.”

Today, though, the day will be especially poignant. It is rewind to the Baptista family times of old, in a beautiful Vile Parle bungalow, when a lady called Rose spoke to her young daughter, about Republic Day and the embers from the fires of freedom, still aglow in a thousand eyes.

Date with fate
People mark the nation’s Republic Day, a gazetted holiday on January 26 each year. India’s constitution came into force on January 26, 1950, completing the country’s transition toward becoming an independent republic.

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