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‘Our life bubbled with pranks and boyfriend drama’

Updated on: 26 May,2024 07:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Meher Marfatia |

In a scene straight out of Grease, creative educator Erika Cunha and Miss India 1987, Erica de Sousa, rekindle childhood memories of masti and mayhem

‘Our life bubbled with pranks and boyfriend drama’

Erika Cunha and Erica de Sousa

Meher MarfatiaErika Cunha, 58, early childhood educationist

Erica de Sousa, 56, healthcare administrator

Erika Cunha has conducted creative classes for the young for 33 years. Qualified with Sophia College’s Early Childhood Course, she offers fused learning in workshops. These incorporate general knowledge concepts and language-building skills with art and craft activities devised to develop budding motor skills.  

Erica de Sousa started her modelling career at the age of 15. Crowned Eve’s Weekly Miss India in 1987, she placed 6th as a semi-finalist at the Miss International show in Tokyo. Settled in Toronto today, she is the unit coordinator for the Neonatal ICU of Mount Sinai Hospital. 

The friends explain what happened when Erika met Erica on probably the most swinging lane in Bandra of the 1970s.

• • •
Erika Cunha: I must have been 3 years old when my Konkani ayah took me to see the “cute fair dolly baby” living two doors away on St Leo Road. We went to the small “Lions Park” park nearby, she in her stroller.

Erica de Sousa: Only one bungalow separated our houses, hers was Corona and mine Loretta Villa. The moment my mother saw Erika, a pretty baby with light eyes, she decided that if she had a girl, her name would be Erica. 

At Erika’s eighth birthday party in her garden; Erica stands second and Erika fourth from rightAt Erika’s eighth birthday party in her garden; Erica stands second and Erika fourth from right

EC: We were called Baby Erica, the beauty and Big Erika, the masti one. Though younger, she never acted babyish or whined. Being an only child, I was protective 
of her. 

ED: Being that child, Erika was spoiled. She has this crazy side— in the middle of serious talk, she breaks into long fits of laughter. Sharing a name, we felt like a team and played on the same side. Our games like 7 tiles, cops and robbers, hide and seek, got the whole road so involved, even kids from other lanes joined in. Holi was especially fun. Immature teenagers, we lived in the moment, bubbling with pranks and boyfriend drama, without which life would be boring. 
EC: Friendships through the generations flowed easily too. Her grandmother Doris and mine were buddies. My mum knew her vivacious mother Barbara, who had a wicked sense of humour. I’ve spent several summer evenings on her doorstep, listening to their interesting stories. 

ED: We indulged in hours of boardgames or dressing up—I’d sometimes borrow her clothes for a party. Evenings we went up to her terrace to roller-skate or dance to music. I fondly remember Erika’s parents. Uncle Eric Bocarro was a kind, smiling gentleman who raised his voice slightly while requesting the gang for “less bad language please”. Stylish Aunty Celsia, who dressed fancy any time of day, could be stricter.  

The Eve’s Weekly cover page announcing Erica de Sousa’s Miss India 1987 winThe Eve’s Weekly cover page announcing Erica de Sousa’s Miss India 1987 win

EC: A huge band of friends collected on lively St Leo Road. It was where the action was, with filmi boys like the Khan brothers from Bandstand (Salman of course had an open-roof sports car), from Pali Hill and Carter Road, even Khar. Playing in each other’s gardens and at the Bandra Gymkhana, we enjoyed the happiest times. There was New Talkies for movies on holidays, cycling to Juhu beach and, once in college, clubbing at Studio 29. My terrace was popular, especially for couples needing privacy. Evenings meant readying to party madly, followed by a debrief about the many suitors! 

ED: Erika’s birthday parties were awesome. I wanted to forever hang out with her. We’re naughty by nature and confirmed gigglers. Meeting friends each evening, we knew exactly who went by and when in a car by the horn or a whistle or the sound of a particular motorbike. Our story is straight out of the movie Grease—a special little street full of friends coming alive, with guys on bikes doing wheelies, cars blaring disco music driving up and down. Everyone young, with-it, carefree, cool.

EC: We saw movies at New Talkies, shopped at Linking Road, ate street chaat like bhel and kulfi. Andora, on one end of our street, served the best snacks. We would order biryani for midnight feasts because we knew the Lucky Restaurant family. 
ED: I got into modelling early, at 15. It was super exciting to discuss my ads on TV or printed in magazines. The first was for Tips and Toes nail polish campaign. Then, in 1987, my world changed quickly on winning the Miss India title. I participated just like that, with zero hope or expectation. How artless we were in those years. At the Miss International contest in Tokyo, I busily chatted with Miss Israel beside me. When my name was announced, I was dazed. Staggering forward, dopily surprised amid the grand drum rolls, I almost fell off the stage—confusion embarrassingly caught on camera.  

EC: As adult professionals we took separate paths (she famously Miss India, me a hausfrau) once we married, and lived in different parts of the city. She moved to Santa Cruz and eventually Canada. We organised play dates with her son Antony and my daughter Aashika. Erica is a wonderful mom despite lots of hiccups. I’m also so impressed with the work she does. 

ED: And I feel proud hearing about her projects that develop children’s skills. Extremely artistic, Erika can turn anything into something really pretty. That talent has passed on to her daughters. I’m blown away every time I see a mosaic piece they’ve created, intricate murals and hand painting projects commissioned from all over the world.

EC: The glamorous, sought-after model hasn’t lost her down-to-earth charm. I’ll always be on her side, as she is on mine. We meet when she comes to Bombay every two years, but Erica lives in a part of my heart. My safe harbour, she is someone I’ll turn to in the darkest moments.

ED: This solid friendship continues to hold true because of our honesty. There has never been any competition between us. I love Erika’s simplicity, kindness and the easy way she interacts with any age group. Bandra occupies a huge place in my life. We’re blessed to have relationships here going back 50 years. 

Author-publisher Meher Marfatia writes monthly on city friendships. You can reach her at

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