September 02, 2010


Today is three years since I lost my father, JB D'Souza. He spent his career in the IAS and wrote what I think (yeah, son's bias and all that) a good memoir of his experiences in government, "No Trumpets or Bugles: Recollections of an Incorrigible Babu".

After it was published, he started writing what he thought might be a second volume, of more personal memories growing up and working in a very different Bombay. Sadly he didn't finish that, though he put down a good deal.

For this third anniversary, I thought I would post here a small excerpt from that effort, some lines -- favourite family stories -- about his brother-in-law Hilary Carrasco. Hilary married Pat, JB's elder sister, in the early 1940s. (Their three children, my cousins, are among my favourite people in the world, not least for their wicked humour. This is the oldest of them.)

With no further ado, here's JB on Hilary.


One of the best-natured persons I have met, Hilary was generally laid back and relaxed -- at home, which for many years he and Pat made at Versova, in the firm that employed him, and on the way there and back. He commuted daily to his office in south Bombay in a third-hand Renault, a car that had seen many better days. Joe [JB's oldest brother] travelled to work with him. As they drove through Bandra on the Ghodbunder Road one morning, there was a sudden thud, and a full stop. A wheel rolled past. "Gosh, that's my rear wheel", Hilary exclaimed. And indeed it was.

One Xmas season Joe asked for the loan of the car to go to town for a "Bring in the New Year" dance. For Joe, the 31st December revels were always a must. Carefully attired in evening dress, he had danced in every New Year in since his college days. That year he asked a friend, Joe Rodricks, to come to Versova to drive the car, as Joe himself had long ceased to drive, and Hilary preferred to greet the New Year in the morning after a good night's rest.

So Rodricks came to Versova. They bathed, powdered themselves, and donned their formal clothes -- starched shirt, black tie and silk-lapelled black jacket. But then the car wouldn't start. With Hilary at the wheel, the two Joes began an attempt to push-start it. They pushed it up the drive, which sloped upward to the street. The wretched vehicle stayed stubborn, so they let it roll down the slope, to try again. Forlorn and breathing heavily after several tries, one of the pushers asked, as a bit of hopeless teasing: "Hilary, have you switched on the engine?"

"Gosh!" came the answer.

Hilary turned on the ignition and the car lurched forward; it was still in gear. By now the sweat was pouring down those starched shirts. Fresh baths, and a return to less formal clothing, delayed the would-be revellers still more. They reached the dance-floor just in time to wave the old year off.

Later, Hilary switched from his decrepit Renault to a tiny two-door Anglia. I remember the day when the car was parked in the hot sun, the windows shut tight. He courteously let us all in, then got in himself. Then he reached for his pipe, which he tapped on the dashboard to empty the bowl. He filled it with tobacco, which he tamped in, and began a series of attempts to light it. Pipes are, as you know, not the easiest things to light. Meanwhile, we squirmed and sweated on the back seat, but there was no escape.


Ketan said...


Hahaha! Enjoyed the anecdote. So, it seems you have inherited that understated kind of humor (which I happen to like a lot) from your father? :)

I had visited your blog only to tell you of something (as I don't have your email ID), but then ultimately I did end up reading, so I did something good serendipitously.

I have prepared a blog roll (click), where I have written about you and your blog. I would also like it, if you find time that you go through this very short post (click), which further elaborates what those featuring on the blog roll mean to me.

Take care.

Dilip D'Souza said...

Ketan, I would have liked to inherit a lot of things from my father. Including a sense of humour.