The world has not seen a love like Rose and Edwin’s.
Their story began in pre-Independence India, in a little East Indian village in Vile Parle called Pond*, when Rose Misquitta would set out for school in Girgaon, Charni Road from her home and Edwin Baptista, her next door neighbour, would catch up with her en route to Vile Parle station via a short cut, and accompany her on the train that he would also ‘coincidentally’ catch to St Xavier’s College, Marine Lines.
For the petite, strikingly beautiful and rather hot-tempered Rose, this was just one of the things that set the tall, handsome and quite mild-mannered Edwin apart from her string of admirers – who never quite matched up to his ardour and attentions.
Their coming together was inevitable and for two individuals with such distinctive personalities, they were breathtakingly compatible.
Rose was the only daughter to the Misquittas of Pond village and had two brothers quite older than her in age. An avid horse rider – her family stabled horses in their courtyard – a poet and a singer, she would often sing the part of Veronica** for the Raam-cha Paas (Passion of Christ) held on Good Friday at the local church.
She was also a seamstress, assisting with her cousin’s tailoring business and designing her own dresses (and later, her own bridal gown). Throughout her life, Rose held on to a sense of fashion and personal style that was distinctive and quite unusual for that period.
Brilliant in every way possible way in school – she was a class topper and also the first East Indian girl to pass SSC – Rose greatly desired to study medicine and wanted to make doctoring her career, but she was discouraged from pursuing this further. Nevertheless, Rose grew up fiercely independent and took care of her own expenses (her parents had passed away when she was very young).
For Edwin’s part, he was the rock in Rose’s life and he brought her much joy; as a sign of her devotion to him, she even wore her long, lustrous black hair short – as he loved her to wear her hair in that style.
Their courtship lasted for more than a decade though, as Edwin wanted to wait for his sisters to marry.
It was quite a feat on Edwin’s part to whisk Rose off to Delhi to take part in the Republic Day parade in 1950 (they weren’t even betrothed at the time). The 18 and 20 year olds were part of the group chosen to represent Bombay in the tableau – this was the island city’s first appearance – and they spent a few days experiencing life in the capital of the newly formed country of India; while also meeting many dignitaries, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Lady Mountbatten being just a few of them.
Edwin had already joined local politics by then – willingly, I might add – and rather unusual for an East Indian Catholic in Bombay, as regretfully, political aspirations are rarely encouraged and nurtured in the community. He gained quite the reputation among local organisations and political bodies and his speeches drew large crowds, with many locals trickling home for help due to his kindly and helpful nature.
An avid wrestler and sportsman, Edwin was the founder-secretary of the Vile Parle Gaothan Welfare Association – an East Indian organisation that exists till date as well as the founder of the Lion’s Club of Bombay Airport and the Charter President for it.
When Rose and Edwin married, they had three receptions to celebrate their marriage – one for Edwin’s political colleagues (the then Mayor of Bombay was their toastmaster), one for Rose’s family and one for Edwin’s family.
Their married life together was filled with joy and after their children Audrey and Joras (Jorias) were born, Edwin built Rose a new home on his father’s property in Vile Parle, proudly telling her that it was a ‘poor man’s Taj Mahal for his lovely wife’. He treated his Rose like a queen and appointed a full time maid for the household and got her a car so that she could be ferried anywhere she wanted to go with minimum inconvenience – even if it involved a trip to the market.
Edwin’s parents too cherished their new daughter in law and showered on her the same love and affection they reserved for their own daughters and never let her feel like a stranger in their home for even a minute.
Whenever Rose fell ill, Edwin would drop everything to care for his wife and would take charge of the kitchen until he was assured that she was better. A late riser, Rose would wake up to breakfast already taken care of and the children already packed off to school – by her husband, rare behaviour for the man of the family in those days.
Rose, for her part, played the role of a happy wife and companion with much glee and enthusiasm, stepping in to cook entire luncheons and dinners when her husband had the need to entertain his colleagues or dignitaries.
There was no difference in their courtship and marriage, and they would spend hours lost in conversation with each other, without a single argument. They would proudly accompany each other to parties and social gatherings and complemented each other in every way possible. It was a beautiful marriage based on absolute love, understanding and trust.
Over the years, Edwin went on to build quite the political clout, but the need for financial stability for his new family was the only thing that kept him from standing up for elections. He kept this aspiration on hold with the intention of pursuing it upon his retirement, but unfortunately, he couldn’t follow it through due to his untimely death.
The need to keep his Rose from suffering more heartbreak in her life deterred Edwin from confiding in her about his diabetes and failing health; but when he finally succumbed to kidney failure, 10 years after his illness began, Rose was left bereft by the loss of his companionship and betrayed by his lack of trust in her strength as his wife and life partner.
For two years after her sweetheart’s death, Rose would cry every day – slipping into a deep depression and refusing to even step out of the home – tragic for a lady with such a deep zest for life. She stopped wearing gold and donned only black, blue or white coloured clothing – making a small concession for her daughter Audrey’s wedding – when she wore a brown saree.
She carried her sorrow to her grave (she survived Edwin by 23 years – the same number of years as their marriage), but never for a moment did she make her children feel less loved or cherished, despite her heartbreak. The strong foundation she and Edwin had set for their family carried Audrey and Joras through the loss of their father’s presence and through any hardship that came their way – whether big or small.
When our conversation finally drew to a close, I had to struggle to wipe the wide smile I had on my face. I left Audrey’s home that day with my heart full and grateful that a love like Rose and Edwin’s ever existed, the role they played in local Bombay politics as East Indians, and thankful that I had come in contact with a person as generous, brilliant and compassionate as Audrey Baptista-D’souza – a worthy keeper of her parents’ legacy, love and individual histories.
Thank you for sharing your family’s story with the East Indian Memory Co., Audrey.
*pronounced similar to ‘boned’
** Veronica was the lady who met Jesus on his way to Calvary and wiped his face and received its imprint on the cloth she used as a reward for her compassion. At Raam-cha Paas, Veronica sings a sad, impassioned song about Jesus and his sacrifice and the role is quite a coveted one and is always granted to a very trained female voice.
Rose and Edwin Baptista caught my interest when I chanced upon some black and white photographs of them on my Facebook feed.
I tend to ignore photographs like these as people are frighteningly careless about old photographs, sharing them for the sake of novelty and nearly always posting them on platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp with no credit given or sources mentioned.
But these ones stood out. They were shared by someone who they appeared to belong to. As well, they depicted a group of people in a Republic Day tableau (float).
There are two things I must mention here about East Indians:
- We are poor preservers of our families’ historical relics.
- We have very less documentation of our people during the period of India’s freedom struggle and subsequent independence.
Imagine my excitement, surprise and awe when I looked closer at these unusual photos.
With great excitement, I set out for IC Colony, Borivali, to listen to everything Audrey had to tell me about her family and her parents, and what started out as an interest in East Indian life during India’s early days as a country turned into a remarkable story about two people who overcame many personal struggles and found a beautiful kind of love and life with each other.
If you know of a similar story about any East Indians you know and would like to share it with the world – anonymously or not, please get in touch with us at email@example.com