Born in 1923, Grace Sequeira led an ordinary life in a small village in Bassein*. She grew up to marry Patrick Pereira – who worked with General Motors in Bombay** and also lived in the same village – on 28 February 1944. To supplement their income and support their growing family, she roamed all over town sewing cholis*** for ladies while also performing her neighbourly and parochial duties to her best.
Garashi (as folks called her) was 51 when she became part of an event that shone the spotlight on Roman Catholic India.
The year was 1964 and in December, Bombay, India played host to the 38th International Eucharistic Congress. His Holiness Pope Paul VI was in attendance along with a host of other religious, political and foreign dignitaries.
Grace, along with Marshall Pereira and Susanne Pereira – all East Indians from Giriz, Bassein – was chosen by St Francis Xavier’s Parish to be the recipients of the illustrious Benemerenti Medal – Grace for her contribution to social work and Marshall and Susanne for their outstanding philanthropy.
While they didn’t take the long journey to Bombay to receive the Benemerenti from the Pope, the parish church celebrated this honour by felicitating them in a memorable ceremony.
It feels right to share this story with you today as 6 March is the birth anniversary of Grace Pereira – who also happens to be my paternal grandmother, and a lady who has been a big inspiration to me personally.
I grew up hearing Nana’s stories – she had collected so many as she traveled all over Vasai – and each and every one were fascinating in their detail. The people in the village and even in the surrounding parishes knew of her and she could mentally trace the family trees of anyone who visited her – right up until she passed away, her mind still sharp at 83 years of age.
My family and I feel fortunate for being custodians of Grace Pereira’s legacy and we hope you not only enjoy her story, but that it also encourages you to delve deep into your own family’s history. Who knows what glories and stories you might uncover!
If you know of a similar story, do get in touch. Email the East Indian Memory Co. or post a comment below.
*now known as Vasai
**now known as Mumbai