Written by Suresh Chaudhary
Eighty-three-year-old Mary Lobo, Aunty , as the chef of the popular Goan eat-out La Bella was fondly called, was laid to rest at Mount Carmel Cathedral in Mirzapur area of the city Wednesday evening. She died Tuesday after a prolonged illness.
Goans themselves, Mary s husband Antony Lobo started the eatery serving dishes from their native cuisine in 1961. After he died of a heart in 1995, Mary began running the eatery single-handedly, and earned a reputation as someone with magic in her hands . People flocked to her tiny joint in Shahpur area of old Ahmedabad for her fish curry, mutton curry, cutlets and soups. Thousands of college-goers have been frequenting La Bella over five decades, as the food is not just delicious but affordable as well.
Mary s caretakers told The Indian Express that she had been regular to the restaurant until a year ago when she began finding it difficult to climb stairs due to her old age.
A few days ago, she fell unconscious and was rushed to Life Care Hospital in Khanpur running high temperature. She was put on ventilator in the intensive care unit and initially showed signs of improvement but later developed some complications and died of pneumonia and septicaemia, Dr Darshan Shah said.
Rajubhai Pillai, popularly known as anna (elder brother), who has been working at the restaurant for the past 40 years, was also Mary s only helper. She was like my mother and she always treated me like her own son, he said. Because she could not move around due to her age-related ailments in the past year, I was tasked with managing the restaurant, and I gave her a daily account of what was happening at the restaurant. I also made her morning tea and meals.
Amy Menezes, who lives on the opposite side of the restaurant and is also a native of Goa, and was among those who came to pay their last respects to Mary, whose coffin was placed at La Bella. I am very fond of eating rice and fish, so when I moved from Goa this was my go-to place, she said.
Silvester Fernandes has been frequenting La Bella since the 1970s. At the time when I was a student. I used to stay nearby in a flat with a group of friends. We all came here everyday for lunch and dinner, he said. She treated us like her own children and would often tell us not to worry about the money and pay it later when we receive it from our parents.
It was more like a home for us, he added.
Mary was being taken care of by members of the Goan community such as Sylvia Fernandes and Emilio Rodrigues, along with many well wishers, community members and students. As her relatives and near and dear ones got ready to take her coffin to the cemetery, the magic in her hands was what people kept reminiscing about.
(Suresh Chaudhary is an intern with The Indian Express in Ahmedabad)