By Martin D’Souza | Opening Doorz Editorial | December 22, 2022
Alex Silveira, the man who cut through ages
Alex Silveira was a friend. Never mind the age difference (33 years). He was someone I could speak to as though we were classmates. Never ever once did I think I should call him uncle.
Uncle was for fuddy-duddies. He was Aloo to everyone. Uncle Aloo to some. Alex to many. But to everyone in the locality of Jagmohandas Building, he was the go-to man. Everyone thought he had the answer to all problems. In a way he did!
He knew what needed to be done and how. Bindaas is an understatement. He knew no fear. I remember this one incident somewhere in the late 80s. A friend of ours was taken to the police station by another neighbour [for a frivolous reason], well connected with the cops.
Aloo was informed. He stuffed his mouth with fennel seeds to nullify the smell of whiskey as he rushed to the police station to ensure no harm was done to one of his.
As things started heating up and as the ‘well-connected neighbour with cops’ was getting boisterous, he told her matter-of-factly: “I’m leaving now if you don’t want me here. But don’t blame me for what may happen afterward.”
He was angry by the manner in which a youngster was being harassed. The lady in question quietened down, and the issue was sorted in the police station itself. She knew Aloo meant business. She knew Aloo well. He always meant well to anyone who approached him.
Motorman Alex Silveira and me
So how did I get to be a close friend of his? I guess we hit it off when I was in Std VI at St Sebastian Goan High School, Dabul. For some time, he used to live in Rele Building on the third floor. Every day, on the dot at 12 noon, he would come out on the balcony to shave before jumping onto the 9-coach rake. He worked with the Western Railway as a Motorman.
I had a clear view of him from my classroom which was almost within a kissing-distance of his building. I had a window seat. Foam on his face he would engage in light banter through that distance. That’s my earliest interaction with him. And yes, he never stuck to his wig. He was comfortable with or without it.
Our friendship grew as his daughters and I and my sister would visit each other’s homes. Later, as a journalist, our relationship became intense as we would discuss sports. He would speak about his time in Indian athletics. Politics in Indian sports was his pet peeve and he speaking about how he missed the bus for two successive Olympics (1956 Melbourne and 1960 Rome) not with anger, but amusement, was the high-point. The then 23-year-old did not know what had hit him! Politics was alien to him.
I guess when one looks back after many years, incidents that were life-altering, define themselves as funny. Something to be laughed about.
Alex Silveira’s fitness rubbed off on me
He instilled in me the value of fitness. We used to jog every morning from Marine Lines to Churchgate. He was a seasoned runner even at 60 plus when I started running with him. We used to take breaks during our runs. For my sake.
After a few days of our running together, I told him, “Let’s run to Nariman Point without a halt.” You will not manage,” he promptly said. I ignored him and set out, stopping only when we reached the end where there was no more road left… only sea. He felt my pulse and said, “I did not think you would make it.” Was he impressed? I bet he was. But he liked to push his wards further.
I still jog, slowly though. It’s my diet. Just to stay in shape. But every time I run, I always think of Aloo. There’s not a day when I run that I do not think of him.
Keeping in touch till the very end
We spoke often over the phone after I moved away from town. Sometimes, I would drop in at his place to visit him. The last I spoke to him was in September. He had moved to Vashind for some clear air and open space. “I like it here,” he told me. I was to visit him.
When his older daughter Alison called me a week ago to tell me he was unwell and in a nursing home, I told her I would drop in to pay him a visit. It never happened. Today she called me in the morning to tell me “Dada is not responding.” Later in the evening she called to let me know that “Dada” was no more.
The healing touch from Jesus
Around five years ago, during one of our conversations, he told me about his terrible back pain. “It’s getting difficult to walk,” he said. I took him to my doctor friend, an orthopedic surgeon, who gave him some exercises to do which relieved his pain a bit. Surgery was out of the question said, Dr. Prakash Doshi. Neither was Aloo interested!
A few months later after the visit to the doctor, he called to tell me of his Miracle. He had attended the Lenten Missions at His Church and during the healing service he said, he was healed. “No more back pain.” He was immensely touched by this miracle. This was the first time ever we spoke about Church, God and Healing.
Post that, every morning he would walk to attend Mass. “I don’t miss a single day,” he told me. “I love attending the morning Mass.”
Aloo did not get the deserved accolades for his contribution to Indian Athletics. That never soured him. On the contrary, he immersed himself in training youngsters after his work hours. He wanted to see his younger daughter, Natasha, make her mark in Athletics. She was a good athlete. That never happened. He knew better than force her once she lost interest.
Alex Silveira has run the good race, fought the good fight
Aloo was dealt cruel blows along life’s highway but he withstood them all, shining through difficulties, and being a rock to his daughters.
No conversation with Aloo, ever, was without laughter. It was a hearty belly laugh we shared whenever we met. Infact, our conversation was punctuated, rather interrupted with laughter.
I last met him at his home in 2019, to celebrate his 85th Birthday.
He missed the finishing line to his 89th birthday by a month.
You’ve run a good race Aloo. You have fought the good fight and finished the race. You have kept the faith… “Henceforth there is laid up for him the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award him on that Day, and not only to him but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7).
Also Read: Celebrating Life with Our Mother Margaret
Also Read: Kylian Mbappe, A Legend in the truest sense
Also Read: The cruel twist to Two Croatia World Cups!