A rose for my Guardian Angel

By Published On: 2 Aug '20Last Updated: 6 Nov '20

It’s not about food and it’s not about a brand-new recipe. Today is the day I have been waiting for quite a few years. Today, is the day I want to tell you a story. At the heart of this story is that one single individual who moved me with her love and kindness one day back in 1987. I call her an “Angel” in my life and how that angel connected with me the first time we met.

I arrived in Australia………

Today I am excited to introduce you to Gladys Roach and she is the author of the cookbook “Indian Cooking”. I met her back in the summer of 1987 who would later come to be an important part of my life and you will soon know why. Upon reading her cookbook which she gifted to me a few weeks ago, I gathered she was writing this cookbook in 1987, which book she published in 1988.

I arrived in Australia just a few months before I met Gladys. At the time I met Gladys, I did not have many friends but just getting to know a few people. During this time, I was still in close contact with my friends in India, mostly by letters and rare phone calls. At this point of time, I would say my colleagues were my only friends. Gladys became my friend from this point onwards.

During this challenging time of my life, I was happy to meet Gladys on one summer morning at a bus stop, and yes, I am serious, at a bus stop in North Sydney. She got off a car and later she told me that her husband just dropped her off. She looked radiant in a pink saree with a dot on her forehead, was elegant, professional and one look at her says it all, she is kind, affectionate and genuine. She says hello and we exchange smiles. We have never met each other before and we do not know each other. Her warm smile at once provided a sense of home for me firstly because I was so far away from home and secondly, I had not seen many Indian women in Sydney in sarees back in 1987 (now there are a few) and I like to call her my Guardian Angel. Soon, I will tell you why!

After a couple of minutes of waiting for the bus, the bus arrived and both of us got into the bus and sat next to each other (luckily COVID-19 crisis was unheard of in those days!). She asked me where I came from. I informed her I was from Bombay. She did not look like a Christian, so I asked her “are you a Gujarathi?”. She gave me a cheeky smile and said “No, I am from Mangalore”. I was at once overcome with joy to a point that I just did not want this journey to end. She was the first Mangalorean I met in Sydney and that too in a saree. Can you get any more Indian/Mangalorean than wearing a saree to work in Australia? She then asked me “is your family here?” and I responded by saying “I arrived a few months back and my fiancé has just arrived a couple of weeks back”. Her first response was “when are you getting married?” I was quite taken that a stranger would even consider asking such a question, but Gladys is so totally genuine, she did. I told her that we are planning to get married in February (which was only a couple of months away) as the visa was valid only for three months. Back then the immigration rules permitted a fiancé to stay only for three months. The next question was a life changer. “Have you found a venue”? I informed her that I have seen a few but we were yet to decide. When I said this, she looked at me very intently, and what will come next will shock you to your core. She said these very same words “you can get married in my house”. I was mesmerised by what she said and hence I hesitantly responded, “In your house?” for which she said sternly “YES IN MY HOUSE” and that too loud and clear. I was by now so totally confused by what she said and could not understand if she really meant it! Once again, just to reassure myself and the authenticity of what she just said, I looked at her and questioned her again “Are you serious”? and she responded promptly “I would not have said it if I was not serious”! Got the confirmation but my confusion continued throughout the day and for a couple of weeks after…

Phew, it was time to get off. We exchanged telephone numbers and went on with the events of the week. The entire week I worked at the office feeling happy, confused, relieved and finally confused again. Happy, because I found a solution to my issue of a wedding venue, confused because a stranger had offered her house as a venue for my reception, relieved because we could get married as planned and confused again because I still was not sure if she fully understood what she really said.

When I returned home from work, I informed my fiancé, now husband, about this lady I met at the bus stop and her very generous offer of us having our reception at her house. My husband is a very strong and positive person. Upon hearing my story, we decided to give Gladys a call to confirm if what I understood was what she actually said, essentially to clarify that we were on the same page. We had that telephone conversation and the final response from her was “Yes, you can have the reception in my house”. We were thrilled to get this confirmation and so we stopped looking for wedding venues!

She further threw a surprise on us by saying the drinks are on the house”! Can you believe the generosity of a total stranger?

We were totally blown away at her love and kindness at that time and after many years, we still are!

Did we have the reception at Glady’s house? My word we did!

We got married as planned at our local parish which at that time was Narrabeen, a northern beaches suburb of Sydney and the reception was at Glady’s grand house amongst beautiful period furniture and a huge collection of Indian curios. Her two children were her helpers while our nuptials took place and her husband had kept a beautifully manicured garden where we sat for the reception with a backdrop of a large sparkling swimming pool. She also warmed up all the food that was catered and laid delicately on the dinner table for all the guests to enjoy.

What’s even more intriguing is that my parents had sent my “saado” through a priest who came from India and who performed my nuptials. During my reception, Father Perreira said “you have a gift from your mum and dad, and they would like you to wear it”. I was very emotional and did not quite know what to expect. He then presented my “saado” to me and I had no idea how to wear this “saado” because I neither had the skirt or the blouse to wear this saree. And again, Gladys comes to me and confesses during the reception, “you can wear my blouse and skirt because my blouse will fit you”. I did go and change into my “saado” and I knew this would make both my parents and Gladys happy. I was equally thrilled that I could wear the “saado” although the blouse was black. Here’s a photo on my wedding day with the “saado”.

Me and my husband are very grateful for her angelic appearance in our lives. I say to her she is our “Guardian Angel” and she just takes it in her stride. She smiles but does not comment because she is just so totally down to earth and genuine. I believe she is the angel that my mother told me that the divine creates when one is born, I believe she appeared to me during my critical times, I believe she is there guiding me, walking beside me, protecting me on my life’s journey just like an angel.

We never stop being grateful to her for giving us a great start in our married life. She is still a strong force in our lives and continues to encourage me in all my endeavours.

Here’s what I have to say about Gladys, my Guardian Angel, when someone is genuine, they leave an impression on your heart that will never go away, not with time and not with distance. She has secured a place in my heart forever.

Lavina with Deliciously Indian

Hi, I’m Catherine!

I’m all about creating tasty Indian dishes with whatever’s on hand, even when I’m short on time or budget. I love turning simple ingredients into flavorful delights. Join me on this culinary adventure where we’ll explore the magic of Indian cuisine, one delicious dish at a time!

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