by BISMumbai Correspondent

COVID-19 will leave memories. Memories of compassion and outreach; of pain and anguish; of anger and rage; of terrible losses and of bonding with loved one's and perhaps memories that cry to be let go. Yes, memories will remain, to reawaken the slumbering, boot up the renewal of humanity and humaneness or hound us into the afterlife and beyond! But perhaps, many have spent this time of Lockdown with 'total recall' as does this senior naval officer, now retired.

Retired Indian Naval Officer, Commodore P. K. Vishwanathan recalls precious memories of long ago, of how his fortunes were to be changed on his 1st trip to Rome, and how thanks to Cdr. Benny Lobo [whom he recollects as 'the ancient mariner' and an ardent Roman Catholic], he was introduced to the then Archbishop of Bombay Cardinal Simon Pimenta, who advised him to seek the counsel of MumbaiSalesians' legend Father Aurelius Maschio, prior to embarking on a voyage to the 'eternal city'.

He narrates, "hastened by my eagerness to leave the murky scene of arranging material for the dockyard, which ranged from bottom paint for ships ( a dirty chore) to saris for lady workers and brooms for the unemployables, I received instructions to demit office and prepare to leave the shores of my homeland for unseen, uncharted lands."

With dreams of chatting up Sophia Loren, and holidaying on the Italian Riviera, CMDE Vishwanathan "going to Rome as the first Indian naval attache with independent accreditation to the government of Italy," met his Eminence Cardinal Pimenta who said to him, “Son, you should go and meet Father Aurelius Maschio at the Don Bosco School in Matunga, He will tell you all about Italy and having been born there, is much better placed than me to brief you on Italy."

CMDE Vishwanathan recalls vividly his 1st meeting with Father Maschio, "in 1990, when I met him he was 81 years old, bent, ill but still worked a full day at the Don Bosco School." He remembers walking up to the administrative office and Father Maschio beckoning and whispering, "“Son, he said, “ I was born in, and come from an ancient land, an old civilisation, but I have lived my entire life in another even more ancient land, with an older and even greater civilisation, India. Remember one thing, when you go to Rome, or wherever life takes you, you require no introduction, anywhere. Remember, India is your introduction.”

As the lyrics of Maroon 5's 'Memories' remind us,

"Here's to the ones that we got

Cheers to the wish you were here, but you're not

'Cause the drinks bring back all the memories

Of everything we've been through

Toast to the ones here today

Toast to the ones that we lost on the way."

The entire article published on the South Asia Monitor, on 18 May 2020, can be accessed here:

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