My Grandma Annie
By Jenifer DSouza • October 14, 2022
Born in 1938, to a moneylender and landlord in Mangalore, she was the youngest of 4 siblings. She was so naughty as a child that her father married her off by Age 16 in 1955 on a trip to Coorg to an Anglo-Indian Family he just met.
My Grandpa whom she married was a complete opposite in nature; astutely scholastic Anglo-Indian who spoke fluent Portuguese and English at home. He could not understand a word of Konkani that my grandma spoke. But despite a sudden marriage outside the norms of a typical coastal Konkani family; they got along well. Theirs was a match of fire and water. Grandma Annie was Fire and Grandpa was Water.
Sometime in 1957, Annie my grandma had both her kids. My mom was her firstborn followed by my uncle soon after. Grandma decided to pursue an bold entrepreneurial journey in Coffee Plantation where no women held any dominion. She didn’t like the fact that Grandpa had to work for some other institution to make a living. So she moved a few 100kms away from where Grandpa used to live and bought a piece of land with 2 kids in tow to start her own Coffee Estate.
As my mom and uncle grew and were school going in the nearby village; this brave woman my Grandma Annie toiled endlessly in the land planting one Arabica coffee plant after another. By the time my mom and uncle were in class 2; she had planted about 12 acres of coffee plants all alone. This journey was not easy; Grandpa was home only on Saturdays and Sundays when he had leave from work. Grandma had to endure the jealous taunts of distant neighbours in the village “about married woman living alone with kids” and multiple theft attempts by sandalwood robbers in the middle of the night all alone. Scaring away every attempt of theft with a .22 rifle gun and a wooden torch lit with fire; legends in my family also narrate a story where she used to grease every door at night so that robbers would slip and fall while climbing the steps of their home. She barely slept through the nights from 1957 until 1963 guarding her land her resources and children. Finally, Grandpa resigned his job and came to be the support both emotionally and physically to my grandmother Annie.
She realized she had created a large plantation now and couldn’t just use herself and her kids to toil to maintain and grow the land. Back then Karnataka was the State of Mysore and buying one vehicle was a process that took many years in waiting. So, by the time my mom and uncle were in class 5; Grandma decided the education in village school wasn’t good enough to her kids and sent them off to Mangalore to study and enjoy a town life at the least with their maternal cousins. During this time my Grandma learnt to drive Jeeps, Tractors it was all a trial and error method. No driving school to learn from and my Grandpa was happy with just accounting related work of their estate and creating different machinery in his workshop by reading encyclopedias. (That’s a different story altogether to talk about my Grandpa’s crazy inventions in Coffee curing machines that he built from scratch).
On the other hand; sometime in 1965; Grandma decided to go shopping for dedicated labour. She picked up entire families to work for the estate, often driving the tractor on her own every morning to bring labour to her estate before 7:30 am. As age caught on; if was difficult to pick up and drop labourers every morning and every evening. She missed many family gatherings because she was building her coffee empire in the small village in Coorg. That’s when she built many small homes with proper facilities within our land premises to rehabitate the labour families to completely live and work there. She encouraged the labourer’s kids to go to school and my Grandpa ensured that these kids studied. My mom and uncle whenever they came from Mangalore for short vacation during Dasara played with these kids and also ensured that they did well in school.
Grandma Annie lived a lavish and glamorous life once her estate was established and the weddings of my mom and uncle are even spoken about to this day almost 48 years after. She often said; work hard and party hard. These quotes are somewhere in 1970s and for baby boomer generation this was unheard of. Annie my grandma was a brave, courageous, independent and outspoken woman much ahead of her times in every sense.
In early 1990s; if she missed us her grandkids who then lived in South Coorg about 3 hours road journey from her place; she just drove down her Jeep and surprised us while we were still in school.
I, my sister and brother had to offer a lot of explanations to our classmates to explain that she indeed was our own Grandma , as she never looked or behaved like one. At age 60, she played lagori, hopscotch with us.
Grandmas those days never wore western clothes, fancy hairstyles and makeup but Annie was doing it all; for people who don’t know her journey she was a brash and extremely misfit women in 1990s in a small town of Coorg. But for her children, her grandchildren like me she was amazing, supercool Naani; who didn’t care what people thought about her and went on to live life her way.
Cut back to 2022; Annie my Grandma is long gone (in 2017) but a fond memory in our hearts; but my Mom and all women in my family say that in 1950s if Grandma Annie could do it; why cant you and I atleast be 30% like her?
So Annie, (Mamma as I would call her), you are the entrepreneurial inspiration of my family and the fearless woman I’ve known up close and personal.
Hats off to all the things you’ve done for us and continue to do to us even 5 years after you’ve left to the unknown world.
May we women live fearless, be bold and stay independent for as much as we can and live life to our fullest potential.
Your loving Granddaughter,
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