Memories

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The van was a creamy yellow, fading away under relentless bouts of Mumbai's heat haze and the rains. But the word 'Snehasadan' and the man's image behind the wheel has stuck with me forever.

Father Tony Fonseca had a brilliant smile. In his kurta and black pants he stood out as a sort of fashion icon in school, his knapsack around his shoulder completing the frame. He was soft spoken, genteel and had the demeanour of a gentleman whom most admired. Even yearned to be.

It was his Volkswagen T2, however that seemed to be etched in my mind to this day. A finely maintained motor, it stood out in a sea of cars that either had Maruti, Premier or Hindustan Motors for badges. Like the sparsely equipped vans that rolled out of Wolfsburg in the day, this one too had no seats and when required, benches from school were rolled in to ferry class teachers and sometimes naughty students like our group.

I will never forget how we would attend inter-school competitions in the "mini-bus". Once in fourth grade we headed out for an inter-school singing competition to another part of town. Father Tony, and his trusted steed ferried us noisy dozen as we craned our necks to get a glimpse of the world through the side windows. It seemed like the longest journey we'd ever been on, but it still stays so fresh in my mind, thanks to the fact that I owned a HotWheels VW T3 dinky car back then and to experience the real thing in person was truly something else.

When not driving the T2, Father Tony would ride on his Yezdi 175, and if we were up to some tricks, we would know of his presence instantly, with the typical two-stroke <I>fut-thak-thak<I> thrum round the corner. The Snehasadan van, however disappeared from the area after I left school. I tried hard to look around but to no avail. Never heard about it ever since and am still looking out for it just to bring back old memories.

Why I'm writing about all this is because Father Tony passed away recently. Wherever he may be, I hope he is driving his beloved T2 on the highway to heaven.