When love lasts a lifetime
I was interviewing Dawson Xavier for my column in a local paper and I was quite touched by the love he had for his deceased wife. Dawson married Rajeshwari in July 1963. She left him early, dying of a heart attack, when 34, in 1979 – a tragedy he remembers vividly. There are several pictures of her – sttikingly beautiful in her youth – in his home, in his album, and it is obvious he misses her very badly. He says he sees her alive in their five children – Edwin, Geetha, Viji, Rachael and Henrietta – and in his seven grandchildren.
Dawson, as choirmaster, has been conducting the choir during the English evening mass at the Infant Jesus Church in Chinmaya Nagar the past seven years. It is a job he has been doing at various churches in Madras the past 50 years – he has played at the Sacred Heart Church, Egmore; St. Antony’s Church, Pudupet; and for 19 years at St. Theresa’s, Nungambakkam. Self-taught, he was also Western music teacher at Good Shepherd Convent for five years (1991-95) and at the AVM School for seven years (2000-07). In the early 1950s, he was chosen to conduct the opening choir at the Lady of Fathima Church in Kodambakkam..
Once, years ago, he went to see Handel Manuel at the St. Andrew’s Church. Manuel put him through an audition. Dawson hummed and sang a piece, and Handel took him in as active member of the Madras Music Association. Dawson would serve the Association for 30 years, even conducting its choir, till it wound up.
Born in Madras, Dawson the sixth of eleven children, grew up in Narasinghapuram, behind offices of The Hindu and The Mail. His father, Arokiaswamy Pillai, was sales manager at Misquith & Co., an agency business next to India Silk House that sold violins, guitars, organs and pianos, all imported. Dawson studied at St. Gabriel’s High School. In 1950, he graduated in commerce from Loyola College. A year later, he joined the Armenian office of Binny & Co. as clerk. He worked in Binny’s for 39 years and seven months, as roving sales manager at the company’s showrooms in Mount Road, Rattan Bazaar and Walajah Road, eventually retiring as chief cashier at Binny’s head office.
Sometimes, I meet people like Dawson, of the old stock, and I feel blessed.