Maria-bai reminded you of Durga-bai, Durga Khote — the dignified royal poise, yet endearing simplicity; the modern outlook yet earthy traditional attire; the global experience yet a close connect with her roots. By a strange coincidence, on Durga-bai's birth anniversary, Maria Aurora Couto made her exit!
Born in Goa, at a very young age, her family shifted to Dharwad to treat her father's alcoholism. In those days, alcohol was unavailable in Dharwad. Her father fled back to Goa, and eventually succumbed to his addiction. But, childhood challenges did not leave any visible bitterness in her behaviour. On the contrary, she was gentle and graceful in all her responses.
She went on to be a teacher of Literature and was an effective teacher. Her assertive tone easily encouraged the reluctant students, and calmed the exuberant ones. She was well read and pursued detailed research.
She was the perfect wife to her husband, Alban Couto, an IAS officer. Due to the nature of his work, they would travel extensively and stay across the country, before finally settling down in Aldona in his ancestral house.
They weren't Aldonkars due to residence alone. They were also involved in charitable and citizenship activities, and stood firm against unsanctioned construction work and hill cutting in their village.
Their spacious house and outdoors were well-maintained, yet, their home did not intimidate anyone as the couple did not carry any airs of their background or rich experience. Maria-bai was a great hostess, ensuring that everyone was well looked after.
She wrote for many periodicals and three books were published by her. Her autobiographical book, Goa: A Daughter's Story, covers the history of Goa with interesting insights. Filomena's Journey delves into the life of her mother and covers the waning of Goa's Catholic elite as it shows paradigm shifts in society and culture.
She was an alert presence at literary events. She would, of her own accord, speak on the phone or communicate by e-mail, giving feedback and encouragement to young writers. Her love for Goa was reflected in her active involvement to further the cause of Konkani and the heritage of Goa.
As chairperson of the DD Kosambi Centenary Committee, in 2008, she helped initiate the DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas, a lecture series that brought the best of thinkers to Goa.
Many writers, like Girish Karnad, were her personal friends. Each of those who interacted with her confirm her literary competencies as well as being a fine human being. And, probably that would be Maria Aurora Couto's lasting image — that of a dignified and sensitive human being.