Bishop Bhai Tributes

Nisha Gupte

There is so much to say about you Uncle O. Don't know from where to begin and how to go. So I'll make my story short 'n sweet.

As a teenager in the 60s, I remember he was to be consecrated by the then Pope in Bombay. As a special concession, the excited nuns from the convent helped my cousins Marcella, Eugenia and me pack our bags. Our house in Bombay was a sea of aunts, uncles and cousins from all over the country. At the consecration you looked the youngest priest to be ordained as Bishop. It was a beautiful moment in my life, to have a Bishop in the family. And thanks to you, I got to meet the Holy Father, Pope Paul VI in person and shaking hands with him. (For weeks after I returned to the convent, my friends were touching my hand and kissing it.. Just kidding!!!) But then thanks again.

My memories of Uncle Leo in the 70s-80s were that he was a jet-setting Bishop. My husband referred to him as Bishop with wings. We were either picking him up or dropping him off at the airport at least once a month. My in-laws were fascinated by his travels.

I remember when I told my husband to be, that he would have to meet the Bishop of Nagpur to get permission to marry me (just kidding again), he was rather skeptical about it. He had had enough of priests during his school days. He thought most priests were old-fashioned fogies, stern and strict taskmasters. I pleaded with him to just meet him once and I won't ask you again. He agreed, though he expected some resistance. We met at a nearby Chinese Restaurant. The so-called permission for marriage never came to more than "What do you plan to do?" We replied "civil marriage." The next was "Ok, what's for dinner." The next day he said, are you sure your Uncle is a Bishop? What did you expect to see, a Bishop sitting with a bible in one hand and the cross, rosary in the other? Your simplicity and so down to earth no air about you being a BISHOP zapped him. and best of all he did not hear you preach. He enjoyed your booming, openhearted laughter. I shocked him more by saying he sings, dances and even sees the latest English and Hindi movies. My Uncle is a very broadminded and modern Bishop. Uncle, you remember the late night movies MIRZA GALIB and your favorite actress MUMTAZ. Those were the good old picture days.

When my mom knew that we wanted to get married, she asked Uncle O (he was by then rechristened by his Grand nephew, Johann) "to put some sense in this girls head and tell her to get married in the church.".Bipin (of a different faith) and I planned to have a civil marriage. My mother had rather old-fashioned ideas about me losing my faith if I did not marry in the church. "HOLY COW who gave her that idea," you said, "Gertie, they both know what they are doing and her faith is safe with Bipin." Oh Uncle, I love you for that. You never bored us with your lectures. Advice was given only when asked for, you always encouraged us to follow our dreams BUT weigh the pros and cons.

My son Binish was fascinated by you and loved to be around you. Whenever I told him you were coming to Bombay he would say lets go to Mama's house to meet Uncle O. One morning he saw you leave the house. You were on your way to say Mass at the St. Paul's chapel. He ran into the house, "come soon, Uncle O forgot to wear his pants and shirt, he has gone to see the nuns in his long night gown."

All the nuns were your greatest fans. They would get so excited, giggle, giggle when they knew the Bishop of Nagpur was coming to meet them. You have some magical spark that draws people to you. It’s because they feel very comfortable and at ease. You have a great sense of humor and the loud echoing laughter.

Well Uncle O, here's wishing you a VERY HAPPY 75th BIRTHDAY. May you have many more happier ones and may you always be blessed with good health. With lots and lots of love and kisses.

Nisha, Bipin, Binish Gupte Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey

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