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- Manohar Malgaonkar

Cathedral of the Holy Name or Woodhouse Church as it was locally called, in Mumbai stands across the road from a block of residential apartments owned by the Indian Railways. From one of the upper storey windows of this building, a teen-aged girl had observed a group of young men, all spruced up in their Sunday best, gathering at the church and exchanging banter.

Her name was Habiba. She was the daughter of Iqbal Hydari who was a senior executive of the railway department and resided in one of the apartments in the building.

The Hydari family belongs to the nobility of the erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad. Habiba’s own grandfather, Sir Akbar Hydari, had been the Prime Minister of the state, and another Hydari and uncle of Habiba had become the Governor of Assam. The Hydaris were Muslim.

As a rule families such as the Hydaris, feudal to the bone were insular and mired in deep-rooted traditions. But the Hydaris themselves were something of an exception. Many of their menfolk had been educated at Oxford or Cambridge and thus belonged to a broader international culture. And Habiba was lucky to have been brought up in such a family.

Habiba herself was slim, attractive, pert, a girl with a will of her own. She was determined to make a career for herself and had no intention of submitting to a marriage arranged by family elders. She had joined the J.J. School of Art and wanted to become an artist and when the time came she would choose her own mate. She disapproved of many of the social restraints of her class or clan. She took an active part in social activities of her college. “I had formed a group with four other girls and we called ourselves ‘The Teenage Gang,’” Habiba remembers.

The group of young men that Habiba Hydari had watched from her bedroom was made up of Mario Miranda and a few other young men from Goa, which included Mario’s cousin Lucio Miranda and a close friend Sarto Almeida, who had only recently begun work as an architect. They were all bachelors and tended to hang together at parties and dances.

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