The Rondo House

Scanning through some old pictures, I came upon the Rondo sisters Connie and Frank, taken at their Rose Lane home, probably in the late 1970s. Blanche, the eldest of the three who also lived there is missing in it.

No. 2 Rose Lane, circa 1980s
Connie and Frank Rondo at No.2 Rose Lane, circa late 1970s

From conversations with the Rondos, we had got to know that they had a sister Rose who had married into the Pacheco family and stayed in the house next door. The house is called Rose Villa. Her family subsequently sold the place and they immigrated somewhere. There was also a brother who had immigrated to the UK, and who I recall having seen when the house was sold off in the late 1980s.

The three sisters Rondo were well educated Anglo-Indians, with finishing-school skills (trained in sewing, typing and shorthand, dancing, singing and possibly other things). In the old days, the Catholic Welfare Centre operated from their home. They had an old sewing machine in their house and could have well been stitching their own clothes. Connie often told me stories about the dances she went to and the proposals of marriage that she received but I suspect that some of it was fantasy. One thing for sure was that she played the piano beautifully and sang really well too. Frank evidently wore very fashionable shoes in her youth that had made her feet all wonky. Afflicted with leucoderma, Blanche was the most serious of the three sisters, who talked but seldom engaged in small talk. She was clearly the boss of the house.

The Rondo compound had several bushes and trees, and as a friendly neighbour I had permission to help myself to the fruit whenever I wanted. I could reach out to the ripe mulberries from over the wall. They however didn’t like the cricket balls to enter the compound. They would come out chasing the ‘chokras’ with their sticks, so even my brother and friends would wait for the afternoon for the sisters to sleep before venturing in to retrieve our balls. Most often we would find several that were not ours, that others had lost in the tall grass.

As time passed, one would see the sisters hobbling to Xavier Hall on Myrtle Lane for morning mass in the winter cold. They were quite respectful to God and rarely missed the services. Sometimes I would carry the tea mom made to them, and they would sweetly offer to pay ‘4 annas per cup’. They would close all the windows so much so that the house felt like one of the haunted houses we would read about in Famous Five books. A crucifix hung on one of the musty walls, and there was also Mother Mary.

When Blanche fractured her arm it became difficult for them to manage so she was moved to the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Home for the Aged. Connie and Frank too were eventually put in the home by the brother who came to settle the property. Connie’s piano was one item that was moved with them, while much of the other stuff was sold off or given away.

The Rondo’s No.2 Rose Lane (new No.3), looks quite different now. From one home with three sisters, it was ‘developed’ into nine flats in the late 1980s/ early 1990s.

Rose Queen Apartments, No.3 (old No.2) Rose Lane, November 2015

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