By the time I first met them, I’d heard so much about Gina and Carlton Braganza that I felt I already knew them. I’d visited Opus, their rocking little Goa-themed restaurant on Palace Road Cross a couple of times. My take at that time: decent food, inadequate service, bad sound system, great vibe.
In my role as editorial and copy consultant for the newly launched Food Lovers magazine, I contributed a column called “Inside Story”, in which we dined at the homes of various Bangaloreans to explore their attitudes to food and hospitality. The Inside Story written for the magazine’s second issue took place at the Braganza home.
We spent a delightful afternoon together; thereafter, Gina and Carlton became, if not-quite-friends, definitely much more than casual acquaintances to me. Opus – their little baby – grew up, spawned two siblings (one in Bangalore and one in Pune) and a couple of cousins (a hotel and an online radio station), and became synonymous with music and laid-back good times. Gina and Carlton had built a brand. They were featured on CNBC, they had a fan following, they were Bangalore’s “it” couple.
That didn’t mean they lost the warmth or the graciousness that made them Carlton and Gina. Despite the fact that The Spouse and I aren’t Opus regulars, Gina always had a hug for me – and sometimes, a fearsome scowl – if, as on one occasion, I showed up with more guests than I’d booked for.
The Braganzas’ old-world brand of hospitality is increasingly rare. Gina made it her business to make you feel welcome, and she did everything in her power to lift your spirits. Once, for example, she arranged a chauffeur-driven car to get me to Opus simply because I was feeling low and didn’t have transport. If she was around on the few occasions we dropped by at Opus, she mixed our Mojitos herself (ain’t no bartender can mix a Mojito like Gina!) Carlton, for his part, would drop by and chat – often aimlessly – about anything that came to mind (the man has VD – Verbal Diarrhea.) And there was always, always laughter – even if you were chatting online with either of them.
On Oct 3 this year, I was woken up by a phone call that brought the most unbelievable news: Gina was dead – “passed away”, “no more”, “passed on”, “gone”, if you prefer those words. It’s taken me a week to be able to write this post, not so much because I miss her, but because the loss of my father four years ago leaves me open – and therefore vulnerable – to what Carlton might be dealing with.
I have found that good memories are the only thing that can help fill The Void.
So here’s the text of the article I wrote back then, as well as a PDF version that contains some of Gina’s own recipes. She was a superb cook; I made her Zippy Chicken Liver Pâté yesterday. It was indeed “zippy”, just like her.
Farewell, Gina. Wherever you are, I know that people are having a good time.