Bernard DíSouza - The Post Master who earned respect and affection from the villagers
By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network
Moodubelle, 09 October 2010: Every year 9th October has been observed as the World Post Day to mark the anniversary of the establishment of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1874 in the Swiss capital, Bern. This day was declared as the ‘World Post Day’ by the UPU Congress held in Tokyo in 1969. The UPU aimed to create and maintain a system for the free flow of international mail around the world. The purpose of the World Post Day is to create awareness of the role of the postal sector in the everyday lives of the people and its contribution to the social and economic development of countries. The observation of this day encourages member countries to undertake programmes and activities aimed at generating a broader awareness of the role of the Post and activities among the public and media on a national scale.
Post offices have been playing an important role in the lives of common people especially in the villages. The credit for establishing the modern postal system in India belongs to the British. Warren Hastings, who became the first Governor General of Calcutta, developed the postal system by establishing the Calcutta Grand Post Office (GPO) under a Postmaster General in 1774. Later, during the period of Governor General of Lord Dalhousie, the Post Office Act of 1854 was passed by which the entire postal system was reformed and the Post Office of India was placed on the present administrative footing since 1 October 1854. Gradually, the postal system spread throughout India linking villages to the cities.
Presently, there are twenty-two postal circles in India and each circle is headed by a Chief Postmaster General. Each of the twenty-two circles is further divided into Regions comprising field units, called Divisions, headed by a Postmaster General. These divisions are further organized into Head Post Offices, Sub-Post Offices and Branch Post Offices.
On the occasion of the World Post Day on 9th October, it would be appropriate to recall the long service rendered by Bernard D’Souza as the Post Master in his own village, Kattingeri who earned a lot of respect and affection from the villagers. In fact, it was on his initiative that the branch post office was started at Kattingeri.
Bernard D’Souza was born on 20th August 1933 as fourth child among 13 children, nine sons and four daughters of late Immanuel (Monnu Master) and late Magdalene D’Souza of Kattingeri. Bernard had his education up to eight standard in the Church Aided Higher Elementary School at Moodubelle. Thereafter, he stayed back at home helping his father in agricultural and plantation activities and doing certain odd jobs.
When asked about the origin of the post office in Moodubelle, Bernard said that as far as he remembered it was after the establishment of the parish of St. Lawrence at Moodubelle by late Fr. Casmir Fernandes in 1910 that a number of basic amenities such as weekly market, shops, roads and even a post office were introduced in the village. It was Bernard’s father, Immanuel who acted as the first post master in Moodubelle while teaching in the Church Aided Higher Primary School. At that time mail had to be brought from Katapadi. As there was no other means of transport, ‘Runner’ Appi (D’Almeida) used to carry the mail to and from Katapadi walking briskly or even running with the mail bag and a stick with small bells (gejje) tied to one of its ends and shaking it on the way to remind the people about the arrival of the mail.
As far as Bernard remembers, the original post office in Moodubelle was located in a small building where presently the rickshaw stand is situated. Immanuel D’Souza functioned as the post master for about ten years and thereafter, another teacher-Lawrence D’Souza (Post Master) took over as the post master while continuing as the teacher in the school. During his tenure, the post office functioned from a small room in the premises of the house Jerome D’Souza, brother of Lawrence D’Souza who had a cloth shop in the same building.
According to Bernard, for some years the post office in Moodubelle functioned as extra-departmental where those few employees working in the post office were not paid as per the regular grade and neither they had any leave facility. Later, the Moodubelle post office became departmental and was designated as Sub-Post Office and was shifted to a new building constructed by Jerome Alva. While the post office functioned from the ground floor, the upper floor had the Pangala Nayak bank which was later merged with the Canara Bank.
Though the post office became departmental, only the post master and the post-man were regular employees where as the mail-man and packer worked as extra-departmental employees. At that time Thoma became quite a familiar face in Moodubelle as the mail-man who used to take and bring the mail to and from Udupi on bi-cycle. Later, Thoma cleared departmental examination and was taken up as a departmental employee and was promoted as the post-man. With the introduction of bus service, the mail came to be transported through the so called ‘mail bus’, one of the regular buses that used to carry mail. The location of the post office continued in the Alva’s building till 2006 when it was shifted to its present location.
As the people from the Kattingeri village had to depend on the Moodubelle post office, Bernard took the initiative and started a branch post office at the ‘Edmeru Angadi’ and became its first post master on 27th June 1962 and continued till his retirement in 1998, thus rendering service for 37 years as the Post Master of Kattingeri. It was during his tenure that the post office of Kattingeri was shifted to the present location at Naalku Beedhi in 1981. There were only two persons manning the post office, Bernard as the Post Master and another person who doubled as the mail-man as well as the post man. For accounting purpose and mail, the Kattingeri post depended on the Moodubelle Sub-post Office.
As the remuneration to the Post Master under the extra-departmental system was quite meager, Bernard had to do something else to supplement the family income. Thus, along with managing the post office, Bernard started selling provisions and stationary items from the spare space that was available within the post office. He also carried on other business ventures such as building tile-roofed houses and digging wells as contractor and even working as the LIC Agent.
Bernard married Regina Danti from Udyavar on 1st June 1962, before he started working as the Post Master of Kattingeri. They have been blessed with five sons, all of whom were brought up in a loving, disciplined and God-fearing family atmosphere. Two of Bernard’s brothers are Bishops-Rt. Rev. Dr. Alphonse D’Souza, Bishop of Raiganj and Rt. Rev. Dr. Albert D’Souza, presently the Archbishop of Agra; two brothers are priests-Rev. Fr. Mathew D’Souza, serving in the church in Florida (USA) and Rev. Fr. Edwin D’Souza, serving in Canada. Two of his sisters had joined the Sisters of the Cross of Chavanod Congregation, Sr. Lucy is no more and Sr. Eugene D’Souza is presently the Superior General of the same congregation whose headquarter is based in Geneva in Switzerland.
Speaking about his family, Bernard said that he is quite proud of all his five sons and their families. He said that all his sons have received good education and achieved success in their careers and lives. Two of them work and live in Canada with their families and three are in Dubai. Bernard’s eldest son-John is in Canada. Second son-Ronald Saby is in Dubai running his own business. He is one of the former Presidents of Bellevision (UAE). Third son, Reginald is also in Dubai. Fourth son, Conrad is in Canada and the youngest son, Alphonse is in Dubai.
After retirement as the post master in 1998 at the age of 65 after serving for 37 years, Bernard has been managing the family property and the Mudartha Trust. Recalling his service as the Post Master of Kattingeri, Bernard says that he is quite proud and extremely satisfied about his long stint as the Post Master of Kattingeri. Bernard says that though the remuneration was quite less, the amount of respect, affection and honour that he received from the villagers was tremendous and long lasting. As the communication facilities as are available in modern times were unknown at those times, the people entirely depended on the postal system to receive and send messages from and to their dear and near ones in Mumbai, Gulf or elsewhere. Moreover, post offices were the only means to receive money through money orders sent by their family members either from Mumbai, Gulf or elsewhere.
Bernard said that the simple and illiterate people of the village depended on the Post Master to get the address written on the letters that they wanted to send to their family members. Sometimes they would ask him to read out the contents of the letters and even few would request him to write brief reply to the letters from their family members from Mumbai or abroad. It was because of his helping nature that Bernard earned the respect and affection from the villagers. Bernard further said that for any important work, people of the village would approach him as they felt that the Post Master being educated and reputed person had ready solutions to their problems. Even the police would first visit the post office, meet Bernard and proceed to their routine work.
Looking back at his service as the Post Master of Kattingeri, Bernard says that he has been quite happy and contented with his work as the Post Master. Though the post offices have lost the relevance that they had some years back, they are still the symbols of human contact and communication fulfilling a very important social responsibility at a period when their need was felt the most and the Post Masters had a great responsibility as custodians of the mail, money and above all the trust of the people of the village. Bernard D’Souza, by serving as the Post Master for 37 years has amply fulfilled this great responsibility. On the World Post Day he deserves to be complimented for his long service to the people of Kattingeri.