Isaac Alva (Ijju Bott)-The pioneer of Religious Articles in Moodubelle


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Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle

Moodubelle, 14 March 2010: On Thursday, 4th March 2010, there was a unique function to celebrate two occasions at the residence of Henry Alva, the proprietor of the Preetham Group of enterprises near the church. These two occasions were the 87th birthday of his father Isaac Benjamine Alva, popularly known as ‘Ijju Bott’ and the 60th anniversary of dealing with religious articles beginning with rosaries which Ijju Bott and his wife used to prepare at home.

As I had seen Isaac Alva’s shop on the Main Road, Moodubelle for many years since my childhood (the place has been presently rebuilt and used as a grocery shop by Pundalik Nayak), i decided to have an interaction with this pioneer of religious articles in Moodubelle for the last sixty years.

When I met Isaac Alva nearly a week after the function to learn about his journey through thick and thin, he was forthcoming and clear in his thoughts and speech. Stepping into 87th year of age, Isaac Alva exuded confidence, good memory and agility.

Isaac Alva was born on 4th March 1924 at Padubelle. He was the eldest among four sons and four daughters of late Andrew and Louisa Alva. After getting the preliminary education at the Government Primary School at Padubelle, Isaac attended the Church Aided Higher Primary School at Moodubelle till 5th standard and thereafter discontinued education as many used to do at that time when an ability to read, write and count was considered as sufficient to succeed in life.

As Mumbai was the preferred place to find some kind of livelihood for those who did not want to slog in the paddy fields, Isac too proceeded to the city of dreams at the age of 13 and worked as a domestic help at a salary of Rs.3/- per month for three years. Thereafter he joined the Asiatic Hotel at Churchgate, Mumbai where he got initially a salary of Rs.5/- per month. During the later part of his seven years service in the hotel, especially during the Second World War, Isaac was asked to work in the cold drink section of the hotel for which he received a salary of Rs.75/- per month. However, he had to work daily for 16 hours to earn this ‘princely’ salary. At that time there were no unions to fight for the rights of the workers and the proprietors exploited the needy and helpless workers.

In 1947, at the age of 23 years, Isaac Alva bid good bye to Mumbai and came back to his native village. Having no experience in working in paddy fields, Isaac decided to deviate from the agricultural chores and put up a small betel leaves ‘beeda’ shop at Kunjarugiri. Meanwhile, in 1948, Isaac married Christine Lobo from Shirva.

From Kunjarugiri, Isaac migrated to Kanajar with his wife and managed to acquire a shop to sell ‘beedas’. With an intention to diversify his business, Isaac purchased a soda-making machine. Besides, bottling the ‘goti sodas’ in his own shop, Isaac would travel with his small machine, soda bottles and beedas to distant places wherever there were annual parish feasts, jatras, kambalas and other public celebrations.

While enquired about his foray in dealing with the religious articles sixty years ago, Isaac narrated a curious incident that prompted him to take up this noble profession. He credits a Muslim named Gulam Muhammad Saheb from Kaup who encouraged him to take up the profession of making rosaries. Isaac had met Gulam Muhammad Saheb for the first time in the Sooda Shashti where he was selling his soda and beeda and the latter was selling cutlery items.

Sometimes later, Gulam Muhammad Saheb who had gone to his wife’s place at Bailoor, on his way back halted at Isaac’s  shop for beeda and saw him bending some kind of  wire-hooks which were generally used for blouses and shirts. After few moments of observation, Gulam Muhammad Saheb suggested to Isaac that a number of Christian people prepared rosaries out of beads and wires and sold them to earn their livelihood. However, Isaac pointed out that he did not have sufficient money to purchase the raw materials such as wires and beads.

At that juncture, Gulam Muhammad Saheb gave Isaac wires, beads and thins chains used in the preparation of rosaries and said that he could pay him for these items whenever he could. Thus, Isaac claims that it was chiefly due to the kindness and generosity of Gulam Muhammad Saheb that he started dealing with the religious articles beginning with the rosaries in 1950 and still holds Gulam Muhammad Saheb in great esteem and considers him as the one who was instrumental in starting this dealership. With the raw materials supplied by Gulam Muhammad Saheb, Isaac and his wife began to prepare rosaries and take them to various annual feast fairs in different churches and sell them in stalls.

After three years of his stay at Kanajar, Isaac came back to Moodubelle and set up his home and shop on the Main Road. Starting from beeda to soda, Isaac by now had diversified his business to religious articles and later added cutlery and school accessories selling all these items from his single shop.

Meanwhile, once a week from November to February, during the season of annual parish feasts, Isaac would go to Codialbail Press at Mangalore to get religious books, calendars, statues, scapulars  and medals to be sold in stalls at annual feast fairs. As he could not spare extra money for the purchase of these articles in bulk, Isaac had to practically visit Codialbail Press on weekly basis. Observing Isaac visiting the Press every week and taking few things, the then Director of the Press-Rev. Fr. Basil D’Souza who later became the Bishop of Mangalore Diocese, suggested to Isaac that he could take the religious articles in sufficient quantities and pay for them later. This was a great relief to Isaac as it would spare him from going to Mangalore on weekly basis. According to Isaac, Rev. Fr. Basil D’Souza was the second person who helped and encouraged him in his profession of dealing with the religious articles.

Isaac and Christine’s family began to expand. They got four sons and two daughters. The eldest daughter, Sr. Shaila has joined the Bethany Congregation and the younger one, Veronica is married and settled down at Vamanjoor. Among the sons, Gabriel has a shop near the school selling religious and other articles, Lawrence is in Muscat, Calist is managing a cell phone shop and Henry deals with a number of enterprises under the trade name of Preetham, such as shamiana and pandals, catering and selling and supplying various religious articles including statues. Unfortunately, Isaac’s wife who had been a strong pillar of support passed away nearly 17 years ago.

During the felicitation function that was held on 4th March 2010, celebrating the 87th birthday of Isaac and 60th anniversary of the religious articles dealership, Fr. Joswey Fernandes, the parish priest of Moodubelle blessed the store-room where the religious articles have been kept. In his message on this occasion, Fr. Joswey congratulated Isaac for his entrepreneurship and expressed a desire that such religious articles should be produced in Moodubelle which would provide livelihood to many people.

The headmaster of the Church Aided Higher Primary School raised the toast for the good health and happiness of Isaac. In his brief response to the felicitation,  Isaac narrated his journey right from his young age and recalled the support and encouragement that was given by two persons-Gulam Muhammad Saheb and the late Most. Rev. Dr. Basil D’Souza, the former Bishop of Mangalore who were instrumental in his becoming the first person to deal in religious articles in the whole of the modern Udupi district at that time.  Presently, Isaac’s last son, Henry carries forward the legacy of his father by dealing with the religious articles a venture that had started 60 years ago.

Bellevision wishes Isaac (Ijju Bott) many more years of good health and happiness.

 

Comments on this Article
prince, podikambla/dubai Tue, March-16-2010, 4:00
Congrats!!!ijju Botam! on your 87th b day.I am observing him from my childwood ,his a active and hardworking person.May god grant him good health and happiness.
Alfred Martis, Moodubelle-Muscat Mon, March-15-2010, 12:21
Congrats!Iiju Bottam,thanks to Dr E D souza team for the article with past memories.Would you please write more articles of our senior citizens.
victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Mon, March-15-2010, 1:06
Mr. Iiju Bott is well known,hard working and a humble individual of those days, when we were small,in primary school, he is very famous for ginger goti soda , we use to go to him to repair our umbrellas, I have seen both of them attending chruch mass daily at Moodubelle , he has a good habit of saying hello to everyone specially to people who come from Bombay or abroad.His is one of the luckiest persons who gets to celebrate his 87th Birthday, We all wish him good health and long life.
Victor D Souza, Moodubelle / Doha Mon, March-15-2010, 12:55
Interesting to read about those old days and how the people at that time had to struggle for setting up and developing the business. Mr. Isaac Alva (Ijju Bott) is one of the very few successful businessmen of that era in Moodubelle. I still remember his shop in the 70s, when we were kids at that time, while passing by we used to watch Mr. Gabriel (Gabru) making the sodas in the machine. It was also fun to open the goti sodas with bare finger. Congratulations to Mr. Isaac Alva on this birthday occasion and thank you Dr. Eugene for bringing back the memories with this nice article.
Robert Castelino, Moodubelle/Bahrain Sun, March-14-2010, 12:46
Many congratulations to Mr.Isaac Alva on the special occassion of his 87th birthday. Wish you many happy returns of the day.May God grant you good health all the best for a happy healthy life. Sir congralutions.
Henry alva, Moodubelle Sun, March-14-2010, 9:41
we are very happy for publishing details of my fathers birthday function photos and details thank you
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