Mangaluru: Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never even the same — Uncle John D’Souza was such an example! Writing about the death of a loved or dear one is never easy, since it can stir up many emotions and force you to deal with your loss and accept it. However, I feel that articles or poems are part of the grieving process and should not be seen as a negative thing. I sincerely hope this article will help all those who are dealing with this bereavement to begin to heal.
Rather than become melancholy as I mourn his loss, I wanted to do something positive to admire his nature and characters, and appreciate how meaningful his friendship was to me, so I decided to write this tribute column. Although God took him away from us, I know he is in a better place. No more hurt or pain shall he face. It seems unfair, and yes, this is true, but he is in Heaven now, watching over his dear ones. Even though “U J” has departed, his love is still with us. His social and life well-lived is a precious gift of hope and encouragement for someone who has made our world a better, brighter place. It fills us with sweet memories, with smiles and tears, with friendships formed and good times shared and laughter through the years.
I have known Uncle John since my younger days, and still remember going to Uncle John’s confectionery, when it used be on Market Road, and he always offered me a meat puff or a sweet, followed by jokes on some silly topics. Uncle John was an extrovert and witty man with prompt humours. He would treat everyone the same and was an open book with no hidden agendas. He was also very loving and an extraordinary businessman with a vision. He welcomed his customers with a smile when they entered his business. And every time when I came down from abroad I used to bring him a white color dress shirt, which he appreciated a lot- and he always made sure that he wears it and show it to me. Even when he was sick and bedridden at home for a long time, and every time I go to see him he used give a flashing smile and share some of his personal feelings.
Talk of the catering business in Mangaluru for the last so many years, and the name of Uncle John D’Souza pops up in everyone’s head. From catering to mega gathering when Pope John Paul had arrived to Mangaluru to huge wedding celebrations, John D’Souza got it covered to the satisfaction of the food lovers-people have cherished their taste buds with delicious food preparations by the cooks of M D’Souza caterers under the dedicated supervision of Uncle John. He was also very close to political leaders of various generations, among whom is Congress senior leader Janardhana Poojary, who frequently visited Uncle John when he was bedridden.
Uncle John had a special way that warmed the hearts of everyone who knew him. And the qualities and friendly nature that made him a wonderful gentleman have left us all with beautiful memories. He respected and made friends with everyone irrespective of caste or color — and he was very courteous, friendly and kind to all.
He loved his customers, and the customers loved him too. He was well known to customers, readily charming the old and young, making sure he got to know every single person who entered the bakery, or even people that he met during catering at various functions. For his family, friends and those who knew him and his charm, the heartbreak has been softened only by the flood of tributes that have followed the tragic news.
Caterers come, Caterers go–but one Confectioners cum Caterers that has been serving Mangaluru and far beyond, for the last 87 years is none other than M.D’Souza and Sons- Bakers, Confectioners and Caterers. A business that started very small and has grown to greater heights through the blessings and support shown by their esteemed clients. Nowadays you see quite a few caterers in and around town, and if you ask some of them they will tell you, that their inspiration was John D’Souza of “M. D’Souza and Sons”.
Catering also requires high knowledge and experience of culinary expertise as well as tolerance for working long hours. And with all these strength and qualities, John D’Souza and his firm, M.D’Souza Caterers has been in the family business for nearly 87 years, and they have brought many skills and talents from food service experience, wedding planning and event coordination, and they are excited to use all that experience and knowledge to help those they serve. Going back to the history – the beginning of M.D’Souza and Sons was without a name nor a title. It was a small bakery started by Piad D’Souza, father of John D’Souza. After Piad D’Souza’s death John D’Souza ran the business for decades, until couple of years back when he handed over the business completely to his son Loy D’Souza, because of health conditions. It was the year 1925 when the humble beginning of this great venture in Bakery and Confectionery business started at Bokkapatna, where the catering factory is still located.
Sadly, Piad D’Souza passed away when John was hardly six years old, then for the next 18 years it was a hand to mouth existence to Magadalene D’Souza, wife of Piad D’Souza. It was her determination and hard work that kept this business going until they moved to Market Road, Hampankatta after nearly 18 years of existence. While Piad D’Souza hailed from Bantwal, his wife Magdalene was born in Neermarga, Mangalore. The couple brought up a family of six children, two boys and four girls. The name of the company is derived from the Mother’s name Magdalene. As the necessity to name the venture arose only after the death of the pioneer Piad D’Souza, when the real success story of this venture started under the determined efforts of Magdalene D’Souza, a lady entrepreneur.
It was a time when village atmosphere did not compel one to name their business. As peoples faith and confidence in the honesty and dedication of John D’Souza increased, the name and fame of M. D’Souza and Sons started spreading all over the district. His novelty of making special exhibition cakes during Christmas time attracted Mangaloreans of all hue and colour to him. John D’Souza was a person of passion, aggressive, jovial, out-going personality, very generous, a leader (with) willingness to do the lowest to highest jobs on the totem pole. For his impeccable service to the catering industry, a few service organizations have presented John with appreciation awards.
Decades back catering was confined to only Tea Parties. Nobody used to cater lunches or dinners. During this time it was John D’Souza of M. D’Souza and Sons who tried his hand at catering of lunches and dinners. And it turned out to be a noble idea. Till then all wedding dinners were prepared at home by the parties involved and their friends. So for decades M. D’Souza and Sons ruled supreme in this catering industry. The beginning was tough, collecting utensils to cook and serve hundreds to thousands of people. Eventually they managed to improve and grow with a new style of serving, uniformed servers, suit-clad supervisors, strict discipline and attending to the guests individually and personally, not only brought in a new marketing concept but also the main reason for the roaring popularity and success of M. D’Souza and Sons.
Through Uncle John’s vision and perseverance, M.D’Souza Caterers grew to become one of the leading caterers in Mangaluru with an impressive roster of thousands and thousands of customers. Under M D’Souza Caterers have catered parties from hundred people up to 50,000 people at a time. The biggest catering event that they had was an International affair in the year 1984. John D’Souza says with nostalgia when they catered breakfast to over 50,000 pilgrims for two days, who had come to see Pope John Paul when the pontiff had visited Bajpe, Mangalore in 1984. The other big catering event was lunch for nearly 12,000 people who were invited for the ordination of Bishop of Mangalore, Rev. Aloysius D’Souza. The biggest wedding dinner catering was for the wedding reception of Wilfred D’Souza, of Souza Brothers, Puttur, for a crowd of over 6000. Another great event of satisfaction was when they handled breakfast, lunch and dinner for about 3000 delegates for seven days when All India National Games were held in the year 1988 at the Mangala Stadium.
As a very close friend of the D’Souza family, I know how hard the whole family works during the peak catering season-and while admiring their responsibilities and duties, I figured out that catering in general, and wedding catering in particular are such stressful jobs that besides the passion to provide great food, courteous service, knowledgeable arrangements, you also have to have the passion to work long, different hours, sometimes until the wee hours. And John D’Souza and his wife, Gracy; and Loy and his wife Divya have all gone through this stressful, but yet a joyful and professional business, and they feel proud of their achievements.
Uncle John had a special way that warmed the hearts of everyone who knew him. And the qualities that made him a wonderful person have left us all with beautiful memories. He respected everyone with dignity and pride, and was courteous and kind to all. Even though Uncle John has departed, his love is still with us. His life well-lived is a precious gift of hope and strength for someone who has made our world a better, brighter place. It fills us with sweet and bitter memories, with smiles and tears, with friendships formed and good times shared and laughter through the years.
Finally, a thoughtful message to my friend Uncle is , ” Uncle John, your memory is our keepsake with which we’ll never part. No sympathy is deep enough, no words are caring enough to take away your sorrow, although God has you in his keeping but please know that you will remain in my heart, thoughts, memories and prayers. I’ll never forget you-I pray for your happy repose and may you rest in peace”
Note: Uncle John D’souza passed away on Sunday, Sep 13th after a prolonged illness. Funeral details will be published in the obituary section later Today