‘Oscar Fernandes was a Peoples’ Leader’ – Bishop of Bellary Rev Dr Henry D’souza at Milagres Church

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‘Oscar Fernandes was a Peoples’ Leader’ – Bishop of Bellary Rev Dr Henry D’souza in his Homily during the funeral mass of Oscar Fernandes at Milagres Church, Mangaluru on Wednesday, 15 September 2021 at 12 noon

Mangaluru: Scores of political leaders, Religious leaders, Congress Party workers, among others thronged the Milagres Church, Hampankatta, Mangaluru to pay their last respect to the mortal remains of Senior Congress Leader Oscar Fernandes, on Wednesday, 15 September between 9.30 am and 12 noon. The viewing was followed by a mass concelebrated by Bishop of Mangaluru Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, Bishop of Bellary Dr Henry D’Souza; Bishop Emeritus Aloysius Paul D’Souza; Bishop of Udupi – Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo; Bishop of Chikkamagaluru Anthony Swamy; Bishop of Belthangady Lawrence Mukkuzy; Bishop of Puttur Dr Geevarghese Mar Makarios; Parish Priest of Milagres Church Fr Bonaventure Nazareth; among many other clergy.

Prior to the mass Senior Congress leader B Janardhana Poojary, MP Nalin Kumar Kateel, MCC Mayor Premananda Shetty, Congress and BJP leaders, priests, nuns and the general public paid their last respects to the deceased leader. In his Homily, Dr Henry D’Souza-Bishop of Bellary said, “Oscar Fernandes was a Peoples’ Leader, and with his hard work, pleasant nature and popularity he became one of the tallest leaders of the Congress Party, in the nation, state and district. He was loved very much by his party members. He was a gifted leader and an efficient administrator who served as a minister in the Central Government in the UPA Government. His services to the country, especially to the state of Karnataka, will always be remembered by the people of our country”. (More Bishop’s Homily listen on the video below)

Former MLC Ivan D’Souza delivered the vote of thanks. The White Doves Choir led by Corrine Rasquinha-the Founder of White Doves, along with other members namely- Jerome Coelho, Sujay Rodrigues, Dylan Caldeira, Gina Rasquinha, Paloma Rodrigues, Rochelle D’sa’ and Blanche Rodrigues rendered a few soothing hymns during the mass. Following today’s mass, the mortal remains of Oscar Fernandes were flown by Chartered flight to Bengaluru The body will be kept at the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee office at Bengaluru from 10 am to 12 pm on Thursday, 16 September. Thereafter, prayers will be offered at St Patrick Church, Richmond Road, after which the funeral will be performed at the Hosur cemetery. Prayers will be offered by Archbishop of Bengaluru Dr Peter Machado, joined by other bishops and priests.

Congress supremo Rahul Gandhi and other top Congress leaders from New Delhi are expected to take part in tomorrow’s funeral in Bengaluru.

FOLLOWING IS THE EDITED EULOGY GIVEN BY Ms OSHANIE FERNANDES-THE DAUGHTER OF OSCAR FERNANDES:

We are here today to celebrate the life of my darling beloved father and say our final goodbye to a man who touched so many lives and who is a legend in my eyes. I stand here before you absolutely devastated, heartbroken, shaken to my core as the most important limb has fallen from my family tree. The strongest pillar has given way. I simply cannot fathom the extent of this loss as the next few days, months and years will be difficult to come to terms for my family and me.

Daddy Oscar was born on the 27th of March 1941 in Udupi to my grandparents Roque and Leonissa Fernandes. One of 12 children. The son of a renowned educationist father and mother who was the First Lady bench magistrate of South Kanara, he carved out his own career path. From being an agriculturist to working for LIC to even starting his own business in plastics, he tested many waters but his true calling was serving the people of this country and most importantly the disadvantaged. Politics was a medium of service for him.

Ms OSHANIE FERNANDES-Daughter of Oscar Fernandes

It is customary to give a little background, so I’ll keep it brief. Dad made his foray into politics by standing for his first municipal council elections in Udupi in the 70s and then went on to become Udupi Block Youth President for the Congress. He stood for his first Lok Sabha election in 1980 at the mere age of 39 and managed to defeat the great, eminent and tallest leader of the district of that time, Dr T.A. Pai. With a record win of five consecutive Lok Sabha elections and serving 4 terms in the Rajya Sabha, here’s an example of someone who worked his way up from the grassroot to the highest echelons of power with a career spanning over five decades in politics.

OSCAR FERNANDES FAMILY MEMBERS/RELATIVES (Seated in the Front Two rows)

He perhaps was the senior-most parliamentarian with 41 consecutive years as an M.P. During the first few years of being an MP, his organisational skills were acknowledged very early on, and he was parachuted to Delhi and given a National role in the party immediately. He served as one of 3 Parliamentary secretaries to the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1985, served two terms as Congress Chief for Karnataka, General Sec. AICC, was Union Cabinet Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Labour and Employment besides many other portfolios he held. His contribution to the field of HIV/AIDS prevention in the country deserves a place in history books. Needless to say, he has done our district, region, state, country and community immensely proud.

SISTERS OF OSCAR FERNANDES

Regardless of the positions he held, he was always the people’s man, he connected with everyone on a human/ humane level, someone who would stay back at the office till 2/3 am till he saw off the last visitor. He didn’t consider his health important enough as his love for his work mattered more. In recognition of his services in public life, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate by Mangalore University and bestowed with the Nelson Mandela Award for Peace in New York.

Setting aside his contribution in public life which perhaps deserves a biography, I’d now move on to the more important aspect of my dad, the person that he was, the powerful personality he possessed is what I want everyone to remember my daddy for. In my entire life, I’ve only seen Daddy live for others, not a bone of selfishness in him. I’ve never witnessed him lose his cool or temper even once. I’d often ask him what was his secret to staying calm and composed even in situations that seemed stressful to any person.

His simple reply was “one must approach any situation with some sort of objectivity… understand the problem at hand and work towards a solution… if worrying or being stressed helped solve the problem, then by all means, please do worry and you must worry… but… if it didn’t help to arrive at a solution, then don’t even waste a second on it”. Bob Marley’s famous song, “Don’t worry about a thing, coz everything’s gonna be alright “ reminds me a lot about him, he was always Mr Cool, Mr Wise and Mr Patient and now my five-year-old son sings the song to me when he senses the slightest bit of anxiety.

He was the most versatile of people I’ve ever come across in my life… his talents knew no bounds. From being a passionate, trained Kuchipudi dancer to performing the Yakshagana, an exemplary master chef, a yoga enthusiast to an incredible base vocalist, a fantastic harmonica player to a pianist who played by ear, he kept his talents always ignited. An avid reader who could get lost in books.. he was a Shakespearean till the very end, rattling off couplets every time he’d offer advice. In fact, one of his last conversations with me was him dishing out advice not overtly but in his own subtle way which he’d often do…. by quoting Shakespeare… Where Polonius’ advice to his son before he heads off to school in the Hamlet “Give every man thy ear but few thy voice,” “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” “It is not in the Stars to hold our Destiny but in ourselves”. “How poor are they that do not have Patience?” Such were his profound words of wisdom, a human being par excellence, far more vivacious than merely the humble politician that many knew and we his family and close ones were privileged to witness that side of him.

There was not a single vice dad possessed. A teetotaller, non-smoker and the list can go on but that’s not what you draw inspiration from. It was his acts of kindness, politeness and compassionate ways that stood out more than anything else. Leadership for him meant touching hearts, inspiring others, guiding people regardless of the position in public life he held. One of the things that kept me grounded in my own life, was watching my dad show utmost respect not to powerful people, but to people who were less privileged and the disadvantaged.

After a meal at a restaurant or at a party, he’d make it a point to shake every bearer’s hand, pat them on their backs and thank them for their service. Expressing small acts of gratitude were his ways. There’s so much that we can all learn from his life. In my growing up years, we’ve been regular churchgoers but here is a man who put the bible and its teachings into practice. I’ve never heard him speak ill of any person, let alone harming anyone and that’s perhaps why he’s loved by all even those who subscribe to opposing political ideologies. I fail to recall him preaching anything to us, if he wanted us to be the adults that he envisioned us to be, he would simply set an example by doing it himself.

To my brother Oshan and me, Dad was the most lovable father we could ever dream of. No matter how busy his schedule was, he was always available to us. Growing up with a working mother never made us feel the void of a parent, as dad would step in for everything if mum couldn’t be there. Never missed a single parent-teacher meeting even if it meant putting his work on hold, would braid my hair in the mornings, have my lunch ready when we came back from school. Because of his hectic work schedule, he would make up for quality family time on car drives, and we’d tag along even if it meant heading to a boring political function. We would do anything to spend those precious minutes/ hours with him. He would entertain us in the car by singing all mummy’s favourites and not forgetting to say the family rosary.

Never will you ever meet a man who more faithfully lived his values. His character is the foundation of my conscience. We were told repeatedly never to use his name or position for any sort of benefit… as his reputation meant the most to him.. such was a man so grounded to his morals, ethics and as such he taught us by setting an example himself. He reached the highest echelons of power, yet showed the highest forms of conscientiousness, simplicity, humility and patience. The higher he climbed, the more firm his feet were on the ground.

He led a life void of material fondness, wealth accumulation etc. We’ve never measured wealth in terms of money because Dad didn’t teach us that… what he gave us were values, principles, music, good food, humour and taught us to love unconditionally, exhibit empathy and compassion which makes him outweigh any wealth accumulator in the world…. While most parents teach their kids nursery rhymes at a young age, one of the first songs my dad taught me was ‘Money is the root of all evil, take it away, take it away, take it away’. The strength of a man isn’t seen in the width of his shoulders but is seen in the width of his arms that circles you. A true gentleman is one who puts much more into the world than what he takes out and that was my daddy.

I would like to specially thank H.E. Our Rev. Cardinal Oswald Gracias for being a great support to us over the years, and all the Bishops and priests who concelebrated the mass here at Milagres Church. The Bishop of Mangalore Peter Paul Saldanha for celebrating the mass and the numerous visits he made to the hospital and with every visit, daddy bounced back, and Bishop Henry of Bellary for his touching homily and tribute. Fr. Bonaventure Nazareth the Parish Priest of Milagres for organising this solemn funeral and all the other priests and nuns for their fervent prayers.

I’d like to most importantly thank Abdul Kunhi, Chairman of the Yenepoya Group, Dr Tahir and all the doctors who treated daddy Dr Sunil Shetty, Dr Priya Naik, Dr Jayesh, Dr Santhosh Pai, Dr Krishnaraj Shetty, Dr Diwarkar Rao, the nursing staff and management at Yenepoya Hospital for your tireless service which you rendered with utmost love and dedication. Dad would often say that the dialysis treatment he received here in Mangaluru was way better than anywhere else in the country. So a big thank you!

I thank the Congress party who stood by Daddy till the very end.. the Party was as much as a family as we were to him. He was a die-hard Congressman epitomises all its values and ideals. He gave every bit of himself in the last several decades towards organisation building by strengthening the grassroots which was closest to him. The leadership SoniaJi, Dr Manmohan Singhji, Rahul Gandhiji and Priyanka Gandhiji who entrusted Dad with great immense responsibilities over the years both in the party and government. We were so touched when they reciprocated that love and did so much for him when he needed it most in these last few years.

I must mention all Daddy Oscar’s colleagues, party workers from our district, DK Shivkumarji our KPCC president, MLA UT Khader and his brother Iftikar, former ministers Ramanath Rai, Vinay Kumar Sorake, Ivan D’Souza, Pramod Madhvaraj, Abhayachandra Jain, MLAs J R Lobo, Moideen Bawa, Congress youth leader Mithun Rai, among many others. All my Dad’s staff and aides who stood by us like rocks.

A big, big thank you to my Dad’s family.. all his sisters Aunt Judy, Aunt Josina, Aunt May, Aunt Challu and Aunt Mallu, Late Aunt Lola and Aunt Doris and Daddy’s brothers Uncle Cliffy, Uncle Dion, Uncle Lawrie and Uncle Tom who aren’t with us, their wives Aunt Ivy, Aunt Marie, Aunt Prem, brothers in law Uncle Walter and Uncle Mark and Late Uncle Eric and Uncle George Vaz and Uncle Harry and their families and Leela, Walter D’Souza and Mary Shreshta and Shashi who have always been a great source of strength to us.

I thank Aunty Corrine Rasquinha and the choir for the wonderful singing. All the volunteers who put up this great tribute today and each one of you for coming today. We’re touched by your presence.

Today as I stand here to give this eulogy and say all the wonderful things about my dad, I have to mention the role my mum has played in his life and especially as a caregiver in these last few years which needs much recognition, adulation and appreciation. I must mention here, she stayed at the hospital right through these last 55 days since Dad’s admission to the hospital. Mum is a phenomenal lady in her own right but what we witnessed in the last few years of her being the sole caregiver to Dad is the most remarkable thing a loved one can do. Oshan and I are ever so grateful to you mummy for everything you did, the countless sleepless nights, the love you showered every time you’d check his BP and blood sugar, always lightened the mood while you administered his medication day in and day out.

It was amazing to see you hone the skills of a medicinal practitioner almost overnight. The love and dedication you bestowed on daddy specially when he needed it the most in these last few years is something we will always owe you. There was not a single time that you would complain, or show your tiredness even though we knew it was extremely exhausting. You did it because every inch of you loved him dearly. You surely lived up to the vows you took on your wedding day “For better or worse, in sickness and in health, till death do us part” and couldn’t have set a better example for us, your children and grandchildren. All this is a testament to Daddy’s own last words just before he went unconscious and to quote him “Blossom thank you for everything you have done and sacrificed for me, none could have done better, now take care of yourself, the children and grandchildren“. So a big, big thank you, mummy. It’s because of you, we got to have Daddy for several years more, else we would’ve lost him a long time ago.

Oshan, I can’t thank you enough. You’ve proven your worth as a son especially in these last few years sacrificing being away from your family to be and look after daddy in our home in Delhi as much as you could. You were that extra pair of gentle hands that mummy needed. And the only time I will thank this Covid pandemic is that it gave me valuable time in the last one and a half years with my Dad and Mum which in a normal situation wouldn’t have been possible.

A special thanks to the following: Mark and Frazil who have been our extended pillars and have given great emotional strength to Oshan and me. Michael, Marvin, Fiona and Freia for being amazing and marvellous brothers and sisters to us. To wonderful, supportive in-laws – Oshan’s in-laws Aunty Saira and Uncle Francis and my parents in law Mummy Freida and Daddy Placid who brought so much joy as memories of our unforgettable laughter, parties, get togethers, and endless fun will remain forever etched in our memories. A special thanks to Aunty Gracy, Aunty Anita Mathias and our darling Grandma Blossom whom we lost recently, for the wonderful times we shared together.

Today as I stand here giving out this eulogy, still coming to terms with the fact that Daddy won’t be physically around, but at the same time, I stand here with immense pride knowing that I was raised by a man of supreme morals, ethics, principles and values. Daddy shine your light over me….be my diamond in the sky, shining brightly and guiding me through life’s highs and lows. I’ll miss you reaching out to me to troubleshoot any problems that lurk in our family… I will miss that forehead kiss that I was always greeted with every morning and at bedtime all through my growing up years at home… and your daily prayer to our lady of perpetual succour that “if it be thy will of God that I should suffer, let me suffer with love and patience.”

Every time I fall, lend me your hand for I will reach out only to you… Be my Northern Star, guiding me on the right path lest I falter, for I listen only to you… advise me on life’s most important decisions for there’s none a wiser counsel than you. Give mummy, Oshan, Mark, Frazil and me the strength to carry on. Ohanna and Odin, your 2 precious grandchildren will feel this void the most, for you were not merely their Grandpa, but their doting, loving, kind friend and as Odin would often remark, a thorough Gentleman with whom they could get away with anything and everything.

Today my family and I inherit an incredible legacy of My Dad’s life’s journey, a legacy I assure will forever live on. A life so beautifully lived deserves to be beautifully remembered. The dictionary will never find enough adjectives to fit a man who was to me, unequivocally, unquestionably the most wonderful human being and the reason for my being, My beloved Daddy. I’ve always dreaded saying this…Goodbye my precious.. Till we reunite again. Love you today and forever and evermore!

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