Feb 10, 2011
For the last 55 years, Montu Lobo of Valencia parish, who will be completing 75 years in September this year has been working as an auto driver in Mangalore. He got his driving license way back in 1957 and he claims he may be the first or one of the first auto drivers from Mangalore to get a license to drive an auto in the city. But boredom has not sneaked into his life despite the prosaic nature of the work he has been doing all these years. Weariness is something that Montu has not experienced at all, mainly because he has combined social service activities along with his routine work, which he says “have given him happiness and a sense of contentment”.
A simple man with simple needs – that is the essence of Montu’s success in life, which is also the secret behind his good health. He has no great ambitions in life or any grand desires.
He believes in earning his daily bread and the idea of retirement has not cropped up in his mind so far. He goes about his work with a candor typical of him without expecting any favours in return. What is great about this septuagenarian is that with his limited means he has found ways and methods of reaching out to the poor and the needy in his own way. That includes providing water taps to areas which are in need of it, water taps to schools, hospitals, computers to schools, uniforms to needy school children, sandals, clothes and even eatables to orphanages and needy children in Mangalore and even other far off places.
He acts as a liaison between people who are able to donate and the beneficiaries who deserve it. In the last five decades Montu, with active cooperation of other like-minded individuals and institutions, has been instrumental in helping many poor families get government land to build houses in and around Mangalore and thus secure a roof over their head.
Witness to beatification of RFC Mascarenhas
To top it all, Montu is the key witness from Mangalore in the ongoing process of beatification and eventual sainthood to the founder of Bethany congregation, late Monsignor Raymond F C Mascarenhas. Recalling the witness he had given six months back at Bishop’s House, Montu says, "I was in a vast room and they asked me all sorts of cross questions for which I replied in Konkani and it was translated into English. They even asked me why RFC Mascarenhas did not build the cemetery close to the church and I gave them satisfactory answers as I knew the reality. I was grilled for nearly three hours." He is hopeful that Fr Mascarenhas would attain sainthood in the near future.
Montu says that the systematic lifestyle he has followed has helped him maintain good health and also the energy to work with the same delight like before. He is a firm believer in the dictum of 'early to bed and early to rise' which keeps him happy, healthy and agile all through the day. "I sleep by 9 and wake by 3 or 3.30am. By 4 I am off from home and come to Kankanady, wash my auto, sip a cup of coffee at a restaurant near Kankanady and read the newspaper and discuss with a few friends of mine about the goings-on in our country and the world over. By 5 am I am ready to offer my services to the passengers and these days I am back home by 5 pm. After that my time goes for social service activities," says Montu giving an account of his daily itinerary.
The auto services of Montu are available at Kankanady bypass from where he covers distances mostly within the city. He works till 5 pm and after that retreats home to devote time for his social service activities.
Born on September 8, 1936 at Bendoor parish, Montu who studied up to 6th standard started working as an auto driver at a young age of 20 in the “Piaggio” auto that belonged to hotelier Achuta Salian. Montu had learnt driving from one Bhoja, a bike mechanic and graduated to learn driving auto by trial and error. Those days the tiny RTO office was in Jeppu, near the present Ursuline Convent. He was appointed by Salian for a monthly salary of Rs 150 and the entire day’s collection had to be given to the auto owner at the end of the day. “We used to charge 50 paise to the passengers as there was no meter those days. The autos those days had Yankee odometers and the charges were based on the approximate distance covered."
Montu recalls that there were hardly any autos in the roads of Mangalore six decades ago. "I can say there was no traffic at all on the streets. A handful auto drivers were operating from the old bus stand from Hampankatta." Even if we wanted to change the gear wire of the auto it had to be brought from Bangalore. There was one Thimmappa, a good bike mechanic who had his garage in Shedigudda and he used to undertake repairs as and when required. We had to be innovative sometimes and used to keep rubber cork of bottles for clutch pacing,” Montu recalls.
The Inner Call
Even at a young age Montu showed his soft side by helping the poor and the needy especially to the poor who did not have a roof over their head. He did it responding to the inner voice which motivated him to engage in such activities. He has been a Congress worker at the grassroot level and used his contacts to identify government lands and after verifying the same advised people who had no houses, to apply for the government land to build houses. He had taken a young Janardhana Poojary with him to many of these places in those early days, when Poojary was a non-entity.
In Shaktinagar there was a 10 acre plot belonging to one Austin D'Souza, which would have gone to the government as per prevailing land ceiling act. But Montu and his friends succeeded in convincing him that he would be doing a favour to houseless poor people by giving in writing that they were tenants which would enable them to file a declaration as tenants and get the property in their name. Montu and his friends compensated Austin for his generosity and nearly 150 people were able to build houses in the 9 ½ acre plot obtained from him.
Montu did all these even when he was living in a rented house in lower Bendoor. Finally when the then Bishop came forward and offered him land, Montu settled for just 3 cents of land at Valencia, near Jeppu Seminary. From the generous donations received from well wishers and institutions he built a small house in this plot which was inaugurated by Janardhana Poojary, when he was the union minister of state for finance.
After working in a rented auto for 20 years Montu bought his own auto and continued to work with the same fervour and pleasure. He has taken care of his family (wife Eliz and three children) by working as an auto driver. His daughters are married and son is working on his own auto, continuing in the footsteps of his father.
Montu remembers late Fr R F C Mascarenhas, whom he used to meet when he was studying at St Sebastian School in Bendoor as a young boy. He remembers his long beard and recollects that the priest, an epitome of kindness, used to give biscuits from his pocket to young children like Montu. "Fr Mascarenhas used to adore children and I remember we children always wanted to talk to him. I used to feel nice whenever he touched my head to bless me. He had special affinity towards the poor, irrespective of religion, caste or creed and he commanded respect and awe," says Montu reverentially.
For 55 years Montu has served as an auto driver and there has been no single instance of police case or accident. Recognizing his unique feat he was felicitated by the RTO and the district administration in 2008, by the then deputy commissioner Mahesh Rao. The Valencia parish has decided to honour him in a big way on the occasion of completing 75 years.
Montu follows a systematic lifestyle. His food habits are frugal and he never eats out either at weddings or at functions, though he is always ready to provide any help. He follows simple exercise and yoga routine and gobbles up a few cups of light tea which he says has kept him in good health. He intends to continue working as long as he is able to do so. Let us hope Montu continues to carry on with his mission with the same vigour and levity.
You can contact Montu Lobo at 0091-9845851193.
Address: Jeppu Seminary View, 2nd Cross Road, Near Gerosa School, Mangalore - 575002
A/C No. 0652101034448
Canara Bank - Valencia Branch
Menezes Building, Fr Mullers Road
Kankanady, Mangalore - 575002.
IFSC Code: CNRB0000652