Uncle Louis, the Most Unforgettable Character

January 12, 2014

During childhood I had come across a long line of uncles: paternal and maternal. They were the best of uncles; they were the worst of uncles, fortunately, Uncle Louis was the best. For quite some time I thought otherwise.

Uncle Louis was my father’s elder brother. As a boy I always noted him the man in a hurry. Needless to say that he was a good man and his goodness often spewed over as and when I had this amiable chatter with him years ago - a goodly sixty odd years! Gone are those happy days when he was beside me when I used to feel over the moon, for he was a tall, stately person exuding an aura pervaded about him was such that even a little kid like me would feel quite emboldened by being transformed into a macho man?

What I liked about him the most was his sense of no nonsense.  He wasn’t curious about others, he was only concerned about bringing up his large family of eleven children, and the way he went about it is a thing to be admired and relished with awe, and practise.

My uncle Louis had only a small part of his share of the property but his incessant plodding on his dear land from dawn to dusk turned the soil, the red mud, into yellow gold. He practically grew everything possible on this small now fertile land of his and thanks to his plodding day in and day out; he managed to unearth enough food to feed his large and loving family.

Uncle Louis married young, way ahead when my father a good five years younger did, and naturally he had children aged around my age. Delphine was one of them and she was a brilliant girl too, like the rest of her siblings.

One of his sons became a priest and two daughters, nuns and one of them was none other than my once friend next enemy: Delphine. She was of my age, no, she was younger, may be by a few days may be a few months; I am sorry I can’t give her any span longer than that.

The root cause for this friendship and enmity was our contention for the same guava tree, which Delphine thought was hers and I thought otherwise, and we really meant it in deed. This brought a lot of torment to my dear Uncle for he always saw us virtually at each other’s throat simply because of this guava tree.

Whenever I saw Delphine on this tree plucking some juicy yellow guavas, I would scream that she had lain her hands on a forbidden fruit and would rush up the tree, and reach her, of course not before tumbling down once or once more in my hurry and then pinch her in the elbow.

Now, as I said, Delphine was a brilliant girl, and she knew how to corner me:  she would give out an ear-splitting yell or a scream or whatever, to Uncle Louis, calling “Papa, papa”. She did not have to say anything further, for this has been by now, a familiar signal that I was up to some mischief and poor uncle Louis would rush up to the foot of the tree before I would clamber down and he would thunder at me “I will break your back right now”.

I was too innocent, yes innocent, to comprehend that he did not mean it. I would meekly submit myself for him to carry out his breaking my back. Poor man, he would have nothing of it at all notwithstanding all his love for Delphine, he would simply step off the place to resume his digging, and unearthing the red soil to turn out into yellow gold. And yellow gold he did turn his red soil by the sheer dint of hard work. I would say it was nothing short of a miracle that a single man’s toil on such a small piece of land should see through the future of his eleven children. Not to be outdone, all his children did extremely well in studies – you know children are always very observant – they saw how ‘papa’ toiled day in and day out for their sake.

I remember once, in those days when a truck load of goods were being unloaded in front of our shop, uncle Louis asked the truck driver to give him a lift to Bantwal from Bellore and the greedy fellow demanded a greedy fare which uncle Louis declined to pay and preferred to walk from Bellore to B.C.Road, a good distance of 10 Kms. That is what my uncle Louis was. Call it his lack of resources; call it his sense of justice.  I would say it was the latter.

As I grew up and my father confined me to a boarding in Nanthoor, I always used to wish to go and relish the food served in Shiv Bagh in Kadri but I did not have enough resources. It so happened that once Uncle Louis happened to meet me at Kadri and he took me straight to this very own Shiv Bagh restaurant and fed me to my heart’s content. “You are growing and this is the time when you must eat well” that is what he said to me. I will never forget that. I know he was not rich but does anything matter one when one has such a heart as he had in him?

The relationship between my father and Uncle Louis had never been close, it had always been fluctuating and yet, when Uncle Louis saw that my father had fallen in hard days, he secretly put in a word on behalf of my father to the priest related to us in favour of my sisters who were boarders there and it worked wonders. Such was the ways of Uncle Louis, that he would do things with utmost caution couched in secrecy.

Despite working over 12 hours a day in his farm, he remained not rich, yet on looking back, I would say, he was richer than most other people in and out of my village, Bellore. His only love was his family, and his small farm that he virtually doubled in size by digging and leveling the low lying hills about his farm and fields. Those were not the gulf days and those were not the days when money filtered in either from Mumbai or from any adjacent quarters to fortify the income of a humble farmer, and yet the people were happy to plod on the fields and lead a placid and peaceful life and end the day sipping the poor man’s home made brew, after a hard days plodding in the farm, then recite the unfailing rosary and go to bed after a tasty dinner over rice and fish curry.

As the days rolled on, one by one, Uncle Louis saw off his children: some to religious order, others to matrimony and very wisely he retained one of his sons back home to prolong the family profession. However, a time came of late when even his son left the farm and fields to leave them to wilderness. His son had turned too old to look after the farm and the Gulf and other places of attraction had sucked in all his four sons – the grandsons of uncle Louis.

Uncle Louis and I parted ways, way back in the sixties and finally in the late eighties I went to visit him and he has is now a changed man. The vagaries of time had its toll on him, and he had little or no memory and I parted from him with a heavy heart only to hear soon after that Uncle Louis was no more.

However, even though physically he was no more, his spirit still lingers on the soil that he plodded on for several decades. I visited the place only recently, and was shocked to see the desolation of the place that was once the envy of friends and the foes alike.
I was simply shocked to see the wilderness that was once a fertile land. I lingered on beside the farm, beside the fields and could visualize the vivid vision of my uncle Louis and felt his spirit all about the silent place. The eeriness of the place was frightening, yet I lingered on and on over the wilderness. As I tried to retreat from the place, I had to blink tears away. I couldn’t bring myself to leave, for my legs by now turned wooden, and finally with a heavy heart forced myself off the place and clambered up the vehicle that was waiting to ferry me from the place to my hotel room in Mangalore to reminisce over the era that has slipped into history.


Jimmy Noronha - Archives:




By Jimmy Noronha
(Jimmy Noronha originally from Belloor, Bantwal has extensively travelled abroad and is now settled at Lucknow. In this article he brings out his long cherished feelings and admiration for his paternal uncle Louis).
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Comment on this article

  • Molly Noronha, Kulshekar

    Sun, Jan 19 2014

    Thanks once again Jimmy for the lovely article regarding our uncle Louis. I cannot forget that beautiful side of uncle Louis when he performed that Opsun Divnchen (giving away the bride formally by the father) during my marriage when my own father was down with paralysis and could not attend functions. When the time came for Opsun Divnchen, within second uncle Louis landed on stage and gave me away with full of love and emotions like any other adoring father, the sight of which I cannot forget ever.....

  • Rudolf, Mumbai

    Fri, Jan 17 2014

    In the guise of development the exotic beauty of our Mangluru and its outskirts has literally turned into a garbage bin with hardly any greenery, agriculture, and rampant construction of concrete structures for short term gains!!!

    Once a beautiful, green, peaceful secular coastal city has turned into parched fields filled with weeds, people selling land at high prices to the land mafia and not having the need to work anymore!!

  • mohi din C H, mangalore

    Wed, Jan 15 2014

    nice one. keep writing, good luck

  • A. S. Mathew, U.S.A.

    Tue, Jan 14 2014

    Very interesting article, quite unique in its presentation, taking us back to some of our forgotten days of pains and realities of life.

  • ad, mangloor

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    True state of affairs in Mangalore and outskirt villages in Mangalore. The fertile land once cultivated has become wilderness with pure neglect of the concerned inherited persons.
    The villages once thrived on fresh crops and vegetables are no more. Leaving the land empty people now buy vegetable from the market.

    Its a sad state of affairs indeed. No more vegetables, crops and fruits in those lands that are neglected. The only thing that's left is the good memories with heavy hearts and of course certain amount of guilt buried there on.

  • Molly Noronha, Kulshekar

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    Reading your article made me quite emotional thinking how sincere and hard working, our older uncles and aunties were. It was a hard day’s work, but they were all so happy and celebrating at the end of the day on a daily basis – nothing was less in that family due to uncle Louis’s endless digging and planting in his little land that God had blessed him only to convert it into an Adam & Eve’s garden !!!. Such golden days may be rare to find these days as many children of the present generation have flown to far away countries…… uncle Louis may not be living now but his memories will surely live in our hearts till the end….. Thank you, dear Jimmy for bringing back such wonderful memories.

  • Renny Lobo (Rodrigues), Gurpur Kaikamba/ Abu Dhabi

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    Dear Jimmy Baab,

    This is the article and I repeat, this is the article that I was waiting for a long time and I knew that you will write and I will have the pleasure to read it thank you so much. Here you have missed to write one more specialty of your uncle Louis, who was the local 'Hakim', known to cure many from Asthma and other sicknesses. Bellore Noronoha's are very well known for their Music and singing talents.

    As your cousin Benny (Voni) married to my cousin Richard Rodrigues (Richcha Master) Kowdoor, I had the opportunity to meet Louis Maam whenever he used to come to meet his daughter in Kowdoor and his visit during the annual church feast (Pompei), were really fun filled moments. My father (late John William Rodrigues) respected him a lot and used to refer Bellore Noronha's as Gargal Noronha's. I had visited Bellore house when Louis Mam was alive, and the entire vicinity was a cultivated green green land and sad to hear about the present condition, perhaps due to lack of labor, less income and more output.

    My sincere wish that the entire Noronha roots meet together (reunion) and bring back the legacy of Louis Maam and may his soul rest in peace.

  • Subramanyam Bhat, Kasaragod

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    Dear Sir,

    Thanks for one more eagerly awaited articles..Your articles are really touching...As I have been telling, I can't halt till I complete reading them in FULL!!

  • Arun Noronha, Karkala/Dubai

    Mon, Jan 13 2014

    Very good article about uncle Louis. Well written with fond memories. Thanks Jimmy uncle for this article. May be you can publish a book comprising of all your articles so that our generation and our future generation are well aware of our roots as we "Noronha's" are scattered all over...My kid's have not seen my grandparents but they were fortunate to meet Achu aab (Late Alex Noronha Nangle)and I consider myself unlucky that I am not able to be in touch with many of Noronhas. With your articles, I am able to come to know about our ancestors. Keep up the good work Jimmy Uncle..

  • SHYNA NORONHA, Bellore-Bendur-Dubai

    Sun, Jan 12 2014

    Dear Jimmy Uncle,

    Thank you very much for the beautiful article. Uncle Louis's grandson Lancy told me a lot about his grandpa and my father in law told me a few things about his commitment and hard work. I am lucky to be his grand daughter - in law. I have not seen him.
    I hope and pray one day the entire Noronha family will meet again and make that land fertile back again and live happy peaceful prayerful life at Noronha Nivas Bellore. Along with Rymond uncle's family too. Few members of this both family are here in Dubai, waiting to meet all at Bellore soon. Papa has left only memories behind. I still cannot accept that Papa is no more.

    Once again thank you very much Jimmy uncle for sharing your feelings, experience and expectations. You are a role model too. We all miss Ivan Bappu.

  • Melvin Rodrigues, Kowdoor, Mangalore

    Sun, Jan 12 2014

    Uncle Jimmy,
    I go through this article and it is true that how Uncle Louis was so kind and how he struggled in his days and brought up his large family with hard work. He was definitely too close with us and especially with you as well. I am the grandson of Uncle Louis from Kowdoor. I got an opportunity to sing on stage along with your late brother Ivan Noronha and uncle's grandsons Lancy, Lionel Vijay and Godwin.

    Thanks for the nice article and brings out the long cherished feelings of Uncle Louis.

  • Praveen, Dubai

    Sun, Jan 12 2014

    Very nice article.reminded me of my childhood days.

  • Daniel D'Sa, Karkala / Mumbai

    Sun, Jan 12 2014

    Dear Jimbab, The following words of yours: "I was simply shocked to see the wilderness that was once a fertile land. I lingered on beside the farm, beside the fields and could visualize the vivid vision of my uncle Louis and felt his spirit all about the silent place. The eeriness of the place was frightening, yet I lingered on and on over the wilderness. As I tried to retreat from the place, I had to blink tears away. I couldn’t bring myself to leave, for my legs by now turned wooden, and finally with a heavy heart forced myself off the place and clambered up the vehicle that was waiting to ferry me from the place to my hotel room in Mangalore to reminisce over the era that has slipped into history" - which are giving the sign of many similar status in present day life, in the land back home. It is actually very sad ...

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