March 8, 2008
He is a French national who returned to his country after working in a sawmill at Shirva around 37 years ago. He is now serving in Columbia University as a history scholar. However, he has once again come to Shirva, to visit the family of his saviour to express his gratitude for their assistance during his troubled times.
Bernard Paul had arrived in India during 1970 when he was 22 years old, after completing graduation in political science from France University. Unfortunately, he had lost his bag in New Delhi, which contained his personal belongings including passport, travel documents and cash. He was made penniless overnight but managed to reach Nepal where he studied Hindu culture.
Later, he hitch-hiked to New Delhi again. Paul continued his journey to south India and managed to reach Kerala. When he was passing through Kaup on the way from Kerala, he was arrested by the Shirva police for not having travel documents. The police suspected that he was a spy working for some intelligence agency, as Indo-Pak war was going on then.
M Narayanappa, who was the police sub-inspector at Shirva police station, transferred Paul’s file to city police. He was imprisoned at Shirva for almost a week, since French embassy in India could not furnish information on his citizenship. However, when the police was convinced that he was not a spy, they set him free. Paul continued to wander in the locality without any hope. He was saddened when no locals came to his help until Shyam Shetty, a sawmill owner and social activist, extended his hospitality to Paul.
Surviving on menial job:
Shyam Shetty provided Paul with food, housing and work in his saw mill where he worked diligently for one and a half years, earned the trust of his co-workers Babanna Soans and Timmayya and gained the friendship of the locals.
Paul was overjoyed when he received fresh travel documents at Shirva from the French embassy in New Delhi. Immediately, Paul left the sawmill job to return to his home country, with due gratitude to his saviour Shyam Shetty.
India’s bond revived:
Paul has returned to India and was back at Shirva on Wednesday March 5, after 37 years in search of those who had sheltered him in his ordeals. He is now 59 years old. The same Bernard Paul who brushed shoulders with fellow Indian workers at a sawmill in the past had risen to become a history scholar at Columbia University. He also delivers lectures on Indian culture to his University students.
Bernard Paul who arrived with memories of Shirva was apprised of the developments that have taken place since he left for his home country. He managed to trace the sawmill owned by Shyam Shetty and learnt of his demise from his son Dinesh Shetty who was just 5 years old. Dinesh recalled the memories of Paul serving in their sawmill like any other labourer. Paul was welcomed and offered hospitality by Dinesh Shetty and family.
Bernard Paul who is in the country to attend an international conference in the national capital New Delhi, headed straight to Shirva at the first instance.
Speaking to Daijiworld, Bernard Paul said that he was given a new lease of life at Shirva. It was because of the humanitarian deed of Shyam Shetty that he has reached great heights, he added.
In a nostalgic tone, he said that those days there were only three automobiles in the whole of Shirva including the motor cycle of the sub-inspector but now the situation has totally changed. He would ever remain grateful to Indians for their humanity and assistance. Further, he expressed his desire to come back here along with his family in the near future.
While dining with Dinesh Shetty and locals Devendra Nayak, Ravindra Shetty and Anand at a restaurant in Kaup, Paul narrated the experiences of his days spent in Shirva 37 years ago.
After bidding farewell to his local friends, he was on his way to visit Pompeii College and did not forget to drop by the Shirva police station.
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