Udupi: A French Man's Story - Once a Coolie, Now a Professor

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.

Read Selected Human Interest Stories from Daijiworld Archives:

by Rakesh Kunjur, Durga Digitals, Daijiworld Media Network
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Comment on this article

  • Kumaraswamy T., Shirva/Sullia/Nasik

    Mon, Mar 10 2008

    Thanks to Daijiworld for bringing back memories of Mr. Paul. I remember him still now doing those heavy jobs. Though he was arrested , he was treated well by local police & people. I remember the incidence in one evening when Paul was bitten by poisonous snake ,treated in Udupi and recovered. I still rememeber Paul's friendly gestures to us. His stay in Shirva is unforgettable.

  • Benedict Barboza, Shirva / Bristol U K

    Mon, Mar 10 2008

    Thanks Daijiword for this wonderful article. Memories flashed back and I could see Mr Paul lifting those heavy logs along with his fellow workers as I walked past to my school. Hats off to Mr Paul for his couragous journey in life and appriciate his gratitude towards Shirva, our great home town.

  • Wilfred Gonsalves, Barkur/ QATAR

    Mon, Mar 10 2008

    The love of Shyam Shetty, Humility and Gratitude of Bernard Paul talk volumes in this true story. Thanks to Dajiworld. We can learn alot from this. incidence.

  • Merlyn Castelino (Gomes), Shirva/Pangla/Dunai

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Thanks a lot Daijiworld for refreshing my old memories & publishing this true story ! I was just a small child when Mr.Bernard Paul, ('French Man' as we used to call him) used to visit our house with my grand father, Late Mr. Louis Gomes & enjoy dinner with us. I still remember the difficulties we used to face to communicate with him. Thanks to Mr. Paul for showing his gratitude towards the Shirva people who helped him during his hard time.

  • clotty dsouza, shirva

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Thank you for coming back shirva again

  • Santa LOPES, France

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Gratitude is one of the first principles of spiritual well-being. Blessings abound in the life of each of us, and a keener appreciation of the same unlocks the secrets of the universe. In opening our hearts wide to render thanks we automatically create the space in our consciousness for greater grace to flow in. A thankful heart is an open heart and is thus, open to receiving. Meister Eckhart, the German mystic observed, "If the only prayer you say in your life is thank you that would suffice." A beautiful act of Bernard PAUL demonstrates it to us. Hats up! SHIRVA people.

  • Urban D'souza, Shirva - Kwait

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Great work of Daijiworld for publishing this article of Gratitude. I still remember Bernard Paul who used to visit our Sorkala Pond for swimming and sometine spending nights on the rocks. We all have to learn a lesson from Paul on how to become Grateful towards those who help us in our troubled times. Great Salute to Late Shyam Shetty and his family for their help towards needy people specially Bernard Paul and making Shirva proud. Long Live Bernard Paul for the gesture of Gratitude. Urban Dsouza - Shirva - Kuwait.

  • Captain Stanley Latif Correa, Urwa Stores/Saudi Arabia

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Shyam Shetty's hospitality to Frenchman Bernard Paul has touches my heart. Such cases very rare in these days but once a coolie & now a Professor is really unique story. Thanks to Shetty's family.

  • Neville D'Cunha, Udupi/Ottawa Canada

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Very interesting history...I am certain one of the "Automobile" paul was mentioning about was my Grandfather's "SANTAN MOTI" Santhan Mathias.

  • Dr Eugene D'Souza, Moodubelle/Dombivli

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Both Shyam Shetty and Bernard Paul deserve our highest respect. Shyam Shetty for giving shelter and job to a desperate foreigner thirty seven years ago and Bernard Paul for repaying his gratitude by visiting Shyam Shetty's family in spite of being a successful history professor in the Columbia University.

    The world is still a better place to live as the flame of humanity still shines through persons like Shyam Shetty and Bernard Paul. Congrats to Rakesh Kunjur and daijiworld for this excellent coverage.

  • Felix B .Dsouza, Shirva

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Proud of mr Late shetty and sincere thanks to Mr. paul that he visited shirva again.

  • Catsm DSouza, Mudarangadi

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Heart touching Story.Indeed Shri.Shyam Shetty was one of the Kind hearted Person in Nature. He was loved By all the Villagers around. And the same Kind of nature remains with his elder Son Dinesh Shetty.MAy God Bless Them.

  • Mary Rodrigues-Smith, Milagres/UK

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    Simply heart warming!

  • Ronald DSouza, Udupi/Shajah

    Sat, Mar 08 2008

    Thank you Daiji for this wonderful true story. Daijiworld is truely unique!

  • Alfred J. Rebello, Kundapur/Dubai

    Sun, Mar 09 2008

    This true story tells us never ever forget the past life howewver rich or famous one becomes because it only makes us to live a true life.

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