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Barkur in  1940s.........

Barkur was a prosperous little rural town in the late 1930s and the 1940s; it was not a  hamlet at any time, as some people appear to have referred to it in an article. We all know  that Barkur is made up of 4 or 5 large villages, and it caters to many other interior villages,  and we can rightly call it a town. In the 1940s, there used to be quite a lot of trade and business; it was kind of wholesale trading outlet for rice, timber etc. The retail business too used to be good; there were number of shops on the main road selling cloth, groceries, general merchandise etc. The weekly fair on Friday used to be well patronised, and full of supplies from the surrounding villages. I suppose, the decline of Barkur began sometime towards the end of the decade, and perhaps continued during the next three or four decades, and it had an appearance of an abandoned town. I am glad it has since revived, particularly during the last 10 or 15 years.

Though Barkur was prosperous, as far as business and trade was concerned, it lacked certain basic needs, such as a regular full time post and telegraph office, a decent hospital, and a high school. There used to be a branch post office, without telegraph facilities, operated by a part-time post master. People had to cross the ferry, and trek all the way to Brahmavar  in order to send a telegram; telephones were not heard of in the those days in the rural areas. The sub-post office must have come into existence sometime during the early 1950s. There  used to be a Govt. dispensary, which used to cater to the medical needs of the people of Barkur  and the surrounding villages. I guess, the same facility continues even today, and a regular hospital still remains a dream.

There was no education facility beyond 8th standard in Barkur; there were two separate higher elementary boys and girls schools, and few people could afford to send their sons  (very seldom their daughters) to Kallianpur, Udupi or Kundapur for high school education.

Therefore, the most significant thing that happened in our home town during the 1940s  was the establishment of National High School. It has benefited immensely not only the people of Barkur, but also  the nearby villages. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students  must have passed out (graduated) from the High School and the Junior College during the  last 54 years! Thanks to the vision, foresight and tireless efforts of all the communities of  Barkur during that period; it was entirely a combined effort, no credit can be given to a single community as such, and rightly the high school was named 'National'. Among the Catholics,  it was Mr. John P. Sequeira who was instrumental and involved.

Most of our people, particularly the Catholic community of Barkur and nearby places were  poor by any standard, money was scarce to come by, the main source of income was from  farm and agricultural produce, which could not sustain the large families people had in those  days. Those who had some education went to places like Bombay in search of jobs, and their parents/families depended on their monthly remittances. Those who did not have much of  education did various kinds odd jobs to supplement the family income. Some of them took to  tailoring in and around Barkur, and some able bodied men worked as copper/brass smiths,  especially in erstwhile Mysore State (ghats). They would work in the ghats for about 8/9 months  of the year, and come home during the monsoon (lean) season, in time to attend to the

agricultural or farm work, and also to enjoy family life; they would come in the month of June,  in time for the patron, St. Peter's feast, and go back on...

As we all know, the first half of the 1940s was a very volatile period in colonial India and  elsewhere in the world; it was the height of freedom movement (in India) and World War II. Though our people did not have to face the realities of war, they faced the indirect effects, such as shortage of food and other essential goods. For the first time, rationing of food grains, kerosene, cloth, etc., was introduced. Only substandard quality of food grains and certain kind  of grains which our people did not use in their diet were sold in the ration shops; prime quality  food grains being requisitioned for the military. The result, local rice was being sold in the black  market, if I remember correctly, at around Rs. 60/- per 'moora', whereas it used to be about Rs. 6/- per 'moora' before the war, a tenfold increase! Needless to say, the vast majority of  the people could not afford that kind of price, with the result they substituted their diet with  sweet .

While the war was going on elsewhere in the world, kind of a mini war took place in Barkur Parish in the early 1940s, during the vicarship of Fr. Marian Castelino at St. Peter's Church. From what I can recollect, a dispute arose between two groups, the parish priest and a few people (his advisors, let's call them: rightists) on one side, and a group of active parishioners (leftists) in the opposition, on a certain issue at the annual church council meeting. The dispute took such an ugly turn that the parish feast of December 1943 was almost totally boycotted by the vast majority of the parishioners, rather people were prevented from attending the three day church services connected with the feast. Even the then bishop of Mangalore got a cold reception on his pastoral visit to Barkur during that period. The attitude on both sides was one of defiance and confrontation, not of conciliation and understanding. I cannot comment or express my views on this............

Edwin P. Sequeira, Ohio, U.S.A.

For a glimpse of the life at Barkur as remembered by Barkurians, check archives

Barkur, located in Udupi Taluk, Karnataka, India. 576 210

Copyright Kishoo, Barkur 2002.