July 21, 2022
Er John P Mendonca, a resident of Shankerpura – Pangla Parish in Udupi District is a familiar personality not only in Pangla but also elsewhere. He obtained state level 7th Rank in SSLC in 1963, 2nd Rank in BE (Metallurgy) from the then KREC (now NITK) Surathkal. His has a number of talents – he is a singer, dramatist, orator, cricketer and an agriculturist. This July 21 he completes 75 years of his life. This is a tribute to this multifaceted personality on this occasion.
Fr. Basil Peres and Mendonca household of Pangla in the history of jasmine cultivation:
Somewhat in 1936, the then parish priest of Pangla Church Fr. Basil Salavadore Peres (later he became the Bishop of Mangalore Diocese) arranged to bring jasmine saplings from Bhatkal to distribute to the families under his jurisdiction and enable them to earn some income for their livelihood. In this task the person who went to Bhatkal on foot which is about 100 kilometers from Pangla with his two friends was Sebastian Mendonca (Bostu Mendos) – the grandfather of John P. Mendonca. In the 1940s when jasmine market – ‘Mallige Katte’ (which is still existing) was started in Shankerpura one of the first vendors was Pascal Mendonca – father of John P. Pascal was a jasmine merchant for decades till his death in 1988. Pascal’s two sisters (Aunts of John P.) – Sr. Cecilia and Sr. Natalia were the religious sisters of the Sisters of Charity, Provincialate at Belvedere, Angelore, Mangalore. Mendonca household had Gurkars of their ward ranging for 3 generations, namely Sebastian, Pascal and John.
John P Mendonca – Birth and early education:
John was born in a middle class family of Pangla on July 21, 1947 just a few days ahead of the nation’s independence. His dad was Pascal Mendonca, a jasmine cultivator and merchant. Mother was Pauline Castelino, a homemaker. They had a large farm of jasmine cultivation. John has 2 elder sisters Eliza (82) and Juliana (80) both reside at Pangla parish limits. After the two daughters John’s parents lost their first 2 sons when they were small for some unknown children’s deceases prevailing in those years. John had a younger sister Jeneview (Jenny), a general nurse by profession. Unfortunately she died in 1988 at the age of 33, due to an accident in Poona.
John finished his higher elementary level education (then 8th std) at St. John’s Higher Elementary School, Shankerpura. He was the topper in school from 3rd standard onwards.
7th Rank holder in SSLC (Class 10) for the state – became famous overnight:
John did his high school studies at Shri Vishnumoorthy Hayavadana (SVH) High School, Innanje, near Shankerpura which was / is run by Sode Mutt Udupi, the school which is closer to his house. In the high school his talents came to lime light. He played for the school cricket team as an opening batsman. The cricket team of his school took part in many tournaments in and around Udupi including the famous Christian High School, Udupi.
That was the year 1963. In the SSLC (10th Std) examination John secured 7th Rank in the state of Mysore (now Karnataka). At that time only 10 ranks were given. He stood first in the then South Canara district (now Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts). He was the topper in all 9 subjects in his school. Because of these achievements he was popular overnight. Now also John exclaims - that was his greatest achievement. Because of this he received national merit scholarship for his entire college studies.
PUC and BE in Metallurgy:
John studied for Pre-University education at St Aloysius College Mangalore in the science stream by staying at the Sacred Heart Hostel of the College. The change from Shankerpura - a village to a bigger city of Mangalore had an effect on his studies. Because of watching a lot of movies and playing cricket now and then he didn’t do very well in PUC. But he managed to get an Engineering seat at the Karnataka Regional Engineering College (KREC, now NITK), Surathkal, South Canara.
John opted for Metallurgical Engineering. In the third year BE he secured First Rank in Mysore University, Third Rank in Fourth year and Second rank in Final year. While studying at KREC he took part in many plays (dramas) both at the College (Tulu and Hindi) and in Pangla (Konkani and Tulu). He played in the cricket teams both at the college and at Shankerpura. He was the captain of the Shankerpura cricket team for about a decade. During his captaincy at Shakerpura his team played with neighboring parish teams like Katapadi, Shirva, Pernal, Kallianpur and was almost unbeatable. They played for other general teams like Kapu, Uchila, Ambagilu and won most of them.
After completing his BE he taught at his college (KREC) as Assistant Lecturer for two years.
First one who introduced Wilfy’s songs to Pangla:
During his studies at KREC John picked up several songs of Wilfy Rebimbus and used to sing during dramas and other occasions at Pangla. He was the one who introduced Wilfy’s songs to Pangla Parish. He was a famous singer of Pangla in mid sixties to mid seventies.
From John to John P and John Prakash:
In 1971 Government of India introduced National Scholarships for studies abroad. John wanted to try for the same and applied for the passport. But the Passport officials asked him expand the initial of his middle name ‘P’. Till first standard all was well with his name John Mendonca given at the Baptism. He got ‘P’ acronym added after the first name ‘John’ in the second standard when one more ‘John Mendonca’ got admitted to his class. To avoid confusion of the same name of two, class teacher Annayya Shetty made our John Mendonca as John P. Mendonca. At that time nowhere that ‘P’ had been expanded until the completion of BE. Everywhere he was called as John P. Mendonca. Even he received the BE Rank certificate under the same name.
But there was a legal hurdle with the initial ‘P’ for obtaining the passport. To solve the problem John approached Maurice D’Sa the headmaster of St John’s Higher Primary School Shankerpura as well as his HM in the Primary School. D’Sa was a brilliant person with a helpful nature. He agreed to give a certificate by his expanded middle name ‘P’ for Pascal as Pascal was John’s dad. But John wanted ‘P’ for ‘Prakash’. Mr. D’Sa obliged and gave the certificate as John Prakash Mendonca. Thus for his future life John P. Mendonca is being recognized as John Prakash Mendonca in all records including the passport. John still remained grateful to HM – Maurice D’Sa of his Primary School for solving the problem regarding his name.
John P at Minnesota USA for higher studies:
After getting his passport John applied for National Merit Scholarship. There were only 50 seats for the students all over India for all subjects. And John got selected. His two years teaching experience in KREC played a vital role in this selection. He did well in the interview held at New Delhi. John obtained a seat at the University of Minnesota for higher studies.
John was given a send off by the youth club of Pangla which he himself had started at the suggestion of Fr. Gabriel Castelino, the then parish priest. Many elders of the parish also joined the function. John left for USA on December 29, 1971.
John started his studies at the University of Minnesota. It was winter and an odd time to join the course. That’s why he didn’t get a proper place for accommodation. Finally he stayed with a Pakisthani Parsee student. John believed in humanity and not in any nationality. The 1971 Indo-Pak war had just ended and the Pakistani students in the university started hating Indians. In this situation too John thought that his roommate being a Parsee would be harmless. But John was wrong. The Pakistanis with the help of John’s roommate gave him drugs, telling they were vitamin tablets. John had hallucinations and injuries due to accident under the effect of drugs. He was hospitalized for weeks. Thereafter he could not study and returned to India after six months.
Work in industrial sector:
The Minnesota incident took some time for John to recover fully. In 1973 he joined Canara Steel at Baikampady, Mangalore. He worked there for 3 years. In the mean time he married Hilda D’Mello of Pangla. She is the daughter of Andrew D’Mello (Pangla) and Alice Rodrigues (Shirva). Andrew had served in the medical field and was a social worker. John – Hilda’s was a bit of revolutionary marriage. He was probably the first and only one who didn’t have roce at that time. The bride came in bridal saree for nuptials. Tying Kariamani and exchange of garlands was done in the church after the nuptials. John is still grateful to Fr. Victor Saldanha, the then Parish Prieest of Pangla for allowing them to fulfill their wishes. (This writer H. R. Alva adds: My bride Concepta too came in bridal saree for our nuptials on Jan 1, 1992. The wedding social program lasted only for an hour during evening time which ended with snacks and badam milk).
John resigned Canara Steels and joined a Steel Factory in Mysore. Perhaps ill fate followed him there too. John met with a serious accident at the factory in 1978 and lost vision of left eye. He was operated for brain injury at National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore and was lucky to survive.
In 1979 John left Mysore and returned to Mangalore. He started working in Canara Workshops at Maroli. His family was staying at Kulshekar. John was quite active in the parish. There was a cricket tournament for married people for the parishes of Mangalore. John was Captain of Kulshekar parish. They played against Bendur, Jeppu and Rosario parishes and won the matches. In the married couples’ singing competition John and Hilda won prizes.
John wished to change his work place to take care of his aged parents:
During early 1980s John’s regular prayer to God Almighty was to help him to take care of his aged parents staying with them and in 1983 God answered his prayer. He got a job at the newly started Lamina Foundries at Nitte, Karkala. John could go to the work place staying at his home at Shankerpura (Pangla). This also helped him in getting involved in social and religious activities in and around Pangla. This gave him opportunity to continue his acting and cricket activities. At Lamina Foundries John got 5 promotions in 10 years and in 1993 he was elevated to the post of General Manager.
1988 was the year of tragedies at his family says John. On April 5th his younger sister Jeneview (Jenny) who was working in a hospital in Poona met with an accident and breathed her last. She was the first rank holder in General Nursing at Karnataka state level in 1974 from Fr. Muller’s Nursing School, Kankanady, Mangalore. For this achievement she was honored by the Mangalore Diocesan Catholic Youth Movement (CYM) at their Youth Rally in Mangalore in 1975 under the leadership of Austin D’Souza Prabhu. Jenny too was a singer and drama actor like John. In the same year 1988 on November 6th John’s dad died due to old age. His mother died in 2002. John is happy for having served his dad and mom during their old age.
During John’s working at Lamina Foundries for 15 long years he got interested in agriculture and horticulture. He planted many varieties of plants in their 2.5 acres land. His crops involve Jasmine, Coconut, Arecanut, Mango, Cashew, Guava, Pepper, Cocoa, Banana, variety of Water Apples and Cherries, Kokum, Bread fruit, Egg fruit, Sapota, Star fruit, Gooseberry, Ramphal, Sitaphal, Figs, Noni, Pineapple, Grape fruit, variety of lemon etc.
In 1998 John left Lamina and moved to Bangalore and served at the Bangalore Metallurgicals for five years. From this company he had an opportunity to visit Germany on a technical tour in December 2003. In Germany he visited Frankfurt and Nuremberg.
Afterwards John worked in another factory in Bangalore – G.C.I. Castings for about 10 years and got retired in 2013 at the age of 66.
John’s passion for acting and St John’s Natak Sabha of Pangala:
Like the Konkani Natak Sabha in Mangalore at Pangla too St John’s Natak Sabha was established on October 30, 1960. Under the banner of this Natak Sabha there used to be at least 2 – 3 dramas mostly Konkani and Tulu each year in Pangla. In one such drama titled “Kumsaricho Ghut’ which was staged for 3 days in 1961 John had debuted in acting. At that time he was just 13. There after he never looked back. In the school, Colleges and in the parish he took part in over 20 dramas mostly during 1960s. Normally his roles were ‘Hero’. He acted in tragic roles too.
Since 1963 John was a member of St John’s Natak Sabha, Pangla. When this Sabha celebrated it’s Silver Jubilee John was the Vice president, Antony D’Sa being the President and this writer (H. R. Alva) the Secretary.
On this occasion a new Konkani drama competition was arranged on Nov. 23 and 24, 1985 which was inaugurated by veteran writer and drama personality Dolphy Lobo (Dolphy Cascia). The 2nd day program was being chaired by Fr. Lawrence Mendonca, a Pangalite and Principal of Milagres College, Kallianpur. On Nov. 25th, 1985 grand finale of the Silver Jubilee was held which was presided over by Fr. Lawrence Fernandes, a Pangalite and Rector of Rosario Cathedral. The guests were J. B. Rasquinha (Vice President of Konakni Natak Sabha, and Proprietor of Jerosa Company, Mangalore), ‘Konkan Kogul’ Wilfy Rebimbus and ‘Konkan Maina’ Meena Rebimbus. In the later years John became the President of St. John’s Natak Sabha.
John tied knot with Hilda D’Mello on July 7, 1974. This couple has 3 children – two sons and one daughter. Children are brilliant like their parents.
Their eldest son Ryan was born in 1977. He did his MBA in Finance from Nitte Management College and started his career in Banking. Presently he is the Vice President of Axis Bank and is based in Bangalore. He is married in 2004 with Clare Goveus of Mangalore. They have 2 daughters.
Their second son Rohan was born in1980. He did his MBBS from Belguam Medical College and MD from St John Medical College, Bangalore in Phycheatry. He served at Fr. Muller’s, Kankanady for a few years and then worked at Yenapoya Medical College, Mangalore as Professor and Head of the Dept. of Psychiatry. He is married to Dr. Anita Thomas from Thrissur, Kerala. The couple has a son. Rohan moved to Australia in 2018 and is a consultant in Melbourne.
Third child of John – Hilda couple Roshni was born in 1984. After completing her studies at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore worked for Hewlett & Packard (HP). She did her MBA from Symbiosis, Poona in 2010. She is married to Valerian D’Souza of Poona. This couple has 2 sons.
John and Hilda visited Australia on Dec.17, 2019. They stayed for 45 days with son Rohan in Melbourne and another 45 days with daughter Roshni in Sydney visiting many places of importance. They returned to India on March 15, 2020 just before a few days when flights were cancelled due to covid 19.
Engineer turned a full time agriculturist:
John is living in Pangla since 2013 after retiring from active industrial service. He is fully involved in agriculture and horticulture. He delivers talks on various occasions about jasmine and his experience in agriculture. One such talk was at the Pangla Parish Sabha Bhavana at Shankerpura on March 27, 2022 in connection with the Centenary year of Pangla Church about the arrival of jasmine cultivation to Pangla. He also delivered a talk on the subject at the Shri Madhwa Vadiraja Institute of Technology & Management at Bantakal, near Shankerpura. Daijiworld.com, Veez Konkani and Veez Illustrated Weekly have published his articles on jasmine cultivation of Pangla.
Besides agricultural work he is involved in social and church related activities in and around Pangla. He served as the Gurkar of his ward for a period of 5 years. His grandfather and father were also Gurkars of the ward. Thus John’s is the third generation service as Gurkar.
He served as a member and office bearer of St John’s Natak Sabha Pangla, member of St Vincent De Paul Society (SVP), member and President of Catholic Sabha, Pangla. John was a member of Rotary Club of Shirva and when a Rotary Club was started at Shankerpura he became a member and for one year he served as its Vice President in the nineties.
Our close acquaintance:
John and I are from the same parish – Pangla. When I was a Primary school student he was a Hero of Pangla. In the later years our affinity remained during our involvement in various activities. In 1992 August John and I had visited Jog Falls with family and friends on a pleasure trip.
This July 21st John P. Mendonca completes 75 years and celebrates his Platinum Birthday. On this happy occasion I wish him a very Happy Birthday and many more to come.
May Platinum turn into Century.
Contact number of John P Mendonca: +91 9845597599 (WhatsApp)