The yellow and white festoonery on either sides of the highway outside the Holy Cross Church in Kulshekar, also known as Cordel Church or simply Kulshekar Church, indicated a celebration on December 11, 2015. Huge portraits of Fr. Alexander Dubois, the founding father of Holy Cross Church, were stationed beside the highway and decorated with flowers, potted plants, and electric lights.
Hoardings proclaiming a celebratory mass and a procession of the Holy Cross were raised outside the church’s main gates. When the local people began talking about a small fair and an evening meal of biryani, my little boy felt that he must go. And so we went determined to return only after tucking into that biryani.
It was Frad Saib Day, the parish feast of the Holy Cross Church, a celebration in honor of the founding father of the Kulshekar parish, Fr. Alexander Dubois, who died of cholera on Dec 12, 1877. The people of the locality still haven’t forgotten his noble deeds and love of service.
When I was taking a picture of one of his decorated portraits beside the highway, a local woman smiled approvingly and said, “He was a great man who helped us a lot. We still haven’t forgotten him.” While local people belonging to non-Catholic communities prefer to call him “Kullyarda Ajjer” (Grandfather of Kulshekar), the Catholics call him Frad Saib. My mother tells me that he used to provide drinking water to the working people of the locality.
The credit of retrieving a secretly worshipped cross from the depths of the forests of Cordel (Kulshekar) and laying the foundation stone of the Kulshekar Church on September 14, 1873 goes to Fr. Dubois. He wanted the church to be dedicated to the Holy Cross, which is why it is now called the Holy Cross Church of Kulshekar.
Fr. Dubois could not complete the construction work of the church for two reasons. First, he ran short of funds. Second, an epidemic of cholera struck Mangalore in 1877 and Fr. Dubois got busy serving the sick and the suffering. As mentioned above, the deadly disease did not spare him and he died on Dec 12, 1877.
The church looked very beautiful on the evening of December 11, 2015. The premises were beautifully festooned with electric lights and decorated with flowers and potted plants. It was a well organized celebration, highlighted by a procession of the Holy Cross, a meal of biryani, and a few stalls selling the traditional tambde gule (red candies), ice creams, toys, chaat, corn, and lime soda.
The red candies deserve an extra word or two as they miraculously appear only at church festival fairs along with other traditional goodies such as sweetened peanuts and acroot (a candy made of jaggery and pepper).