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Archive for October 22nd, 2008

A slice of my father’s life in his own words. He was an orphan, a survivor and his life for all its anonymity was rich; despite of all odds against him he left nevertheless a legacy  among many other things, a hospital for the tribals and the poor; his life, as an example, enriched many of those who came in contact with him. b.

‘I was born at midnight of 11th February 1909,corresponding to 29th Makaram 1084 Malayalam Era. My father comes from a respectable Syrian Christian family by name Kuttichira,of the village Kythakuzhi near Chathannur in Quilon District…
My mother was the eldest daughter of Mr. Jacob Wilson of the Kythayil family, Puthupally,Kottayam. Mr Jacob Wilson was the English and Logic lecturer of the old C.M.S College, Kottayam…My father lost his own father when he was a young boy. I had  a young brother by name Mathew Wilson(Baby) taking my father’s name Mathew and my maternal father’s name while I took the name of my paternal grandfather, Kuttichira Mathew Thomas. In the year succeeding my birth, about a month before the birth of my brother my father died of typhoid.  I believe it was in the month of September 1910, and in the succeeding year my mother also expired when my brother Mathew Wilson was barely an year old.
My paternal grandmother Mariamma was from the Kallada Malayil family. She was widowed when she was only in her late twenties and had to struggle very much to bring up her children, three sons and one daughter, of whom my father was the eldest. It was another woeful tale of sorrows for my grandmother and her children but God’s grace sustained the family.
My father Kuttichira Ummen Mathew studied for Mechanical Engineering in Bombay (now renamed Mumbai b.) and was serving …in a private firm at Vypeen, Cochin, at the time of his death. (His two brothers turned to agriculture looking after paddyfields and gardens.)
It is to such an agricultural family set up at Kythakuzhy, that I was taken at the age of 3 from Kottayam, my maternal grandfather’s house.
The earliest streaks of my memory readily bring to my mind the funeral of my mother, the dead body being carried from home and the final lowering of the body into the pit. The next is a visit by my eldest uncle Ummen Koshy to Kottayam, my maternal grandfather’s home.
The next important indeliable impression is the journey from Kottayam
to Kallada in a country boat (Kettu vallom)

(image :A kettuvallom is much larger and is meant for traveling days together through inland canals.Two persons use barge poles front and rear to navigate. At the centre there will be a little hut of thatched cover for cooking and resting. The name kettu I suppose is derived because of boats are made of wood and lashed together with wooden nails than iron. Made waterproof with cashewnut oil etc.,Earlier there used to be navigable waterway all along the Travancore state fringed on either side by coconut trees. It was truly a magical place. b)

along with my grandmother, through backwaters, and reaching a land of canals and coconut  trees which is Kallada, a beautiful spot in the mouth of the Kallada river. After a stay for a week there the onward journey was again by boat (vallom) to Chathannur.
Another important unforgettable incident connected with the journey is the final arrival of the party consisting of grandmother, a paternal uncle (first cousin of my father), a servant who accompanied her on the journey to the new family house at Kythakuzhy. They say that there are instincts in animals which make them adopt certain irresistible course of actions; so they say, that rats leave a sinking vessel and animals shun the approach of a slaughter house. At the boundary wall of the house where I was to to live through, for the next 10 or 12 years, through several agonies and miseries of childhood, my soul rebelled and resisted entry to the compound even;  the grown up tried their very best to get me over the stile over the wall; the only answers they received were kicks and cries and a total refusal. So they had to take me back to a neighboring house of an uncle and after pacifying me with delicious mangoes and fruits I was somehow taken to the house , a little later, as I fell asleep…’
(selected: benny)

image 2. (my father in the early 70s).

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