Puthoor family- linked- get-together group(aypu)

Excerpts from the Auto biography of KochuVarkey


This is the verbatim translation of a Chapter from Kochu Varkey's writings ..... 

Though it is very difficult to translate the whole book , I am trying to put in here what he had mentioned about the life they had led in those times... He had named the Book, "Chinthashakalangal". I am trying to focus on the chapter called "ente Jeevithathiloode".... which might be of interest to the younger ones in the family...


'Those episodes in one's early life which  might have appeared silly and simple to others might be enough to turn the direction of one's life in a most unexpected manner. The  impact of such events on one's mind, might reverberate strongly till the end of your life.

Before I share my thoughts with you about what I mentioned above, let me describe the circumstances in which I grew up, the social set up in those days, the behavioral pattern of the people around etc.. 

Pavaratty was a part of Old Malabar region which  was a colony under the British Rule. It was an economically backward region. You might even say that it was under severe poverty. Hence many jokingly agreed that 'Poverty' would  have been a better name for that place...

The livelihood of these illiterate and poor people was met  mainly by making coir from coconut husks and extracting oil from coconut and working hard on paddy fields.. As there were no other job opportunities, most of them were half starved. Smallpox, Cholera, and other severe infectious diseases were rampant in those days. Malnutrition and its associated sickness prevailed everywhere. Neonatal deaths were very common. Thus the nature had found a way to curtail the population growth without the intervention of science in those days. 

The life span of a Man in those days was 27 years...None of those in the present generation would believe that ...but it is true.

Compared to the Cochi, and Thiruvithamkoore regions, Malabar region was backward in all indices of growth. Malabar being  the  southern most district under Madras state no modern medical facilities were available here. The health of these population was under the expert hands of the 'Ayurvedic Vaidyars'. Those who were lucky survived , others succumbed to deaths..

I  was born into a middle class farmer family  on December 4th ,1927.  (makeeryam nal). Though my mother gave birth to 9 children, only 5 of us survived the dangerous neonatal period. My mother used to say that even my childhood days were filled with innumerable illness. But after that as long as I could remember I never had any serious illness and I remember enjoying my childhood days very much.

We were taught the importance of hard work and consequences of laziness right from our early days. We used to work hard along with our parents, helping them to cut dry coconuts into pieces , to extract oil from it, to tend the cows and in selling the milk to the neighbors, and to work on the land around, thus trying to keep poverty away from our house. Gradually compared to others around, we started picking up financially. 

The cost of laziness which our 'Namboodhiri' ancestors had to pay with poverty , were harped upon us repeatedly. The same way the stories of  people from south, who migrated north and reaped wealth from turning the hilly lands into farmland by sheer hard work also were very familiar to us.

Sometimes I used to wonder , how some apparently silly episode in the childhood days could influence one's view of life even when they become adults.

I was just 3 or 4 years old. One Brahmin lady who could tell future came to our house. I was sitting with my grandmother. She asked my grandmother my Nakshathram and after taking my face in her hands she said that this boy will bring good tidings to the house and he would be enjoying royal life throughout. She would be having other intentions like getting more money when she mentioned that. As a child of three, I did not understand what she meant. But my grandmother kept on  repeating this over to all relatives who came to visit her for many years, till finally I grasped the meaning.

Because of that I started considering myself as somebody born for greater things. This made me do the work entrusted to me with utmost sincerity and to the best of my ability even when I was a little boy. Even the humble job of plucking the grass from the front yard , I would do with utmost concentration. Thus I could earn the praise of the elders.This helped me to think from a different angle in many adverse situations and find a way out throughout my life.

Why I mentioned this episode, is to highlight the importance of sending the right messages into the minds of young children who could absorb  everything and later on, be influenced by it without much effort. If one could send the messages of love, imagination, and kindness into a child's mind when they are really young, they would grow up with plenty of it and  give it out in plenty.

Though the only high school in our village was quite near our place, none of us were lucky enough to study there. In those days people considered education as a means to attain some job. Those who were otherwise engaged considered taking up education as a waste of time and energy. As far as they were concerned the only need for education was just to read what is written and to do simple mathematics required in day to day life.

In 1942 after passing out from Poovathoor U.P.School after ESSLC (equivalent to 8th standard), I was allotted the job of looking after various family business helping my father. I was supposed to go to the fields to supervise the works there, and help out with making money out of coconuts from the land around. As my elder brother was keen on becoming a priest, he was allowed to continue his education. To have a priest in a family  was considered a great honor in those days.

Those were the days of 2nd world war. In the local tea shops, the news of the war would be read aloud from the newspapers to the people gathered around. The English newspapers like Madras Mail and The Hindu  could be read only by a very few . They were mainly school Teachers and those who have gone to English Medium schools. After reading there would be discussions over cups (no glasses) of tea and their versions and inferences were like writings from Bible to us children. We used to feel jealous and wonder at our own friends who had gone to English Medium Schools  and who were able to read English though with difficulty. Yes I do admit that I had felt indescribable desperation when I heard the children of the Harijans who were living on our land reading English with ease. And when the man who was supervising  our fields 'Karyasthan Shanku'  told me to convey to my father that because of "Urgent Business" he would not be coming , my mind which was already in a turmoil about not being able to study further started sending the signals of revolt against my present job.. My desire to study in the High school started growing strong. Many a times I attempted to convey my desire to study to my father via mother. It was of no avail... Father was very  adamant that I should remain at home to look after things. And I was as adamant as he to do just the opposite. I requested the parish priests and school teachers who were considered very important in those days to plead  for me to my father. It was  of no use. That year I continued ploughing the fields with cattle and running errands for my father , seething with revolt at my plight. I took a secret vow that I would somehow achieve my goal. 

On the door frames and side walls of the house the slogans of protests started appearing. I remember the most important one was "vidhyaadhanam sarvadhanal pradhaanam". (of all the wealth , the most important one is education}. Later on in my life when I read about Ghandhiji's modus operandi in freedom struggle I used to think about the miniature form of it which I had practiced..!!

Another year passed by... My determination to study further had not come down one bit.. To join in high school we had to write an entrance exam. Without anyone knowing, I started learning English words by myself. My brother who used to come for vacation, also helped me with English subject and encouraged my efforts. Thus somehow I managed to get through the exams. Even then there was no way I could coax my father to yeild to my request. At one time when my depression became unbearable, I even decided to run away from home. But that I did not do.

 I decided to change the mode of protest and see what effect it would have on my father. That was how I started the non cooperation movement inside the house. I refused to do whatever was needed. I had never disobeyed my father till then. But as protest I did things exactly opposite to what he wanted. The peace and tranquility of the house got disrupted. 

One day i got an opportunity to do what I had always wished. I had accumulated some money from the errands I had been entrusted with earlier. My father fell ill with fever and on the school reopening day I joined the high school without him knowing. This happened in the year 1944. Once my father came to know about the disobedience as expected I was punished. My mother was ordered not to feed me for 2 days. My poor mother, she was in a dilemma. But father was  a  stubborn person. Even at the end of 2 days when he discovered that I was not ready to give up my desire to study, he decided to let go his dictatorial attitude and was willing to make necessary changes. Immediately the tension in the household loosened up and from then on wards we were a changed family. Changed for better. It was not just me who gained , but all became aware of the need to heed to other's desires and wishes  and need of education as well. In those days the head of the family had the first and last word. Others just obey. 

This also taught me one thing. If you have a genuine desire and if you are convinced that you are right, then you are bound to succeed, if only you are willing to put your wholehearted effort and go through the difficulties with immense patience..!!

From then on wards all of us actively participated while taking major decisions concerning the family members. We decided to drop the  habit of making the female members of the house to eat last as was the custom till then. All of us sat together around a table while having food. The arguments and laughter which we shared during the meal times are such pleasurable memories even now. Sitting around the dining table, the older generation and younger generation and females had their say in everything. Gradually the neighbors and our relatives who came upon these changed scenario started appreciating the family and started implementing it in their own houses...We learned the value of strength in unity. I had thought that these interactions made my family to stand by me firmly giving full support when I took a nurse as my bride and brought her home, a thing unheard of in those days. Nursing  was considered as one of the menial jobs and nurses were shunned from matrimonial lists of good families without thinking twice. 

I cannot move away from this chapter without mentioning the planning part . Those were the days after independence, when Nehru was at the helm of our nation guiding it towards a better India. We have heard him arguing for the implementation of 5 YEAR PLANS. Along those lines we wanted to  improve our own family . Though I had obtained a job in the Indian Railways, the financial situation of our house was not improving and it was going from bad to worse. The remuneration from farming had come to almost nothing and my brother who had gone away to study for priesthood could not continue it due to sickness. 

Both of us (my elder brother and I) started thinking that unless some major planning was done and implemented immediately our situation would not look bright at all. No one would believe that we actively discussed this topic with genuine enthusiasm for months. Finally a master plan was made. These are some of the decisions we took .

1) We have to convince our parents who held close the old values and tradition to change many of their attitudes .( that was fairly easy because they had already been exposed to need for changes much earlier!

2) We decided to encourage and improve each and every member's potential to contribute to this world. Just being rich was not enough. If only all the members in the family are well educated will it bring the whole family to prosperity. For that we decided that all the three males should take a Bachelor degree and girls of the family study so that they would get employment. Though my elder and younger brothers could materialize the dreams, I could not . I had neglected my health to bring the ends meet to such an extent that I fell ill for a long time and my dream did not happen. But the gratifying thing was that all of us were educated.

3) Next in our Agenda was to obtain a job. As we all had basic education , to get a job was not that difficult in those days.

 4) Next we started thinking about our life partners. We had decided that all of us would marry only an employed person. This would bring more income into the family. Except for my sister who wanted to become a nun, all of us married as we planned. That way our family started becoming prosperous once more. This time the prosperity was to stay unlike the unpredictable farming era. 

 5) Even in bringing our children into this world, it went according to the planning. All the married siblings have 2 children each*. Having more children would be a financial burden.

*( the author Kochuvarkey used to say that when the two parents leave this world, they should leave behind just two. No extra burden to the mother earth to carry around.).

Here I wanted to convey the 'importance of planning in life' to the youngsters. Now you ,youngsters should be in a position to judge if our  planning helped us to  achieve the goals or not.....!!

♥  The End  ♥