“Kochu Koshy tharakanteh

 Kochu mon am evaneh nee

 Kachavedam padipipan orungavenda "

 

            This was one of the poems in Malayalam, which our Papa has written to respond to some friends who had doubts about his ability to be successful in business. It is a poem which has very deep meanings for those who understand Malayalam. Translated into English, it says:

           

            "My great ancestor Kochu Koshy

            was a prominent and successful businessman, 

            Being the great grandson

            I also have the talent to be a successful businessman    
Don't try to teach me about being successful in business."

 

            He also speaks and sings many poems in Sanskrit. If you ask him why he taught these to us, and to our children, he may have his own reasons! But, we can tell for sure that it has taught us to be proud of our heritage and our roots! We are happy to have a good example set before us to follow.

            In many ways, we believe his exemplary life and God’s grace are two factors that have helped us to have a wonderful family of our own. We know that our parents have been praying for our success in life and God must have heard their prayers, and helped us make the right choices in life. Indeed, we owe much to the example of our parents for the kind of people that we have become.

 

 

Mummy and Papa, our Mentors

 

 

            From our Papa, we learned what it means to be a faithful Father and Husband, and to provide for all family and educational needs.  His was also a good example of a Community activist and a good role model of someone who had worked hard under the grace of GOD. In many ways, our Papa was a man who has weathered many storms. He was always there whenever we needed him. He was also an inspiration to us. As a principled man of strong character and integrity, his word was his honour and everyone who knew us knew this about him and us. To this day, all of us children carry this value into our lives. As Ravi puts it, he personally learnt all his socio-political skills and talents from Papa.

Papa places a lot of emphasis on hierarchy. There was once we went to a friend’s house from our Malayalee community. The children of the family never stood up, and he was very unhappy. In the Malayalee community, this was considered disrespectful, because whenever an elder person comes in, the younger ones must always stand up for the elder person to sit. Papa is always conscious of the hierarchy in the family. Even on Christmas day, when he gives money to the grandchildren, he would follow the hierarchy from eldest to the youngest of his children, although the amount is always the same. From him, we learnt that we have to always respect the elderly.

As a father, he mainly used verbal reprimand to teach us good discipline. Our sister, Petsy remembers the taunt he used: “I’ll buy you a cow and you can take care of it for me.’’ Papa was telling Petsy that if she did not do well in her studies, she would have to end up a cowherd. It worked for Petsy, and actually for all of us!

Mum was the one who cared for us and showed us tender love and made us feel loved. She was the greatest cook in the world, and well known in the community for her excellent cooking skills. Mom was an excellent Mother who gave of herself entirely for us and served the needs of the family totally and fully; and especially so when Papa was out of town, by also managing his business for him. She was our tutor at home and in fact, she ensured we studied and she even read the Bible to us. Because of her, we were usually some of the best dressed kids in Church, always prim and proper. They brought up the family well. We could have been looked up to as a good family who knew how to give priority to Church, our jobs and school. We were all children, who were above average and did well in school. Education was the Number One priority in the family.

            A week after our Mum passed away, our sister, Pearly contributed to the eulogy of her. Mum has always set a good example for us. Like our Papa, she was a mentor to all of us.

 

 

Grace K Kuruvilla or J Kalakkattu Gracey

Born: 4th March 1927

Died: 21st December 2008

Married to Datuk K. John Kuruvilla who is alive and 89 years of age.

Grandmother of 18 grandchildren and mother to five children and their spouses. Born to rich parents, but her mother passed on when she was only about one year old. She was youngest of 3 siblings; the oldest is now 89 years and the second 85 years; both are living. John George, the oldest was in Malaya but returned to India and lives there now. Kunjanama Verghese also lives in India.

Met her husband on the wedding day, was married, and returned to Malaya in 1948 when she was only 21 years old. Datuk John Kuruvilla says, “he liked her as soon as he saw her.”

Returned to live together in Sungai Petani where she knew no one else.  The late Mrs E.D.Paul, mother of Dr Joseph Paul was her greatest elder sister, friend, mentor and marriage counselor.

Her mission in life was as home-maker; taking care for every detail and meeting needs in her children’s life. She successfully raised 5 children and gave them away in marriage to five other greater ones!

Between 1967 and 1978 Grace helped manage the Kedah Medical Hall; the pharmacy owned by her husband as he was then working in KL and Penang. She has had her driving license since 1958, she was amongst the first ladies to drive in Sungai Petani.

She always had a special thrill to cook for her family and visitors who dropped in. She also enjoyed gardening, the house was constantly surrounded by flowers and trees that were carefully and gracefully taken care of.

She was deeply involved in a social organization, named Ladies of the Alliance party and they honored the Sultanah of Kedah on the installation of the current Sultan of Kedah. She was involved with the Hospital Visitation Board and worked closely with the late Mrs PN Pillai, the mother of Chandra Muzaffar. 

For her, her greatest passion was to build a congregation hall in SP.  Therefore, she was continually checking on the physical status of the project and development; she was most broken hearted when the hall was burnt down, by petrol bombs that were thrown in purposefully by ill-meaning boys. She enjoyed worshipping in the renewed church hall, and it meant the most to her just being there. She had every right to be proud of the church hall in SP. She was always keeping her self involved with the church congregation and often prayed with her prayer group and also with others from the church.

Compiled by K.J.Mary; 29th December 2008.

            Care for the others in the family always came before care for oneself.  This selfless service to others is a true blue value that we hope to pass on to our children.  Papa used to always make us break sticks one by one and then he asked each of us to try to break the sticks as a whole bundle. With this simple lesson, he taught us to stay together as a family. The family is extremely important to us; we have to be there for one another.

            We have also been taught obedience and respect to our parents and elders. On the lighter side, Papa once told us that children had to respect parents and should sit one level lower than their parents. One of us cheekily asked him then in that case if he sat on the ground does that mean we have to dig a hole and sit in it. We had a great laugh. We were also taught that we need to strive and work hard to be successful. We should not look for shortcuts. Papa also reminded us that `a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’. We have learnt to always be grateful with whatever we have in our possession, without eyeing for what does not belong to us.

            Someday, we hope to pass on these great values we have seen in our parents. They have demonstrated their care for each other, regardless of circumstances in life; this is an endearing value they have given to us! They have also taught us what it means to honour our father and mother, to honour God and be faithful to His Church, to work hard and be successful, keeping the family together and to support one another. Finally, we have to be kind and considerate to others, as they have always set the example for us to follow.

 

 

An Understanding Father and a Pillar of Strength

 

 

            Although Papa is strong in his opinions, especially when it has to do with his Mar Thoma Church and Malayalee traditions, he has always given his children room for flexibility. He is the antithesis of Frank Sinatra’s “I did it my way.”

            Petsy, our youngest pet sister, can well testify about Papa’s patience with her:

 

“I used to argue with him a lot that he sometimes said that I should have become a lawyer. The thing that he most irritated me with was the way he would tease me for being a single. He thought that I was going to remain single. I always told him off. I was probably the one person most vocal with him. But, he was also a father who listened to my problems. I used to bring all my work problems home. He would happily listen and help sort out the problems. He was quick in asking me not to be too strict or too seriously, and sometimes to let go.”

 

            Another example where Papa demonstrated his flexibility was when we picked a name for our children. The Mar Thoma Syrian tradition is such that the first son is named after the paternal grandfather and the second son is named after the maternal grandfather. The first daughter is named after the paternal grandmother and the second daughter is named after the maternal grandmother.

            In Vijayan's case, the first son should have been named after my father but Papa requested that the son be named after his father-in-law, as it was the first grandson on his wife’s side after some time. Furthermore, Ravi had earlier named his first son after Papa (as Johann is a variation of John). So, Vijayan's second son was then named after Papa (the reverse order in his case to comply with the earlier request). The family tried to follow as closely the Mar Thoma Syrian tradition of naming the children.

            In the case of Mohan, his first son should have been named John but he and Shirley had decided on the name Benjamin. So to recognize both father and father-in-law (both named John), they named their son, Benjamin Jon, another variation of the name `John’.

            Papa did not make a big issue over the way we were naming our children. He left it to us to decide even though he was the one who informed and educated us on the tradition.

            Another issue which he did not interfere with is on marriage. The Malayalees in Malaysia are governed by the traditions and for someone true to his Mar Thoma faith, Papa was always emphasizing that his children marry people within the Malayalee community. However, when Ravi decided to marry Doreen, who was an American Catholic, Papa never objected.

            Pearly also shares how Papa was pleased with his willingness to let her decide for her own destiny.

 

“Every girl dreams of the perfect wedding. My father allowed me to plan much of the details. It was a wonderful ceremony. My brothers knew I loved flowers so they went around town picking Honolulu creepers and put them in glasses on every table at the reception dinner. With what he had, my father made sure it was a modest wedding filled with friends and family whom my father loved.”

 

            Before her wedding, Pearly spent a total of six years with our parents when she was posted back to Sungai Petani after completing her Diploma in Education. She was of course very adamant that she would only marry a man who genuinely loved God. Occasionally, there were some clashes between father and daughter over who was the suitable person for her to marry, yet Papa was understanding enough, so as not to impose his wishes on our sister. Pearly testifies: “I will always cherish the support he gave me to decide on my own whom I wanted to choose. I would never have dreamed of marrying someone who my father would not approve of. I love him for his sacrifices for us and was often sad that he had to work so hard to support us. I kept myself busy playing netball and with Bible studies in the Anglican Church. Bible studies and other gatherings were often held at my home. My parents were supportive in all this.”

            When Pearly decided to marry Geevarughese and had applied to move to Johor Bahru, Papa was fully supportive. He knew that Pearly’s place was with her husband.

            Petsy too pays her tribute to Papa.

 

“He is the best father. He was such a good father that he always put his own children’s interests before his own. This has helped to make it so much easier for me to understand the concept of God’s love. Because he was always provided for our needs, I see God our Father as the Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider. My Father has always been a good man. I don’t want to trade him for anything else.”

 

           

Now, for the remaining part of this book, we will let our own children share about their Grandfather, whom they fondly refer to as “Apaccha” and their late Grandmother, whom they will always remember as their beloved “Amachi”.

            One riddle that all our children have learnt to recite along is a simple song in Malayalam,

 

“I am going to Atuvarambal,

Patel vettan poyappol,

My leg theti chetil venapal,

Kazhekan chenapal, no water!”

 

Papa would, with tongue-in-cheek, ask, “What happened to the water?” To find out the answer, we will allow our children to explain what it means in English in the next chapter.

 

 

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