Monday, February 12, 2007

A judgment.

Mathoo Tharakan, my great grandfather and the first Parayil to settle down in Olavipe, during the second half of the 19th century, sat apart in the courtroom awaiting the judgement that was about to be pronounced. All his properties were involved in that litigation and the rumour was that the verdict would be against him

Many in the gathering in the court stole glances at the Parayil Tharakan who might become a pauper in a few minutes. The man was outwardly calm. He was fully aware of the gravity of the situation. His lawyer had briefed him that there was hardly any chance of winning the case.

Tharakan’s nonchalance was not mere bravado. There was an ingrained confidence that St. Antony, the Parayil Family’s Patron Saint, would protect him and his properties. He might have also recalled the words of an ancestor who, when told that a decree had been passed against him in an important case, asked, “Will decree climb coconut trees?” Those days the Parayils had the manpower to prevent the execution of any decree.

There was pin drop silence when the judge read out the verdict. The judgement was well prepared and sound, relying on solid precedence and legal points that had escaped the attention of the lawyers handling the case. It was in favour of Mathoo Tharakan.

Later, the court clerk came to Tharakan and said that the judge wanted to see him in the chamber. Tharakan took his money pouch from the vassal who was carrying it, added his gem-studded rings to the cache and placed it on the judge’s table when he reached the chamber.

“Do you,” the judge asked, “by any chance, remember me?”

Tharakan looked at him blankly.

“Not likely,” the judge continued. “We’ve met only once, decades ago. That was at Trivandrum, one morning.”

The Parayil Family had a guesthouse at the State capital, near the Secretariat. A former Maharaja had granted the land on the western side of the MC Road from Statue Junction to Spencer Junction to the Family. The guesthouse was built on that land. Later on it came to be known as Koder Building because the Koders, an ancient and famous Jewish trading family of Cochin, had acquired it.

The judge then narrated the details of their meeting. One morning, while staying in the guesthouse, Mathoo Tharakan went for a ride in a horse drawn carriage. He saw a young boy leaning on a tree by the roadside and crying. He stopped the coach and enquired what the problem was. The lad explained that he was the top student in his Matriculation class. Unless the stipulated fees were paid that day he wouldn’t be able to sit for the examination. There was no way of raising the money.

Tharakan asked the boy to get into the hansom and ordered the coachman to proceed to the school. En route, during conversation, the boy mentioned that his ambition was to become a lawyer. At the school Tharakan met the Head Master and, after discussing the details, created a fund to enable the boy to obtain a law degree. He promptly forgot all about it.

“I’m that Brahmin boy,” the judge stated.

Later, when Tharakan bid goodbye, the judge reminded him, “You forgot your money.” Tharakan took the pouch and left.


Ashvin said...

Gosh !

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Rajan Rajiv said...

Why is it that you did not tell the name of the judge? It is difficult to think that a student going to take an examination was seen crying near a roadside tree. We can believe if the boy had cried before his teachers or in Tharakan's house.
Velu Thampi had cut off both ears of Tharakan. There were also no such matriculation schools in those days. The first school was established after several yeas later by LMS missionaries. So it is very hard to believe.