Monday, April 6, 2009

Remembering Appan

What is the importance of March 28, 1959?

According to history books, China dissolved the Tibetan Government on that day and installed Panchen Lama.

That was the end of an era and the beginning of another.

And so it was it for my family, for a different reason. Appan. (father) died of a heart attack on the evening of March 28, 1959. It was Holy Saturday that year. He was just 56. The local doctor, who was a family friend as well, was there, but he could do nothing to stop the inevitable.

Appan was buried the next day in the family crypt at St. Antony's Church, Thycattussarry . Since it was Easter Sunday, the priests wore white vestments instead of the traditional black for funerals.

We – his descendants, relatives and friends, and the local people - gathered this March 28 to commemorate Appan.’s 50th death anniversary.Not many who were present for the function that day knew Appan personally. But they had heard of him, of his contributions to the family, the society and the people of that area.

It was a simple event – Holy Mass at the St. Antony’s Church, Thycattussarry and prayers at the crypt led by His Eminence Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil, Major Archbishop and head of the Syro-Malabar Church. After that there was a vegetarian lunch at home followed by reminiscences of Appan by some of the people who knew him.

As a speaker pointed out, Appan’s short lifespan covered a unique period in history. He was born on March 23, 1903, the date on which the Wright Brothers obtained patent for their flying machine.

Appan saw the two World Wars, the Great Depression, Indian Independence, the switch over from feudalism to democracy, and the first Communist Government in Kerala. He was able to adjust to the great changes during his time extremely well and remained a respected leader of the Parayil Family and the people of our area.

Appan once told me that progress is a series of changes and adjustments. His life proved that to be true. I was 25 when Appan died. My elder sister was 27, and the youngest amongst us siblings, a sister, was just 6 years old. By God’s Grace and the value system Appan and Ammachi (Oru Desathinte Amma.) instilled in us, all of us did well in life.

Half a century is a long time in a person’s life. Memories become blurred, details forgotten, and pictures faded. Years ago, I described Appan’s death in a Short Story: A Bend in the Lake. I am reproducing the relevant portion here:

‘Some of the details were clear in my mind. Mother lying on a cot and crying silently. The crowd. Priests chanting prayers. The muted band playing as the raft carrying my father’s coffin moved away into the sunset for the cemetery across the lake.

“That morning,” the Captain was saying, “I saw the crowd. The servants and the tenants were beating their chests and weeping. Your father was a much respected man.”’

That raft, along with Appan’s coffin, carried away an era.

His Eminence, Cardinal Vithayathil leading prayers at
Appan's crypt on March 28, 2009.

Appan's crypt. The stripes are made with white and brown rice. All other
decorations are also done with produces of the land.

Photos: TP, JJT. Copyright reserved.
Click to enlarge.

Also see: Remembering grandfather


Rozina said...

For all of us in the next generation who never knew Appan, this is a wonderful insight. Rozina

Abraham Tharakan said...

Rozina, thank you for the comment.

george said...

Thanks for the moving description of Appan. Fifty years after his passing he has brought so many people together. We can all be inspired by the legacy he leaves behind.

grene said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Murali RamaVarma said...

Dear AT Sir, I read this post and was moved. I pray for the lofty departed soul. Murali

Ashvin said...

Dear Mr. Tharakan, I did hear about the function from Nebuchettan.