To Appachaikoch With Love


On April 1st 2009, one of the greatest souls that I have met in my lifetime, departed from our lives. Kalapilil Ulahanan Cherian fondly called Cherian Vaidyar, an ayurvedic practitioner, par excellence, and my grandfather, who specialized in treating patients for snake bites, free of cost, died at the age of 82.

This was a family tradition passed on through generations. My grandfather was a simpleton and valued treating the patients from their suffering, more than the ability to pay.

The whole village loved my grandfather almost as much as we as our family did. Some of the patients who came to the funeral narrated how hopeless they were, when the met Vaidyan after the doctors of modern science had given up and how the magical hands of Vaidyar had transformed their lives.

The people of this little known village, Piramadom (nesting between Piravom and Muvatupuzha in Ernakulam district of Kerala) still remember this caring and compassionate doctor who treated many a low-income patients. Patients thronged him from all over Kerala and visitation time, even the dead of the night. Even then all of them were always greeted with a big smile and a quick joke. He worked hard to provide the best quality treatment. He was proud of the quality service and medicines he provided, and the whole of Ernakulam knew it.

The biggest testimony of love and respect was exhibited, by the people of Piramadom, when about 5,000 who thronged to see his mortal remains in his ancestral house (tharavad), on the day of his death. What was surprising was another 5,000 thronged the church and house on day of his funeral, some of them from the remotest part of Kerala, wanting to show their last respects, after seeing the obituary column of the leading newspapers.

I am remembering fondly this man who meant a lot to me in the times of silence and memories for a lifetime.

When he was still quite young his father decided that he would be the one who would help him at home and his brothers – both elder and younger would study. He picked up the family tradition of treatment for reptiles and insects bite/poisoning and during other times helped his father in the paddy fields.

Smart for his years, in 1970, he had saved almost every rupee and brought an Ambassador Car to fan his passion to drive and visit places. During his spare time he would tell us about his adventures and places he visited. Bangalore the place, I am currently settled is one of his favorites too. My only regret is that I couldn’t bring him to Bangalore before he breathed his last at the age of 82.

It was in the year 2002 when Cherian Vaidyar decided to discontinue treatment because of his failing health, non availability of medical concoctions and herbs for preparation of the medicines. Still remember how the whole village had come together and convinced Vaidyar to retract from his decision. The young and old in the village volunteered to help collect and pluck the rare herbs for preparation of the life saving medicines under the able guidance of Vaidyar. The family tradition continues to this day, with my cousin Robin Roy deciding to do his BAMS and serve the people with the same passion, that the great of Vaidyar of Kalapillil did in his lifetime.

It was sometime during this time that decision was taken that Vaidyar will ‘charge for the medicines’. Though it was much against his belief system, Vaidyar ultimately heeded to the dictate. But he insisted that it would be only voluntary contribution. I still remember the day we put up the ‘collection box’ at our tharavad. But I have gleefully noticed that when local patients who fell on hard times and short on cash, Vaidyar would allow them to buy his service, free. “You still need to take care of yourself, just pay when you can,” he would say.

But for us, his grand children, Cherian Vidyar was Appachaikoch who insisted that all grand children spend their school vacations at Kalapillil tharavad. I still remember how as children we, my brothers and cousins used to start for Piramadom even before the “v” of the word ‘vacation” was spelt. All of us still remember how Appachaikoch will let us be and have a ball of a time, during the vacations. Not a mango tree, jackfruit tree and the tamarind tree in the Kalapillil tharavad would forget the naughty six and the next generation, who grew up around them.

My earliest memories of my Appachaikoch include times when, after a long hard day at work in the fields, he would sit in his favorite living room chair and listen to his old transistor radio. He would have his toddy (kallu) or Brandy (Honey Bee being his favorate) in his hands. As a small child, I used to love to sit and listen with him.

Though he was a great Football fan with the advent of televisions, Cricket became his favorite pass time. He became a Sachin Tendulkar fan and he would root for the Indian team with such passion. “That’s it.. GOOD” he would say when they would make a good play, or “come on now, you can do it,” he would cheer when the team might fall behind. My grandmother would be in the kitchen making dinner, and the house will be filled with love and the aroma of great food.

I still remember how the oxes and ox plow was replaced by mechanised tillers to plow the fields. And as young kids how we made our baby attempts at plowing, sowing and raising crops. As we grew up the plantations had slowly been taken over by rubber plantations. But through his life, Appachan was also a very hard working farmer.

Appachan had a big heart, an amazing sense of humour and an unmovable character. He was always quick with a fun story and, when you asked, provided sound advice. If Appachaikoch told you something, it was gospel and you could take it to the bank. Like if you are hurt while playing he would console you and recite his ‘naughty’ mandram “mandra kotta vaitti kotta, anjatu path kuuli kotta, ninak vellom vannal innik endadi valicha nadi… issuff…issuff..issuff ” and all the pain would ‘magically vanish’. I still remember his excitement when my daughter Sneha, his great grand-daughter, recited his magic mandram to him. He couldn’t take the smile off his face for hours.

Dealing with probate issues after a loved one dies is always difficult, and it’s particularly difficult for the children. Am sure it is very difficult my mom Thankamani Philip, his first child and her two sisters, Ally Joseph (Chitaunty) and Valsa Joy (Kunjaunty) and uncle, Roy Cherian (Maman) to cope with the loss. Of all the people who will miss his spirit of live is my grandmother Mariamma Cherian (Ammachi).

Last 2 years as we moved about the house after my grandfather died, the memories were so strong we couldn’t brush them from your face. Even today when we stand in the kitchen where my aunt and uncle would make the famous chicken  curry (Appachan Kozhi as we call it), a specialty dish that we all would playfully fight over every holiday. They were so delicious you couldn’t have just one serving. There are fights on who gets the privillage to mix rice and eat from the vessel in which Appachan Kozhi is prepared.

My grandparents house was the family center. Every holiday, relatives from far away would always make their way to Piramadom, and to my grandparent’s house. We would gather in the kitchen area or more appropriately the cattle shed area (thozhithind erayakam), and while my grandmother listened and prepared magic dishes. Appachaikoch, Chitaunty and Maman would entertain us all with stories that were so funny our cheeks would hurt from laughing, and my mom and all of us would almost pee in our pants from laughing so hard. It was the same every holiday, and no one ever wanted it to change.

When we were very young, with Appachans blessing the tharavad water tank, used for storing drinking water, would suddenly turn to swiming pool for us cousins to go skinny dipping. The living room where grandparents would sit at night and listen to the radio is especially memorable to me. The hallway (Naddu Muri) where my cousins and I would play football with a pair of rolled-up socks, and the doors at the end of the hall becoming the makeshift goal posts. We would play for hours, and every game was for the championship of the world.

My Appachaikoch is gone now and it hurts that I won’t see him anymore. When I get lost and feel beaten down by life, I’m lifted by thoughts of courage, humility, strength of character of this great man. We will all miss the love and guidance he provided, and I wonder how much better the world would be if we could learn to live a little more like him – happy and gay. Still can remember him saying “Eighteen till I die” and he truly lived that spirit. He worked hard, had the right priorities, didn’t get lost in materialism, and cared most of all about his family. As I write this dedication to him, we are a day away from the Cricket World Cup Final.

I hope there is a heaven. If there is, when I arrive, I’m going to find my grandfather, and pull up a chair. He will be watching Sachin Tendulkar play in his television or listening to the commentary on an old transistor radio, and rooting for the Indian team. And since it’s heaven I bet India will be winning.

That’s a time, Appachaikocha……….. I love you.

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    • KK
    • April 2nd, 2011

    Good memorabilia…..keep them coming!!

    • Sara
    • April 7th, 2011

    This is a monumental one, This truly shows that one does not have to do anything to become a grandfather. It simply happens when your child has a child. It is up to you to decide how involved you will be in your grandchild’s life. There is an inherent biological relationship but the emotional bonding between grandfather and grandchild comes only with effort. It happens when the grandchild sees that you are open to forming a relationship. It happens when you get off your easy chair and make the effort to see what matters to your grandchild.

    And That you have truly made an effort to build this relationship. I must say that i also miss my Grand-pa and Grand-ma

    Good one and want to see more of these memories flowing through

    Cheers!!!!!!
    Sara

    • Eldho K Johnson
    • November 30th, 2012

    love u appacha love u lot

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