Head of the house Thonipuzha

By Alice Edwin

This is an account of VC Easaw, our family patriarch, our Appachen and Valiyappachen.

A farmer by profession, Appachen was greatly respected by the people in his community. Villagers looked up to him for his honesty, impartiality and steadfastness. They trusted him enough to bring disputes to him for settlement. This was a time when even policemen were not around in villages, and certainly there were no lawyers for ordinary citizens. Remember that our Appachen was the youngest of the Vadaketh brothers, yet the locals turned to him when the need arose!

As the youngest son he inherited the family home, a custom among Syrian Christians. And he was aware of the responsibility that came along with that birthright. He was very much the head of the household.

Appachen had his meals in a room adjoining the dining room. I think Klang Papa, his eldest son, and Achen Appachen would join him.

During our 1946 visit to Kurianoor, I remember Appachen commenting on how farmers were trying to hide some amounts of taxable grain from the tax collectors. I thought he sounded more amused than censorious! What did I know? After all, the tax went to the British Raj, as Indian independence was not for another year!

Appachen was a man of wit. Klang Papa, VE Chacko, inherited this trait, as have our Judge, VC George, and others among his descendants. Mary Aunty (Achen’s wife) used to relate many of his witty sayings. I have some memories myself.

Once we went to the coconut grove with him. One of the farm hands was cutting down the nuts. We begged Appachen to get us tender coconut. “What?” said he, “Will you pay me for it?” We were brash enough to plead with him and, of course, got our kariku, tender coconut, with him grumbling, “I know you kids.”

While busy at the farm he wore a veshti of coarse thick material, strong enough to withstand rough use. On his feet he wore clogs! There was no strap to keep them on but a thick wooden “nail” with a carved head which rose up between his large toe and the next. Instead of a shirt or jubha he just slung a towel across his chest and over one shoulder. When it rained he carried an umbrella topped with flat dry palm leaves instead of woven material. He went about from one part of his farm to another, a few miles away, at times.

On Sundays, he was freshly shaven and bathed. He would fold a veshti round his waist and long enough to reach his feet. He favoured a crisp white long-sleeved shirt with a shawl of very fine muslin, double folded across his shoulders. To finish off his outfit, he stepped into leather chappals.

Thus, did the farmer become landed gentry, patriarch of Thonipuzha, as he attended the church built by his forefathers.

Alice Edwin, the fifth child of VE Chacko, lives in Dunedin, New Zealand with her husband Moses. This story appears in the family book, ‘Progeny of Vadakethu Chacko Easaw Since 1954’.