Joseph (Uppachan) Pathyil, Canada
Late one afternoon, if you sit on that boulder in the kalappura muttam, you will see the verdant fields bursting with golden crops. The workers have retired to rest from the travails of the day. The birds are flying back to their nests. The channels are silent except for the occasional fish jumping, or a water snake rippling the surface. The golden sun is about to embrace the green fields laden with the promise of a rich harvest. People are busy getting the children bathed, and readying for the evening prayers. Darkness falls suddenly after the glorious sunset. One can hear the chatter of prayers, loud reading of homework by the children, scolding of mothers to recalcitrant children from every household. The day is done, its hours have run, and people are taking count of all.
Soon will come the harvest season. Workers are milling around the premises, reaping, thrashing, drying and heaping of hay, storing the paddy, fighting for recognition, ...and all in a hurry to beat the rains. Stomping the harvested sheaves under feet, making sure every grain is accounted for, they work night and day. Indeed most stay back to work a few hours by lantern to speed up and store the harvest. Glorious time for the children to walk the newly harvested fields, gleaning what is left by the workers, flying kites, romping in the hay, and generally making a nuisance of themselves to the workers and their supervisors. The jackfruit and mangoes are ripe for picking. The cashew apples shine temptingly overhanging the fields. Not a day goes by but the delicious mangoes are picked or gathered as they fall, and eaten at any time of the day or night. And the children gorge on jack fruit till they get sick.
Seasons determine the lives of the folks in Kaipuzha. Home and school and church revolve around these seasons. Marriages and festivals are in accordance with the seasons. Kaipuzha is quintessentially a place in tune with nature.
St. George’s Roman Catholic Church is the focal point of religious and social activities of the Christians. It has been in existence since 1813. Though the church has been rebuilt twice, it has remained a beacon for all through the years. The Knanaya Christians of Kaipuzha have always been a devout community. Whenever the pastor needed the people, he only needed to ask. Indeed from the very inception of the Church, the Pathyils have played an integral part in the wellbeing of the parish. The latest reconstruction of the Church in 1983 was undertaken under the tireless leadership of Thomas Kalluvelil.
The history of the Visitation Convent founded by Bishop Makil in 1892 is intertwined with our family history. The Convent ran a Malayalam Language School for girls as well as a primary school for boys and girls. The boarding that was attached to the school attracted students from all over central Travancore. Almost all our girls and many of our boys had their early education in the school. From the inception of the Convent, several of our women have dedicated themselves to the service of God and His people, taking the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the Congregation.
IN 1928 Fr. Thomas Poothathil founded St. Joseph’s Congregation originally for handicapped women. Subsequently the congregation flourished, and today it has branches all over Kottayam, several parts of India, and in Africa and Europe. The sisters run schools, orphanages, hospitals and other social service activities.
St. George’s English Middle School (later to become a High School) was started in 1926 through the vision and endeavor of Abraham Pathyil. Ever since its inception all our children have had their education in that school. The story of that school is as much the story of our family. Close to the school is the hospital, which too has received much, loving care from our family and relatives even till today. The survival and growth of the hospital was due, in no small measure to the unstinting service of men such as Chamakala Chummaru Kutty and, in the recent past, Thomas Kalluvelil.
St.Therese of Avila Church in Palathuruth, next to our ancestral home, is very much our church too. Indeed the original plot of land was given by one of our own. Ever since then, to the most recent rebuilding of the Church, our family members have participated without counting cost and time. Thomas Pathyil and Babychan Chamakala were in the forefront of the construction of the magnificent church that stands as a model of Kerala’s unique ecclesial architecture.
Kaipuzha population consists of not only Knanaya Catholics, but also people of different religions. The Nairs have been the early settlers on the land. They are landholders, but generally continue to be civil servants. The Ezhava community, the traditional toddy tappers, constitutes an important minority. The Pulayas who have been for centuries the tenants and workers of the landlords are an important segment of the Kaipuzha community. The Mukavas (Valans) have been fishermen and boatmen for centuries. All these segments live in relative harmony and communal peace. To all of them St. George’s school has been the alma mater, the fields and the water their common ground. At festivals, marriages, and funerals all these people show their mutual respect and regard, by sharing joy and grief.
Kaipuzha has always been associated with its neighboring village of Neendoor. In fact Neendoor is an extension of Kaipuzha. For very long time the school and the hospital in Kaipuzha were as much part of Neendoor. Apart from the fact that Neendoor has its own Church and community centre, Kaipuzha has been the mother church and spiritual centre. The civic government of the Panchayat is now in Neendoor, and new industries and progress have veered towards Neendoor. But Neendoor is integral to the soul of Kaipuzha. The Pathyils originated from Neendoor and the ancestors have had intimate involvement in the development of Neendoor, even to this day.
Another satellite village close to Kaipuzha is Kurumulloor (Onanthuruthu and Vedagiri are names for parts of the same place.) People of Kurumulloor have traditionally gone to Kaipuzha school, been treated in Kaipuzha hospital, and they too have been integral parts of Kaipuzha life. Places such as Manjoor and Kallara also looked to Kaipuzha as its mother church and St. George’s school has educated all the youngsters of all these villages. In other words, the whole region, known as Kaipuzha-Neendoor Sekharam has been one entity.
The history of the Pathyil family is not a story in isolation. The land, its people, its institutions, and the evolutions of time have marked the family. And the family has left its mark in the process of this evolution.