From my ancestral home in Chenganda in Cherthala, the tiny beautiful hamlet of Olavipe is not far away. I presume that before the land reforms came, the entire Olavipe might have belonged to the Tharakan family. The title “Tharakan” seems to have been given to this ancient and aristocratic family of Syrian Christians by Maharaja Marthanda Varma (AD 1706-58), the founder of modern Travancore.The Maharajah was ably assisted in conferring such titles by his selfless Diwan (Prime Minister) Ramayyan Dalawa.
My wife Sindhu and son Mithun accompanied me to the Tharakan estate some 15 kilometers away through the country roads. The landscapes had not changed much over the last few decades and I could show the NSS College at Pallippuram to my wife where I had spent 5 years of my college life till my graduation. Small hills of sugar-white sand –Silica- could still be seen around despite much exploitation of these minerals by unscrupulous elements over the years.
The Tharakan residence is an ancestral home typifying the Kerala architecture. I don’t intend to dwell on this wonderful building because Mr. Abraham Tharakan has written about it in his exceptional blog many a time with beautiful photographs. http://parayilat.blogspot.com/
Mr. Abraham Tharakan and his brother Mr. Jacob Tharakan, who held important banking assignments in India and abroad, received us with much warmth. I felt it as an occasion when the hosts reflected the maturity gained over years of graceful living. The aristocratic simplicity in behaviour and the wisdom reflected in conversations spilled over to us making the fellowship most memorable. Mr. Abraham’s younger brother Anto Tharakan and his graceful wife Rema Tharakan made the conversations most interesting. Anto Tharakan was a highly decorated para-military officer before he took his voluntary retirement to concentrate on his other passions. Mrs. Rema, known to Jeevan TV viewers as a fine presenter was at ease entertaining a British couple from Bristol.
Two other Tharakan brothers are well known. Prof. Dr.Michael Tharakan was a senior economist/faculty with the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum and has also been Director of the Kerala Institute for Local Administration, Thrissur. He is presently the Ramakrishna Hegde Chair in Decentralization and Development with the Institute for Social and Economic Change in Bangalore. Another brother Mr.Hormis Tharakan was in the Indian Police Service and was the DGP in Kerala. He also headed the RAW, India’s external intelligence agency before his present assignment as the Advisor to the Governor of Karnataka.
Though I have not personally met Mr.Hormis Tharakan, recently I happened to read the reminiscences he wrote on “Azhvanchery Thamprakkal “(High priests of Kerala Nampoothiris”) in a biography of the same title by Dr.Rajan Chungath. The article reflected his humility, scholarship, inquisitiveness and wisdom. I felt instant regard for him on reading this small article and mentioned it to Mr.Abraham Tharakan.
The ancestral Tharakan residence is selectively given for home-stay of exclusive guests from India and abroad. I don’t have any doubt that the guests will carry excellent memories of our heritage by enjoying the natural surroundings and thanking the warmth of the hosts. Mr. Jacob Tharakan, Anto and Rema really seemed to enjoy this responsibility.
While we were enjoying some cocktails, Mithun, my son, enjoyed the company of Emu birds in the farm, which, as Mr. Abraham Tharakan put it, always played to the gallery. Later he immersed himself with some “Asterix”comics in the fine Victorian style library of the Tharakan household. Mr. Abraham confided that he still enjoys reading “Asterix”comics.
The following anecdote from Mr. Abraham Tharakan was interesting and worth quoting.
“Mr. Chacko, grand father of Rema Tharakan was the first native superintendent of police under the last Maharajah of Cochin. During those days, this police boss used to move around on a stallion from the cavalry.
Every other day, while retiring for night to his house in Parur, he used to have a stop over for refreshments, with the vicar of the St.George Church at Edappally.(This church is still famous and popular with travelers who offer their obeisance on the way)
A householder of the house by the side of the vicar’s quarters used to have his daily drinks, late in the evenings, by sitting on the veranda.
It was pretty late on a day and the householder had a couple of drinks more than his usual quota when Mr. Chacko arrived on his horse back. Sensing that the householder was in a thoroughly inebriated condition, he shouted “Enthaa, Mathiyayille”- What? Is it not enough? - Then he made his horse jump over the gates of the vicar’s quarters-as it was closed for the day- and disappeared.
The householder with all the alcohol in his veins decided that it was St.George himself who came to him on his horse and asked him on his excessive drinking. From the next day onwards, the poor man kept away from his indulgence and used the evenings to say his prayers.
Of course, his family members knew the truth but they decided that they will keep it a secret.”
We had a great dinner with many a traditional dish. The old chef of the household with decades of service with the family made a unique curry with raw and tender cashew nuts which went well with the fine chapattis.
Since I had to return to Palakkad, I had requested Mr. Jacob Tharakan to a pay a visit to my parents in Chenganda, which I hope he shall do at his convenience.
I owe one to the Tharakan family and reserve it hopefully for my next holidays.
Palakkad, South India
18th May 2008.