Birth Centenary Memoirs of our Beloved Appachen Kuttiyil George Mathew (Baby Sir)

(A write-up by my father Rev. Dr. George Mathew Kuttiyil on the occasion of the birth centenary of my paternal grandfather, the Late Mr. K. George Mathew)

Our beloved father Kuttiyil George Mathew (K. G. Mathew) was born as the eldest son of Kuttiyil Idichandy Varghese & Mrs. Emily Varghese at Konni on 8th January 1922. My grandfather was working as the field Division Conductor of Malayalam Plantation, Konney Estate during that time. After his primary education in Konni High School and at St. Stephen’s High School in Pathanapuram, Appachen went to Pune in 1944, in search of a job. He was appointed as a supervisor of the Labour Bureau of the Ordnance Depot at Kirkee (Khadki) in Pune in the same year. On May 26, 1946, he got married to Mrs. Shimoni Zachariah d/o Mr. P. C. Zachariah and Annamma at St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Pennukkara. She was also working in Kirkee at that time.

Late Mr. K George Mathew and Mrs. Shimoni Mathew

To them were born eight children: Elizabeth (G-amma), Annamma (Jolly — passed away at a young age), Varghese (Thampi), Abraham (Abey), Zachariah (Mohan), George (Mathukutty), Mary (Suma) and Anie (Sula).

In 1947, my grandfather asked him to come back to Konni, to take a job in the tea estate of Malayalam Plantations at Ambanadu Estate. There he worked as the Time-keeper and later Asst. Tea-maker in the tea factory. My mother was working as a school teacher in various places of Alappuzha and eventually settled in Anchal. We bought an acre of land with a house and all the seven children were staying with her in that house. She served as a teacher at the New Alayamon L. P. School, Anchal, where I also studied my first and second grades.

On June 10, 1960, Appachen was promoted as the Tea-maker of Konney Estate which was near to our ancestral home at Aruvappulam, Konni. Our mother, Mrs. Shimoni Mathew was called to her eternal abode on October 11, 1961, at the age of 37, leaving behind our father and their seven children. At that time we were members of Kannamkode Mar Thoma Church (now Jerusalem Mar Thoma Church), Anchal, where the funeral took place on 12th October, 1961. In December of 1961, the house and the property at Anchal were disposed and we all joined Appachan in the Konni Estate. There we continued our schooling at Aruvappulam and Eliyarakkal, Konni.

In 1962, our father married Saramma Charivukalayil, from Pullad, and she was our mother till her last breath in 2002. On November 30, 1971, Appachen was transferred to the Lockhart Estate of the Harrison Malayalam Ltd. located at Devikulam. He served there as Tea-maker (Factory Officer) until his retirement on March 31, 1980. After his retirement, he purchased land with a house near Aruvappulam Panchayat Office, some extension work and renovation; he lived there until his heavenly departure on 4th April, 2014, at the age of 93. Since today is his 101st birthday, I would like to share my memory of K. George Mathew as a father, dedicated Estate Officer, as a believer and church member, along with his socio-political involvement during his span of life.

The first thing that came to the memory of all his children is that he was a disciplined person. He was strict and systematic in all aspects, and expected his children to be like that. Any kind of disobedience or indiscipline would not be tolerated. So we were very serious in our studies, walk and talk. Later on, that disciplined upbringing helped me in my studies and ministry, especially in parish administration. All of us were brought up with good character, decency and devotion.

In spite of his busy schedule at work, he was very punctual in conducting our family prayers and all of us were asked to read the Word of God and pray during that hour. Sometimes he came very late in the night, yet attended the family prayer meeting. We were always given the freedom to go to camps and Bible classes, like VBS and Sunday School. He loved us and prayed always for our wellbeing and good family life. Even at old age while he was staying alone at home, he was very particular in reading the Bible, devotionals and prayed in the morning and evening.

The Late K. George Mathew in front of the tea factory where he worked

Right from the beginning, when he started his career in the military service he was in a supervisory role and the employers highly appreciated his dedicated efforts.In the tea factory he was all in all: from scrutinising the withering of the tea leaves to packing and despatching high quality tea. Even as he was strict with his labourers he was very kind towards their genuine causes. He would not tolerate the unnecessary interference of his superior managers, who were British Managers in those days. He would question them if any injustices were found in their conduct or approach, even writing letters to them. At the same time, Appachen worked hard with sincerity for the smooth running and timely production at the tea factory. Several times, K. G. Mathews’ tea fetched the highest price at auctions among the several tea estates of Malayalam Plantations. The company wrote several appreciation letters to him for his achievements in management. If some managers of the Estate raised unnecessary criticism or entertained biassed views, he would raise his voice against the injustice shown. He was an active member of the Estate Staff Union of South India (ESUSI) and participated in various meetings elsewhere. In all the estates he worked, he kept good company with staff and workers and completed 33 years of service with sincerity, dedication and decency.

As mentioned earlier, he spent time in family prayer and attended the church regularly. He was instrumental in getting permission for the Konney Estate Ecumenical Church. In 1970 he wrote to the Management with the support of the then manager, Mr. Thomas John (Kottayam) to build a church for the Christians in the Konni Estate. But the order came after his transfer to Lockhart Estate. Currently, three denominations except the Mar Thoma Church have a worship service in the Ecumenical Church.

On request by appachen, the Estate Staff Club was given for conducting Sunday School, Vacation Bible School (VBS) and Holy Communion as well as for Balajana Sakhyam. Every Third Sunday of the month, Mar Thoma Achens from Poovanpara Salem Mar Thoma Church, Poovanpara, came and celebrated Holy Qurbana. About 50 families of various denominations attended that service. Mr. K. V. Varghese and Mr. S. Thomas, from Kalleli CSI church, came to teach and lead the Sunday School sessions at the Estate Congregation (1962–66) and Mr. P. M. Thomas from Pooovanpara Salem Mar Thoma Church conducted Sunday School from 1966–1971. Appachen took the initiative to go for Christmas carol rounds to all the lanes of workers, staff quarters and even up to the bungalows of British managers to raise funds for the Sundayschool and the congregation. In 1969, Rt. Rev. Dr. Alexander Mar Theophilus Episcopa (later the Most Rev. Dr. Alexander Mar Thoma Metropolitan) visited and conducted holy communion at the estate congregation.

Appachen used to attend service at the Munnar Mar Thoma Church as a member from 1971–1980, although Devikulam, where his estate was located, was far away. After his retirement, he took active leadership in the Kalleli St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church. He served as the area committee member, vice president, secretary and auditor several times. He supported all the vicars along with other senior members of the Church. The Parsonage construction and dedication was conducted during his tenure as secretary along with the vicar Rev. Mathew Skariah. The parish he belonged to was situated at a walkable distance and he attended every Sunday Service, prayer meetings and General Body meetings with enthusiasm, constructive opinions and support until the age of 90. In 2011, after 90 years of age, we took appachen to stay with us at the parsonage of the parish where I was serving. He stayed with us at Eruvellipra Christhos Mar Thoma Parsonage from 2011–2013 and also in the quarters of Dr. Juhanon Mar Thoma Study centre, Mannamthala, Thiruvananthapuram, from 2013 to 4th April, 2014, until his last breath. He received Holy Communion on his 93rd birthday. Having fought the good fight and having run the race, he received his call to his eternal abode while I was praying on April 4, 2014. The funeral took place on Sunday, April 6, 2014, at Kalleli St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church at 1 pm. Laid at last to rest in the Ancestral Cemetery of our Church. Thanks be to God for the life of Appachen.

After his retirement, Appachen was involved in planting rubber trees in his property and produced very good crop for his livelihood. He was a member of the Rubber Producing Society (RPS, Konni), member and shareholder of Aruvappulam Farmers Service Co-operative Bank (AFSCOB) and shareholder of Harrison Malayalam Ltd. Cochin. Politically, he was a supporter of the Indian National Congress and the Executive Member of the Estate Staff Union of South Indian (ESUSI). Through his presence and participation in these organisations, he stood for values of justice. In Kalleli- ARuvappulam local areas, he was well respected and loved by all irrespective of caste and creed.

I, on behalf of my family members, thank God for Appachen — such a wonderful life lived and completed. As he grew older, he was more close to God in prayer and prepared for his final journey. He was a man of sincerity, prayer and discipline. He never longed for undeserving wealth and fame. God gave him a long life with seven children (one passed away at a young age), eleven grandchildren and eleven great grandchildren. He was fortunate to see one of his son’s and grandson entering the ordained ministry in the Mar Thoma Syrian Church (three of his grandchildren later joined the ordained ministry of the church and one was wedded to a clergy in the Orthodox Syrian Church). I take this opportunity to praise God for Appachen’s meaningful life at the time of his birth centenary. Along with my family members, I submit once again to God’s will and pray that we all may meet on that beautiful shore.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘ Honour your Father and Mother’ which is the first commandment with the promise, that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy a long life on earth.” (Ephesians 6:1–4)

Rev. Dr. George Mathew Kuttiyil

Rev. Dr. George Mathew Kuttiyil
8th January 2022 (St. Stephen’s Day) revgeorgemathew@yahoo.com +91 974 611 9630

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