Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A unique prayer.

Around 1750 A.D. It would be another four decades before the Parayils built the Thycattussarry Church. The statue of St. Antony
that the family had brought along when they shifted to Cherthala from the north of Kerala at some point in the hazy past, was kept in the Ayanat house and not at Velliara, the ‘Tharavad’.

A couple of decades earlier, Marthanda Varma, the raja of a small state called Venad on the southern tip of Kerala, had carried out a highly successful military campaign against the principalities to the north. His advance ended with the annexation of Cherthala from the raja of Cochin. Thus, the State known as Travancore came into being.

Marthanda Varma obtained, as a result of his offensive, full control over Purakad Port (south of Alleppey) and partial access to the spices trade. Till then, the export of pepper and other spices was mainly through the Cochin harbour, which was occupied by the Dutch after they defeated the Portuguese in 1663.

Marthanda Varma’s dream of monpolizing the pepper trade did not fructify immediately. For some reason the Christians of Karapuram (Cherthala) continued to ship spices through Cochin. (It is reasonable to conclude that the Parayils were part of that group.) Dr. PK Michael Tharakan, on a research mission to Algemeen Rejkarchief, the Royal Archives at The Hague, discovered a letter written on the subject by the Raja of Travancore on 28 August 1758 to the Dutch Governor at Cochin.

According to tradition, pepper and other hill produces were sent by the Parayils to Cochin by large boats that plied a ‘kappal chal’ (shipping channel), which extended from the port to Thycvattussarry Church along a branch of the Vembanad Lake. This smooth operation suddenly ran into a serious problem.

Enter Lebba Moosa.

This much-feared pirate of the inland waterways started attacking the Parayil shipments. The man had money and muscle power. His main strength was a brother who was an expert with the sling. Two attempts by the Parayils to defeat Moosa failed miserably.

The very existence of the Parayil Family was under threat. They recruited a number of well-trained fighting men to confront Moosa in a perfectly timed move.

Before the small ‘army’ went out for the battle, the ‘Karanavar’ (eldest member of the family) went and stood in front of the statue of St. Antony, the family’s patron saint. He removed his ‘angavastram’ (a shawl that covered the torso), kept it under his left arm (an act to demonstrate respect) and said the following prayer, “Look, if we are defeated this time also, tomorrow both of us would be in the western lake.”

It didn’t come to that. Moosa was either killed in the encounter or died en route as he was being brought to Ayanat in captivity. The sling specialist who was ineffectual in the duel reportedly said that his vision was blurred by a dark shadow. The locals were quick to claim it as a miracle by the patron saint.

The statue of St. Antony is safe inside the Thycattussarry Church today and the Ayanat Parayil house still stands in all its splendour.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Flash Fiction: Medicine Specialist.

“Pretty nasty fall,” the elderly doctor said after studying the X-rays. “On your right side, one lower rib and the little finger of the hand are broken. Some minor lacerations. But not to worry.”

Lying on his examination table a bit dazed, I tried to recollect what had happened. After breakfast I had left home to buy a newspaper. I had just been transferred to Mallai and was still in the process of getting things organized. The place was strange to me except that I had transited through the airport a couple of times.

I was walking briskly along the tree-lined avenue. The broad and even footpath was about one foot higher than the road. The locality was surprisingly clean and neat. A refreshing breeze blew in from the sea. The disciplined traffic moved smoothly. Nice place, I thought and carried on, reading the shop signs on both sides of the street.

Then it happened, all of a sudden. I tripped and fell forward. In a fraction of a second before hitting the pavement I realized that my hands would not be able to break the fall. I spun in the air the moment my palms touched the ground, like a slip fielder taking a diving catch. My right side banged against the edge of the walkway as I rolled on to the road.

In no time a crowd gathered around me talking excitedly in the local language, which I did not understand. Telling them that I was okay didn’t have any effect. I was carried to a doctor who was almost directly across the road.

While examining, the doctor had asked whether my head had hit the surface. It hadn’t. He wanted me to point out the places where it pained. After that the X-rays had been taken.

“The fractures,” the doctor said, helping me to a chair opposite his, “will take six weeks to heal."

“Six weeks!” I exclaimed.

“Don’t be alarmed. That’s normal. And you won’t be incapacitated."

He explained the line of treatment. No medicines except painkillers if absolutely necessary. The rib was to be left to heal on its own. I was to avoid sleeping on that side and lifting weights. The doctor placed a piece of dressing between the broken finger and the next one and bound them together with micro porous tape. The hand was to be kept in sling whenever possible.

“If you like,” the doctor said, “I can refer you to an orthopedist. But really, there is no need.”

“Fine,” I agreed.

“Do you drink?”

I was taken aback by the sudden question. “Not for breakfast,” I replied.

The doctor laughed. “When you get home,” he said, take a bucket bath with some antiseptic in the water. After that have couple of stiff drinks with lunch and go to sleep.”

“Thanks for the prescription. I like it.”

“That’s for the trauma,” the doctor went on seriously. “Now, there are some symptoms you must watch out for. In case of any vomiting, nausea, or dizzy spells, contact me by phone immediately. Here’s my card.”

I had finished reading ‘Dr. Scaria Zachariah, Medicine Specialist’ when the doctor asked, “What caused the fall?”

I looked up and replied, “You did.”

“Me? How’s that?”

“While walking, I saw your signboard. It was the first time I came across the usage ‘Medicine Specialist’ and thought it rather amusing. Actually I was laughing inside me when my foot caught the manhole cover.”

Dr. Zachariah nodded. “The moral of the story is,” he said smiling, “don’t laugh at medicine men.”

I smiled back.

“Actually,” the doctor went on, “I’m a GP. In this area, the term ‘Medicine Specialist’ is used to identify physicians.” After a pause he continued, “Eye specialist, bone specialist, skin specialist and so on. Why not medicine specialist?”

“Yes, why not?” I agreed, wondering what they called the general surgeon.


Monday, February 12, 2007

A judgment.

Mathoo Tharakan, my great grandfather and the first Parayil to settle down in Olavipe, during the second half of the 19th century, sat apart in the courtroom awaiting the judgement that was about to be pronounced. All his properties were involved in that litigation and the rumour was that the verdict would be against him

Many in the gathering in the court stole glances at the Parayil Tharakan who might become a pauper in a few minutes. The man was outwardly calm. He was fully aware of the gravity of the situation. His lawyer had briefed him that there was hardly any chance of winning the case.

Tharakan’s nonchalance was not mere bravado. There was an ingrained confidence that St. Antony, the Parayil Family’s Patron Saint, would protect him and his properties. He might have also recalled the words of an ancestor who, when told that a decree had been passed against him in an important case, asked, “Will decree climb coconut trees?” Those days the Parayils had the manpower to prevent the execution of any decree.

There was pin drop silence when the judge read out the verdict. The judgement was well prepared and sound, relying on solid precedence and legal points that had escaped the attention of the lawyers handling the case. It was in favour of Mathoo Tharakan.

Later, the court clerk came to Tharakan and said that the judge wanted to see him in the chamber. Tharakan took his money pouch from the vassal who was carrying it, added his gem-studded rings to the cache and placed it on the judge’s table when he reached the chamber.

“Do you,” the judge asked, “by any chance, remember me?”

Tharakan looked at him blankly.

“Not likely,” the judge continued. “We’ve met only once, decades ago. That was at Trivandrum, one morning.”

The Parayil Family had a guesthouse at the State capital, near the Secretariat. A former Maharaja had granted the land on the western side of the MC Road from Statue Junction to Spencer Junction to the Family. The guesthouse was built on that land. Later on it came to be known as Koder Building because the Koders, an ancient and famous Jewish trading family of Cochin, had acquired it.

The judge then narrated the details of their meeting. One morning, while staying in the guesthouse, Mathoo Tharakan went for a ride in a horse drawn carriage. He saw a young boy leaning on a tree by the roadside and crying. He stopped the coach and enquired what the problem was. The lad explained that he was the top student in his Matriculation class. Unless the stipulated fees were paid that day he wouldn’t be able to sit for the examination. There was no way of raising the money.

Tharakan asked the boy to get into the hansom and ordered the coachman to proceed to the school. En route, during conversation, the boy mentioned that his ambition was to become a lawyer. At the school Tharakan met the Head Master and, after discussing the details, created a fund to enable the boy to obtain a law degree. He promptly forgot all about it.

“I’m that Brahmin boy,” the judge stated.

Later, when Tharakan bid goodbye, the judge reminded him, “You forgot your money.” Tharakan took the pouch and left.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Contempt of Court - express your views.

Please visit my Blog 'Articles by Abraham Tharakan' and give your opinion.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Short Story: A Bend in the Lake.

A simple story set in the backwaters of Kerala. To read, key in the story title in the Google Box at the top right hand corner of this page and search Abraham Tharakan Domain, or click on the Short Stories by Abraham Tharakan link at the bottom of this page.

Read on at http://abrahamtharakansblog.blogspot.com/2007/02/short-story-bend-in-lake.html

Don't miss it.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Health: Natural sweetener for diabetes, obesity, and hypertension management?

Most of the sweeteners that are commonly used in many countries are artificial products. But for centuries, the South Americans have been using a plant, stevia, as a natural sweetener. It is said to be 300 times sweeter than sugar but at the same time is low on calories.

Japan was perhaps the first country outside South America to recognize the medicinal benefits of stevia and began cultivating the plant extensively. The Japanese went into commercial production of natural sweeteners from stevia in the 1970s. They use the plant sweetener widely in food products and in Coca Cola and other soft drinks, according to Wikipedia.

Following Japan’s example, some other countries (including India) have taken up growing stevia on a large scale and processing the plant for obtaining the natural sweetener, which is considered to be good for those who suffer from diabetes, obesity and hypertension.

The stevia products, it is claimed, contain no aspartame, sugar, maltodextrin, artificial sweeteners or saccharin. The no sugar, low calorie properties of stevia make it an obvious tool for controlling diabetes. Reportedly, it is useful in the management of hypertension and obesity as well.

Like saccharin and aspartame, the artificial sweeteners, which were suspected of containing carcinogens, stevia too had its share of controversies, particularly in the United States. One view is that the sweetener industry was behind the move against this time-tested herb. Finally, Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of stevia as a dietary supplement but not as a food additive! There appears to be a strange twist in this – if the label says ‘dietary supplement’, the natural sweetener is safe; if the printing on the package reads ‘food additive’ it may be unsafe!

Anyway, more and more people in Japan, South America, India and several other countries are switching to stevia, the natural sweetener, because of its perceived efficiency in handling diabetes, obesity and hypertension. No adverse effect seems to have been reported among the many millions who use this natural sweetener.

There would be, however, no harm in checking with your doctor before using stevia as a food additive.


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

ezee123's journal

The blog, ezee123's journal ( http://ezee123.livejournal.com/) contains some incredibly beautiful photographs and absorbing narration, mainly Kerala focused. Highly recommended.

More great pictures can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/ezee123/

Ammachi's Health Recipe - may lower cholesterol, blood sugar.

The main ingredients are garlic and bitter gourd, both well known for their medicinal values.

Garlic is said to be helpful in managing high cholesterol levels and to have lingering antibiotic properties. According to tradition it is a ‘wonder drug’ and is widely used in herbal formulations. It is also a healthy antioxidant.

Some consider that three separate ingredients in bitter gourds have blood sugar lowering properties and therefore, are beneficial to patients suffering from diabetes mellitus. There is also a view that two proteins in bitter gourd may inhibit AIDS virus. This vegetable may also be helpful in treating psoriasis. Bitter gourd is said to have digestive properties as well.

Both garlic and bitter gourd are believed to be excellent for common cold.

The recipe given here has been handed down the generations. It has never been tested scientifically for medical benefits, or side effects. But we love it – as a spread on bread, with Indian roties, with South Indian breakfast foods like appams, dosa etc, and rice.

Bitter gourd – garlic paste recipe:


1. Bitter gourd (seed removed) 1kg
Garlic 250 grams
Green chilli 3

Ginger 1” piece

2. Red chilli powder 1 tsp
Turmeric powder a little
Tamarind paste or juice 2 tbsp

3. Cooking oil (we use coconut oil) 1 tbsp


1. Chop up group 1 and boil without too much water, and grind to a paste in a mixie.

2. Blend group 2 well with the paste.

3. Cook the paste on low flame stirring till the required consistency is attained.

4. Add group 3 oil, stir well and take off.

5. Keep refrigerated.

This is an indicative recipe. You can adjust the quantities of ingredients according to requirement/ taste. For instance, if the gourd is too bitter, tamarind can be increased to stabilize the taste.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

A good man and a good cop,PK Hormis Tharakan IPS retires.

Hormis Tharakan when he was Director General Of Police, Kerala.

Hormis Tharakan and wife Molly at an orphanage.

A few excerpts from a detailed report by Times News Service [The Times of India] on 26 January 2005, are reproduced below:

'NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants the "mess" in the country's premier spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), to be "cleaned up", and that too "fast." The new RAW chief, P K Hormis Tharakan, has been given the clear mandate to do this, say sources.

'The PM has, in fact, asked Tharakan to rush to Delhi within "a day or two" to prepare the ground for taking over from outgoing RAW chief C D Sahay, who retires on January 31. "Tharakan has only six to seven months to retire, but may get a two-year tenure as the RAW chief," said one official.' [He was given a two year extension.]

'Apart from being upright and sober, Tharakan is an effective leader. He has transformed the Kerala police. He is very familiar with RAW functioning and can revamp the agency in a quite manner, without dividing it into camps," said an official.'

After completing the mission entrusted to him, very successfully according to the media, Hormis Tharakan retired on 31 January 2007. A 1968 batch Indian Police Service officer, he has served the country with distinction for 39 years. He is planning to go back home to Kerala to relax and to write. (He is a published writer.)

I am proud to say that Hormis Tharakan is my brother.