Fr. Paulose T. Peter, Vicar, St. Mary’s Church, White Plains, New York
The Life and Legacy of Dr. D. Babu Paul will be observed on May 19, 2019 at the St. Mary’s Church, Kuruppampady, where his remains are interred, remembering the 40th day of his demise. He was One of a kind who rose through the ranks to enviable positions. As I stroll down the memory lane, fond memories, reminiscing the good old days, take shape. I loved the man for a galaxy of reasons. I will be the last person to be a cheer leader for those who do nothing but bury their talents. He showcased his talents by developing them. He was an excellent role model to all of us in the family. We think of young lives cut short, of wives and husbands turned into widows and widowers, of children growing up without a father or mother, of parents burying their own children, calling at times into question the frivolous nature of our existence. Though departure is painful, late Dr. Paul lived to see his children and grandchildren and spent a productive life. The legacy he left behind will live on.
On April 11, 2019, the birthday of my first cousin Dr. D. Babu Paul, I called his one and only brother K. Roy Paul but was unable to reach him. I called my niece Anu Jayant Mathew, the Chief Operating Officer of Malayala Manorama on line, who confirmed that Dr. Babu Paul was admitted in critical condition at Kim’s Hospital in Trivandrum. That explained the reason why he did not reply to my two emails, quite unusual to him, one wishing him Happy Birthday and the other with his pictures taken at my home with Late HG Mathews Mar Barnabas on his last visit to New York. Since I had communications with him on and off, without any second thought even about the Annual Retreat and Passion Week just a day later, I decided to travel to see him. Unable to find a ticket on Emirates to India that day, the decision was quickly made to fly out of distant Newark International Airport the very next day destined for Trivandrum. Just 15 minutes away from boarding the plane, I received emails announcing the departure of Dr. Babu Paul. I called Anu again at the hospital and she said it was fake news reported by the media and that the hospital had not declared him as passed away. Upon reaching Dubai, I heard the shocking news of his departure and that the burial was planned the next day at St. Mary’s Church, Kuruppampady. I managed to change my reservation to Kochi around. I reached Marangattu House close to the church by 10:30 am and the body was brought in by Ambulance at 11:30 a.m. For the one who wrote ‘Kadha Ethu Vare’, the final chapter was being written that day. Scores of relatives, people of all religions and well-wishers, Ministers and politicians came to pay final respects to a man who was held in high esteem in quite different fields. Amidst a sea of police officers, a bouquet from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a ceremonial Gun Salute with a State Funeral, he was finally laid to rest at the grave of his Mother and Grandmother Mariam in accordance with his wishes. A condolence meeting followed and everything was over by 6:30 p.m. with his brother, K. Roy Paul IAS, thanking all the participants. After more than 21 hours of travel with the difference in time between USA and India, it was indeed a tiring day for me.
Let us not lose sight of the forest for the trees. We get slices of information by reading or listening to drifts and drafts about his life. The legacy he left behind should be judged in its totality rather than in snippets and nuggets. Here is a man who was born into a middle-class family in a remote village in Kerala, basically an Engineer who worked his way up to dizzy heights in a kaleidoscopic variety of fields. He deserved a high-five on the front and a pat on the back. There is a tsunami of positivity in the life and legacy he left behind.
An Altar boy at age 5, writer at age 8, author at age 19, an orator who easily captivated the audience, a prolific writer with scores of books to his credit, an IAS officer of the highest caliber in the rank of Chief Secretary, a retiree as the Ombudsman of Kerala, recipient of numerous awards and decorations, Daniel Babu Paul with his impressive credentials at home and abroad has achieved by his middle age more than many would not have accomplished even in a lifetime. After finishing his primary and high school education with the Maharajah’s Scholarship at Kuruppampady MGM High School where his father, Korooso Dasaroro Rt. Rev. P. A. Paulose Cor-Episcopos, was headmaster for 32 years, he continued his studies with National Merit Scholarship at the Union Christian College, Aluva, and at the College of Engineering, Thiruvananthapuram. Later he obtained Masters’ Degree with first rank from Madras University. He joined the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1964 by passing the all-India Civil Service Examination in seventh rank. He was a feather on our hat and our entire family is proud of him. Nirmala Paul, his wife, passed away in 2000. They have two children, Mariam and Cherian. Mariam, the eldest, is married to Satheesh. Cherian married Deepa and currently shuttles between Kenya and Bangalore.
Dr. Paul loved Ps. 44:8: “In God we make our boast all day long, and we will praise His name forever”. He thoroughly knew the spiritual heritage and history of our family and the series of relationships each one of us had to the other. In his own words, “The greatest asset that we have is fear of God. We have different levels of education. We have different skills, given by God and nurtured by us. We have different levels of wealth. But we all share one common heritage and the signature of the family is its devotion to God and the sense of togetherness….we understand each other and we praise our common God together. Fear of God has been basic to this family”. His one and only brother, K. Roy Paul, IAS, had this to say: “Now the children of the Pothanicad Cheerakathottam and related families are spread all over the world, doing well wherever they are. As we look back, we see how God guided us with His amazing grace and love. My father used to tell us that his parents never ate dinner without saying the prayers: they never thought of skipping the prayer even when they were tired or did not have time. Their prayers are protecting us even now.” This deep-rooted spirituality still continues in the family. Late Dr. DBP’s ‘Vedasabdaratnakaram’, the first Bible Dictionary written in Malayalam, brought a new dimension to Biblical scholarship when he tried to explain Biblical concepts by drawing from Indian Vedas and Epics. The book won national and international recognition through many awards and decorations. The book was so much in demand that the first edition of 5000 copies was sold out in just 22 months. The second edition was sold out as well.
Dr. Daniel Babu Paul, recipient of Rajiv Gandhi Award for excellence in Civil Service and a former member of the Indian Administrative Service who served in the rank of Chief Secretary and retired in the rank of a High Court Judge as the Ombudsman of Kerala, was indeed a multifaceted personality. As a Writer, an Orator who called himself a ‘Prasanga Thozhilali’ and a lexicographer, he excelled in many fields. He was a research guide, research scholar, and Ph.D. Examiner, all rolled into one.
His commendable career as an IAS officer, the various portfolios he held, the numerous prestigious awards and decorations, both civilian and Governmental, he amassed and a plethora of his achievements are too many to be listed here. He won the Sahitya Akademi Award, one of the most coveted awards to top notch writers in Malayalam. He was also honoured with the Abundance Award by Abundant Life India in recognition of his contributions to Kerala society in cultural and ecumenical fields over the last half century.
He was a voracious reader getting up at four in the morning though I was told after his demise that he had lost his appetite and could get up only when the Security Guard woke him up during the evening of his life. He was a prolific writer with a passion for writing. Reading and writing was like oxygen to him. He wrote extensively on topics ranging from politics to polemics, from travel diaries to church history and theology. A regular columnist in regional publications, in English as well as in Malayalam, his articles and talks were featured on a regular basis in printed and visual media. His first work was published in the ‘Balamithram’ children’s magazine at the tender age of eight and the first book, ‘ Oru Yathrayude Ormakal‘ a diary of his trip to Europe to participate in the International Student’s Conference, appeared in print at the age of 19. Though he has many published works to boast, in both English and in Malayalam, listing all of them here is beyond the scope of this write-up. Kremlin-Berlin (1980), Veni Vidi Vici (1982), Quest for Unity (1984), Syrian Orthodox Christians of Thomas (1986), A Queen’s Story (1986) which won the Best Book Award of Kerala History Association, Achan, Achchan, Acharyan (1988), Vedasabdaratnakaram (1997), Nilavil Virinja Kappippookkal and Katha Itu Vare (2008) which has gone into a second edition in less than six months are just a few of his published books. His books which garnered a lot of likes and comments were not sitting in forgotten shelves but fly off the shelves. His numerous articles on wide ranging topics are testaments to his knowledge and expertise in a variety of fields. His constant and persistent pursuit of knowledge made him great by any stretch of imagination.
Our relationship has never been wobbly but steady and healthy. We had our own disagreements on certain issues but as it is well said ‘when two people can agree on everything, only one is doing the thinking’. He would meet issues head on rather than looking badly for an exit ramp. By any measure, he took the high ground being a straight shooter showing the steel in his spine, no matter where the chip fell. He elevated the office wherever he held at least up one notch rather than undermine its integrity. He was a power house in many ways and raised the bar with his stamp and seal. He had a very good sense of humor.
We set up a Kudumba Yogum called COMPAKT in USA and Canada with Paul C. Kuriakose, the most senior member of Cheerothottam Family in USA, as its Patron, myself as the First President and Lalu Kuriakose as its First Secretary. The name COMPAKT comprising of families of Cheerakathothottam, Kalappurackal, Keeppanasseril, Marangattu, Padinjarakudiyil, Poliyekudy, Pukkunnel and Thamarachalil was coined by Dr. Babu Paul and the ensuing publication of Kudumba Charithram titled ‘Vine out of Egypt’ was also named by him quoting Psalm 80:8. Thanks to him for helping a lot in terms of putting together the family history and relationships. Translating our grief as part of giving him a fitting send off, a wreath was placed on behalf of COMPAKT at his funeral services.
He certainly liked the salute and applause. I must say that he did go for headlines and flashbulbs. Who wouldn’t? He parroted his father on many things, speaking and writing as praises were heaped on him, leaving the finger prints of his father all over. His father was my maternal uncle who was my Godfather too. I never heard an eye-popping fire and brimstone speech from him going ballistic and turning the heat on his listeners simply because he was not interested in raising eye-brows. But his rousing speeches would take the audience’s breath away and his listeners were super pleased to give him an applause. I earnestly loved his high-octane Malayalam vocabulary.
He was a great admirer of His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka Iwas, Late Patriarch Of Antioch And All The East, whom he held in his own words as “my father, my teacher, my friend, my guide, my philosopher, the man who is second to none in my mind after my father passed away in 1987”. He was there and made a felicitation speech in September 1980 when that Patriarch was installed. The Patriarch vested in him the title Bar Etho Briro. He was the only recipient in India, at the time, of that highest honour bestowed on laymen in the Syriac Orthodox Church. He also had joined the Patriarchal Delegation to Vatican in 1984 for the ecumenical summit between the Pope and the Patriarch.
For those of us who live in USA, he passed away on April 11th, his own birthday which is April 12th in India. There is only one person that I know so far who passed away on his birthday and that was Late Pampadi Thirumeni. Apparently, Dr. Paul knew what was coming. He recorded in his own voice how his post-departure services should be handled and the location where he should be entombed. He did not forget to leave specific instructions to be carried out every step of the way. Though he is no more with us, his contributions endure. Though he is out of sight he will never be out of mind for many. May God bless his soul.