Memoir‎ > ‎

"New Year’s Eve" - Dr. George V. Andrews

posted Jul 3, 2012, 10:54 AM by ART Web Admin   [ updated Jul 15, 2012, 8:36 AM ]
New Year’s Eve

Prof. (Dr.) George V Andrews

(Excerpts from his autobiography, First Person Singular)

I sat in wonderment and gratitude in my dream house on top of a hillock near Farook College. I have been on this campus since September nineteen sixty four. It is New Year’s Eve two thousand and four and I have spent the most productive and active part of my life here together with many farewells to years, one by one, for forty years. Who could have thought that I would be alive to welcome the second Millennium? Even if alive, were we not afraid of the predicted destruction of the world at the beginning of the Millennium or at the end of the previous? The illuminated Christmas tree in front of the house heightened the melancholy and helplessness of the old year breathing its last. But, the grand old venerable lady has expressed her wish that no one by her deathbed should whimper, whisper, sob wail or shed tears: instead she would be happy and die in peace if they sang and danced and feasted and celebrated to their hearts’ content and if possible heightened their joy in the company of Bacchus and his pards’. Though I was not very pleased with the suggestion at the moment, it agreed with my feeling that it is meaningless to mourn for the dead and the dying because it is the certain and inevitable end of life on this earth. For an entry into a sphere of new experience or to regain the lost prenatal status is tendered all the more enjoyable by human experience/homosapien existence.

As a follower of a faith that proclaims the resurrection and a state of deathlessness after death to be in the company of the Conqueror of Death, I felt disturbed and puzzled by the sad and disheartening tone of funeral hymns. Such funeral rituals intensify fear and desolation and reduce us to men of little faith and belie the “Word’s” immensity. We are cheated out of faith. I find no reason to lament those who have completed their allotted portion of life as best as they could, and bid farewell. They deserve congratulations and celebrations. That is why Prof. D’Souza told me to congratulate him on the demise of his pilot son (who died in an air crash) instead of condolences. It is in the same spirit the death of a year is celebrated.

 I switched on the television set for the evening news and lo and behold it was full of joy and happiness feasting and merrymaking all over the world in every nook and corner and a new life came into me. After all I was not wrong in my judgement. The throes of birth and death mingled and were drowned in the joy and the expectation of resurrection. I sat viewing till midnight rang out the old year and ushered in the new with the rest of the world. As our dear departed lives forever in our memory (and thus lives forever) they are also in the Great Memory and lives eternally in the Great Mind and in His presence. Thus they are eternal and ever present. So, the years gone by are not lost; they are a portion of the eternal present and remain the ageless old man that he ever had been. Time is deathless and changeless; we are limited by time and our limitation laments the loss of life and time.

I got up early next morning, thought up some resolutions, finding all of them old and unfulfilled ended by a prayer, in my folly, for happiness and prosperity in the New Year by one who had offered all his actions good or evil to the Prime Cause of all creations. I looked out of the window at my garden and the surrounding hills and vales, meadows fresh as flowers in spring. Nothing had changed from what I saw in the gloom of the previous evening, except the morning rays of the hesitant sun in the arms of the gentle mild winter blanket of Malabar hills. I flung open the door and found the morning glorious as usual. I felt ashamed of being sentimental on New Year’s Eve. We receive but what we give. Rhea, my youngest grandchild came running shouting New Year greetings and then her parents and my wife joined and the room was full of New Year. The telephone rang and the merry news of the birth of a new year flowed from other children from Alleppey, Cochin and Bangalore and other places like Australia where cousins live. There was no news of the year that breathed her last the previous night. The practice of an annual commemorative ritual for the dear departed souls has come down to us from time immemorial. Something like an ‘All Souls’ Day’ which had its beginning with the ancestral worship among ancient primitive civilizations and which probably was the origin of religious faith and the discovery of God the creator, preserver and destroyer. But when it comes to the apparent death of time and its burial, the mourning and lamentations are replaced annually by thanksgiving services, merry making and feasting and revelry. Is it because of its impersonality or triumph over destruction and death? The Time Being has become a timeless one. The realization of this truth transforms our sorrow into joy, and death into life. Nothing ever dies but changes and re-forms. That is the law of nature which is the command of its creator. We are bound to accept this truth and submit to His command.

Such ruminations enabled me to accept the (sad) demise of my wife Ivy (02-09-1935 to 30-10-2007) with courage and confidence. She was my life’s part for forty four years and a colleague in the department of English, Farook College for nearly thirty years. I tried to celebrate her departure from this world as her wedding to heaven, the source of all life death and life after death. We who believe in the resurrection of the body could not do but otherwise. Just three months before her death true to her nature in anticipation she had insisted on buying the first permanent family tomb from our parish of Sacred Heart Church, Cheruvannoor, Calicut. On this (tomb) the following lines from a hymn of John Donne is inscribed:

I have a sin of fear,

That I may perish on the shore;

But I swear by Thyself,

That at my death Thy Son shall shine.

As He shines now . . .

I fear no more (A Hymn to God the Father)

So, let the soul of this time table setter of English Department and home rest in Peace in the family tomb number one to be united again in a kingdom without timetable. Neither did I spare Shelley; his following verse found place in the 30th day ritual invitation:

“Rose leaves when the rose is dead,

Are heaped on the beloved’s bed,

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.”

The academic year 1963-64 in St. Joseph’s College Devagiri found herself bereft of the most eligible bachelor who had shifted his loyalty from the Association of Bachelors to the Club of wedded couples. The consternation of bachelors reached its peak when I walked into the College Campus along with my bride, her parents and a retinue of helpers to settle down in the staff quarters. Eyes everywhere -- from the College gate and watchman’s room near the Devagiri buildings to the staff quarters behind the College -- followed. An expression of surprise and admiration was on the faces we met along the long avenue of Goldmohar and Flame of the forest trees and there were also the uncanny faces of many a peeping Tom behind the windows and doors of the establishment buildings on either side. This was also the beginning of the end of many years of do-as-you-like ways of single blessedness. Doors that used to be ajar day and night, had to be shut and bolted for security reasons. An impression of much gold and cash being brought into the house and the privacy needed in households prevented the flow of fresh air and the view of the specially designed garden and its walk from the rooms. Other families living in the staff quarters welcomed us and bachelors imposed penalty by demanding dinner party. Students limited it to sweets and the non-practising doctor’s (Ph.D) pocket limited all to treats by instalments of smaller groups. It became evident that the only-daughter, hostel-bred-post-graduate in English literature had done advanced research in cooking and hospitality and home-management in a most lavish style. A few months passed in this manner. A boy servant whom I had trained to be a good cook and care-taker of the household for six years was sent to Jabalpur with a driver’s licence and my brother got him employed in the GCF. He was replaced by maid servants and boy attenders. Expenses increased and we realized that my investment in the real estate and research schemes yielded no returns and so began the hunt for an employment for my wife.

In the meantime as months advanced we also realized that my wife was pregnant and had to go home for delivery and in June 1964 she gave birth to a pretty little baby-girl in the Lisie Hospital, Ernakulam where she had been admitted two months in advance on experiencing a false pain-months of anxiety, expectation and expenses and also the time of the nation mourning the death of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of modern India. The sense of loss of Chacha Nehru was very intense all over India which had recovered herself because he enabled us to discover, India and preserve her dignity and unique identity. So we kept asking ‘after Nehru who’ and began to despair. He was our inspiration and leader during our boyhood and adolescence and a symbol of liberty and incentive to fight for freedom. In his absence we felt insecure and orphaned. All these sentiments were heightened by the hospital atmosphere, especially of the maternity ward, the throes of birth overcast or set grimly on the faces of the patients. Lal Bahadur Sastri, the little great man who brought us down to earth became a big surprise and a welcome relief, like a messenger from another world to assuage and alleviate our grief.

 I had some more agents to gladden my heart. One was the new babe and the other was the news of the acceptance of the doctoral thesis by the examiners, accompanied by the award of the Ph.D degree by the Jabalpur University. St. Joseph’s College had a new Principal after the death of Rev. Fr. Dr. Theodosious CMI, a very pious person struggling with the utterly materialistic disposition of the contemporary society around him and trying to resist as much as he could. I continued searching for a teaching post for my wife beginning with the Christian institutions in the city and ending at Farook College near Feroke. That was another milestone in my teaching career and a major turning point of my life.

The manner in which this happened was strange and mysterious. Jimmy, as he was known among academic, socio-cultural circles, used to accompany me on such errands. We were amazed and dispirited with the indifferent and discouraging attitude of the managements of some Christian Colleges in the city where there were vacancies in the Department of English. So it was not with great hope that we started from Devagiri one evening to find out Farook College and whether my wife could commute to that place every day from Devagiri staff quarters. When we mooted the issue among friends some of them were staring at us in mute amazement as if it was as bold an enterprise as crossing the Rubicon. Feroke was considered a place to be shunned and crossing the Feroke Bridge the most dangerous adventure. Perhaps that was due to false rumours and ignorance about the place as its common inhabitants were heavily built, healthy and awe-inspiringly serious in appearance and loud in conversation.