Today, I began my day with a walk around Mundiappulley Kerala, the birthplace of my father. In some ways, this is the place I personally remember from the days of my youth. Yet, in other ways, this is not the home once described to me by my father. I walked (that wasn’t new)…on roads (that wasn’t new either)…but on newly paved roads (now, that is different!) It was not long before I realized just how much Mundiappulley had changed.
In the early days of my father, there were fewer opportunities for advancement in Mundiappulley. His village town was a lot more rural then—a community of farmers and teachers—men and women who believed in hard work and education. My father’s father, the second son among three sons, was a farmer himself who did not have a head for books but instead was gifted to grow things. And his wife, whom he married at age 16 and who eventually became my grandmother, was the embodiment of hard work. She was not like him. He was nonaggressive and completely laid back, but my grandmother was very assertive. My father would oftentimes tell me that his mother had a way of getting things done.
I am glad to see here in Mundiappulley that something has remained—Education. It is still seen as the path of success, the ticket to leave behind financial hardships. However, the career choices that were once highly regarded have declined due to the changing interests of the time. Professions like educators and clergy were once considered with a deep reverence and care. This is because, as youth, we were taught that wisdom imparted by teachers was sacred and powerful. At weddings, a teacher of the bride and bridegroom would offer prayers for the soon-to-be-wedded couple. And because clergy possess a great deal of responsibility to help the community, they were considered to hold a special vocation and thus respected for it.
My father’s family was among those who too held these community servants in great repute. And when opportunities remained scare and daily living grew harder, his family’s faith in God and love for family continued to make up for the things that were lacking. For instance, my grandfather and grandmother’s eldest son died at 21 years-old to rheumatic fever, leaving them, my father (the middle child), and his three other brothers to grieve. The process of getting through the death of “Baby” and the many hard times we all faced was made easier by the support of religion and an active faith that were present in our lives. Not only for our family, but for most in Mundiappulley, religion helped our communities to focus on the things in life we could control and to pray for God’s help through the events we could not.
I can recall how people of great faith and religion helped my family make it through our years in India. When I was younger, it would not be uncommon to see a household in Mundiappulley waking up at 5AM to have family prayer and ending the day with evening prayer at 10 or 11PM. God was the key to our survival. Your faith in God, in Jesus, helped you to see through the present momentary sufferings. Your faith also helped you understand that there was somehow a greater plan of salvation and that you were somehow part of it. And although my grandfather was not the most educated man in Mundiappulley, he was well respected simply for his profound faith—a faith he has passed on to all his sons…and, fortunately, has become mine too.
Things here continue to change. Young people are encouraged to become engineers or doctors—professions that would ensure financial stability for the individual and his/her family members. The town has a great deal of diversity of jobs and opportunities. Money, from the non-resident Indians living in the Middle East, has given an economic stimulus to the community. The town does not consist much of farmers trying to make a better life for their families anymore, nor do the teachers have as much influence as before. The simple profound faith that imbued this culture has been partially replaced by an emphasis on material distraction. Yes, this place has certainly changed a bit, but Mundiappulley is still my home. For I readily feel the presence of God here.
Blessings to you all,