Peedika Chittappan

One person I wanted to blog about for a long time since the existence of this site is our beloved peedika chittappan. His actual name is Joseph Mathew Koottumkal (Ouseppachan), but we fontly call him peedika chittappan (chittappan means younger brother of one's father). The attribute Peedika (shop), is coined from his owning a grocery shop in his 20s. It was about 60 years ago!

We grew up hearing his heroics as an entrepreneur and how he had to close the shop due to defaulting customers. The shop was closed but the peedika attribute remained and we used it to distinguish him from other chittappans (there are five).

He is the second son of Late Mr. Koottumkal Mathew and Mrs. Aleykutty Mathew. He had completed his education upto BSLC (intermediate) level, and always maintained that he sacrificed his higher education for others in the family, because of grandpa's financial constraints.

With an impeccable memory, in the decades that followed, he recollected and delivered (and still does) endless poems of Kumaran Asaan, Vallathol and Ulloor combined with genealogical, religious and historical knowledge to anyone he happened to be with. Once the narration begins, you will soon be wondering how to put an end to the monologue, as you must have heard it at least 100 times before. For a moment, you think you succeeded by introducing a new subject, but then he would start on that new thread.

He always dispersed his contemporary and acquired knowledge with a definite personal and humorous touch. For example, many communists may not agree with his account of Punnapra-Vayalar communist uprising and his allusion on the wisdom of the comrades to face Sir CP's guns with wooden spears made from aricanut trunk.

There are a lot of memorable incidents one would like to talk about our beloved Peedika Chittappan. I would not conclude this blog now, rather I will expand this in the form of comments. Those who want to contribute to this thread please do the same.


  1. There are many beautiful (yes) things to say about Peediye Chittappan. Incidentally, the prefix 'Peedika' had undergone a transformation and we always called him 'Peediye' Chittappan.

    Peediye Chittappan personifies a type of loyalty to a chosen lifestyle, which is hard to find nowadays. I can cite a few obvious examples of manifestation of this unshakable loyalty.

    In a world in which most people have a chameleon-like approach to politics, Peediye Chittappan (PC) has been steadfast in his loyalty to Congress Party. It is a loyalty that has been tested in fire for more than fifty years. During the sixties when the farmers lobby (mostly Syrian Christains and Nairs) split with the Congress and formed 'Kerala Congress' for pushing the agenda of the farming community, many among family and friends left Congress to support the new party. But not our PC. He stayed with his beloved Congress and weathered the taunting and ridicule of the anti-Congress lobby in the family. PC's resolve was tested again in the 70's when the Church, which had a huge influence in the political choices of its flock, turned against the Congress government of A K Antony, which was bent upon nationalizing the Church-owned educational institutions. This time around the struggle against the Congress government was touted by the Church as a second liberation struggle (the first 'liberation struggle' toppled the earlier EMS government). The struggle claimed the loyalties of many Congress followers. But PC again stood steadfast against the tide. PC's loyalty is not that exhibitionistic, excitable type which makes a person go to political rallies and meetings and shout slogans. It is more of a laid-back, deeper kind, which is a part of the man's character. Throughout the history of the post-independence Congress- through its splits, mergers, dissidence, mass desertions, and re-emergence as political power- the party had one man always rooting for it: our Peediye Chittappan.

    The next example I want to mention is Peediye Chittappan's loyalty to the "Malayala Manorama" news be continued.

  2. Peediye Chittappan’s mornings follow a typical pattern of activities whose central motif is the indispensable ‘Pathram’ (newspaper). Even when the patterns change for some reason, they still have a thematic unity centered on the morning daily.

    I visualize the following scene from my memory (of, course. my memory is of the 70s, 80s and early 90s). Around 6.30 in the morning, PC is up and having completed his morning ablutions, installs himself on the straight backed chair which is cleverly placed close to the door of the room opening to the front courtyard. Apart from this chair, the furniture includes the following items. A folding wooden couch, a wooden cot, and a small table on which is piled used candlesticks, Bible, prayer books, and copies of a few days’ news papers still awaiting the final hesitant disposal. At this time Kunjamma would come in with a tall glass of tea, which would be placed on the table next to the paraphernalia lying on it. The morning so far, despite the inviting fumes of fresh hot tea, is still morose and dull, still missing that happy, transforming event of the day.

    I cannot help a light digression here as memory keeps flooding in.

    The room is an extension attached to the main body of the ancestral house, and it is here PC spends most of his day reading his news paper, simply relaxing, or meeting people who keep dropping by to share local gossip and discuss politics. Important decisions regarding the day’s program- how the afternoons would be spent- are taken in this room. Normally there would be three options.

    1) A card game (Irupathiyettu / Anpathiyaaru (local versions of Contract Bridge), or the local favorite, Pothu) will be arranged with so and so participating.

    2) A game of Ettorupodi (a game incorporating features of Ludo, Back Gammon, and Snakes & Ladders, played with shells instead of dice) will be arranged, and it will be an 11x11 game. The numbers refer to the grid of the game (anything less than that, 5x5, 7x7, or 9x9 is for the faint-hearted and the kids).**

    3) The day will be a rest day because in the evening PC will be going for a movie in the Shina Theater (a choice which was abandoned in the later years in favor of simple relaxing at home).

    Coming back to our main topic, I said the chair is cleverly placed, because from that vantage point PC can keep an eye on the front steps on which the newspaper 'launched' by the ‘news paper agent’ who is in a hurry, lands, and easily grab it before its freshness is sullied by the hands of some philistine. A glow of happiness will spread on Chittappan's face when the so far un-opened, crackling, pages slowly open out to reveal the world outside as it was interpreted by his favorite carrier of news (of course, Malayala Manorama). This glow of happiness at the touch of an unopened newspaper with its almost warm ink that stains the fingers cannot be unfamiliar to us who share PC's genes. …. (con’td)


    **Preparing this grid is a ritual approaching an art form, and calls for some expertise and devotion to the art. The first task is to locate a hard and flat surface on the ground, which, much to the annoyance of the pedestrians, will be, often, right in the middle of a frequently used nattuvazhi ( village path). The reason for this is obvious: The ground there is already hard and flattened under the pounding of countless hurrying feet, and involves less effort for our grid-artist. A boy who happened to be around will be dispatched for a jar of water. After a liberal sprinkling of water, the expert proceeds to beat the patch into a smooth flat hard plane, and the grid is then drawn on this patch with an eerkili (the hard central nerve/ stem of the coconut leaf). The eerkili itself would be lovingly pared and sharpened for the purpose by the expert. A perfectly drawn grid will have smooth intersections with each of the squares standing out in relief from the hard ground. The participants would even spend a few seconds complimenting the grid-artist, before the battle starts. (The exciting proceedings of the ettorupodi game needs to treated at some length..).