Former Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy's daughter Achu Oommen writes about the man behind the politician.
I was often referred to as my father's advocate during my childhood years.
If he had not become a politician, I think he would have been a priest. My Appa is a spiritual person.
Even when he came under attack in the solar scam, he maintained his decorum. He was respectful even when he responded to opponents and did not even once make any remark against their families.
Our family was really disheartened to note that a person, who had led an unblemished public life for so long, was mercilessly persecuted after some people raised allegations. But Appa was the one who consoled us then.
Appa interacted with the public, and addressed the grievances of tens and thousands of people during the mass contact programme. He did not even take a break during those 20 hours and the United Nations lauded his efforts. I was extremely happy when he got the UN Award. But there were people who criticised this as well.
But the practice that has been prevalent in our country for years cannot be changed overnight.
Everyone celebrated the arrival of Kochi Metro. But I did not hear anyone mention my father's vision and willpower that made it a possibility. He was not even extended the courtesy of an invite. But Appa did not complain and travelled in the Metro with the other passengers the next day. My respect and affection for him only grew when I saw this.
A painful memory from Davos
One of my bitter memories is from Davos in Switzerland. I was working with the Standard Chartered bank then. When my father came to Davos to take part in the World Economic Forum, I was also present.
Appa was wearing an old pair of shoes, which were not suitable to walk in the snow. There were winter boots in the kit given by the event organisers. Neither me nor the secretaries checked the kit.
Appa slipped and fell down, fracturing his thigh bone. A part of the bone had to be removed during the surgery. And his leg became slightly shorter and he walks with a limp because of this now. Even though it has been years since that incident, he has not asked me or others about the boots.
I went with my father to New York last year. He was not familiar with the equipment or cupboards in the room. I told him specifically to call me if he needed something. As I was tired, I slept till 7am the next day. I woke up to find that Appa had bathed and was dressed up. He had woken up at 2am. Though he wanted to have his morning tea, he waited till I woke up.
Treats everyone the same
I will never forget the advice Appa gave me when I decided to contest in election at the Mar Ivanios College in Thiruvananthapuram years ago. (CPM state secretary) Kodiyeri Balakrishnan's son Binoy Kodiyeri was the opponent.
"Don't expect any help from me. Don't think you can get anything you want just because you are my daughter,” he said.
He never differentiated between us and his siblings' children. His niece Suma chechi has imbibed almost all of his qualities. And he was heartbroken when his nephew Sumod died.
Wisdom, hard work and the ability to resolve issues are his biggest strengths.
But I also think that his genteel approach to people and attaching more importance to other people's opinions than his own are his weaknesses. His insistence against doing anything that could tarnish his public image is also a weak spot. Plus, he does not behave rudely with anyone. Political prowess and popular support have been his mainstay.
‘Sir died, we are saved’
Appa also remembers funny anecdotes and often shares such stories with us.
Once he was invited as the chief guest at the annual day function of his school.
Congress leader J G Palakkalody was also present for the event in Kottayam. Just before the event started, Palakkalody informed him that a former school principal had died. Then, Appa announced that the event had been postponed. As he was about to leave, Palakkalody came rushing to him and said, "There has been some mistake. That headmaster has not died."
Appa was saddened that he had announced the demise of a person, who was very much alive. The crowd of attendees had also dispersed.
After some time, Palakkalody came up to him again and said, "Sir died. We are saved..."
(Prepared by Raju Mathew)