George Isaac Palathinkal's funeral today

He was the first Rhodes scholar from Kerala. Photo: Special Arrangement

Kottayam: The funeral of Palathinkal George Isaac (95), who passed away on Friday, will be held at 2.30 pm at the CSI Holy Trinity cemetery on CMS College Road here on Sunday.

The managing partner of Malabar Coast Products and former chairman of Gandhi Peace Foundation, Kottayam, he was the first Rhodes scholar from Kerala.

His brilliant academic track record, unique business skills and enviable contacts made him a spectacular personality. 

Born to P V Isaac, the then imperial entomologist at the Agricultural Institute, and Sucy on February 16, 1928, George Isaac's maternal grandfather, Rao Sahib Rev. John Kurian was also famous as an eminent engineer in the erstwhile Travancore.

The areas of his studies spread out from political science to philosophy and economics and had degrees in all these subjects. He was an alumnus of St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, Madras Christian College, Chennai and the famous Balliol College, Oxford, UK. At Balliol, he studied with the Rhodes Scholarship, a rare academic honour and opportunity a talented student gets to carry on his studies at the University of Oxford.

He was a member of the rowing team there and the vibes of those dynamic days can be traced from the propeller of his Balliol days that has been kept there.

Though his overseas life and his first marriage with Cecilia, from Sweden, helped him earn a cosmopolitan stature, he returned to India with his academic skills, life experiences and a broad world of contacts and friendships.  

He once recounted an interesting episode about his contacts with Daniel Patrick Moynihan, an ex-senator of the US and former ambassador to India. 

During his India visit, Moynihan landed at Kottayam with all the security as well as diplomatic status. But the police officials who were in charge of his security detail were in panic when he lost all contact with the foreign dignitary.

Finally, the police found the diplomat laughing and chatting with George Isaac, who was his college mate and roommate in Britain.

George Isaac started his career as a teacher at the Madras Christian College. He later worked with the Kolkota-based Kilburn & Co. and the Stockholm-based Scandinavian Bank in Sweden. He had also worked in the Metal Box company in London.

Later he joined as the Managing Partner of Malabar Coast Products, an enterprise launched by his mother Sucy. He took an active interest in the effective marketing of their food products and the famous tagline “Emperor of the world of taste” was one of the most recognisable branding exercises of its time.

He even had a patent for the processing of tinned fruits at that time.

George Isaac had also served as a member of the Central Fruit Products Advisory Committee.

Mary Roy, who had fought legally for her share of her father’s property, was her sister and his brother George was respondent in the case.

In 1986, the Supreme Court upheld Mary Roy’s claims and gave a landmark judgement regarding Christian succession laws. However, all the enmity among the family members was resolved later and now they keep very warm and intimate relations. After Mary Roy’s death, the residence adjacent to the school run by her was handed over to George Isaac. He was planning to move there with his wife.

The famous writer and social critic Arundhati Roy is his niece. She immortalised him as the 'pickle baron Uncle Chacko of Paradise Pickles' in her debut novel 'God of Small Things'. “George Isaac was a fatherly figure to me and he taught me to think horizontally and vertically to see the realities. He read whatever I wrote and kept it alive in his memory. Even in our last meeting, when he was suffering from poor eyesight and hearing problems, he kept on asking me about the developments in the world,” Arundhati Roy said about her late uncle. 

George Isaac was the founder and president of the Kerala Small Industries Association and had also served as the president of the Rotary Club, Kottayam. He is survived by his wife Sucy George (Thandasseril, Koothattukulam) and children, Markose George Isaac (Dubai), Christina Isaac (UK), Iric Philipson, Yohan Philipson, Lads Philipson (all three in Sweden), and daughter–in–law Simi Markose (Dubai).

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