Reminiscing Prof. V.J.A. Isaac After 18 Years, My Thatha!
Updated: May 13
“Yes, I do know him. His strict body stature and the iconic Royal Enfield he rode,” replied a post graduate student from The American College after 18 years since he left us behind.
The very statement triggered my mom to dwell deeper into the conversation about her in law. As they continued, my mind wandered with blurry images wondering how a student hardly a year elder than me was able to keep up to her pace.
Listening to people praise and talk about my grandfather was never out of the ordinary but the youngest scholars recognizing him gave me chills. I was around four when I had to bid an eternal goodbye to my grandfather. I hardly knew what was happening around, as it was just another holiday or Madurai trip to me. But things were not that fun and light when I grew older. I reminisced the days I had with my “Thatha” or in other words the one and only “Prof. V.J.A. Isaac.”
Carrying his surname for more than two decades I have always been credited with favours and smooth talks, and things were just the same till I stepped in college. Fate and will pulled me into English literature and since then it has been my pride, the stream not only became the core subject of my life but started acting as a tool to kindle the past of my grandfather even more. “I am missing him,” has been a subtle statement that I hardly confess and things turned even heavier when I wanted him by my side during ventures and success. The man I knew of sweet smiles and hugs had a whole new avatar for the other world. Despite being the child of Lady Doak College, I had a foster parent in the name of The American College, thanks to him. As I grow even older, I recognize many and can now clearly understand every syllable they spell out remembering my grandfather.
Being the only grandchild fortunate enough to play with his lungi and eat his sweet candies, it is indeed my honour to pen every memory I remember and collect further more never heard stories. While writing this piece on behalf of his 18th anniversary, I had the help of three of my favourite people, Paul Jayakar Uncle, Hannah ma’am and Thomas Varghese uncle to give me few points from their memories for me to know and complete the blog post with more valid statements.
When I asked what they get reminded of from the very name “Prof. V.J.A. Isaac,” the spontaneous answers were his moustache, bullet and his coolers. Well, they can’t be wrong. More than knowing him as a grandfather, I was fed with stories of one of the passionate professors through the years. When asked what they liked the most Jayakar uncle replied, “A strict disciplinarian.” Everybody would agree and to dwell deeper, “He was strict inside class but also friendly outside the class,” added Thomas uncle. Every professor is looked upon as teachers of life, as they get to influence their students outside class and set an example to many. “Punctuality was one of his best practices. He was very careful in speaking money; maybe thrifty!” is the exact statement I received. I also learnt he is a giver, as Hannah ma’am said, “He is very kind and humble too. He would be ready to walk the extra mile to help others.”
No man would be praised only for his professionalism, a parallel story of life and being human would be the key to be remembered by our colleagues and students. My grandpa being an inevitable personality through these years always made me wonder what actually made him special than being just another professor in class. As there are N number of teachers, who we meet during our life cycle and yet very few make it up to stay eternal. While contemplating this idea, my interviewees brought out his human side much to light. “I would say he was a tough person with gentleness in heart. He was sincere in his duty. He developed his own style in the way he dressed, the way he walked and the way he talked,” said Thomas uncle when ma’am added, “A very meticulous, cheerful, kind and good human being,” along with Jayakar uncle ending it with, “He was a good person in his own way. As a teacher he was meticulous in giving lectures especially on Shakespeare! He used to take a portable rolling blackboard whenever he taught Shakespeare’s Theatre! He believed that visuals would always enhance understanding.”
Unfortunately, I could not bring out everything from all of my grandfather’s acquaintance but these few lines did succeed in flooding my eyes with tears. I missed him more than ever… Had a lot to tell him, tell him that I am interested in drama and acting, that I actual act in plays, that my writings are being appreciated, that I love the language as he did and above all, I love carrying his surname and would continue having it through the generations. There are many times I wish he had heard all the praises I get to listen by himself still, I am sure he is in much better place enjoying his comfort.
With a blurry pair of eyes I decided to bring this article to an end despite not knowing where it started. The history of Prof. V.J.A. Isaac can never be put to a stop with this article and I am sure it is going to keep growing for years, and I am sure to watch it. His sweet jellies, cheppu jaman (toy kitchen sets), lungi swings and the very subtle Grandpa granddaughter moments will always be cherished in my heart.
As I mentioned before, despite having only spent four years with him, I feel lucky and fortunate to have met him in my life. And above all, I brim with pride to be his precious little granddaughter.
Thank you Thatha! For all those beautiful memories and treasures you have left behind! We love you!
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