On the world mental health day I would like to dedicate this post to a Psychologist, about whom I know more than I know about mental diseases and mental patients. The Doctor is my uncle, my grand uncle’s son. I call him ‘Appachan’. I don’t have enough material to write an autobiography about him, as I meet him only during some family functions or while paying a flying visit to his home. I know more about his father (my grandfathers brother) who died few months before I was born.
Appachan, the only child of his parent, left home at the at age of 18 to carve a niche for himself. He is 14 years older than my father (Papa). Grand Uncle, my father and siblings affectionately call him ‘Papa-Appachan’, now only had his younger brothers kids to shower his love and nurturing. The cumulative effect of the nurturing is that my father and his siblings quote papa-appachan’s jokes and sayings in every conversation. His jokes and saying shaped their thinking even in their grown up days. I grew up listening to Papa-appachan jokes and in my grown up days I find that those jokes can be applied to solve everyday problem.
Appachan is a celebrity in Kerala. In fact he is the most famous person in our family, so every relative likes to use his popularity to earn a higher standing in the social circuit. There is one person in our family who introduces himself as “myself, cousin of Dr…………..”. Family relations are like that. No wonder the proverb goes ‘Blood is stronger than water’.
Since my fathers and mother have many siblings, when I used to go to Kerala for vacations I only had time to catch up with my immediate cousins. So I never knew about this uncle. One day, when I was in my teens, papa excitedly spread that days newspaper before me. The page had the pictures of all the contestants for assembly election. He asked me to spot a familiar face. I couldn’t. Then he pointed at Appachan’s picture and proudly said that he was his cousin. I think that was the day our big extended family unofficially anointed him as the family icon.
There are many doctors who give up their profession to become celebrities in music, film and sports. Appachan is unique – though he donned many hats, he remained true to his calling. In movies he acted as Psychologist; he wrote columns in magazines,as a psychologist, answering queries of readers.I can hardly think of any other doctor whom even the children consider as role model. Malayalees above 35+ know him as a famous Psychologist, Columnist, Cartoonist, Humorist, Author, Political aspirant, Actor, etc. It is very simple to describe his physical appearance – with his tall figure and goatee beard he resembles the former Prime Minister of India, I. K. Gujral.
He was much ahead of his time. A self-learned man, as a youngster he applied on himself many of the tips that we learn today during leadership training. We are told in career counselling classes to write down our short term and long term goals. Appachan says that in his younger days, he wrote in a diary, ‘Dr……….., Psychologist’. After five decades he discovered the diary in his ancestral home.
He is a wonderful writer, he was the first to write about Sex related issues in Kerala. He says as a novice when he met an editor of a famous magazine, the editor asked to write an instant essay. When the editor saw the essay, he was amazed, he asked Appachan “where from did you get this amazing writing skill”. Using his amazing writing skills, and psychological expertise he answered the complicated queries of reader in simple words. He became a household name for providing answers to complicated relationship issues, at a time when discussing such issues were a taboo. A story goes that he was called to give a message at a gathering but as his talks were seen as too explicit for the audience he was interrupted in the middle. Nowadays speaking about human relations in no more a taboo.
When someone grows in stature – fame and money, the relatives and friends usually complain about their arrogance. Not in the case of Appachan. All his relatives are aware of the unwritten rules and etiquette that we are to follow at his home. Appachan will be always busy with consultation in the upper floor of his house. When we call on hims, after sharing pleasantries with the other member of the house, we patiently wait for him. After finishing the consultation he comes and spends a few minute with us and ends the conversation with an invitation: if we are ready to wait for the lunch to be prepared we can have, or if we are in a hurry we can leave.
He is down to earth and lives is a simple house. When we visited Appachan’s house for the first time after our marriage, my husband told me that being a celebrity he expected appachan to be staying is a palatial bungalow. A normal two storied home cum counseling centre also serves as space to unleash his creativity. Before meeting him, I heard a lot about the wash basin in his house where the tap was shaped like an Elephant Trunk. So on my first visit to his house I eagerly awaited to see two thing- a celebrity uncle and his famous wash basin.
He is not taken aback by false propaganda as is proven by a review about him in a consumer forum. When you google his name, one of the first result that shows is “Dr…………….The worst psychologist”. More than the review, the responses made to the post are more convincing. One person commented “Dr …….. is a good person and lives a simple life. Where others would have made money, his life is still very simple. You can check it out for yourself, just visit his home.”
Now he is 80+ and age has taken toll on his health. Psychically he is weak but his mental power is still as vigorous as few decades back. He still continues his work through counselling sections; and by setting an example through his simple lifestyle.