Living Memories of Fr. Theodosius
There are two persons connected with the St. Joseph’s College, Devagiri who stand out in my memory after all these years – and in the memory of many, many others as I have learnt. One is the incomparable teacher of English literature Dr. Sivarama Subramanya Iyer whose classes on Dryden and Pope and Addison and even Bacon and Spencer were a delight and an inspiration; and the other another English man Rev. Dr. Theodosius, CMI who enriched the staff of the college by roping in such supermen professors as Dr. Sivarama Subramanya Iyer and Dr. Shepperd.. Although I have said Rev. Dr. Theodosius, for everybody – students and teachers and the Rev. Fathers and the non-teaching staff alike he was always just Theodosius Achan. He always used to bring to my mind thoughts of some of the stalwarts like Fr. Erhart, Fr. Fronier, Fr. Sequiera and such others at the St. Joseph’s College, Thiruchirappalli and other Jesuit colleges. In fact I have always thought that he had a good deal of the Jesuit about him.
His very appearance commanded respect and admiration. A towering personality, literally and in every sense of the phrase, he was not less than six foot two I think. And he had a physique to suit. He always went about erect and steady and had a voice to go with his build. His black – brown cassock added to his stature. Whenever I remember Fr. Theodosius it is the phrase “he was a Colossus among men” that comes to mind. He was a Colossus among teachers and principals and syndicate members too. As a founder principal his place is by the side of Fr. Palocaren of the St. Thomas’ College of Trichur, Fr. Proserpio of Mangalore, and other such. What is noteworthy in Fr. Theodosius is that he combined in himself the qualities of a great intellectual and Sahrudaya, an excellent teacher, and a capable organiser and administrator. In his organisational ability he reminds one of another CMI college-founder, Fr. Gabriel of the Christ College of Irinjalakuda. It was not mere brawn or physical appearance that made Fr, Theodosius a ‘Great’ but brain and heart too, and a spacious heart at that.
He took great interest in curricular matters no doubt, building up the college to be a front runner among the venerable colleges of Calicut town and the Kerala University. But he was keenly interested in the extra-curricular activities of the students from the pre-degree level to the Masters level. I remember how he used to invite leading journalists, literary and cultural figures, to the college off and on and how he used to introduce talented students to such influential persons in order to find for them opportunities and openings. There were quite a few students whose careers in literature and sports owe much to this goodwill shown by Fr. Theodosius and it is heartening to hear many such students recalling with emotion their indebtedness to him unashamedly. Among the literati who were thus brought to the college for various functions were N. V. Krishna Warrier, P. C. Kuttikrishnan (Uroob), Dr. K. R. Pisharody and many others. I may say that it was due to his loving pressure that I represented the college at one or two oratorical competitions in the city - one a Gandhi Memorial Oratorical Competition I remember, and fortunately I did not disappoint him as our team won the first prize on both occasions. Again he gave me chances to “shine” in various hostel and college functions. It was his loving encouragement and inspiration, and pressure I might say, that made me contest for the chairmanship of the College Union, although I lost the election by one vote to my friend and classmate Mr. Vijayachandran (IAS). When I had to leave the college at the end of my first year English M.A. and join the University College, Trivandrum on account of family compulsions it was with much reluctance that he permitted me to leave. And afterwards when he used to come to Trivandrum to attend the Synduicate meetings he used to enquire after me and visited my uncle (who was the district and sessions judge) at his house there more than once, where I was staying. When he had got the Syndicate’s permission for the Loyola College to start the P.G. courses of MSW and MA Sociology, with no undergraduate courses in any subject, he took me along to the Loyola Campus where he announced the good news to the Jesuit fathers. (As an educationist par excellence he never bothered about differences of caste, creed, region, or congregation when it came to the question of granting permission to start institutions or courses.) These are instances of his attitude to his students whom he often treated as good companions, as I had noticed on occasion during my days in the college when he used to allow some of my senior Masters students to discuss administrative matters with him in almost a spirit of camaraderie in his hostel warden’s office-room.
The respect and affection his students had for him and the attitude of veneration of the public at large towards him were visible nowhere as much as at the long funeral procession from Calicut to Ernakulam when many cities, colleges, bishops’ houses, and other institutions paid their respects to his mortal remains, the scale of which was something unheard of at that time. In reality the atmosphere brought to one’s mind the Grammarian’s Funeral. Indeed he was Theodosius – a gift of God to all of us.