Defining Father Pulickal

This article by G. Mahadevan (1987) was originally published in the NOBLES alumni e-newsletter of December 2002. It is republished here as part of the 9th anniversary series of posts on Fr Pulickal. – Ashok


A bearing that evoked respect, a beard that brooked no insolence, a laughter that was infectious and a twinkle in the eye that was unmatched. Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known Father Mathew Pulickal can well be excused for talking about him in superlatives. After all he was one who taught us that life is as often about the superlative, as it is about the positive and the comparative.

It is difficult to define such a man: he was not just a priest, he was not just another of those jolly old men…do you get my drift? You can only go on saying he was not this, not that, and yet never lay your finger on what he was — in its entirety. Of one thing I am sure. Mathew Pulickal, the man, was never ashamed of his human frailties (Oh boy, was he fond of jalebis…and was he a diabetic!). He was also fond of a ‘good un’ as much as any of us imps around him. In short, he loved life as it is.

I can go on like this. But in one sense it is wrong to speak of Fr. Pulickal in the past tense. Yes, the man is gone. But, whatever he stood for, lives through all of us, doesn’t it? It must be fun having him up there.

G. Mahadevan (1987) is Principal Correspondent and Deputy City Editor of The Hindu newspaper in Trivandrum. At Loyola, he was Assistant School Leader.

(c) G. Mahadevan, 2002. Reprinted here with the permission of the copyright holder.


  • Was waiting so eagerly for the post. I expected it to be a bit more though from you uncle devan 😀 heh

    When we were in UKG we used to go to his room. He always has a jar of sweets on his table. We the little ones of the skool- always silent, for actions speak louder- would just go there and extend a hand on which he’d place a toffee. One minute later another hand would extend, to reply to which he would search for the golden stick kept on the sides and wave it as doth the cows the fly.

    I saw Fr pulikkal last when i was in 3rd standard i belive, shortly after which he left. I remember Murray ma’am telling us in some class later that he was paralysed (had a stroke) and that she had been to see him. After some time i also remember being told that he is no more. I had not even seen a pic of him since then. But a grey’ish beard , a stick and his geoid structure still stuck to my memory. All the stories i’ve heard made me wish he was around to teach us too (Oh btw Titus sir was bloody brilliant too).

    And finally today (just by a coincidence.. a friend asked me to check this album)
    I found a pic of the man
    I think you ought to see.
    Fr. Pulikkal, thou art immortal in memory
    Rest in peace.

  • ashok…when it comes to fr pulickal…i think all of us of the eighties upto early nineties would have great memories…u know ive forgotten most of those which happened in loyola but not fr pulickal, and events related to him. He was the one who gave me a nickname and used to call me religiously by that name only(chembarathi). And probably he is one of the few personalities of loyola even our parents would be knowing and remembering fondly!!! Truly must be real fun having up there!!!

  • A priest at Christ Hall (where Fr Pulickal spent his last days) told me a few months ago that even the evening before he died, Fr Pulickal was jovial and cracked jokes in his usual way. Partially paralysed, he was physically beaten, but his spirit remained in form till the end. Fr Pulickal’s last lesson?

  • That is right…noone ever talks of Fr.Pulickal in the past tense…

    Ashok, comments on nicknames Fr.Pulickal gave his students would be apt for this post or atleast a recollection of Fr.Pulickal memories. He gave almost every one of my classmates a nickname but we were one better than him on this count and the nicknames he put for us gradually got eased out as we found more apt ones…some of the nicknames he gave my classmates which i remember are…ammayi, jaffar, yakub khan, payarukallan, 60-watt-bulb, etc. won’t reveal mine here…hehe!

    I have this unforgettable visual of Fr.Pulickal in mind…the first bell and then second bell had also rung for the 10th terminal exam but noone had entered the exam halls and were immersed in last minute study…and then from the end of the long corridor comes a huge roar…”Puli Varunne…Puli Varunne”…and then i saw his stick waving and guys scampering frantically to escape getting beaten, trying to stuff textbooks/notebooks into their schoolbags, searching for pens and entering the classrooms and me watching all this, laughing at the poor guys and before a few seconds passed he had waded through scores of fleeing guys and stood right in front of me while i looked for an escape route…took a beating on my butt just coz i foolishly watched the tamasha! that was his last year in school. obviously i didnt learn from this experience, bcoz very next year took a bruising lathi blow on my back from a policeman outside Sreekumar theatre for trying to watch a first-day first-show screening of Aaram Thampuran made me realize, that begging for a beating from Pulickal Father was a totally different ball game vis-a-vis a cop!

  • can’t forget the amazing recovery he made after his stroke. right on time for our farewell candle ceremony in ’90. and his trademark bear hug for everyone before we left.

    his no nonsense approach extended way outside the campus walls too. i r’ber the time some local student politicians came with a flag and wanted to call a strike and shut down loyola. and how fast they retreated 🙂

  • I spoke at Fr Pulickal’s memorial in school, a few days after he passed away. I must have been in the tenth, and I said something which may seem damn cheesy now, but made a lot of sense to me then. With due apologies to Einstein and Gandhi, I said, “succeeding generations of Loyolites will scarce believe that such a man walked the school in flesh and blood.”

  • One thing I distinctly remember about Fr. Pulickal was the “chooral” he used to carry around which used to scare the kids no end. but everybody knew that he was a harmless person. we used to look forward to his classes for its liveliness and the occasional “non-veg” jokes he used to crack

  • Oh yes, the cane with the coloured rubber bands! I was sacred of it and would try to head elsewhere when I saw him approaching. Though I’ve often wondered whether he really taught history, there’s no doubt that his lively classes prompted guys like me to take history for pre-degree.

  • Hi All,

    I never knew that the CANE resurrected in Loyola School, It was burried at the time of Rev Fr CP Varkey who was the Principal. I was in Loyola during the years 72′ to 82′. Since 1979 these was no caning in Loyola, there was never a need. Am not too sure about how many of you know about Fr C P, he currently is with Christ Hall in Calicut. He was one person who was an inspiration to many of us. It would be worthwhile for all to understand the steps that paved the way to maintain the evergreen Glory of Loyola School Trivandrum, There are books written by Fr CP Varkey which is in circulation for over the past 10yrs

    Sandeep Roy

  • Sandeep, Fr Pulickal’s cane was not used for “caning” as you knew it. There has been no caning since the year Loyola banned it. You might enjoy reading my post on Fr Varkey’s book and the heated responses it generated. Old boys of the 1970s claim that some of what he has written is untrue. Why don’t you share with us your knowledge of those years?

  • I was close to Fr.pulickal and he was the director of LOBA whwn I was the sec and asok chandran my deputy.A jovial man,who did not want a sent off from the teachers,but accepted from LOBA.He was the man behind in reserving 10% seats in ukg for loba members.A large no of us attented his funeral at calicut.

  • Rajiv, yes, Fr Pulickal was active in LOBA. He used to attend those Executive Committee meetings in the city, and I sometimes managed a ‘lift’ back home to Sreekariyam. But my recollection is of him opposing the 10% reservation. Was it not Fr Mani who accepted LOBA’s demand? Whoever it was, I’ve often felt that the acceptance of the demand weakened LOBA.

  • Nothing defined Fr. Pulickal more than his cane. Fact is, he never used to ‘cane’ anyone out of anger, it was more of a deterrent. During my years at Loyola (and i’m one of the fortunate ones to have studied under him) i’ve seen students, usually small children, who would stick their hands out of the bus windows yelling his name and waiting for a whack on the hands. Those who got the ‘cane’ were considered heroes for the rest of the journey 😉 …

  • Just felt like putting a very delayed comment.

    Even I felt he never “taught” history. He spoke more about the World Wars than on Indian Independence. He admired T.N.Seshan (perhaps because he also was a no-nonsense person at that time) and used to make fun of some politicians.

    I remeber him teaching civics and mentioning that speaker of the Assembly could only vote in the case of a tie (casting vote) and that one speaker who did this in Kerala came to be called “Casting Jose” 🙂

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