As per the usual custom that prevailed during those times, it was at the age of 5 (1890) that Thirumeni first started his official education. There was at that time, a small school at Karakuzha on the side of K K Road. Later this was moved near to the small church at Pampady. Hence from then on it came to be known as “Pallivathulkal School” (School near the Church Gate). At that time, a very famous teacher (“Aashan”) by the name of “Madathil Raman Pilla Aashan” was teaching there. There were two classes in this school with around 100 students. Class 1 was under “Kushumbil Krishna Pillai” from “Erivaloor”. Class 2 was under Madathil Aashan. But, Madathil Aashan made it a point to look after the well being of all these 100 students of both these classes.
All that was taught in this school was the basic arithmetic and to read and write. Those who wanted to go for higher studies had to go to Kottayam, which was not possible at that time due to lack of conveyance. If a person studies for 4-5 years under Madathil Aashan, he would be proficient in all the required knowledge. Our Thirumeni was a very good student who had a craving for knowledge. He keenly listened to all that was taught in the class. Since he was an obedient and a quite child, he was liked by all.
Madathil Aashan was well versed in Tamil. Thus most of his students also learned the same. Among them was our Thirumeni. This is the reason why Thirumeni maintained a good collection of Tamil books later.
Character Of Thirumeni:
1890 was a time when caste system was at its peak. Many Nair students also studied with Thirumeni. They never used to go out for lunch as they were not supposed to touch or interact with the lower caste people. Thirumeni used to take Coconut and Molasses (“Sharkara & Thenga”) for these students from home, so that they needn’t stay hungry. Thus from the younger days Thirumeni had the habit of feeding all those who were hungry. This continued even when he grew up. Thirumeni was known for his hospitality far and wide. Never a person who came to see Thirumeni, returned empty handed!!
Prayerful Influence Of Grandma:
During the times when he studied under Madathil Aashan, Thirumeni stayed in the “Moolakara Family” with his Paternal Grandma “Unnichi” at his home in “Pezhamatathu”. His Grandma was a devoted servant of God who followed the prayers and lent religiously. She made it a point to tell Thirumeni devotional stories of Mother Mary and Parables of Jesus Christ. Thirumeni used to listen to all of them intensely. This created in Thirumeni a love for the prayerful life.
Thirumeni and the Church:
From the very young days, Thirumeni loved taking part in the Qurbana. He used to stand right in front of the church to have a full view of the Mass and even jostled his way up. He longed to serve on the ‘madhbaha’ and take part in the Holy Mass. The parish priests at that time: Rev Father Parapurathu, Rev Father Kochukulathil and Rev Father Aykarapadavil, helped Thirumeni fulfil his wish. He was so devoted in his duties that the achens decided to ordain him as a Priest. Many church fathers, including Kadavil Mar Athanasius Thirumeni told this news to Pampady Thirumeni’s father Chacko. But owing to financial difficulties at home, Chacko did not approve of the idea in the beginning. This denial of the offer led to several mishaps at their home, including Kuriakose nearly incapacitating his right hand in a crusher when he was feeding sugar cane into it. Thirumeni’s right hand had a slight handicap which led him to be a Left Hander. This made Chacko realize that God’s will was the supreme and it was not right to go against the Lord God’s decision. Realising his mistake, Chacko sent word of his willingness to have his son ordained.
Kadavil Poulose Mar Athanasius Thirumeni