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Home Articles Nostalgia The Raman Kutty I Knew

The Raman Kutty I Knew

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On the morning of the day after Kutty's death, I was woken up by the rude tinkle of my cell phone. "Our Kutty is dead", said the voice at the other end. And of course, the details regarding his funeral followed. With worry written across my face, I strolled into the day's OPD. As the morning's pleasantry, I mumbled to my colleague, "Our Kutty is dead". After a minute's pause so as not to hurt me, he, a fellow johnite, asked, "Kutty who?"
This prompted me to ask the editors of this mag to get a write-up on this guy. And as bad-luck would have it, the job was thrust on me. Strange are the ways of Varkey!I first met Kutty as a much-harried junior. Between the nursery rhymes and rhymes they don't teach in nursery, I had forgotten to have mymid-day meal for the day. As the unruly orientals at the orientation took their attention away from me for a moment, I sneaked into the Mess kitchen. There, I found this affable guy, with an amused look on his face. He knew what I was upto; and offered me a plate of food, and directed meto the 'posterior aspect' of the mess. Wow! What a relief! I was having my lunch, and eating it too. Well, no prizes for guessing, the guy was Raman Kutty, Kutty to the ones who know him well, the guy who cooked for the whole of John's from Dr. Mary downwards. His father havingexpired, Kutty boarded the train to Bangalore, at the age of 18 (or is it 19, I am not sure). His past experience in a teashop run by his family stood him in good stead. And after a brief stint at a couple of hotels in Bangalore, he ended up in St. John's mess, which was his home for therest of his life.

As anyone else in our mess, he too started as a mess boy, serving food, washing vessels and running errands. He had lovely memories of the mess kitchen, which was in the basement of the building. If you venturetowards the hind-side of the kitchen, you will actually find a small lift, which was then used for bringing food up - a la Pizza Hut.
Over the years, he learned more about cooking and much more about Johnite palates. His routine job, by the time I joined St. John's was much more than that of the head-cook. He was the manager when it came to deciding what provisions to buy for the day (For the neo-johnites: Money was at a premium then, with the mess in a stinking mess of debt). He would also make the necessary arrangements with the menu to make sure that we could have four square meals, with the money at hand. As a father figure for the rest of the mess staff, he also handled the 'human resources' part pretty well. More importantly, he would always report if anyone was having a field day with Johnite money. All this, for a paltry take-home salary of around 1,500. Since then, things started to change for him. With the appointment of a new manager, his work was cut by a third. Also, the successive mess committees since then were generous with his pay, raising it to around 6,000 which he drew at death.Somewhere down the line, his health started playing spoil sport. He was diagnosed as having AR in our hospital. We had also raised a handsome amount from the alumni etc., to take care of his hospital expenses. But as days went past, he was increasingly frustrated with the fact that he was not getting the kind of care that old time Johnites used to give him in the hospital. When Dr. Sunny left John's he found his last ray of hope fading away. He decided to take his charts to a Johnite cardiologist practicing near Palakkad, his hometown. This was sadly his last triphome. He died of a massive MI at his residence.
John's was perhaps the best to him, after that. The mess committee (read Johnite students) took care of his funeral expenses and decided to send his family, a sum equivalent to his salary, for the next two years. Apart from this his family would also get a handsome sum from his Benefit Fund.Kutty's greatest crib was that he was not made a permanent staff of St. John's. Perhaps, the generosity of Johnites has, in fact, given his family much better security than permanent staff get. Johnites have shown, yet again, that they have what it takes to be kind; particularly whenit comes to a man who was kind at heart.

(The author worked with Mr. Raman Kutty over the past five years in his various capacities in the mess committee. Kutty's biography, as sketched by the author, was excerpted from his many personal conversations over this span of time.)

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