Legacy of Dr.Mathew Illickal
(Eulogy at the Memorial Service-- New York June 15, 2011)
My son has already spoken, more poignantly than I could, on our family ties to Dr. Mathew Illickal and his family. I have myself spoken yesterday how indebted we are to the Illickal family for enriching our lives in the last 31 years. Today, I shall speak more broadly, not just from the perspective of our family, about the legacy of Dr.Illickal, a legacy that makes us all feel proud.
First and foremost, his legacy is the family he has left behind. Lilykutty herself is his creation. She is not the same bride he brought along to these shores: she is today an accomplished lady, who is an asset to the community and to the society at large. His children, Mohan, Manoj and Maya and his grandchildren are the greatest gifts he has bequeathed to us. He will live on in them and remind us of him. His values will remain immortal.
Dr. Mathew’s professional legacy shall also last very long. I am sure his motivation to come to the US was to gain professional skills in this land of technology and research. He became one of the best in his profession as a surgeon, but he retained the traditional values of his Indian training. He relied on his touch, his instinctive understanding of the human body to heal, not merely on machines. I have never heard him speak of his accomplishments, which celebrities he has operated upon etc. But we knew his professional skills. We called him whether we had a cold or broken bones and he gave us the cure with his thoughtfulness and sympathy. He healed us in a way only God could, by giving us strength and confidence.
His legacy as an Indian immigrant to the United States is also a noble one. He did not leave India because he had a grievance or because he could not make a living there. And having come here, he did not ever denounce India or Indian medicine. He gave his life of service to his country of adoption and earned the respect and confidence of his patients at a time when Indian doctors were few and far between. If Indian Americans have won a place for themselves here and enhanced India’s prestige and influence, it is because of the hard work and talents of people like Dr. Illickal. He has done more to India-US relations than any ambassador could. Like other Indian Americans, he was a true ambassador of his country here. He did not speak nostalgically about returning home, but his wish to have his ashes sent home has revealed his passion for his motherland. If lekha was here, she would have spoken of the support he has extended to “Karuna”, the charity organisation to help the poor that Lilykutty heads in New York.
And more than anything else, his is the legacy of a perfect human being. He had no malice, no ill will. He had a beatific smile for everyone, a word of encouragement and comfort for everyone. He will be remembered for his aristocratic upbringing and unfailing humanity and humility. We are the poorer for his parting, but richer for his legacy. May his soul rest in peace.