This posting is the answer for the frequently asked question and request of my well wishers, that how I get acquainted with the Hebrew language and Cochin Jews.
I cannot actually recollect the entire story of my first visit to Cochin Jewish synagogue which sawed the seed of Hebrew language in me. when I was about 10 years old I even don’t know what actually it is ,but I was insisting my father to take me to the synagogue; I don’t know what driving force made me to think so, It was not something divine but might be some curiosities arise in me by seeing the foreigners visiting cochin.
It was evening, the time might be around 6.30pm the roads leading to the Jew town started to get painted in dark by the night, I couldn’t find any person in the road and I think it was a Sunday. The curiosity in me made my each second to an hour and at last I reached to the Jew town junction where the yellowish tint of the street light gave the place to be a distinct from the other streets of Cochin. My father parked his bike aside and we walked, the buildings on the both side of the street seem to be extraordinarily large to me, and with a glance itself the antique shops in the street grabbed my attention. I saw a jumbo size crystal of orange colour and I stood there for a second my father came and hold my hand and made to walk to the synagogue, the two unusual lamps on the either side of the synagogues gate and the abruptly laid rocks in front took me decades back and still I feels that I am somewhere in the history when I visit Jew town.
The gatekeeper told the synagogue is closed for the visitors during that time someone from the synagogue who was lighting the lamp came out, I am sure he was a Jew he was fair with cat’s eye and he wore a skull cap, as my father explained to him that I was insisting him to take me to the synagogue. With a smile he allowed me and my father to get into the synagogue and I was in a dilemma, whether I have to walk further or what to do. That panoramic view is still there in my mind, I can even sketch it out. I paid my attention to Hebrew wall writings and the torah chest which is carved out exquisitely. Then I just went near to the person who allowed me enter into synagogue he was still lighting the lamps that was quiet unusual lamp it was made in glass with some water and oil he said that was his relatives death anniversary day and he just came on behalf of his memories and he explained how that lamp worked
This incident was scraped out of my memory but it is a sort of incident which cannot be explained with same essence which I experienced.
Then after a long time when I was perusing with my 9th I was curious about the languages and I love to write Hindi and Gujrathi, I used to write it for my friends and even I used to write the word “Gujrathi” in the black board just before I leave from my class (where the gujrathi classes are conducted) to another class room for my Malayalam class. Once the Gujrathi teacher caught me as if I had done a mistake, her sound is very rough and bold, which made my hands freeze but she appreciated me and told to me you have to write it for every class.
Later when I was in 10th standard I was crazy with the Chinese alphabets and I created a set of alphabet which resembled Chinese of my own and used it as our classmates code language, it’s still there in my slam book. These where just told me to show my concern towards language.
Leaving from that school and the friend circle made me to forget that language. I joined for my 11th standard (in 2004) in Santa Cruz, Higher secondary school which was a catholic management owned school. From there I got one Gideon’s Bible while an hundred year old library was emptied then to be re-established. The copy was given to me by one teacher. I took it to home I started to turn the pages, there was some page which is has translation of one verse from John in different languages, including Arabic, Hebrew, German and so on there around 25 languages. The Hebrew attracted me after a long time from visiting the synagogue this was another moment which put me in touch with the Hebrew; I wanted to the word which means God in Hebrew I was that much alien to Hebrew language initially i failed to find it out that failure made me to learn more. And I started to just imitate the letters and started the journey with the Hebrew language.
My next intention was to get a Hebrew bible, I acquired one Hebrew book but it was not a bible it was a daily prayer book I brought from a street side bookseller. That book helped me a lot because in that book one side was Hebrew Prayer and other side was its translation in English that helped me to find out the corresponding word of God. And in last page there was transliteration of Kadeesh La’eela that actually helped me to get the idea about the alphabet and vowels after spending long hours in night i learned that there were around 30 alphabets but later I realised some letters at the ending of the word and found out their distinct character and the learning procedure went on finally comparing with the Arabic alphabets I learned at my childhood helped me to understand what is Hebrew language. Gradually I learned to write, read and then to understand some of the word meaning and it went on.
For learning Hebrew I have not approached anyone other than God, The Almighty.
I had used simple fountain pen, pencils, brushes, shaped Quill, shaped Bamboo stick and finally a calligraphic pen to write Hebrew and in course of time I was active in Arabic calligraphy and I use to write Ayathul Kurzeey for my relatives even gifted for their house warming. But I didn’t try to create one Hebrew piece.
I was having a great time with languages I came across with Aramaic, Syrian, Samaritan, Mandaic and Coptic; even I had translated a Coptic book to Malayalam language.
It was a co incidence that one of my friend Sharon who know about my interest in Hebrew asked me have you visited synagogue I told yes when I was a child I had visited it. Then he asked can we go tomorrow I told why not?
The very next day four of us Me, Peter, Sharon and Shaheed, went to Dutch palace and then to synagogue we were in our bicycles and kept it aside and went inside and the synagogue inside was cool as it is well ventilated. As photography was not prohibited my friend took some snaps in his mobile. Suddenly the doors of the synagogue was closed as it was closing time one old man with a kippah walked along with one lady and he was explaining about the history of synagogue, later I came to know that she was the wife the election commissioner(i don’t know her name). The old man opened the Aron Kadesh and showed the Torah scroll someone from the crowd told the torah is kept upside down it seems, I suddenly told its not, the old man looked at me and asked how come you know that I told I can read Hebrew
He was surprised and asked me: are you a Jew?
I told: no, I am a Muslim.
He asked: who taught you Hebrew?
I told: I learned of my own.
He asked me:Can you read a small portion from Torah?
I told I can only read with the vowels, but I will try.
And I read a small portion and I don’t know from which portion I read and was it correct or not.
But he congratulated me and asked me where I from am and so on.....
On the very same day itself I tried to make one replica but to make a replica I have to learn some of the rules to be followed, it took one week for me to get a small idea regarding that, the eagerness in me helped me a lot to finish the intended work to get over by another one week.
I took it to the caretaker of synagogue Mr. Joy, and he helped me to meet the warden Samuel Hallegua, I met him after a long time from this incident(early 2007), He was sitting in a chair which is laid in synagogue I went and introduced myself and showed the replica of Torah made by me he gave a good comment on that, He was interested to talk with me and he took me to his home to have a talk, he talked to me for a long time the topic was regarding Judaism and the life of Jews in Kerala. And he told that during the recent reconstruction of the First mosque of India, Cheraman Juma Masjid which is situated in Kodungalur, he met the Khatib and some of the office bearers and requested to reconstruct it in the same manner without disturbing the ancient structure but that was reconstructed in a different manner. He told he felt bad about it. He was a great storyteller and he gave stress on peaceful co existence and tolerance.
Then I used frequently visited him and just before starting with my degrees (in later 2007) I met him for the last and I presented him an oil painting of Menorah and a calligraphic piece of Ten Commandments in Hebrew handwritten by me. And now he is no more he passed away couple of days before the last Rosh-Hashanah (September 2009)
Then I got acquainted with my studies and but during my second year I just tried to make a birkat ha bayith in and I made around 10 different type and then in 2009 I met Sarah Cohen and I remember it was on June during my vacation time. I showed the birkat ha bayith to her and she was very interested to see those works and these are some of the thriving instances which came into my mind while dusting out some.
Rest of the incidences are narrated in older blogs