TIRUCHY: As political leaders across the country share their grief for the death of Father Stan Swamy, scores of two-wheeler and four-wheeler vehicles start arriving in the Virugallur village in Tiruchy district.
The village, the native of Stan Swamy is buzzing with scores of people from different locations as relatives and family members of Stan arrive at his house in the village to share their condolences to the relatives.
Sharing his last memories with Stan, TPL Irudayaswamy (89) his brother said, "Stan was a very humble man and he dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the tribals. I last met him in 2019, when he came here for a 2-day trip, months before his arrest. His last memory with this village, his home was the mass he conducted at the Our Seven Dollars church here."
Stan, who is the fifth child of the couple Lourdusamy and Kitytiyamal was born on 26 April 1937. He did his elementary education at the St.Peters elementary school in Virugallur village. After completing it, for his intermediate education, he went to St. Josephs's school in Tiruchy where he also completed his BA History course in St Joseph's College.
Following it, wanting to become a priest, Stan left Tiruchy to Dindigul to study in a priesthood college. From there, he moved to Manila in the Philippines where he completed his priesthood in 1970 and returned to India in 1971.
"After completing his intermediate education, Stan told me that he wanted to study for the priesthood, and then he went for the priesthood college in Dindigul. Even at that age, he never asked anything from us. He was very happy with his life and lived very simply. Even till his last age, he never held a bank account," added brother of Stan.
Upon his return to India in 1971, the villagers of Virugallur welcomed him in a grandeur manner and hosted a grand procession.
Irudayaswamy said, "In our village, we have a ritual of giving a grand welcome to anyone who becomes a priest and Stan also had one such good welcome. He was taken on a procession across the village and he was gifted with a welcome plague. It was a very very happy moment I got to spend with my brother."
The plague gifted to Stan still stands as memorabilia in his native house as the family members have framed the printed present and hung it in the house as a memory.
Incidentally, Stan used to come to Virugallur village only once in 3-4 years. During his second-last visit in 2016, he had called all his relatives from different locations to see them one last time, as he was not sure whether he would get an opportunity to meet them again.
The family members are still hopeful that there is some way in which his mortal remains could be brought back to Virugallur village as it will give them a last chance to see his body.
"We even requested to the Jesuit society if it was possible to bring his body once to Virugallur. But due to covid, they have said it was not possible to bring him here. We also could not go visit it and we are still hanging to see if there is any way to see him one last time," added Irudayaswamy.
In memory of Stan Swamy, the villagers of Virugallur have planned a peaceful procession across the village on Tuesday and a special mass in his memory is scheduled at the Seven Dollar church here.
Benitto (26), Stan's grand nephew sharing his memory with his Thatha said, "I have seen him around 7-8 times till now. He is like a role-model figure for me and I used to love just sitting around him as he shared his stories of the activism, college days and memories of meeting different people."
Benito expressed how talks with him have encouraged him so much to learn about activism and read several books regarding the lives of tribal people.
Ever since the news of his death broke out, the family members have been sitting among each other and reading the various condolences messages and videos which have been coming from different locations about Stan and his service for the lives of tribal people.
Although we haven't heard much since he went to prison almost two years ago, we have been hearing about him through Joseph Xavier, the current Director of the Indian Social Institute.
"We heard about Stan's death only through the media reports. When we last spoke to Xavier on Monday morning he told us that he is on a ventilator. But within few hours, we saw reports emerging on media that Stan thatha had died," said Benitto.
During his entire tenure in jail, the family members of Stan have been hearing only through Joseph Xavier.
"Arun Ferreira, who was arrested along with Stan, used to write letters on his behalf to Joseph Xavier. In several conversations, Joseph had recalled to us as to how Stan had advised all of us to be hopeful and he would find a way out of the entire thing," added the grand nephew.
When the government denied his request to use sipper straw as he was suffering from Parkinson's disease, his supporters organized a novel protest of sending sipper bottles to the prison address in Mumbai from all over the country. During that time, Stan's family members in Virugallur bought a couple of sipper bottles and had planned to send them. But as the government subsequently accepted his request, they stopped themselves from sending the sipper bottle. As they mourn his death, the sipper bottle has found a place amongst them along with pictures and plagues.