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The world's longest-married: now a claim from Kerala

George Jacob



THE RECORD: Philipose Thomas and Sosamma

KOTTAYAM: It was no case of love at first sight, but a truly arranged Christian marriage in Kerala's Central Travancore region, where the family patriarchs called the shots.

And when 13-year-old Philipose Thomas tied the knot with Sosamma on a sunny February day he was a Class 7 student and the 12-year-old bride, one class his junior. "After marriage I went to school and completed Class 9 ," said Mr. Thomas. But Ms. Sosamma was less lucky on that count. "She went to school till the following [Malayalam month of] Meenom," he said, glancing at his wife sitting across him on another bed at their son Mathew's house at Pampady near here.

Today, having scored a century, Mr. Thomas is in the race for a world record, dutifully supported by Sosamma, as he has always been for the past 86 years. Mr. Thomas (100 years) and Ms. Sosamma (99 years and six months) have completed 86 years and four months together, a lot more years than the official chroniclers have recorded for longest married couples.

The two competitors they have in the race are in the United States, the official one being a couple married for 81 years and another one, still in the race, who have been married for 82 years (The Hindu, June 24).

As per the records of the St. Simon's Jacobite Syrian Church, the marriage was solemnised on February 17, 1918 (Medom 18, 1093 of the Malayalam era). It was on that day that Philipose Thomas, son of Peelikunju and Elizuba of Kadavumbhagom House, who belonged to the St. John's Church, Pamapdy wed Sosamma Thomas, daughter of Korah Chacko and Aleyamma of Kalimkoottil House, members of the St. Simon's Church, Velloor.

It was a typical Christian wedding where the groom wore a dhothi and a jubba with a shawl on his shoulder and headgear. The bride wore her white chatta, mundu and kavany. And Sosamma has been with him ever since.

Mr. Thomas belonged to a farming family that owned landed property, where he worked along with the labourers. As a youngster he tried his hand in business for some time as a government contractor, but nothing much came of it.

The couple had to wait for 15 years for their first child — a girl. A retired teacher at 72 now, she has 11 grandchildren. The Thomas-Sosamma couple had six more children and have today 15 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. "My grandfather died at 87, but father at 55," says Mr. Thomas on the subject of his own longevity. Father died early, and it was his grandfather who looked after him. He is disciplined, and took no liquor and never smoked, says Mishal, his grandson, a management student. At 100 he can manage himself, though he is low in hearing and has cataract.

Ms. Sosamma too is well preserved for her age.

Have they quarrelled? "Never," pat came the reply from Mr. Thomas. "A lot," said Sosamma. Perhaps a clue to the million-dollar question.

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