Wg. Cdr. Thomas Mathew’s life began in Adoor, a small town in the central Travancore region of the erstwhile Kerala where his father practiced as an advocate. Mahatma Gandhi’s visit to Travancore in 1928 was a highlight of Wg. Cdr’s early life. Wg. Cdr was only a 1- years old but the image of half clothes, bespectacled Mahatma sitting with his legs folded side ways, addressing the crowd at the Adoor central toll junction had a lasting impact. In those days it was customary to present a mangal patra to a visitor as a mark of respect and amongst his valuables Wg. Cdr kept a copy of the mangal patra given to Gandhiji then.
Wg. Cdr would often speak about the Quit India movement and the accompanying turmoil during the period prior to 1940, how a wave of nationalism swept from Kanyakumari to Kashmir. Whether Hindu, Muslim or Christian, did not matter, he would recall, all regional differences of being Madrasi, Bengali or Punjabi were swept aside, ‘Britishers go back’ – was the refrain as the movement gained momentum and spread like wild fire through the country.
Wg. Cdr. Thomas Mathew would know that he was defined by this experiences in the Air Force. ‘The twists and turns one experiences in war are possible the best learning opportunities. No other situation can provide anything close to it. For in war there is no limit to achievement, no excuse for poor performance, no arguments to counter’. As life led his wife to start a school Wg. Cdr. was the support that she could always depend on Wg. Cdr. personally supervised the construction of both the old and new school buildings at Safdarjung Enclave, Dwarka School as well as the school at Vasant Kunj. Once the school had started to have a trajectory of its own it was Wg. Cdr who set up the Society and registered it.
Wg. Cdr. epitomized an era gone by, the last of a great generation. A strict disciplinarian, he followed a meticulous schedule as far as time, food, work and walks were concerned. His attitude to life and work is best exemplified in his actions on his last visit to the school for the Inter House PT display competition in November. By this time, Wg. Cdr was finding it difficult to walk and so was using a wheelchair. However, as the program came to a close and the strain of the National Anthem filled the air Wg. Cdr could be seen struggling to get to his feet. His faithful driver Omi rushed to his aid. Omi and the guard stood on both sides and lent him their shoulders. A true soldier till the end, Wg. Cdr stood to salute his nation.
We could well say of him ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.