P. K. Kuruvilla left India to travel to Africa on a lark. A college friend was going there to work and had almost dared him to join him in Uganda. Why not? He had just finished his Master’s in Calcutta. He would see the world mentioned in newspapers and radio, beyond the endless, claustrophobic world of India: a couple of years of exotic, worldly experience elsewhere and then come back and continue with his serious real life.
While still in India he got a job with Uganda Sisal Estates. Needed to get married first, and No Sooner Said – Done! Then rushed off, a few days after his wedding, to the steamer to Mombasa.
He had been born in Kerala, a grassy childhood of flooded paddy fields and coconut trees, long walks to the school and back, so many brothers and sisters, stern headmaster father smoking bedis, snorting snuff, who trashed him badly when he once caught him smoking, but who – not always, but more and more – showed respect for this quite impetuous son.
After arriving in Mombasa,Kenya (newly married but without his new wife) he took a train to Jinja, Uganda and a lake ship from Jinja to Masindi Port.
Uganda was unexpectedly like Kerala: hot and lush with Keralite foods – kappa (cassava), chaka (jackfruit), kachil (purple yam). But also the unsettling dreamy riddles of a strange new place, a fairy land: a subordinate, listening with bowed head to his rapid-fire list of urgent instructions, and responding with almost reproachful politeness “Good morning, Sir”; a 20 year old employee appealing for leave of absence: “I am attending my father’s wedding to my mother.”
His wife arrived in Mombasa a year later, peering at the expectant, searching male faces on the dock. A fellow voyager, consulting a black and white photo she handed to him, had to advise: “No, no. There, there. That’s him.”
In all this hullaballoo, events accumulated pell-mell.
1953- Arrives in Masindi Port, Uganda.
1953-1966- Works with Uganda Sisal Estates, first as a Company and Corporation Secretary, then as a General Manager. Father of two boys and one girl (Sunil, Anil and Sera). Asks his wife if he should risk starting a business. She re-assures him: “We have my job to fall back on.” Which was that of a science teacher at Old Kampala Senior Secondary Government School.
1967: Begins City Agencies, an insurance broking firm, then Afro Tours Travel Ltd., then United Hire Purchase Co. Ltd (with more than a 100 cars)
1970: Is a Founder Member and Managing Director of United Assurance Co. Ltd.
1972: Forced to leave Uganda due to President Idi Amin’s
1983: Returns to Uganda. Re-joins United Assurance Co. Ltd. as Managing Director; currently UAP Old Mutual.
1991: Starts Computer Point Ltd.
1993-1998: Chairman of Uganda Insurers Association. He is one of the first members of the Uganda Insurance Commission that modernizes insurance practice in Uganda.
1995-1996: Captain of the Uganda Golf Club.
1997-1999: Chairman of the Uganda Golf Club.
2000: Chairman of the Computer Point Group of Companies in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, UAE.
2016: Computer Point Ltd is re-branded as Sybyl.
He had founded one of the leading insurance companies in the country and one of the leading IT companies – a founding father of the insurance industry, and responsible for the most complex and innovative IT projects in East Africa.
The for-fun interlude was now over. Why further postpone the return home?
For he repeatedly did postpone it.
On a trial visit back, rattling down one of the rivulet lanes of India in a tuk-tuk, he said out aloud to himself, “I cannot live here.”
Something had happened, something else had happened, invisibly, like the slow unretiring love of parents for their children, or the discomfited, almost shamed love of children for their parents, and it was apparent his only serious life was this one, and there was no place elsewhere more real.
There will be a funeral service at All Saints Cathedral Nakasero on Tuesday 23rd March, 2021 at 3:00pm.