Tom Peirce, great-great grandson of the legendary co-founder of the Peirce-Leslie Company chose to make his home in Kerala
One hundred and fifty years ago when Robert Hodges Peirce co-founded the Peirce-Leslie Company, establishing trading offices throughout the Malabar, little did he know that his great-great grandson, Tom, would choose to make Kerala his home. Little did he realise that his legacy would bring later generations of his family to Kerala, time and again, continuing a relationship born long ago. Tom came to Kochi as a one-month-old in the arms of his parents, Tom and Sally Peirce, his grandfather having started the first tea brokering firm, Forbes, Ewart and Figgis, in South India.
Tom spent his early years here, in the sixties, going to a PNEU school at the Cochin Club, a school started by his mother and other parents. Tom recalls that they had Indian teachers and that Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ was one of the texts taught to six-year-olds, something that got him ahead in class when he went back to England for further schooling. University and then film school in England could not disassociate Tom from his longing to be in India, something that he explains thus, “There were whole generations of British who were born, lived and died here. They were very much part of the fabric.” And Tom strangely feels that he belongs to that fabric.
As a filmmaker, Tom would like his presence here to be purposeful. His feature, ‘One Day In Cochin,’ which premiered at the Goa International Film Festival last November, is a film interweaving the lives of a few Fort Kochi inhabitants and addresses green issues, something that is close to his heart.
Earlier, Tom’s film on ground water pollution caused by a nearby gas plant on a ranch in Alberta, Canada, was used as evidence in a court battle that led to the company having to clean up their operations in hundreds of plants across North America. “Film is a powerful medium and should be used responsibly. I worry about the new wave of ultra violent films in the West, and the deep dissatisfaction with modern society and humanity that underscores them,” says Tom who met his wife, the journalist and writer Anna Mathews, in Kochi prior to her collaborating on ‘One Day in Cochin.’
Settling down has been easy for Tom as he says, “where you spend your initial years always has a pull on you.”
Local cuisine, dressing and habits are all familiar to him and India too is part of his being. Kerala cuisine is the healthiest in the world and he wonders why anybody would trade it for a pizza or a Subway. “Give me Kerala fish curry any day,” he states and champions Indian ways. “India should be proactive in exporting its culture,” he believes, looking for an Indian lead to the formation of a sustainable society. “The answers lie here. The western development model is unsustainable. And materialism is “something relatively new in the psychology of people here,” he says, but then is all that the West has to offer unhelpful?
“No, being a ‘Saipu’ has its advantages,” he says with a broad smile. And this ‘saipu’ is advantageous to India for championing its ways, thought and culture.PRIYADERSHINI S.