THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Revisiting the life of two iconic writers -P Kesavadev and Thakazhy Sivasankara Pillai- will normally evoke some resonance even in the minds of those who have a faint idea about those writers’ life and times.
But when a writer like Abraham Mathew ventures out for such an exercise with a sense of adoration for the past masters it becomes an effort to recreate the past which takes the readers to a time lost in memory.
Abraham Mathew, who has already penned over 16 books, has come out with a work on the life and times of Thakazhi and Dev who had left behind a deep imprint in the annals of Malayalam literature in the latter half of the 20th century.
The novel ‘Naalam Yamam’ holds a magnifying glass against both the writers and tries to unwind the complexities of their close-knit friendship. He spares nothing while reminiscing on the turbulent times of the pre and post independent days. The words of Surendran , the character representing Keshav Dev, sheds light on the ironies which the Communist party had passed through and the blunders it had committed.
The novel also delves deep into the poignant personal tragedies of the faceless revolutionaries who lost their lives in the fight against state terror and tyranny under Sir C.P’s rule.
During the Nalaam Yamam (the pre -dawn hour) Surendran, the protagonist, wakes up and prepares himself to write his auto-biography. As ill health and old age had conspired against him, his young wife also helps him in writing. But for his wife, Devaki, Surendran’s yet-to-be-forgotten memories are her greatest assets to sustain them.
Writing the memoir was not that easy for him. At times memories gallop, some times it appears reluctantly, some times loses in the wilderness before he falls into delirium. When he gets exhausted and takes a nap in between his easy idle diversions, Devaki fills up the dots he had left behind at her will. Most often, contradicting himself.
Surendran had a serious difference of opinion with the Communist party for which he had exhausted his youthful days in the form of mobilizing scavengers and lowly paid coir workers of Alapuzha during the British period.
In close encounter with reality he understands that the Communist party had lost its sheen and bourgeois tendencies have crept in into the party leadership. This left him disappointed and forced him to quit the party giving room to his critic in the party and outside that he had become “anti- communist”.
But he could not have become an anti- communist. He had only difference of opinion with the leadership. But the publisher of his memoir wanted him to portray the party in bad light and malign it for the sake of sensation. His wife most often surrenders before market pressures and writes against his faith.
Surendran always had a close friendship with Sivasankaran (Thakazhi) with whom he shared the common political and literary space of a particular phase of history which is noted for Socio-Cultural transformations and political unrest.
Sivasankaran’s criticism about Surendran’s stress on ‘art for life sake’ and his complaint against the Communist party’s losing direction makes the book a serious commentary on the life they had lived.
Asked why the author chose to write a novel on these writers, he says it is high time that our new writers understand the social realities that existed during those times.
“All the social situations prevailed during the days of Kesav Dev and Thakazhi are back in our courtyard. Illiteracy, starvation deaths, casteism and other regressive ideas are back .New writers have to address it,” Mathew points out.
He wanted the writers of his time to understand the struggles those iconic writers had to pass through to bring about social change.
Surendran’s criticism of a revolutionary leader like K R Gowriamma will definitely trigger a controversy in the days to come. ‘Naalam Yamam’ is also noted for Abraham Mathew’s talent in recreating the language spoken during the 1940s and 50s.The novel also unravels the marvelous prose the author carefully nourished and preserved throughout his literary career despite his busy schedule as a media person. His deep interest in Upanishads, which he invariably uses to answer serious philosophical questions, is also a notable feature. Haritham Books are the Publishers.