Experience makes a man perfect and those who are able to convey their experiences to others are called geniuses and known to the world as poets, novelists, sculptors, painters, orators and so on, depending on the medium of expression. Raghavan Atholi is such a man, a poet, novelist, short story writer, painter and sculptor - a versatile genius.
Not many might have heard of Raghavan Atholi. And not many might have recognised his talents. Of the 174 works he has written, he could publish only 28, with many publishers denying him payments. Having been born and brought up in a poor family in the lower hierarchy of the caste system, he had to endure all sorts of sufferings in his childhood, and even now. But he turned all odds in his life into advantages with a different thought.
“My father loved poetry even when there was no food to eat or clothes to wear. There was a time when the feudal system was so strong that we were forced to sleep on a hungry stomach. To put us to sleep without making us aware of our hunger, he used to read us Karuna and Chandalabhikshuki in a sweet voice. Those lines still echo in my ears, years after my father’s death. Indeed, it’s my father who tied me up in the world of poetry,” says Raghavan.
Of his 174 works, 134 are works of poetry, 13 are novels and the rest are short stories and children’s literature. Choraparisha and Kandathi are some his best works. He was honoured with the Vaikom Muhammad Basheer Award in 2006 and later with many others. Raghavan, however, believes that he conveys his instincts more strongly as a sculptor than through his writings. This is evident in the over thousand sculptures he has created so far and the many street exhibitions he has conducted across the country.
“A poet laments about his unexpressed instincts as there is a limitation in transforming emotions into words. But I don’t lament as I can fully convey his emotions while sculpting,” says Raghavan. It was accidentally and inspired by one of his friends that he started making sculptures.
“My friend showed me a wooden piece lying idle on the wayside and casually asked me to make a sculpture out of it. It interested me and I made four figures in one wood, which increased my confidence as a sculptor and I moved forward,” he says. This short man of great heights with a long grey beard has turned 60 now.
Express, on its visit to his house, was taken aback at the way society treats a talented person like this. It is in that fragile structure made of flex banners and wood that he lives with his wife and three children. Under the flex roof, he sits on a flattened piece of wood and writes in faint light. Though, in this big world there is no one to take care of him, he has no qualms. “Had I been consoled by anyone I wouldn’t have got an opportunity to write like this and make sculptures.” “I have written as much as I can, but they have not reached the people for whom I wrote. I was born in an oppressed community and I have no words to express the bitter phases I have had to go through. It is that frustration and agony that made me a writer and it is for that oppressed group of people I write,” says Raghavan.
“I have not enjoyed even a fraction of my life, but I will enjoy on a day when my dream is fulfilled. A day when inequality will not exist, discrimination will not snatch away anyone’s right and all will live in harmony,” he says.