KOCHI: During mornings and evenings, when Kochiites go for a break, Sudha Kathrikadavu sells them tea and snacks. At noon, when sun shines brightest, she keeps watermelon juice and buttermilk out for the thirsty passerby, helping them beat the heat. The offerings at Sudha’s tea stall shift, much like the moods in her poetry. The owner of a makeshift tea shop on Thammanam-Pullepady Road will surprise you with her unmatched diction if you just find the time to stand and listen. She is the author of ‘Pranamam’, an anthology of 24 poems she penned between the age of 12 and 67.
The subjects of her poems range from nostalgia and homesickness to the feelings of a mother or child. But grief is a common denominator in all of them. Though she could not even complete primary school, Sudha recites every line she wrote even decades ago from memory. Out of them, her favourite is one about Jesus Christ, her lord and saviour. It is titled ‘Pranamam, as a dedication to him. She chose the same title for her anthology as well.
“Hailing from a farming family, my siblings and I had to work hard before and after school. One day after school, I forgot to attend to the plantains in our field and went home. Unfortunately, some cows destroyed the crop and when my father found out about it, I felt guilty. He was angry that I lied in the beginning and asked me not to go to school anymore. But he didn’t mean to stop my studies. However, I was sad about my father scolding me, as I was his favourite child. That is how I stopped going to school from Class V,” she said.
Though she quit school, she continued writing and turned every sad moment into a poem. The loss of her mother and her inability to see her before the cremation is still a big heartache for Sudha. When she recieved news of her mother’s death, Sudha rushed to the railway station, since travelling by train to Kozhikode and then taking a bus to Wayanad was a more feasible option to reach home. However, the train was delayed for more than four hours and she could not see her mother in time. She laments the lack of affordable transport systems despite all the development we claim to be having. The grief from this incident is also part of the anthology — a poem titled Amma.
The death of Rajiv Gandhi and her fascination for actor Mohanlal — all find a place in her poetry. Someone gave her a cutout of the actor once and she keeps it as a prized possession in her teashop. Standing beside it, she merrily recites a poem she wrote about him.