‘Inspirations for my stories come from simplicity of village life’: Aymanam John
John bagged the Odakkuzhal Award in 2017 for his book Aymanam Johninte Kathakal.
KOCHI: Aymanam John entered the world of literature through a popular vernacular weekly’s writing competition during his college days in 1972. Thereon, the native of Aymanam in Kottayam went on to make a mark in the Malayalam literary scene with his mesmerising collection of short stories and vivid descriptions of his hometown.
John bagged the Odakkuzhal Award in 2017 for his book 'Aymanam Johninte Kathakal'. The same year, he won the Kerala Sahithya Academy Award for Ithara Characharangalude Charitrapusthakam.
Could you tell us about your evolution as a writer?
We had a college magazine called Vidyasamgraham at CMS College, Kottayam. I used to write stories for it regularly, and I came about to register for a literary competition, which I won. That was the beginning.
I used to regularly visit the Aymanam Public Library after Class 10. A bunch of us would gather after class to discuss books. Some of us brought out a hand-written magazine for the library. Those were my first steps towards writing.
You worked with the Central audit department. How did you balance work and writing?
I had stopped writing for a long time. I had to travel a lot, and the transition from village to city life was stressful. The sense of freedom I enjoyed while writing as a student was no more. I actively got back to writing after my retirement.
You translated José Saramago’s ‘Cain’. How is the translation process different from writing?
DC Books asked me to translate it. The first work that I translated was a short-story collection by Arundhati Roy. That was also on request. Translation is easier than creative writing. That latter is like cultivating a plant. It is a tedious process: one should start by sowing the seed, then water and nourish it daily.
Budding writers struggle to get noticed now...
It was challenging back then, too. We had to wait for months to see works get published. Now, the number of aspirants has gone up, while the number of publishing houses hasn’t. Competition, in general, has increased in all fields.
Why do you stick with the rural setting in your works?
I grew up experiencing village life. I found city life to be superficial to an extent. Sophisticated, too. I grew up in an intimate environment, where people shared strong bonds. I have a soft spot for my simple upbringing. Inspirations for my stories come from the simplicity of village life.
I took a break for almost a year due to health issues. Now I have slowly started getting back into writing. I am working on a short story for an Onam special edition of a weekly. When you’re trying to get back into writing after a gap, it takes time to get past that mental block, get ideas flowing.