THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: It was a time Kerala had started witnessing its legislators stooping to hooliganism by emulating their North Indian counterparts, even lifting their ‘dhoties’ on the floor of the Assembly and showering abuses on political opponents.
When the people of the state started wondering where their representatives were heading to and whether there was any meaning in democracy, the ever-frail ‘Azhikode Maash’ and his band of followers took the centres of power by storm, by kicking off a campaign, ‘Stop pollution in the Assembly.’
And it was the beginning of the ‘Navabharatha Vedi,’ which made its presence felt for many years in the state.
The city had always charmed the young Sukumar Azhikode and there was no dearth of admirers for him in all age groups here, as he personified rebellion and sought probity in public life through his stinging and intelligent outbursts against injustice even when positioning himself in the pantheon of teaching and as a noted literary critic.
Through the Navabharata Vedi, he also kindled a debate on squandering away public money as well as neck-deep corruption in the public health delivery system, eventually bringing some amount of accountability. Few in the state know that it was due to his intervention through a writ petition filed in the district court here that curbs were imposed on ‘jathas’ in front of the Secretariat between 11 am and 6 pm, which is still binding.
“He delivered more than 1,000 speeches at various venues in the city alone over the years,” recalls V Dethan, a native of Anchal in Kollam district and one among Azhikode’s close associates, who retired as a deputy registrar from the Kerala University (KU). Dethan was the zonal organiser of the now defunct Navabharatha Vedi.
Along with K N Gopalakrishnan Nair, district secretary of the Vedi and former joint registrar of KU, Dethan has recorded around 300 speeches delivered by Azhikode in the city. The Rabindranatha Tagore memorial speech he had made in the Senate Hall of the Kerala University has been published as a title by the varsity.
“Until undergoing cataract operations many times, he had been to the city often. Many of his landmark speeches like the opening one of the series of 125 speeches launched in connection with the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was connected with Thiruvananthapuram. Defying prohibitory orders clamped in the aftermath of the Poonthura riots, he launched the oration series from there,” Dethan noted.
Azhikode was a regular orator in the annual Soorya Festival here till a few years ago. Azhikode had finished his doctoral studies in Malayalam under Dr P K Narayana Pillai in the Kerala University here and had also served as the principal of the Government B Ed Training College for sometime, which was also noted for some bitter experiences in his personal life. He also got associated with the Sivagiri Mutt as administrator in the late nineties, on the insistence of the then chief minister E K Nayanar.
Whenever in the city, Azhikode was comfortable with the spartan amenities at the low-budget Trivandrum hotel near the Secretariat. Only when the popular joint progressed to a high-end category in recent times did he shift his choice. The last meeting he attended in the city was during October-end last year, for receiving the Parumala Mar Gregorios award.