KOZHIKODE: “Many had tried to force my father to abandon me in Burma (present-day Myanmar) while fleeing to India. I was a 7-year old who suffered from skin ailments. But my father Moideen Kuttty Haji refused to budge. He carried me on his shoulder and tread through the difficult terrain of Arakan forest. Pus was oozing from my body. He didn’t abandon me at the refugee camp in Chittagong also. We entered India and finally I arrived at my father’s native Koyilandy here in 1942,” reminisced U A Khader in an interview some time back. He was recalling the great escapade of the father-son duo along with other refugees from Burma after World War II broke out.
Haji had been running a shop in Burma and Khader was born out of wedlock with a local woman Mamaidi on November 16, 1935 at Billeen. Mamaidi died on the third day after Khader’s birth. “When I reached Koyilandy, I felt isolated among the other children and family members due to my language, non-indigenous looks and sallow complexion. When my father returned to Burma post war, the loneliness intensified,” said Khader.
His only relief were his grandmother and her sister Mariyakutticha, who regaled him with myths and tales of the land. His life at Korayangad Theru in Panthalayani, with the presence of Sarpakavu, Bhagavati temple, Chenda practice and the weaving sound of Padmashaliya community around, beckoned an adolescent Khader to the world of stories.
The children shared tales of snakes emerging from the Kavu and the slithering reptiles lying coiled in the old Cheenabharani kept in the house made him curious. Ramar Chettyar, the local man who used to burst crackers during temple festivals, was another source of fairy tales which wiped off the tears of the Burmese boy. Thrikkottur is the place near Koyilandy, situated close to Panthalayani, where the storyteller lived.
“Khader was one of those rare writers who followed the native style of narration,” said writer N S Madhavan. “Khader was one of those rare writers who followed the native style of narration,” said writer N S Madhavan.
Visited Burma after 68 years
The sallow boy of partial Burmese descent visited his native Billeen in Myanmar — Burma had been renamed thus by then — after long 68 years in March 2011, along with his children and grandchildren. “I showed the Billeen written board to my grandchildren. I visited the Buddha temple and the market where my father’s shop was situated,”
Khader wrote in his memoir, ‘Ormakalude Pagoda’. Khader’s body will be kept at the Kozhikode Town Hall from 11am on Sunday. He will be laid to rest at the burial ground of Thikkodi Jamaat mosque around 2 pm.