Noted writer in attendance, Kerala tea seller-cum-literary buff resumes 'veranda discussion' post-Covid

C V Balakrishnan's 'Ayussinte Pusthakam,' was the topic of discussion in the first meeting held after the Covid lockdown.

Published: 31st January 2023 03:55 PM  |   Last Updated: 31st January 2023 03:55 PM   |  A+A-

Shukkur Pedayangode owns a tea shack and sells books.

Shukkur Pedayangode owns a tea shack and sells books.

Express News Service

KANNUR: "Book cafes" have an aura of elitism. Literary discussions held in tea shacks can altogether have a different flavour to them. It can be more down to earth. Literature, after all, deals with the lives and culture of the people and reflects the time we live in.

The location: Pedayngode, a remote village in Padiyur panchayat, near Irikkur, in the Kannur district of Kerala. 

Scene: A group of 50 persons gathered in front of a tea shack listen intently to a discussion. It was about a book that was considered as a harbinger of the advent of a new generation of writers in Malayalam. The author, C V Balakrishnan, of the said book, is also present, smiling and conversing with friends in the audience.

Balakrishnan's Ayussinte Pusthakam was serialised in a Malayalam weekly in 1983 before it appeared in book form. 

The tea shack owner, Shukkur Pedayangode, is busy, assisted by his friends, in serving tea and snacks to those in attendance.

Shukkur, who also sells books, is gung-ho about the resumption of his 'verandah discussion'. 

"It is after a year-long interval that I am arranging the discussion," he says. Even before the last event in January 2022, Covid-induced restrictions brought the curtains down on his literary event. Having hosted around 45 'verandah discussions' since August 2015, when the idea first hit," recounts Shukkur, who dropped out of school after class five. 

Shukkur recalls that from an early age, he did many menial jobs, including selling fish. Despite the hardships, he found the time to read newspapers and books. He gradually became a voracious reader. 

"I can read only in Malayalam," he says. As Shukkur's passion for books increased, he gave up selling fish and started to deal in books. "As I crisscrossed the district selling books, I realised that they have this special power to transform people." That's when he decided to hold discussions on Malayalam books at the tea shop he had opened.

"People ridiculed me. Many campaigned against me. Some still do. I have no complaints. They say I am an impostor, a fraud. But, I took it as a challenge and went ahead with my plans," says Shukkur, with a defiance that betrays a concern over the ills in society.

"It is my unease over our future as a people that force me to organise such programmes. Communalism, religion and caste have been polluting the minds of people and have been posing a grave threat to society. But I believe that books can show us a way to defeat these evils," the 60-year-old asserts.

"No writer has charged me for inviting them to the discussions. I approach only writers with virtue in their hearts. Litterateurs including B Jeyamohan, Perumal Murugan and Paul Zacharia have participated in the various sessions," said Shukkur.

Promising author V Suresh Kumar, who participated in the latest edition, said Shukkur should be acknowledged for his commitment. "I have been here before the lockdown and would come again. It is not easy to organise a discussion these days, when people remain glued to their mobile phones," he said.

Apart from Balakrishnan and Suresh Kumar, Sunday's discussion also involved critic A V Pavithran, and writers Vinoy Mathew and K V Saritha. "The next programme will be in March. I'll announce the details later," says Shukkur.

India Matters


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