In 1976, N.V. Krishna Warrier's sixtieth birthday was celebrated in Cochin with much fanfare. Mahakavi G. Sankara Kurup was the convenor of the organizing committee. It was also decided to bring out a felicitation volume on Krishna Warrier and Malayalam literature. As N.V. had no plans to write an autobiography, the organizers thought that it would be apt to have a longish interview with him which could shed light on his phenomenal life. But N.V. was not cooperative. Sankara Kurup was particular that the volume should contain such an interview. He knew that I was pretty close to Krishna Warrier and asked me to take up this job. The same day, I went and met N.V., and, without much of an introduction, told him about the plan to interview him. To my pleasant surprise, he agreed.
Stories of his varied experiences lasted hours. Childhood memoirs, work with Swami Agamananda of Ramakrishna Ashram at Kalady, research work in Madras, participating in the Quit India movement, radical underground journalistic activities during the freedom struggle, N.V. reminisced all these with a lot of enthusiasm. Sankara Kurup seemed to have liked the interview very much. In his speech at the function, Kurup said: "Do not skip this interview, even if you aren't going to read the other essays."
I was still in Thiruvananthapuram when Sankara Kurup passed away in February 1978. He was bedridden at the Medical College Hospital and he sensed that he did not have many days left. Anandam and I had gone to meet him with our son. We had arranged for a pushpanjali in Mahakavi's name at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple and I had the prasadam with me. He took the prasadam and blessed our son.
My life in Thiruvananthapuram of course included Indira Gandhi's emergency years. Krishna Warrier supported the emergency. One of his poems of those days -- Kozhiyum Pulariyum (The Cock and the Sunrise) -- was very controversial. N.V. was also the convenor of the Kerala chapter of 'All India Writers' Congress', an organization of litterateurs supporting Indira Gandhi, formed at the initiative of Hindi poet Shrikant Verma. I was startled to see N.V. defending even Sanjay Gandhi's programmes.
In any case, it is worth noticing that a majority of the writers who mostly support Krishna Warrier's stand on matters literary did not side with him on this issue. Many of these writers were in the forefront of anti-emergency activities. Jayaprakash Narayan, the leader of the anti-emergency agitations, had also come to Thiruvananthapuram. I too participated in one of the secret meetings that he addressed.
In the general elections of 1977, though the opposition could not win a single seat in Kerala, just a few months old Janata party came to power in Delhi. Both Indira and Sanjay lost the elections. In Kerala, Karunakaran had to quit the chief ministership within a month of taking charge, as it was alleged that he was complicit in the murder of an engineering student, one of the many atrocities of the emergency period.
AKG's -- A.K. Gopalan -- death took place around this time. I had gone to the hospital to see him. AKG was lying unconscious on the bed. Memories of the agitations that he led, memories of his visits to our village, his speeches, his energy and fearlessness, came flooding back. AKG had once come to the office of the farmers collective where I worked for some time in my teen years. He was told about my studies as well as about our financial situation. I remembered his encouraging words, and the affection in his tone. And I couldn't stay there at the hospital any longer.
Many changes were taking place at home too. When Anandam conceived, we felt that it would be nice to have my mother around. In our next visit, we told her about it. Mom was happy to stay with us, but, she was also sad to leave her village, her home for the past sixty years. She was forced to adjust with unfamiliar surroundings. Back home, she used to wear a blouse only once in a while, to go to the polling booth perhaps. That was no longer okay. In Thiruvananthapuram, only Anandam and I could follow her colloquial Kannur language. Vishnumaster and Savitrichechi would try hard to talk to her with a lot of concern, and mom found that comforting.
On May 25, 1976, Anandam gave birth to a baby boy.
The naming ceremony was in his tenth month, in Guruvayur. We named him Anandavardhanan -- "one who increases (our and others') happiness" -- after the author of the celebrated aesthetics text Dhvanyaloka. A couple of years later when our daughter was born, there was yet another dhvani: daughter, Padmaja, is father's, named after the father, Padmanabhan, and son, Anand, named after the mother, Anandavalli, is mother's!
Previous posts in this series: Father's Memoirs: Excerpts - I, II, III, IV, V,VI.