Edasseri Govindan Nair

(1906-1974)

A Sketch of his Life and Time

 

 Edasseri Govindan Nair was born in Kuttippuram Village, in a famous Nair Tharavadu called Edasserikkalam, which was adjacent to Nottanalukkal Bhagavathy temple, by the side of river Bharatha Puzha (also known as Nila). This village, now in Malappuram Disrict, was part of British Malabar. Edasseri’s parents were Kunhikutty Amma and Krishna Kurup, former’s second husband. It was a matriarchal family. Kunhikutty Amma lost her first husband when she was still young after giving birth to five children, two boys and three girls. Govindan Kutty was born on December 23rd 1906 under star Uthrattathy. The sisters being much elder to the newborn dearly loved their puny little brother and showered their affections on him. They used to carry him in their arms always. There was one more reason for such care and display of love. Govindan Kutty was lame by birth with one leg slightly deformed. He had to be carried to his school and back. Gradually, after undergoing an expert but painful regimen of massages he was in a position to walk with the deformity practically invisible. However, this experience inspired him to write a poem titled "The Other Dhoti" in which life is perceived as the art of celebrating positives which would  make negatives pale into insignificance.

        With the collapse of feudalism in the early part of the twentieth century, many of the powerful Nair families (Tharavadus) had decayed and were falling into the clutches of poverty. Edasseri Tharavadu was no exception. Edasseri’s short story “Poricha Nanju” (Fried Poison) throws some light into the pathetic situation prevailed in Nair families of that time and how poverty affected family relations. To make the situation more hopeless for the family, Krishna Kurup lost his life to a brief illness in the form of fever which lasted just two days (1921). As a result, Kunhikutty Amma was not able to provide higher education to Govindan Kutty. Edasseri has in his reminiscence noted about this sad situation thus,

“My mother fervently wished to send me to High School. As for me, I wished to feed her at least plain gruel. Both these sentences are complete in themselves." 

          Equipped with mere basic level education, Govindan Kutty embarked on a job hunt. A close relative, Sankarettan, took him to Alapuzha town where he joined a lawyer's office as an apprentice. There was no pay during the apprenticeship; only food and accommodation. Govindan Kutty managed to provide tuition and over a couple of month’s time, saved Rs. 2 which he handed over to a trader who was returning to Kuttippuram with a request to buy a blanket for his mother. But as fate would have it, one day before this man reached Kuttppuram,  Edasseri's mother who was afflicted with small-pox had breathed her last. Edasseri was sorrowful and carried a lifelong unredeemed debt to his mother. This episode is reflected in his famous poem "Bhimbisarante Idayan."

 

Edasseri has acknowledged the role of his mother and sisters in his development as a writer. His mother used to recite the epic "Ramayana" daily. Govindan Kutty, who had grown up taking in the music of his devout mother's recital and listening to the mythological stories expertly told to him by his sisters had started scribbling poems by the age of ten or eleven ("Ente Kavitha").

The four to five years he stayed in Alapuzha proved to be very beneficial for him to refine his poetic abilities.  In Alapuzha he accidently walked into a young man by name Manjoor Parameswaran Pillai, a highly erudite person who could inspire him. Their meeting was a turning point. Govindan Kutty's literary repertoire thus far comprised of a few works of Malayalam literary masters like Cherusseri, Ezhuthachan, Kunjan Nambiar, Venmanis, Naduvathachan and Vallathol. Interactions with Parameswaran Pillai greatly expanded the boy's literary horizon. They at times neglected their job and used to wander along Alapuzha beach and other lonely places immersed in making and discussing poetry. They indulged in such poetry writing experiments such as a couple of lines written by one would  be completed by the other. However, the dereliction of duty was not taken kindly by his employer and soon Edasseri had to leave his job and return to Kuttippuram, gloomy with his mother's memories.

        The experience that he gained as a document writer helped him secure a job in Kozhikode. During that time, he made an attempt to immigrate to Singpore seeking work, but had to discard the plan as the person who promised to take him to the far off place expired. Edasseri arrived at Ponani in the early part of the thirties. Since then Ponani became part and parcel of him; his “Karmabhumi”. He worked in a lawyer's office for a couple of years but moved on to the independent vocation of document writing and mediation in property disputes equipped with the self-acquired knowledge about law and court procedures. He gained the confidence of the ordinary people of Ponani. His decisions were accepted by all the parties to the dispute, thanks to his reputation as an impartial mediator with a sense of justice. It was this vocation that gave Edasseri the first hand knowledge and insight into the hard and miserable life of common man. Many poems and dramas are woven with the tragic life of these people as the background.  Edasseri could serve the people by helping them to save on heavy litigation expenses, avoiding for them long drawn legal battles which only resulted in tragic and permanent enmity between close relations.

Clearly, this was not in the interest of the person who earned his living by preparing documents for long drawn court procedures. But Edasseri valued amity in human relationships more than money. On many occasions he used to work free for poor clients. This trait in his character resulted in his poverty remaining perpetually unmitigated. One of the beneficiaries of Edasseri’s ethical stance was Shri T.K. Sukumaran Master who has given a touching account of an episode which was published in the Edasseri Centenary Souvenir brought out in the year 2005. His father had gone for litigation to retain his dwelling place which was owned by the writer N.P. Damodaran who wanted the tenant to be evicted. Although the tenant had pleaded with many to help him negotiate with the landlord, none came to his rescue fearing the displeasure of Shri Damodaran. It was then he approached Kelappaji who advised him to go to Edasseri who would be able to help him. Edasseri intervened in the case and helped them reach an out-of-court settlement. He knew how to resolve an issue as a "win-win" for all concerned. Sukumaran Master's father paid Edasseri Rs. 25 as fee but he returned the amount which was a princely sum those days. Edasseri knew that the poor man did not have the capacity to pay the amount.

        Mr. P. Krishna Wariyar has also narrated an incident which exemplifies the element of empathy in Edasseri's character. Edasseri, with what little money he had with him, was going to the medical shop to buy medicines for his children who were bed ridden with fever. Krishna Wariyar was accompanying him. On the way to the chemist, a man stopped them saying that his family was starving. He badly needed some financial help to buy rice. With no hesitation, Edasseri handed over whatever money he had with him at that time. Famous poet Yusuf Ali Kecheri has composed a beautiful poem based on this incident (Included in the anthology of poems “Edasseri Ninavil Varumbol” in homage to Edasseri written by other poets).

        The same trait of concern for visitors to his residence has been recalled by many. Edasseri was anxious to ensure that visitors to his house did have enough money for their return journey and food. Those days, none took offence to such interferences as it was a society consisting of people who had to tread miles to reach anywhere and drink plain water to quell their hunger. Edasseri could somehow find money to give them, if required.

        Edasseri on arriving at Ponani had to struggle to secure a place to live. He stayed with poet  E. Narayanan, his close friend, for a while. But with Narayanan’s untimely death, Edasseri was homeless again. Fortunately a well to do acquaintance Raghavan Nair invited him to stay in his mother's house "Puthillam". He was in the lookout for a tutor to his niece Janaki who had passed matriculation and had started learning Sanskrit. She needed help with the language. For Edasseri this proved to be an important turning point in both his literary and personal lives.

In his essay "Poetry in my life" Edasseri recalls those days, "...... I did not learn anything consciously. Nor was I industrious. But as a minimum I wanted to learn some grammar. But instead of getting a teacher to receive knowledge from, I got a disciple to receive it from me. It suited me as I started carefully learning those portions at least for the purpose of teaching her."

        Janaki's passion for poetry knew no bounds. Edasseri later gratefully recalled that poetry presented him with a family as well. He fondly acknowledged that Janaki was a girl with such passion for poetry; that merely because both the kirtans of Shankaracharya and the erotic Pushpabana Vilasa were in verses, she had copied both in the same note book sans any discrimination. He concluded that the Creator must have selected such a bride especially for him.  Edasseri's poem "Ashokamanjari" is radiant with the ardent memories of those days.

        Edasseri married Janaki on 15th January 1938 (1113 Makaram 2nd).  He used to refer to Raghavan Nair as the good man because of whom he had a family. The marriage preceded the inevitable transformation of the verandah of “Puthillam” into a concourse for holding literary discussions.

Edasseri was entering yet another phase of his life. He needed money to take life forward. He, therefore, selected a few of his poems to make an anthology titled "Alakavali", planning to make some money out of its sale. It was common for men of letters those days to print own books and laboriously undertake the door-to-door selling. Although Mathrubhumi  carried out the  printing, Edasseri did not have funds to buy those copies from the printers. When famous writer S.K. Pottekkat came to know about Edasseri's plight, he got the printed copies released from Mathrubhumi by settling the bill. Although “Alakavali” was the first published book, Edasseri had already written three long poems, viz., Ahalya, Malini and Oru Latha. Ahalya did come out as a printed book, but with the title and name of author changed! Edasseri did not protest against this fraud perpetrated on him. His stance was clear," As the summer standby ever ready to shower compliments, as flowers incessantly blossom and drop, what sense of loss a Pooverinji (a tree that produces a lot of fragrant flowers) would have if a plant in the nearby bush, which is not fortunate to blossom, collects a handful of flowers from it to exude fragrance as if it were its own?" (Poetry in my life).

Neither the strong influence of Gandhism nor the uncompromising adherence to principles did financially help Edasseri's life which was an impossible concoction of severe poverty, admiration for ethics and adherence to truth. Besides, he continued helping his fellow beings who were in abject poverty, many a time even by treating the needs of his family as secondary. Nevertheless, his hardships and pains which he identified with the society were adding strength and depth to his poetry. As recorded by many scholars in later years, his poetry was inseparable from his life. ("Edasseri - poetry and life"- P. Krishna Wariyar).

        Around this time Edasseri developed great regard for  Nalappat Narayana Menon, the renowned scholar and philosopher.  Nalappat and Marar helped him with English and Sanskrit learning. Edasseri secured remarkable dexterity in English language with his own efforts. It was Edasseri who introduced Thalamunda Variyath Soolapani Wariyar, a poet and a famous astrologer to Nalappat.

        Edasseri was a staunch Gandhian. Kelappaji who was engaged in freedom struggle was his mentor in the national movement. Edasseri took part in the freedom struggle in a remarkable manner. Following the Quit India resolution and arrest of leaders, efforts were on to intensify the struggle in Malabar  region. It was in Edasseri’s residence a secret meeting was held to organize a committee to operate in Ponani area. Shri C. Choyunni, a freedom fighter from Ponani who was jailed in Kizhariyur Bomb case has acknowledged that the freedom fighters like him received considerable enthusiasm and courage from Edasseri. (“Njan Kanda Edasseri” article by C.Choyunni in the anthology Itha Oru Klavi). Edasseri used to prepare leaflets against the government and distribute them. He was also the distributor of the underground magazine by name "Swathanthra Bharatham" (Free India) which was proscribed by police. 

Following years witnessed Edasseri being marked in the cultural history of Ponani. It was about the same time that a literary group was formed. Among the group of freedom fighters were a few individuals who were dedicated to literary and cultural pursuits. Their interactions were also taking place in parallel. Its source of energy was also Edasseri. In the initial stages V.T. Bhattathiripad, E. Narayanan,  Narayanan Vydyar, E.P. Sumitran (who was the head master of the mission school) and later P.C. Kuttikrishnan (Uroob), E. Kumaran , Akkitham, Kadavanad Kuttikrishnan, N.P. Damodaran, Anandavalli Amma etc. joined this Literary ensemble. Meanwhile, Edasseri along with Narayanan Vydiar and Thresia teacher established a reading room and library in memory of the freedom fighter Krishna Panicker who lost his life suffering intense torture at the hands of British Police. The verandah of Krishna Panicker library became the venue for their daily meetings. Kuttikrishna Marar also joined this group in the mid-thirtees when he discontinued his job at Kalamandalam and came down to Ponani, his wife's native place. The members of this group were avid readers, free thinkers with modern outlook and above all passionate about poetry. They used to debate at length on finer aspects in literature and thus evolved a special literary outlook which was described as Ponnani Kalari (Ponnani School of Literature). Edasseri has recalled that his interactions with Marar who was famous for his scholarship and exactitude relating to literary principles changed the course of his writing. M.Govindan, another intellectual, and votary of Radical Humanism living in Madras, used to visit the group and add value to their deliberations. All these engagements helped Edasseri intellectually.

During the fifties, he wrote the play “Koottuukrishi” which was celebrated both for its literary quality and stage-worthiness. The play was enacted in various stages in Kerala particularly in Malabar. The amateur actors were Edasseri himself, P.C.Kuttikrishnan (Uroob), Akkitham, Kadavanad Kuttikrishnan, Padmanabhan Master, Artist Namboodiri, Sarojini, E. Haridas (nephew of Janaki Amma)  etc.  Uroob (Aboobecker) and E. Haridas (Ayisha) earned public accolades for their creative performance in their respective roles. Koottukrishi was a great success, not financially but by being part of the cultural renaissance and awakening in Kerala. As was the case with the plays of V.T, Cherukad and M.R.B, Koottukrishi too raised issues of social relevance and helped to bring about the much needed attitudinal transformations to trigger social change.

        The members of the Ponani group were active in various cultural organisations like Krishna Panicker Vayanasala, Kendra Kala samithy, Udaya Kala Samithy etc and staged plays not only of Edasseri but also of other playwrights  with progressive themes. M. Govindan's "Nee Manushyane Kollaruthu", Cherukad's "Jeevitham", Uroob's "Thee Kondu kalikkaruthu" and "Mannum Pennum" etc. were a few of such plays staged. Edasseri and friends believed in the relevance of stage plays in the lives of ordinary people and tried to make theatre an inseparable part of the village life. Edasseri's close friend T. Gopala Kurup was with him as a close partner in staging various plays. With clear vision for the Malayalm stage, Edasseri seriously pondered over the possible modernisation of the stage. ("OurTheatre").

The activities of the friends' group gradually reduced and ultimately stopped. This was inevitable because members had to leave the place when they obtained jobs elsewhere. Kuttikrishna Marar joined Mathrubhumi, Kozhikode in 1938, P.C. Kuttikrishnan and Akkitham later joined All India Radio (Akashvani) at Kozhikode and Kadavanadu Kuttikrishnan joined a private company named Pierce Lesley Company. Poet E. Narayanan contracted T.B and succumbed to the illness at a very young age. Edasseri would have felt rather lonely in his life as a writer.

However, a group of young men were attracted to him gradually and they formed a circle with Edasseri in the centre. In that group there were teachers of A.V. High School, Mission School, employees of Post office and other government department etc. and also a few lovers of art and literature. Raman Master, brother of E. Narayanan, emerged as Edasseri's right hand in all the cultural activities initiated by Edasseri. Same was the case with P. Krishna Wariyar who was teaching English language in A.V.High School and rose to become its head-master. He continued to pay homage to the memory of Edasseri after the latter's passing away by acting as the Secretary of Edasseri Smaraka Samithy for a number of years. The book "Edasseri-Jeevithavum Kavithayum" authored by Krishna Wariyar amply reveals their warm relationship. Other young members of the group like Madhavan Master, Devassey Master, David Varghese, John Varghese, Paul Varghese, N.P. Kumaran, Gopala Menon, George Varghese, Bhaskaran, Edasseri's sons Harikumar, Unnikrishnan and Madhavan etc. remained enthusiastic about acting in drama and organising them. Edasseri's plays were mostly staged at A.V. high School, but this group also performed at various stages in Ponani Taluk. In later years Edasseri and this group of friends used to meet under a large mango tree in the A.V. High School compound. These meetings came to be fondly remembered in later years so much so that the mango tree came to be referred to as Edasseri Mavu. Edasseri had a lot of Muslim friends. Edasseri was identified by them as an upright mediator and counselor capable of guiding them in difficult times.  They loved him as a good human being and enjoyed his company. Edasseri could portray Muslim characters in his works, especially “Koottukrishi”   with remarkable ease and conviction because of his intimate knowledge about his friends particularly and Islam and its culture generally.

        His mind was always ready for the friends who were passionate about literature. Long talk with such friends used to provide him great mental energy. His friends recollect Edasseri’s characteristically loud laughter when he was fully immersed in conversation. Although friendship was like oxygen for Edasseri he was particular that the ideals for which he stood should not get compromised for maintaining such relations. In fact he used to feel a sense of loneliness even while being in the midst of ordinary people in their joys and sorrows. Towards the later years of his life, Edasseri used to feel very happy to interact with the youth especially the young writers. He observed that post independence Indian polity had deviated from ideals and it pained him. He related this as the main cause for the sense of despair and lack of direction which was prevalent among the  restless youth of the day. He used to advise them to have grand and worthy dreams and not to fall prey to loss of faith and inaction. (Speech delivered during  Shashtipoorthy  celebrations and  the article “Oru Kaviyude Valarcha”).

List of Plays:

Noolamala (The Entanglement) -1947

Koottukrishi (Co-operative Faming) - 1950

Kaliyum Chiriyum (Fun and Laughter) - One-act plays- 1954

Ennichutta Appam ( Limited Means) - One-act plays- 1957  

Chaliyathi (The Weaver Woman) - One-act plays- 1960

Njediyil Padaratha Mulla (Jasmine Vine that does not climb the prop) - 1964

Jarasandhante Puthri (Daughter of Jarasandhan) - Radio Play- 1970s

Khatolkachan- Radio Play- 1970s

Complete Anthology of Edasseri's plays - 2001   

Note: All these plays (except radio Plays) were staged in Ponani by the theatre production group "Kripa Productions", the cultural wing of Krishna Panicker Reading Room.

 

Anthologies of poems:

Alakavali (Ornations) -1940

Puthankalavum Arivalum (New Pot and Sickle) - 1951

Laghu Ganangal (Simple Songs) - 1954

Karutha Chettichikal (Dark Nomad Women) - 1955

Thrivikramannu Munnil (In front of Thrivikrama) -

Thathwa Shastrangal Urangumbol (As Philosophies Sleep) -1961

Kavile Pattu (Song of the Grove) - 1966

Oru Pidi Nellikka (A handful of Gooseberries) - 1968

Kunkuma Prabhatham (The Vermilion Dawn) - 1975

Anthithiri (Ritual Wick of Dusk) – 1977

Edasseriyude Sampoorna Kavithakal (Complete Poetic Works of Edasseri) - 1988

Malayalathinte Priya Kavithakal (Endearing poems of Malayalam) - 2013.

Note: Last four of them were published posthumously

Anthology of short stories:

Edasseriyude Cheru kathakal (Short stories of Edasseri) – 2015

 

Anthology of essays:

Edasseriyude Prabandhangal (Essays of Edasseri)

 

Honours / awards received:

Madras government Award- Koottukrishi

Madras government Award- Puthan Kalavum Arivalum

Kerala Sahithya Akademy Awrd 1969- Oru Pidi Nellikka

Kendra Sahithya Akademy Award 1970- Kavile Pattu

Kumaranasan Prize 1979 (Posthumous) – Anthithiri

 

Institutions where Edasseri worked in official capacity:

Kendra kala Samithy- President

Krishna Panikkar Vayana Sala- Founder

Sahithya Pravarthaka Sahakarana Sangham- Member of the Board of Directors

Kerala Sahithya Akademy- Member, General Council

Sangeetha Nataka Academy- Member, General council

Samstha Kerala Sahithya parishad- Member

Kerala Sahithya Samithy- President.

 

        Edasseri was not a believer in God in the normal sense of the term. He did not take interest in temple visits or temple festivals. But the message one gets from his poems is that he had belief in the God's manifestations. He attempted to depict Sreekrishna in a unique perspective. This is evident in poems like "Unnikrishnanodu", "Ambadiyilekku Veendum", "Kasavu Poothu" etc. In "Unnikrishnanodu" especially, the strong belief of the poet that nature is in fact the realisation of God comes out very beautifully. To quote from Edasseri's essay "Kavitha Ente Jeevithathil":

 

        "I believe in God. But, on moments when I have to touch upon hunger and lack of love - the facts of life which had eternally nagged me - I find that godly humility and respect towards philosophical doctrines leave me in a jiffy. In the poems of the author who swears by Gandhiji, there lie scattered ideas which challenge Gandhism and belief in God. Although I have been a follower of Gandhiji and not studied Marxian doctrine, the poems which reflected the objective social reality were adopted by the communists as part of their propaganda. One more reason for failure in life: I am red (communist) in the eyes of the Congress and a Gandhian in the Communists' reckoning! But I should be thankful that this position of benign neglect by the political parties really helped the life to be free from various botheration hindering creativity."

        Edasseri used to smoke tobacco but strongly disapproved consumption of alcohol.

        It was Edasseri's poem "Poothappattu" (1953) which drew him closer to ordinary people because it was enjoyed by people of all age groups. Some writers mistakenly believed that Edasseri made a poem of an existing story (about the Pootham) that was already prevalent in Malabar area and they have written so in their articles. It may be noted that there is no such story prevalent anywhere in Kerala about  a pootham who visits village homes every year as the summer begins, dancing to the tune of drum and cymbals. Only the concept of Pootham is real. Edasseri was weaving a myth around the pootham. ("Thudikottum Chilamboliyum"). In fact that is the uniqueness of the poem. While it is easy to create a poem based on an existing myth or a story, creating a new myth is a feat achievable only by a genius. The numerous studies, interpretations and stage adaptations that continue to appear for this poem even as on date, stand testimony to the literary value and unique beauty of the poem. Today Poothappattu is a poem familiar to almost all Malayalee housholds. The poem was recited by V.K. Sasidharan who also gave music; and the recital has been enthusiastically received by listeners. However, the popularity of this poem created in 1953 resulted in many other poems written in the later years not getting adequate attention or appreciation by the public; not even by the learned and the critics.

        Edasseri’s prose was marked by its unique style, precision and logic. He wrote on themes based on his experience. He wrote on his view on life, what lessons he learned from Gandhiji, about creative process as he experienced, drama, theatre, poignant memories of persons who were close to his heart and had untimely deaths, literary reviews  etc. His essays have been published under the title “Edasseriyude Prabandhangaland are also available for reading at www.edasseri.org.  His short stories were also few but touching. A collection of stories “Edasseriyude Cheru Kathakal” has been published by Mahakavi Edasseri Smarka Trust and they are available at the said web site.  A collection of poems written about Edasseri by his admirers and friends after his passing away  by name “Edasseri Ninavil Varumbol (As memories of Edasseri floods the Heart) has been published by Mathrubhumi.

        Edasseri took keen interest in science and tried to understand the new theories propounded by scientists. He had special aptitude for Mathematics. But neither of these could be of much use in his work. As the circumstances denied him all opportunities for studies, he had to unfortunately content himself as a document writer although he had the intellect of a Mathematician or Scientist.

        There was a time in his life when he played Indian Chess (Chathurangam) regularly with his friend Narayanan Vydyar. Vydyar would chop off a full leaf from the banana plant from the gardens of Puthillam and cut its stem in various shapes to make chess pieces. This was done by vydyar so artistically that Edasseri never wanted to do it by himself! They would sit facing each other and play after placing chess pieces on a chess board drawn with chalk. On holidays the game would start in the morning and continue till lunch and sometimes even after lunch.

         It is a fact that Edasseri received great appreciation and glowing tributes posthumously from the later generations. But there were occasions, albeit few and far between, when he received recognition during his life and felt blessed. The most touching of them was the three day (1966 December 22nd, 23rd and  24th) celebration which was organized in Ponani to mark his Shastipoorthy (60th birth day). Although Edasseri was against organizing of such an event in his name, the participation from all sections of society and attendance of literary luminaries who were close to his heart was a moving experience for him. His speech at the end of the celebrations was indeed candid and marked by his humility with great internal strength. That was the grandest cultural and literary fest witnessed by the residents of Ponani in their living memory. The occasion was commemorated by release of two important books, one a volume of selected works of Edasseri and another an anthology of essays revealing various human and literary facets of Edasseri, titled “Itha Oru Kavi” (Here is A Poet!). Both were published by Current Books.  Role played by his friends, especially Uroob was noteworthy in the organization of the event and particularly the publication of the books.  A large number of literary and political personalities and social reformers participated and spoke in the various seminars arranged as part of the celebration. They included Kelappaji, Mahakavi G. Sakara Kurup, V.T. Bhattathiripad, P.T.Baskara Panicker, Panampilly Govinda Menon, Puthezhath Rama Menon, Kuttikrishna Marar, P. Kunhiraman Nair, K.K. Raja, Olappamanna, N.Damodaran, N.P. Muhammed, Vyloppilly, Balamani Amma, Akkitham, Yusuf Ali Kecheri, Uroob, Kadavanad Kuttikrishnan,  Kainiklara Kumara Pillai, Puthoor Unnikrishnan, K.P. Sankaran, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, A.A.P. Namoddiri, Sukumar Azhikode, M.R.B, V.A.Kesavan Namboodiri, E.Vasu, M.G.S. Nayrayanan etc. A detailed account of the historic celebrations was recorded by renowned journalist T. Venugopala Kurup for posterity, Oru Mahakaviyude Shashtipoorthy.  

        Edasseri had a blessed family life. His loving wife used to be the first reader and critic of all the poems he wrote. She was the one to recite his poem first in her sweet voice.Edasseri has recalled how helpful it was for him when his wife neatly copied in a paper the lines he had scribbled haphazardly. ("Tudikottum Chilamboliyum") Janaki Amma used to write poems and short stories before their marraige. They were published in Mathrubhumi weekly. She had also done a few translations from other languages like Tagore's "Fruit Gathering" and stories by K.A. Abbas. But after marriage she totally stopped her own creative pursuits. She in fact sacrificed her own creativity in order to bring up the children and to assist her husband in his creative writing. Edasseri has written a few poems about his wife.  In poems like "Asokamanjari", "Oramma Padunnu" and "Kudumbachidram" and also in a few essays, there are references of her. In the essay "Ente Panippura- My Workshop" on the creative process leading to the birth of a poem, he likened his creative universe to the workshop of a black smith. He had also interestingly referred himself as the blacksmith and his wife as his partner in this essay. In the poem "Asokamanjari" he alluded to the tuition which he had given to Janaki as her teacher at Puthillam before their marraige.

        Eleven children that were born to Edasseri and Janaki Amma, but only seven are alive today. Three siblings did not survive infancy. The fifth son Unnikrishnan expired in 2005 at the age of 59. This son who had studied Physics at higher levels from IIT Madras was the General Manager of the Electronics Corporation of India Ltd. His uncle’s daughter, Prasanna Kunnath was married to him. Others are Satish Narayanan (wife: C.N. Vilasini) who retired from FACT, Harikumar (wife: C. Lalitha) who continued his father’s tradition in literature and is a well known writer, Girija Devi (husband: C.N.R. Nair) who is a house-wife, Madhavan (Wife: P. Susheela) who retired as General Manager of the Reserve Bank and presently acts as Secretary of  the Edasseri Smaraka Samithy, Dr. Divakaran (wife: M.K. Sobhana) who is Director of the Pain & Palliative Care Society Thrissur, Ashok Kumar (wife: Jayasree Ashok Kumar)  who  retired as a Project Manager from a Bahrain company and Usha Devi (husband: K. Raghupathy) who is a house-wife. Mahakavi Edasseri Smaraka Trust was formed in 2014 by these heirs of Edasseri to engage in projects to pay homage to the memory of their father. The trust would support the Edasseri Smaraka Samithy in the matter of the Edasseri Award which is given away every year to the best book in one of the categories such as  poetry, short stories, plays and  literary studies.

Edasseri had written the poem "Poojapushpam" in memory of a child who died as an infant. This poem recited by Dr. S.P. Ramesh and also many other poems of Edasseri recited by younger generation are available at Edasseri's website www.edasseri.org and You Tube.  

        Edasseri's health used to be at odds always because of the rough life he had been leading since adolescence. He continued to work even when he was indisposed at the age of 68. Although friends advised him to get medical checkup done in Medical College Kozhikode he did not relent. It should have been very easy to do the check up at Calicut medical college, as his son Dr. Divakaran was studying there. On the night prior to the day of his demise, Edasseri was in a joyous mood and played chess with his youngest daughter Usha till late in the night. He was by now quite comfortable with English chess and played it with equal ease as Indian chess.  Next morning it was breakfast time when Usha brought his breakfast to the table. Edasseri had barely started taking it when he collapsed. His wife was sitting beside him.

         Raman Master who was residing nearby was informed. He came immediately followed by the doctor, who confirmed the death. Painless death  - thanks to the kindness shown by fate to this great man, who suffered lifelong poverty, resulting in humiliation and pain.       

         The day was October 16th 1974, Wednesday.


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