Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ottayadipatha By Madhavikutty മാധവികുട്ടിയുടെ ഒറ്റയടിപാത

This was one of the books I bought at Kochi Airport on the way back after visiting India in April to see my ailing mom. I didn't get to it until I had to go back so abruptly. I grabbed this book to help me hold it together on the lonely flight there and back. It did help me a bit and made me think a lot. I tried my best to hang on to my rosary and Madhavikutty's thoughts instead of my own thoughts. My mom loved to see anyone reading and she always had a twinkle in her eye even when ostentatiously scolding me for reading while eating at the table. The book seems to be a collection of Madhavikutty's regular columns that came out in a newspaper or magazine. This is not mentioned anywhere on the cover or inside but the writer pretty much indicates this in most of the articles/chapters in the book.

Madhavikutty is better known and respected as poet Kamala Das in the outside world. Her writing was way ahead of the existing societal norms in Kerala/India and so instead of unconditional respect for her fresh writing style and forthrightness, she was much maligned and gained inadvertent notoriety in the beginning of her writing career. Luckily for her and her readers, the quite strength and quality of her writings just couldn't be held back. It looks like the one person who needed to understand her, got her better than even she understood herself. Her husband Madhav Das who worked as a bank officer. She is from the famous Nalappat family, being the grand niece of Nalappat Narayanamenon who reigns large in her childhood memoirs and the daughter of illustrious poet Balamani Amma. In her memoirs we see that Madhavikutty does not talk much of her mother and talks nostalgically of the time she spent with her grand mother in their ancestral home along with all the simple people of the larger household. Her Malayalam is written in very easy style. The very simplicity makes you feel like she is talking to you directly. I have not read her controversial autobiography but I feel that in order to understand this great writer you must also read 'Ottayadipatha'. She writes each article in it with clairvoyance and an alluring frankness.  I read more than half one way and the rest on the way back. Because of the special circumstance under which I read it, the book will always remain with me. This is a great book that discloses many truths that are gradually revealed to each of us as we continue to live this long life on earth. She is able to put each of her precious thoughts down in a way that is easy to decipher and with humility. This gifted writer passed away in 2009 but her books will never lose their relevance as they speak of basic human nature and every day truths. Let us hope Madhavikutty's little granddaughter Nayanthara will carry her gift forward into the next generation. Google searches will tell you that director Kamal is set to make a movie out of her life sometime this year with Vidya Balan as Madhavikutty. I hope it will be a movie that will do full justice to this consummate writer.