Published: 15th October 2020
From today, the world will be devoid of Malayalam's last Mahakavi: A tribute to Akkitham
The Jnanpith laureate died in Thrissur on October 15. A recipient of Padma Shri and the Ezhuthachan Award, he was 94
In one of his letters addressed to Malayalam novelist M T Vasudevan Nair, poet Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri said, "I do not fear death. Instead, I fear the path that leads to death. The letter in which Nair is addressed as 'Vasu', ends with Akkitham saying, "Once, there was a time on this earth without me. Again, there will be a time here without me." At 94, the Jananapith laureate breathed his last on October 15, in a hospital in Kerala, owing to age-related ailments. Hence began a time on this earth, as he said, without him.
This may probably mark the end of an era in Malayalam literature. A recipient of the Padma Shri and the Government's Ezhuthachan award, apart from many other laurels, literary critics and enthusiasts, including Professor Viju Nayarangadi, calls him the last 'Mahakavi' (Great Poet) of Malayalam. "His poems brimmed with humanity, compassion and unconditional love," he says. Someone who knew Akkitham since his young days, Nayarangadi regrets not being able to meet the poet during the Jananpeeth award ceremony on September 24, owing to COVID protocols.
"My father and Akkitham were good friends. They were both quite active in the literary society in Ponnani in Malappuram, along with many other poets and authors, including Edasseri Govindan Nair. I was quite dear to him," he recalls. "He presented realism with all its beauty through his poems," he adds.
He does not forget to mention Akkitham's literary masterpiece Irupatham Noottandinte Ithihaasam (The legend of the twentieth century). Many would remember it for its famous line which loosely translates to "Oh dear child, the light is sorrow and the darkness is bliss," where light and darkness are metaphorically compared to knowledge and ignorance. "This poem was a paradigm shift in Malayalam. In 1937, modernism was introduced to Kerala. Communism had a great influence here. Poets and fiction writers followed this," he explains, talking about how the concept boiled down to achieving independence through violence. "In 1952, through this poem, Akkitham presented a contrasting view. He talks about how unconditional love is the strongest binding force in the universe," he says. At the same time, he adds that Akkitham's poems were quite progressive in their content.
To say that Akkitham's death created a void in the Malayalam literary space will be an understatement. The language and its poetry, at a time like this, will surely miss his powerful yet compassionate words, that spoke of men who weren't afraid to cry.