Death of a poet
Noted Malayalam poet Ayyappan died here in Trivandrum yesterday. He was 61.
Ayyappan was found lying unconscious at Thampanoor, near the city’s railway station on Thursday evening, and was shifted to the hospital by the police , where he was pronounced dead a few hours later. His body was kept in the mortuary as unidentified before the doctor in charge yesterday identified it during his routine rounds.
Unmarried and leading a bohemian lifestyle, the poet was known for his intensity, meditative beauty and romance in his poetry. He did not have a family of his own. An abusive alcoholic, Ayyappan described himself as “a poet from the gutters”. The poet had a large number of readers, specially youngsters. He used to loiter the streets and lanes near the Secretariat. He was a wanderer and used to sleep any where he felt like, often at railway stations, and occasionally used to take refuge at friends. His poetry carried the stamp of anarchy, anger and angst, with repeated reference to hunger and destiny.
Ayyappan was orphaned in childhood. He lost his father when he was one year old and mother at 15. “While my friends were carrying me on their shoulders after I won a school election in Class IX, I saw an ambulance speeding past with the body of my mother,” Ayyappan wrote about his losses in childhood.
He had nothing to call his own. He died the way he lived.
He was awarded this year’s Asan Memorial Prize, considered to be the highest literary award in Malayalam. He had been awarded the Sahithya Academy Award earlier, in 1999.
Ayyappan wrote more than two thousand poems starting from his student days. His famous works include ‘Maalamillaatha Paambu’ (snake without a hole) ‘Buddhanum Aankuttiyum’ (Budha and the baby elephant) and ‘Veyil’ (sunshine). He also published a collection of short stories titled Onakaazhchakal( Onam Offerings).
Police who conducted inquest in the hospital found on him a poem replete with his hallmark acidic imagery, scribbled on a piece of paper .It makes a prediction about an arrow that could pierce his body anytime. He had written the poem, to be read at the award ceremony. It was as if he had foreseen his destiny. The organizers announced that they will recite the poem at the ceremony.
Soon there was an outpouring of condolences from known and unknown personalities. Politicians crowded the hospital in no time. Some of them were in tears. Contemporary poets wore the masks of sorrow. A huge crowd gathered at the hospital premises. They were unhappy at the delay in the cremation process. (The sad thing was that no one had identified him till a day after his death!)
As usual, the Manorama daily covered Ayyappan’s death with a full page cover story. There was Ayyappan’s life story, a description of his poverty and the sad state he lived in, and even photos of his sister and her family, the room in which Ayyappan used to sleep while at her house and so on. There was also a picture of Ayyappan sleeping on a pavement at Ernakulam, some time back.
In Kerala, a person like this gets fame and respect only after his death. And everything is forgotten in few days.There is an outpour of grief and condolences from everywhere now. On his behalf there will be prizes, endowments, monuments, and what not! There are no more places for statues at Trivandrum. Every nook and corner is occupied by statues smudged with bird droppings. Probably Ayyappan would escape that ordeal.