Under the Mangosteen Tree

It had all the melodrama, and to take a leaf out of what was said of the great writer’s works.

Kozhikode: It had all the melodrama, and to take a leaf out of what was said of the great writer’s works, it was torn out from the pages of a true life.

A flashback – two friends from different communities, the writer, a Muslim and the publisher, a Hindu from a feudal set up. The writer was penniless, but the publisher patronized good literature and was the embodiment of love and compassion. He helped the writer live a better life by publishing most of his masterpieces.

But like all good things coming to an end, the publisher died in 1964. Years later, the writer too bowed out of this world.

But this Sunday had something different to offer. Decades down the line, two sons and the family members of the publisher came calling on the ailing widow of the writer, someone they had never met before.

Vailalil House in Beypore, the house of legendary writer Vaikkom Muhammed Basheer, which was the stage for several masterpieces and also heated and healthy literary discussions that have enriched Malayalam literature, saw moments surcharged with emotion as the two families met.

The two sons of the late A.K.T.K.M.Vasudevan Nampoothiripad of Desamangalam Mana, who was once the managing director of Mangalodayam printing press, Thrissur, came to see Fabi Bahseer, the writer’s widow. Memories were rekindled and secrets unravelled as the families once again saw before them the life and times of two great personalities who had embellished Malayalam literature. The two men had shared a deep and close intimacy and quite often Basheer would go to Desamangalam Mana and live a closeted life for a few days.

It was through a common friend a few months ago that Fabi Basheer came to know that Vasudevan Nampoothiripad’s son was living here in the city. Ever since, she had been trying to meet the children of Tatta’s (Basheer’s pet name) bosom friend. It was just last week that Nampoothiripad’s elder son, Dr G.R.Varma, now in Toronto, Canada, had come to see his brother Sankaran Namboothiripad, now settled in Kakkodi, here.

With tears of joy, Fabi Basheer hugged the sons of Tatta’s old friend. “Tatta should have been alive to see this moment”, she said.

Next: Fabi goes down the memory lane

Fabi goes down the memory lane

Kozhikode: On Sunday, Fabi Basheer was at her jubilant best recollecting the days her husband had spent with his thick friends S.K.Potte-kkat, Joseph Mundassery and Uroob, along with A.K.T.K.M.Nampoothiripad.

Introducing the sons of Tatta’s friend to daughter Shahina and son Anees, she said though the families knew of the bond the two had shared, she never thought she would be lucky enough to see Nampoothiripad’s sons.

With Fabi Basheer rattling away on the incidents picked up from the lives of the writer and his publisher, they were new bits of insight into the lives of two stalwarts, which had hitherto been unknown to the younger generation of both the families.

Krishnakumari, wife of Sankaran Nampoothiripad (sitting left) showing Anees Basheer, Basheer’s son, an old photograph of Nampoothirippad when he was six years old, taken by Basheer during one of his visits to Desamangalam Mana in 1950s.

Pointing at the Mangosteen Tree, under the shade of which Basheer had penned many of the masterpieces, Sankaran Nampoothiripad said there were three Mangosteen Trees at Desamangalam. “I remember father giving one sapling to Basheer. Once he presented him a gramophone”, he said. Basheer’s son Anees then led both the families into the room where the gramophone and Basheer’s easy chair were kept intact.

Ravi Varma turned emotional as he caressed the gramophone. Like a child he said: “Oh, see it has a volume controller. It still has the old charm. It’s an antique piece”.

“People at our mana (house) used to say our father needed two people to make his meal full…. Basheer on one side and Pottekatt on the other”, said Sankaran. “I remember father once bringing Basheer to our home to see an elephant which had ran amok”, he said.

“Yes, yes, after that he came home and told me that more than the elephant, it was the bare-breasted women all over the place who had caught his attention”, said Fabi Basheer, as the whole room rang out with laughter.

“It must have been the 1940s and 1950s”, said Ravi Varma. “In those days women in Nampoothiri families seldom used to cover their breasts”, he added.“I also remember him saying that once he had kept a piece of drumstick in his mouth till the end of the meal fearing that by taking it out, he would be offending others at the table as they were all Nampoothiris”, Fabi Basheer said.

Next: Mangalodayam heralded a new sensibility

Mangalodayam heralded a new sensibility

Kozhikode: Mangalodayam Press, a Thrissur-based publishing house, has been hailed as the harbinger of a new literacy sensibility in modern Malayalam literature. For many writers of Malayalam in the 1940s and 1950s, Mangalodayam started by A.K.T.K.M.Nampoothiripad, was s second home. P.Kesavadev, Thakazhi, Ponkunnam Varkey, Vaikkom Mohammad Basheer and even Changampuzha Krishna Pillai and several others enjoyed the patronage of the publishing firm.

Gokuldas Ravi Varma scanning the souvenirs kept in memory of Basheer, including ­the easy chair and the gramaphone, presented by his late father. —DC

Nampoothiripad used to pay a decent remuneration to the new generation of Malayalam writers who were struggling against a literary tradition still dominated by a heavily Sanskritised idiom. Nampoothiripad was the first to start giving royalty to writers in advance.Changampuzha’s Ramanan, touched a print order of over one lakh copies in those days.

Many of Basheer’s stories were printed through Mangalodayam. In his book Budhimanmar Jeevikkunnu, noted critic Prof Joseph Mundassery named Nampoothiripad as one amongst the 12 people who made invaluable contributions to Malayalam literature.

( Source : dc )
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