Edasseri also decided to go to Singapore and arranged with a person who
was to shortly arrive from Singapore to take him. He left his job in
Kozhikode and returned to Kuttippuram. But unfortunately for Edasseri,
the person did not leave the shore of Singapore, but died in that alien
land. Unemployed and no prospect of migrating overseas, Edasseri tried
his hand as an informal advocate in Panchayat courts, but found that
being a vakilís clerk was far better and settled for that in a small
town Ponani 15 k.m west of Kuttippuram. By 1934 he had accepted being a
vakilís clerk as his formal vocation and worked under vakil K.V. Rama
Menon. It is important to note that those days literary activities did
not pay in financial terms. We thus find Edasseri always torn between
the vakilís office which was his livelihood and literary activities
which was indeed his lifeís mission. His close association with the
common folks in the course of his profession did help deep understanding
of man and brought realism and variety to his writings. This association
with people of Ponani made him dear to the people who loved and
respected him as Govindan Nair, the person - not the poet - who was
always there by their side to solve their problems.
married Edakkandi Janaki Amma in mid-January, 1938. The grooms were
already known to each other as Mr. Raghavan Nair, a lover of literature
and maternal uncle of Janaki Amma used to lovingly invite Edasseri to
his residence where the two had met. In Edasseriís words: "This
bride must have been created by Brahma - the creator - specially for me,
a girl simple and madly in love with verses, so much so that she did not
find it odd to copy in the same note book the Keertans of Sankaracharya
(the metaphysical) and also the translation of verses that I had
scribbled from "Pushpabana Vilasam" (a work of sensual
romance); only because both were in verse!" This simple girl
remained the eternal inspiration to Edasseri in poetry and a source of
started writing poems at the early age of twelve although it is
inconceivable that there existed a congenial environment in the Tharavad
to nurture this talent. Nevertheless, his mother used to recite Ramayana
daily and his sister used to tell mythological stories to him and these
two indeed stroked the poetic talent in him. Yet another influence was
Sankunni Menon the Malayalam teacher in the Primary school who used to
recite poetry in great style and in melodious tune.
had his formal education till eighth class and it was with his own
efforts he learned both English and Sanscrit. In this endeavour both
Nalappat Narayana Menon (a well known poet of the time, reverently
referred to as Nalappadan) and Kuttikrishna Marar (a scholar and
literary critic) helped Edasseri.
believer of God, Edasseri did not evince interest in visiting temples.
He was not a Sakteya (follower of Sakti cult) as many believed him to
be. Several of his poems like "Ambadiyilekku Veendum (Revisiting
Ambadi)", "Varadanam (A Boon Bestowed)", "Kasavu
Poothu (Kasavu has Blossemed)", "Gopika Govindam (Union of
Krishna with Gopikas)", "Puthumula (New Sprout)", "Trivikramannu
Munnil (In front of Lord Trivikrama (Vishnu)", "Palkadal
Kadayumbol (As the milky ocean churned)" etc. shows imprint of
Vaishnava thoughts. In fact Edasseri had intense desire to complete a
long poem reposing his self to Sri Krishna, but he could not make it.
Ironically, the poet who echoed celebrations of temple festivities and
folklore in his famous poems "Poothapattu (A song on Pootham)"
and "Kavilepattu (Song in the Divine Grove)" did not relish
festivals and particularly in the later part of his life the poet did
not evince interest in temple festivals. The poet articulates his
position by showing his preference to limit personal faith to individual
rituals. Possibly the poet had a vision of a secular India where
development of scientific temper and social justice were the issues that
should be engaging the attention of youth with the role of temples and
organised religion retracting to the backdrop and certainly not a
priority in the agenda of nation building.
was in the forefront of Indiaís freedom struggle along with other
nationalists, being an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi. He was
involved in distribution of "Swatantra Bharatam (Free India)"
an underground news paper of the freedom fighters. Edasseri was a source
of inspiration in Ponani during Guruvayoor Satyagraha and Quit India
Movement. He considered another ardent follower of Gandhiji, Kelappan,
as his leader. But for Kelappan, Edasseri was dear friend. It was at the
initiative of Edasseri, "Krishnapanikkar Smaraka Vayanasala (A
reading room to commemorate Krishna Panikkar) was estabilshed at Ponani
in the memory of Krishna Panikkar, a freedom fighter, who lost his life
suffering torture in the British jail. The Reading Room soon turned into
the intellectual and political nerve centre of Ponani. It was a regular
meeting place of intellectuals like V.T. Bhattathiripad, Kuttikrishna
Marar, Edasseri, P.C. Kuttikrishnan (Uroob), E. Narayanan, Kadavanad
Kuttikrishnan and Akkitham.
was disappointed by the post-independence political climate. His
conscience did not allow him to be actively supporting any political
party. The poetís philosophy is aptly reflected in the following
Adorable is an idea -
As long as it spreads light, but-
If it darkens and pours misery
Throw it out to make space for the new!"
listen to what Edasseri has said about himself, with his characteristic
humour, about his attitude towards theism and politics.
believe in God. But, on moments when I have to touch upon hunger and
lovelessness - 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 were only reflecting the objective social reality were
adopted by the Communists as a part of their propaganda. One more reason
for failure in life: I am red in the eyes of the Congress and a Gandhian
in the Communistsí reckoning! But I should be grateful that this
position of benign neglect by the political parties really helped the
life to be free from various botheration hindering creativity."
in search of poet.
believes that it was his drama "Koottukrishi (Co-operative
Farming)" which actually introduced him and his poetry to the
sensitive readers. "Koottukrishi", the drama, and "Puthankalavum
Arivalum (The New Earthen Cooking Pot and Sickle)", an anthology of
poems were chosen for the award from Madras Government. Further,
Edasseri was sanctioned an annual grant of Rs.600 by the Government of
India which was a boon to the poverty stricken poet.
Pidi Nellikka (A handful of Gooseberries)" was selected for Kerala
Sahitya Academy Award in 1969 And "Kavile Pattu (Song in the Divine
Grove)" the Sahitya Academy Award in 1970.
earned considerable popularity, respect and love of people around him.
In fact so informal were his ways that his fellow villagers had not
realised that their lovable Govindan Nair, the vakilís clerk, was a
great poet before the entire literary world formally recognised the fact
with various awards!
never pardoned himself and never dotted on his own children excessively.
But this apparent strictness verging on harshness did not stand in the
way of forgiving others for their faults. In fact he was at times ready
to own up otherís mistake to save situations. Thus there was the
incident of his friend misappropriating public money because of severe
family problems and about to be arrested and sent to jail. Edasseri
owned up the moral responsibility, arranged money by mortgaging the
house to save his friend from being sent to jail. There is also a story
of Edasseri on his way to his office being followed without his
knowledge by a lady teacher on her way to school being afraid of wayside
Romeos passing lewd comments, as she felt confident that the youth never
could misbehave when Edasseri was around. Edasseri was bold and never
minced words when confronted with the wealthy people showing
disinclination to public activities. There were also occasions when the
poet on his way to buy medicine for his own ailing son, donating the
money to a poor man who did not have money to buy rice for his family to
cook for the day.
remained active till end of his life. He was indisposed for a couple of
days before his death but did not allow it to come in the way of his
duties. The spell of indisposition put an abrupt end to his life when on
October 16, 1974 he suffered a massive heart attack at his breakfast
table. His wife and young daughter were with him when the end came.
wife Janaki Amma died on 27th September, 1988. Edasseri has eight
children. They are E. Sathish Narayanan, (retired from FACT Ltd.,
Eloor) E. Harikumar, (novelist
and short story writer), Girija
Radhakrishnan (Thrissur), late E. Unnikrishnan (was in E.C.I.L., Hyderabad),
E. Madhavan (General Manager, R.B.I.,
New Delhi), Dr.
Divakaran (Dist. Hospital, Thrissur), E. Ashok Kumar (works in Behrain), Usha Raghupathi (Bombay).
A free translation by Edasseri's son E. Madhavan.
Prof. K. Gopalakrishnan is the editor of the book "Complete Poetic
Works of Edasseri Govindan Nair".