A.Ayyappan is no more. He was 61. Ayyappan was a poet who lived in poetry, friendship and spirit. Some even said, in his veins there runs not blood but liquor. A true bohemian and anarchist, Ayyappan lived for poetry and the romanticism, which is a natural import of it.
Like a homeless wanderer, like a gypsy he traveled through the length and breadth of Kerala, inspiring the youngsters to poetry and initiating them into the wonders of bohemian life. But in the new millennium he was a living anachronism. By then, the youngsters had learned to make money out of cutting music CDs and peddling it for friends.
‘The crowd was standing on the blood of the one/ Who had been knocked down by a road accident/ My eyes were on the five rupees note/ That had flown out from the dead man’s pocket/ I took it without being noticed by anyone/ Today’s dinner could be on this/ My wife and kids must be sleeping/ With their stomachs half full,’ wrote Ayyappan in his poem titled ‘Athazham’ (Supper).
Things are prophetic and fateful, when said by a poet. Destiny reenacts, at times, the incidents recounted by a poet, in his own life. Ayyappan was found lying unconscious in Trivandrum Central Bus Stand on 21st October 2010. The police took him to general hospital where he breathed his last on 22nd October 2010.
A.Ayyappan was declared the winner of the Asan Puraskaram 2010 by the Government of Kerala. He was on his way to receive the prize. And this time, from a destitute home in Pathanapuram where he had sought shelter and solace in his declining days.
Getting admitted to the
General Hospital, was not a new thing for Ayyappan. He used to get admitted there quite often for what he called ‘servicing’. The anarchist of all time, late film maker John Abraham used to ‘release’ Ayyappan from the hospital and together they went to the local arrack shop and later John got Ayyappan ‘re-admitted’ in the hospital. Again it is destiny’s game; Ayyappan breathed his last in the same hospital. Trivandrum
Ayyappan was always traveling. ‘There were two swirls in my head/Either I should rule the world/ Or I should beg for my life’, he wrote. Whenever he felt hungry, he went to any Press office and offered the editor a few poems, instant ones and got his money instantly. Ayyappan’s poems are crisp and short. Reason is that he offered ‘crisp and short’ poems for the value he got for them. He had decided to write small poems for small amounts.
And he never wrote big poems. He did not want to win an empire. He needed only small amounts to pay for the cheap drinks.
Aksharam Ayyappan; he was known like that at one point of time. Artist Shibu Natesan remembers, “Ayyappan used to come by a car, neatly dressed and sober. During those days he was editing the ‘Aksharam’ magazine. Slowly the deterioration set in his life. Perhaps, that was how he wanted to live his life.”
Ayyappan came in cars and sometimes he coaxed and cajoled the admiring youngsters to drink shops. Willing youngsters paid for his drinks as they thought the company of a poet like Ayyappan was the most fulfilling thing in their lives. Ayyappan was letting himself to be consumed by his admirers and they did not know any other way to admire him than getting him drunk and making him sing.
Kerala is full of Ayyappan-lore. Every young boy who was literally inclined and lived his life through 1970s and 80s in Kerala could not have escaped the Ayyappan influence. They all wrote poems and they all drank with Ayyappan. And today all they have a story or two to tell about Ayyappan, his poems and his life.
I too was one of those youngsters who were in the mesmerizing spell of Ayyappan’s bohemianism and poetic abilities. When I remember Ayyappan I remember a book that I had bought after a lot of hard work.
The book was ‘Changampuzha: Nakshtrangalude Sneha Bhajanam’ (Changampuzha:
The Beloved of Stars) by Prof.M.K.Sanu. Changampuzha was the Keats of Kerala; the eternal romantic who had succumbed to consumption, anarchy and love. I was carrying this book around and I too was a budding poet who had just published a few poems in magazines.
We, the intellectual and literary aspirants used to frequent the campus of Trivandrum Public library. Ayyappan was a regular there whenever he was in
. He saw the book and snatched it from me and said, “I will return it after reading.” I couldn’t have stopped him from snatching the book because he was a poet I had admired. And I knew it for sure that he was not going to return it. Trivandrum
One day, while I was showing him one of my poems published in a magazine, he gave me a dismissive look and said, ‘In Kerala, there is only one poet, that is A.Ayyappan.’
It was not arrogance and even if it was, we had taken it for his style. We enjoyed him saying that.
I used to take my beautiful girlfriend to the Public Library. Hailing from a conservative family she was unaccustomed to the ways of anarchists. I was a small time anarchist, a budding one. And you know, the girls of conservative upbringing usually fall for the anarchists because they find this anarchy so different and charming.
Ayyappan was enamored by my girl friend. He told her in a hush hush tone, ‘Darling, this guy is going to desert you. If you want to live with a poet, here he is and that’s me.’ My girl friend laughed it off. Ayyappan was not a prophet or something. But this prophesy of his turned out to be right. I had to leave her thanks to various reasons. Later she did not marry a poet. One poet is enough for one life time, she might have thought.
Today she must be remembering all those love laden words that he used to whisper into her ears in order to provoke me or to embarrass her.
Ayyappan is no more. Ayyappan was a phenomenon. And phenomena are not expected to be repeated quite often.
May his soul rest in piece.