Tuesday, February 12, 2013

D.Vinayachandran: Touched by Poetry, Claimed by Death

(D.Vinayachandran- 1946-2013)

D.Vinayachandran, the poet, writer, pedagogue and wanderer is no more. Yesterday (11th February 2013), after spending three days in a hospital in Trivandrum, he breathed his last. He was sixty seven year old and is survived by his poetry and the memories of his friends. D.Vinayachandran was my professor for a year in University College, Trivandrum, where I had to study Malayalam as the second language. It was quite exciting to see a poet-professor whom you had been admiring for a long time since your childhood, standing in front of you and delivering lectures. He recited epics the way he used to recite his own poems. And I remember he never finished a portion from Mahabharata that we had to study as he went on explaining literature in a different mode that traversed into experiences of poets and writers of all times. But we were not a dejected lot. Vinayachandran taught us what was not in the text book. So was V.P.Sivakumar, another writer-professor, who lived a life of irreverence that got reflected in his writings.

(D.Vinayachandran- a Sketch by Shibu Natesan- 2006)

First time I saw D.Vinayachandran when he came to Kumaran Asan Memorial for Asan Prize Festivals sometime in early 1980s. Shibu Natesan was with me then and we both were high school boys. While Shibu stood firmly on his stance that he would not participate in any painting competition because he believed painting was not for competing with anybody or anything, I went to participate in painting and drawing competitions along with poetry and short story writing because I wanted to become an all rounder. We heard poets reciting their poems. Their voices of rebellion were taken to the far off shores by the winds blowing from the Arabian Sea. M.P.Appan was the only senior poet. We thought he was a chiranjeevi who defied death. Every year he came, recited his poems in a classical style and went back. Thirunalloor Karunakaran was an iron man. Ayyappa Panicker was the descendent of Nambiar. Kadammanitta was people’s poet. Vinayachandran had the beats of a bygone tribal culture.

When Vinayachandran recited his poems, tapping with his fist on the podium, throwing his thin hands up in the air like the wings of an albatross, we felt the rhythm of forests had come to meet the music of sea waves. His large eyes gleamed, black curly hairs fell on his temples and his dark complexion shined against the setting sun. We expected him to recite the same poems every year because we liked the way he recited it. Poets were like entertainers. We wanted each poet to recite their ‘super hit’ poems. Perhaps, the poetry reciting culture became a wildfire in Kerala in 1980s and 90s. Perhaps, only in Kerala one could hear poems even from a marriage pandal. Poetry had taken people by storm. Vinayachandran was a whirlwind.

Vinayachandran had a good dressing sense. He wore denims and cotton clothes. Often he walked with a bag full of books. He had a very affectionate smile. I never thought I would ever become his student. Once I became his student we became friends. I used to spend time with him and V.P.Sivakumar. And I got chance to travel with Vinayachandran to recite poems in villages. I have written about the experience elsewhere. He was unmarried. Perhaps he loved books and poems. He loved friendship and wandering. Family life never attracted him. 

It must be the play of providence. Last I met him with Shibu Natesan in Mumbai. It was in 2008. The artists were on their way to Mexico. Vinayachandran was accompanying Shibu to Mexico. I spoke to him briefly amidst the dinner of Joss, an upmarket restaurant in Mumbai. Artists were not feeling the pinch of recession. They were in a perpetual party and in a never ending dream. Vinayanchandran was obviously not fitting in. But he tried his best to fit in. He drank and sang. He recited folkloric poems and certain tribal intonations, which we were supposed to repeat at his request. But we were shy. We thought it was not suitable to a ‘sophisticated’ art party. But I knew he was living and rest of the people were acting. Vinayachandran went to Mexico and came back. Today he has gone to a different world and to a new life.

As if it was decided by some invisible force, I came to know about Vinayachandran’s demise through a phone call from none other than Shibu Natesan. Vinayachandran had something to do with us. May be he has something to do with everyone in Kerala as he had touched them with his poetry. May his soul rest in peace.