Who am I? I wonder what so many writers did to me. Whenever I talk, write or make a film to the world I feel myself being Raskolnikov of Dostoevsky’s ‘Crime and Punishment’, bending down on his knees to the street prostitute Sonia and doing his confessions. Well, what is the difference between Raskolnikov and me, the world and Sonia. World is like that prostitute busy earning for her basic living, selling her skin and I am probably the same young-man lying down drunk in the gutters without drinking in a state of trans. Writer Permbadavam Sreedharan, in his Malayalam novel ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’- about the most stressful and romantic chapter of Dostoevsky’s life - called him ‘Hrudayathil Daivathinte Kayyoppulla Ezhuthukaran’ (The writer who has the signature of God on his heart). While reading every single word of Fyodor I still do confuse whether he had written it with ink or his blood. Reading him is like watching a sincere cinema.
I read the first copy of ‘Crime and Punishment’ from library, when I was in 8th standard. Ended every single chapter with a tear in my eyes and naturally developed an addiction to the writer giving him a status equal to the God. One day my father gave me a gift - Perumbadavam Sreedharan’s ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Pole’. Sreedhran, himself confessed that it was his dream to write about Dostoevsky and the chapter and plot he adapted for this fiction was dusted, crafted and touched with a lot of love and care. Naturally it was a winner and thus, to date, it is the most selling novel in Malayalam. I remember reading that book like a bible. In Dostoevsky I experienced all of his characters. In a way, he was also a Raskolnikov busy doing his criminal confessions through his characters. I can’t forget. There was a beautiful moment in life, almost equal to a dark evening at Marina beech at a later point in life. A few days after I finished reading ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’, I got a prize from Mr. Sreedharan for a short story competition conducted by culture centre ‘Mela’ in my hometown. I didn’t know whom or how to thank for that, at that little age. Life’s joyful miracles… I do cherish. Both ‘Crime and Punishment’ and ‘Oru Sangeerthanam Poole’ I still keep close to soul.
Somerset Mougham once called Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ equal to a bible. He also had ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ of Dostoevsky among the ten must-read books before you die.
I almost lost the flare of reading now, but the ones I read in my childhood are so fresh in heart, whether it is poems, short stories or novels. I used to read poems of Chinua Achebe, Sarojini Naidu and Wordsworth with a lot of love. More than just reading, I liked reciting poems like Naidu’s ‘Palanquin Bearers’ and Wordsworth’s ‘Solitary Reaper’ in a musical note while swinging and walking with my sister to the school. I liked acting as Watson of Sherlock Holms, coz according to me he is the luckiest man on earth for having the detective as his friend. I had a huge collection of Holms images and articles about him.
It was the same with Malayalam literature. While Vailappilli’s ‘Mampazham’ made me cry, Irayimman Thampi’s lullaby gave me sound sleep. I wanted to travel with S.K Pottakkadu to the Nile River to see crocodiles and Hippos. Another book I have read umpteen numbers of times is P. Narendranath’s ‘Parayi Petta Panthirukulam’, because that used to be my mother’s favourite. While my father is a man prefer staying outside home busy working in farm, my mother remains an avid reader. I really don’t know whose gene is more powerful in me.
While listening to Hindi lesson’s by Swamiji, I had this fascination to short stories in hindi literature too. Interestingly I read most of Tagore’s stories like Kabuliwalah in Hindi. But it was nice listening to Swamiji narrating those stories and poems, because he always used to combine his experiences as a military man in north, literally visualising the landscapes there. He used to recite Harivamsa Rai Bachan's classic poems the same way he sung Kabirdas, Soordas and Thulasidas.
Other than the Godly figure Dosthovisky, there are a few writers whom I guess I could relate more than anybody else… whom I could feel free to talk … whom I could have had some kinda personnel connection, may be like my grandpa or grandmom. They are Kunjunni Mashu, Ruskin Bond, R.K. Narayan and Kamaladas. More than their stories I liked listening to the voice of Kunjunni Maashu and Kamaladas, their interviews in TV. They are full of enthusiasm, love and passion. I was not in Kerala when both of them died. I happened to hear about their death much later through friends and Internet. Felt like I lost connection with the world for hours. Those were the people whom I wanted to stay with me till I die speaking to me, the reality of life mixing with the fantasy of life. True dreamers… people who were so open at heart going to any extend talking without any masks on their faces, living according to their intuitions... and imaginations... simple and straight.
Love for Ruskin Bond and R.K Narayan started since I saw serial Malgudi Days and a Doordarshan serial on Ruskin Bond. I could somehow feel their personal presence so deep in me. One of the most powerful write-up I read is Narayan’s ‘Next Sunday’, where he had broken down the barriers of fiction and non-fiction, speaking spontaneously on autobiographical style and a unique treatment leaving you laughed, surprised, tensed as well as excited… something beyond all genres. You will laugh if I say that I tried to act as a blind man imagining a similar situation as that of Ruskin Bond’s ‘The girl in the train’ (I have seen the same story with someother title, not sure). This is one story that I always wanted to film ever since I started learning the art of filmmaking. Still confused about the treatment to be used and the perspective to be identified.
I am not forgetting any other revolutionary writers whom I respect a lot like O Henry, Paulo Coelho, M.T. Vasudevan Nair, V.T, Lalithambika Andarjanam, Balamani Amma etc. Writing a novel like Andarjanam's 'Angnisakshi' is not a joke during that era in Kerala. I once argued that an MBA lesson is incomplete without teaching 'Animal Farm'. But then literature is an ocean, where I used to dive deep and now almost lost even the talent to do a surface swim. Just remembering the number of sharks, piranhas, angelfishes, octopuses and dolphins I have met in those dives in my childhood… remembering the oysters and pearls I have collected in those adventures…
Today I feel myself standing at the beech looking at the waves… at times scribbling on the sand about those adventures... so aimlessly...