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Vijayan: Guru of a whole generation

March 30, 2005 14:05 IST

The body of a man who mesmerised at least two generations of Malayalis and strongly influenced an entire generation has faded from the face of the earth.

One has to describe the passing away of the legendary writer thus, only because O V Vijayan the writer can never die, at least for my generation.

Although Vijayan wrote Khasakkinte Ithihasam in 1969, when I was a small kid, he was my hero during my adolescent years.

Writer O V Vijayan passes away

He was the man who taught me to think of my very own existence and the anguish connected with it.

Though M T Vasudevan Nair had always been my favourite writer, Vijayan had a very special place in my life.

As a short story writer in Malayalam, I feel I was more influenced by the thoughts of Vijayan than MT. As a person who grew up in a nuclear family, it was MT through his novels who introduced me to the world of joint families and the typical Kerala tharavad.

But the world that Vijayan showed me through Khasakkinte Ithihasam was truly magical. I do not know how many times I might have read the book; it was like the Bhagavat Gita to many youngsters. In fact, the most romantic name in our lexicon as college students was Ravi, the protagonist of the novel.

It took twelve years of writing and rewriting for Vijayan to finally serialise Khasakkinte Ithihasam in Mathrubhumi in 1969.

It took the Malayalam literary world by storm and created a literary revolution. The place of this book is such that the history of Malayalam literature is now divided into the pre-Khasak and post-Khasak periods.

Ravi, a student of astrophysics and a great visionary, is a teacher in an informal education centre in Khasak. The novel is about Ravi's journey, which starts at Swami Bodhananda's ashram. When the bus stops at the last stop at Kooman Kavu, he gets down.

He does not feel that he is coming there for the first time. The novel ends when Ravi's temporary stop at Kooman Kavu ends, and he is waiting for the bus to come. It is raining and there is a smile on his face. He provokes a snake to bite his feet, and slowly begins his next journey to other realm.

What a journey it was for Ravi and many, many young men and women like me who also travelled with him searching for our 'selves'.

Personally, it was through the journey Ravi undertook that I got answers to many of the questions that cropped up in my adolescent mind.

Vijayan needed only that one book, Khasakinte Ithihasam, to make him a legend in Malayalam literature. It was read and re-read by people, printed and re-printed several times; it has sold the maximum number of copies ever, and has been discussed at many forums.

And still, the reader finds a new dimension to it every time he/she reads it.

During the emergency, he wrote a political satire titled Dharmapuranam, a novel full of political allegory. To all those who admired his novel, it was a huge disappointment.

By the time Vijayan wrote Gurusagaram (Infinity of Grace in English) in 1987, he was an old man devoid of any existential anguish, a man who was at peace with himself and the world.

His ardent admirers in Kerala -- especially the so called intellectuals were disappointed to read about spirituality in a book by O V Vijayan.

These people never grew up or let Vijayan grow as a person. I consider Gurusagraam as one of the most elevating books read in my life.

It was the perspective of a man who had seen life's agonies and had finally reached a stage where the only thing that mattered to him was peace.

If Khasakinte Ithihasam disturbed, Gurusagaram opened a world of tranquillity. Perhaps, I too had grown up from a confused teenager to a calm adult by the time I read Gurusagaram.

He was known to the rest of the country as a political commentator and a cartoonist, but to every Malayali, Vijayan will always be the writer who created history with Khasakinte Ithihasam. And the man who created Khasak can never die.

Shobha Warrier in Chennai