|Dr Akavoor Narayanan|
2 December 2012 – Third anniversary of the passing away of Dr Akavoor Narayanan.
I first ‘saw’ (and not ‘met’) Dr Akavoor Narayanan sometime in 1976. I was then working in Publications Division (Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) and was posted in Editorial Section II. One afternoon a man wearing a dhoti (traditional dress of Keralites) walked into the section and conversed with the Section Officer Mr Mehra [please see comments from Mr Anujan Akavoor]. He handed over to Mr Mehra a bunch of papers. I was instantly attracted to him for the simple reason that he appeared to be a Keralite. Meeting a Keralite and talking in Malayalam used to be like heaven in those initial days of migration to Delhi (even now it is). When he left I looked at the handwritten document. The document was in Malayalam. The author’s name was written as Akavoor Narayanan. I hadn’t heard the name.
In the evening when I reached home I asked my cousin who Akavoor Narayanan was. He said he was a poet. He didn’t know much either. Somehow the name stuck with me. Later on I understood that he taught in the Malayalam Department in Delhi University.
I first met and talked face-to-face with him a few years later. My father had passed away in October 1979 due to cancer. He had a very painful end. I wrote an article on his last days. I took the article to Akavoor for his expert opinion. He immediately read the whole article and said, ‘Good’. He, however, suggested that I delete the last para in which I had described my hope and wish that father returns to us. He felt it was too melodramatic. When I told him that I was planning to send it to Yogakshemam magazine (the only magazine I thought would be interested to publish anything like this), he encouraged me. That was the beginning of our interactions. The article was published in the April 1981 issue of the magazine.
Much before the birth of Gayathri (a cultural organization of Delhi), I had discussed with Akavoor the idea of establishing a branch of Yogakshema Sabha (an organization of Kerala Brahmins) in Delhi. I had even obtained a copy of their bylaws and application form, etc. But he was not very enthusiastic. He said that it would be very difficult to get all Namboodiris in Delhi together, since they were not very many in number. Also, they were scattered all over Delhi. He also said stories about several Malayalee organizations that had been established in Delhi only to die very soon. I was disappointed.
My happiness and enthusiasm knew no bounds when I first saw the announcement signed by Pindali Parameswaran Namboodiri, Dr O.M. Anujan, and Dr Akavoor Narayanan a few years later, about the formation of such an organisation.
Slowly he became my friend, guide, philosopher, and guru. I had visited his Ashok Vihar home a number of times even before I had anything to do with Pranavam. It was at his home that I first met Prof. Arithottam Parameswaran. That day I had gone to discuss with him my plans to do BA in Malayalam from Delhi University. It, however, never happened.
It was during that time that I was translating the biography of Dr Ida Scudder, the founder of Christian Medical College, Vellore, from English to Malayalam. This was a short biography written by Dr O.P. Kejariwal, then Editor in Publications Division (he retired in 1999 as Director-General of All India Radio). I happened to type out the manuscript for him. I was so much influenced by the story that I wanted to translate it into Malayalam. One reason could be that my father was being treated for cancer in CMC Vellore around that time and I had visited the hospital on a few occasions. I told Dr Kejariwal of my plans and he readily agreed. Once I had finished it, he advised me to show it to somebody else.
The first name that came to my mind was that of Akavoor. I told Dr Kejariwal that I would show it to Dr Akavoor, and that he was Malayalam Professor in Delhi University. He agreed. I handed over the manuscript to Akavoor. He completed reviewing the manuscript in about a week. He had made small corrections. He said it was a touching biography and I should get it published.
I almost jumped with excitement. That was exactly what I wanted, too. But since I am a nobody in the field, I wanted his help. He asked me to send it to Mathrubhoomy weekly. He himself wrote a recommendation letter to the editor. It was, however, promptly returned. They asked me to cut it down to about one-third. I was disappointed. Akavoor, too, was not in favour of doing that. He said it was as painful as cutting your own child into three pieces (though in this case it was an adopted child!).
He then asked me to send it to Kumkumam weekly and again gave me a letter of recommendation. P. Subbaiya Pillai used to edit the weekly those days. And before long I received a letter informing that it had been accepted for publication. My joy knew no bounds. The article was published in nine episodes in early 1981. The translated version was published even before the original in English saw the light of the day.
During all these times I used to be in regular touch with Akavoor either on phone or through personal visits. The personal visits used to be very refreshing. Both Akavoor and his wife Ms Gouri used to behave like I was a younger relative of theirs known to each other for several years. Akavoor was very mild, very loving, and always encouraging. Those who knew him can never forget the sweet, loving smile and his gentle conversation. He was ever ready to help anybody in whatever way he can. He was so much above in stature but he never let me feel that.
Our relation got stronger when I started participating in the activities of Gayathri and later Pranavam. He was the Chief Editor of Pranavam from the first issue till his soul left this world leaving the body behind. I had occasions to work with him in the executive committee of Gayathri and as assistant editor and later as a member of the editorial board of Pranavam. Due to personal reasons I had been unable to keep in touch with Akavoor for a few years before his passing away. My loss, an irreparable loss.
He will always remain in my memory as a shining star, the eternal light.