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Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dr Akavoor Narayanan

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.


  1. Received via e-mail:

    Very touching article, nice one, I really like

    Siju Kuriyedam Sreekumaran namboothiri

  2. Well captured, Jayanthan Sir.

    K Ramachandran Pillai

    1. Thank you, Ramachandran, for your comments.

    2. It is well written and I never knew that you have translated a biography. Decades belated Congratulations.


  3. Hi,

    A very nice article on our beloved Akavoor Chettan.

    Sasidharan N.K.
    Mayur Vihar Ph-1

    1. Thank you, Mr Sasidharan, for reading the post and for your kind words.

  4. Received via e-mail:

    പ്രീയപ്പെട്ട ജയന്തന്‍,

    നമസ്കാരം. നമ്മുടെ പ്രീയപ്പെട്ട അകവൂര്‍സാറിനെക്കുറിച്ച് താങ്കള്‍ എഴുതിയ ലേഖനം വായിച്ചു. വളരെ നന്നായിട്ടുണ്ട്. ഞങ്ങളുടെ അഭിനന്ദനങ്ങള്‍! അകവൂരിനു പ്രണാമം. എല്ലാവര്‍ക്കും നന്മകള്‍ മാത്രം ഉണ്ടാകാന്‍ എന്നും ആഗ്രഹിച്ചിരുന്ന അദ്ദേഹത്തെ ഈ അവസരത്തില്‍ ഓര്‍മിച്ചു കൊണ്ടുള്ള ലേഘനം വളരെ ഉചിതമായി. ഡല്‍ഹിയിലെ ആദ്യകാല മലയാളികളെക്കുറിച്ച് കൂടുതല്‍ ലേഖനങ്ങള്‍ താങ്കളുടെ തൂലികയില്‍നിന്നും ഇനിയും ഉണ്ടാകുമെന്ന് വിശ്വസിക്കുന്നു. താങ്കള്‍ക്കും കുടുംബത്തിനും എല്ലാ ഐശ്വര്യങ്ങളും നേരുന്നു.

    സീ.കെ. പരമേശ്വരന്‍,
    ധ്രുവ അപ്പാര്‍ട്ട്മെന്റ്സ്

    1. Thank you, CKP, for your kind words and encouraging comments.

  5. This is such a nice article. Thanks for it.

    1. Thank you, Meena, for reading my posts and for your encouraging comments.

  6. Received via e-mail:

    Dear Sri Jayanthan
    I read your short note on Dr Akavoor Narayanan. It is inspiring .
    In fact i read your blog with great interest. I never knew in TERI that you write so beautifully.

    1. Thank you, Manish, for your comments. It is always good to know that people enjoy what one writes (or any creative work, for that matter). Thanks again.

  7. Dear Jayanthan,

    Your article made interesting reading. Really good one.
    I am sorry to inform you that father rarely wore Dhoti in public places in those days, so I think you may have some confusion in this regard.

    1. My apologies, Anujan. Somehow I had the impression that he was wearing dhoti. I must have got it wrong. Sorry, again.

      Thanks for reading the post.

  8. Very good. Well written reminescence.

  9. Received via e-mail:

    It was a very pleasant surprise to get your e-mail. Thanks for thinking about me. The blog was well written. The only thing I felt incorrect was Achan's [father's] dhoti wearing as my brother has also mentioned. Otherwise it was nicely written.


    1. Thank you, Asha, for reading the post and for your comments. As you might notice, I have already updated the post by referring to Anujan's comments.

      I wonder how then was I convinced he was a Malayalee at the first sight. Was it his smile? Was it the calm and pleasant appearance? Was it the sandalwood paste on his forehead? I don't know. What I clearly remember is that I was instantly attracted to him.

      Maybe I should thank DPD and the Gods in whom I believe for posting me in that section around that time. I was there only for a couple of months before I was posted back to stenographers' pool. If it was not for that posting, I would not have had got the chance to 'see' him and my life would not have been what it is now. That chance 'seeing' led me to your father, mother, Rajan, Anujan, and you. I owe to Akavoor whatever I have been able to achieve in this vast world of literature.

  10. Received via e-mail:

    Dear Jayanthan

    I had gone through your superbly written writeup about your experiance with my late father. Sorry to respond so late. I shall keep in touch with you.

    Rajan Akavoor

    1. Thank you, Rajan, for your message. I have several more pleasant experiences with your father. He had even lent me money while we were constructing our home at Sainik Nagar without any written document!

      Yes, we shall keep in touch.