The news of the passing away of Prof. Arithottam Parameswaran in the early hours of Thursday, 3 January 2013 came as a shock to me, as it should have been to many others. Though we know that everyone born has to die one day, when it happens quite unexpectedly, it takes us unawares. But the very peaceful end that happened to him in sleep was very fitting to the always calm and gentle Arithottam. Only very pious and pure souls get such a blessing.
Whatever interactions I had with Arithottam, which were not many, are all sweet and fond. He was like a father figure, and a respected guru, to me. And I am sure, to many others who came in contact with him. I don’t remember when I first met him. But the earliest memory is when I met him at Dr Akavoor Narayanan’s home. I had gone there to discuss my plans to study Malayalam from Delhi University. I was proposing to join the evening classes in Dayal Singh College in Lodhi Road, since I was working in TERI, also in Lodhi Road.
Arithottam was also present there and took part in the discussions. When I put my proposal before him, Akavoor told Arithottam half jokingly and half seriously, “So, your position is safe for another session.” In Delhi University the rule then was that if there is at least one student in a particular course, the course will be conducted. Arithottam was teaching Malayalam in Dayal Singh College. Therefore, if I joined the course, his job would have been safe till I completed my studies. But unfortunately, I never got a chance to be his formal student, for the simple reason that I didn’t join the course. But he always had the revered position of a teacher in my mind.
Later on I had occasions to work with him very closely in Gayathri. When he shifted his base to Kerala after his retirement from Delhi University I became a member of the editorial board of Pranavam. When it was suggested in a meeting held at Mr K.V. Kumar’s home, that I should fill the place vacated by Arithottam in the editorial board of Pranavam, I protested. I was (and still am) nothing and Arithottam’s shoes would in no way have fitted me. But in Gayathri such protests don’t cut the ice. Arithottam himself later on (or was it in that meeting itself?) told me that I would be able to handle the work.
Arithottam’s whole family was quite active in several fields. Ms Radha Arithottam, his wife, used to be the leader of the thiruvathira (a Kerala dance form, also known as kaikottikkali [literally, hands-clapping dance]) group in NOIDA those days. She used to be a permanent presence (which nobody could miss) in any programme organised by Gayathri. She is an actor, singer and dancer, all woven into one. One occasion I would like to highlight is her taking part in the dance drama “Poothappattu” (the song of pootham [an evil spirit]) where she acted as the woman whose son is snatched away by the pootham. Her son Mahesh acted as the son. The pootham is compelled to return the son to the mother due to the sheer perseverance and extremely strong love of the mother to her son.
Arithottam was extremely gentle, mild, silent, loving, and lovable who always preferred to remain in the background. He had tremendous knowledge of our culture as well as of ancient books. Even after he left Delhi, for many years he used to contribute to Pranavam regularly. He was a God-loving person. (Somehow I hate the usage God-fearing because one should not and need not fear God. God only loves us, not frighten.).
I pray that his soul rest in peace. I also pray that the Almighty gives his family the strength to bear the irreparable loss.