Monday, March 27, 2006

Kunhunni maash

Kunhunni maash was an archetypal teacher of children and adults who have an open and earnest mind of a child to learn. No one has distilled knowledge and enlightenment to the degree of simplicity that he so effortlessly achieved. It spread like sunshine for decades over many generations of young kids who not only soared in their imagination about the open sky he unleashed, but learned the secrets of goodness and being kind and appreciative of mother earth.

For the twenty years I who read his(Kuttettan) editorial notes and advice to budding writers in the Children's Section (Baala-Pankthi) of Mathrubhumi magazine and having met him under a tree along with other students at school, felt the irrevocable loss of his long shadow. It's not just the charm of old world that is lost; I believe it is more than that. I doubt if we can ever find such fine folks anymore who can clear the gloom and guide your spirit to all that is worthy of life and living.

He was a short man. His poems were short. It took the world quite a while to read through the silly word play in his poems to understand the genius. The big and tall truths in small and short words, the nimble sketches of native life in Kerala and the gentle social and political satire have found their way through his poems which bordered on absurdism thematically and a distant similarity on Haiku in style. It is impossible to translate his poems since he used the oral and traditional words and expressions quite liberally. Once taken out of context, they simply wither away. You would feel like you have uprooted a healthy tree. However here is a sample, with due apologies to maash:

"Read or not
You will grow up.
You will reap
If you do,
You will trip
If you don't"

- as an ardent campaigner for library and reading, he has words of wisdom for children and adults.

"I am kunhunni.
My mother? Narayani.
Grand mother? Parukkutti.
Grand mother's mother?
That is the limit of my grasp."

- reveals his humble self even though he is a scholar in Malayalam literature and linguistics besides an accomplished teacher.

"My son must learn English
from the moment he is born.
Hence I had my wife
deliver in England"

- a taunt on the craze of English that began to threaten the existence of Malayalam.

I wish all my readers know how to read Malayalam so that Kunhunni maash could unveil the verdant language and the sprightly spirit of rural Kerala.

He called himself children's poet. There had been numerous child prodigies he nurtured through his writings and otherwise. He traveled for a long time campaigning for the need of libraries and literary activities. The throngs of children visiting his house and playing in the yard must have recognized maash and hopefully one of them would go on to lead his kindly light.

Note: maash is the endearing way of addressing a (school) Teacher.


Dev Kumar said...

There are times I feel very bad about my inability to read and write my mother tongue (Malayalam)even though I speak it with competence. Reading your blog entry was one such moment Rajesh. The fact that I am fairly proficient in Hindi gives me some consolation. It would be horrible to be like many of the brown sahibs among whom I grew up who do not know a single Indian language. And this, in India. The effects of the Raj linger on 60 years after the Brits left. Maybe I can still learn to read and write Malayalam if I make the effort and thus get to read some good stuff in the original. I remember my mother reading and explaining the comics from a Malayalam weekly to me and my brothers when we were kids. And my maternal uncle who was visiting us teaching me and my brothers the words of popular Malayalam songs. Some of these lyrics still reverberate in my mind and heart. And the memories of those days gives me goosebumps.

Ardra said...

I've 3 books of his collection of verses- my husband used to sing the little poems to our sons when they were that I like is about the rain -

Rajesh said...

Dev, long time. May be its time you learnt to read Malayalam. That is one key to learn more about your heritage and other subtler facets of native wisdom. Kunhunni maash, for me represents these with a nostalgic feel.

I have nothing against the Brown Sahibs. I really believe it is anachronistic to think in terms of Raj days anymore.

The news of maash's death brought forth a lot of memory for me. Thanks for sharing the sentiment.

Ardra, precisely what kunhunni maash would have wanted your husband to do. My son is 3 now. Hopefully he would be receptive to maash's world in this far-away land.

bottled-imp said...

am here after a long long time and it was nice to read about kunhunni. i wonder why malayalam has more sensitive writers than other states? i really liked your translations of his poems. if you find time, could you translate some more or can i find a translation somewhere?

Rajesh said...

sensitive writers? sounds like a good terminology :)

It is nearly impossible to transliterate, let alone translate malayalam into english. I do not have mash's books with me here. I never thought Kunhunni mash could pass away. Hopefully I should be able to translate more.

Kunhunni mash to me is more about a sanguine attitude towards life and learning.

thanks for dropping by Suresh.

Anonymous said...

today i happen to see your blog and felt like suddenly been transfered to fortcochi beach where thankappan ,basheer,sathyan and myself spent long nights reading kunjunni mash,and kadammanita and arguing with john abraham in his "naikaly" period (before the "amma ariyan") suddenly the corse and malancholic voice of Nazim (who sang for "Amma ariyan" ) started haunting me in Bangalore .
where is Nazim now .last time he was complaining about the mounting debts and wondering where the next meal is going to come for his kids.Life is so cruel for everybody any way i think you must be from cochi.
i like the yellow ochre colour of your page
with love and regards
vc joseph

Sreekala Krishnakumar said...

കുന്നിക്കുരുവിലുമുന്നതനാണു ഞാനെന്നൊരു തോന്നലെഴുന്ന മൂലം
എള്ളിലും ചെറുതാണു ഞാനെന്ന വാസ്തവം
അറിയുന്നതില്ല ഞാനെള്ളോളവും
( _കുഞ്ഞുണ്ണി മാഷ്‌_ )
*ശുഭദിനം* *ശുഭചിന്ത*

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