A Tathagata from Kerala: D Vinayachandran and his Other Worlds

D Vinayachandran recently at IFFK 2012.  We watched Kim Ki Duk's Arirang and K M Kamal's ID together, he just loved both the films.
D Vinayachandran recently at IFFK 2012 in December. We watched Kim Ki Duk’s Arirang and K M Kamal’s ID together, he just loved both the films. A single-handed self take against the light at Anjali theatre in early December 2012 .

As a young boy in the early 1990s who opted literature for undergraduate studies I was captivated by the nuanced writing and dramatic poetry recitals by D Vinayachandran in various literary gatherings in south central Kerala.  Once while studying at C M S College Kottayam for BA he even criticized and dissected my little poem in a literary camp. Our keen cultural camaraderie began there.  He opened up a new world of poetry and literary culture for many a student like me all over Kerala through his artistic journeys across the state.  Later I was fortunate to sit in his classes on South Indian aesthetics and poetics in School of Letters, M G University as part of my course work for M A in English.  Though he was a Professor of Malayalam he was eager to address students from related disciplines.  He was a pioneer in multi-disciplinary exchange and cross overs in his writing and teaching.

Actually Prof D Vinayachandran is one of those rare professors who became professors without having a Ph D.  His equally or more relevant creative works were acknowledged by the aesthetic affiliations of G Sankara Pillai and U R Anantha Moorthy.  Later he supervised several Ph Ds himself and was instrumental in producing many monumental works in literary studies by several young writers and scholars.  His poetry and translations have become classics in the respective genres.  He was also consistent in encouraging young poets and writers.

He entered Malayalam poetry at the heyday of literary modernism and continued to write with the changing sensibility.  He is one of those rare writers who wrote along with Kadamanitta, Ayyappa Panikar or Madhavikutty and also brushed his shoulders with S Joseph, S Kalesh or Anwar Ali in the current generation.    His recent poetry is rich and polyphonic with new sensibilities and sensitivities.  He has shown considerable interest and responsive alterity towards the shape of the things emerging.   He was always eager to embrace the hybrid and plural realities of the world and to represent them in his unique hybrid idiom.  But because of his neglect of English and his open and straight forward reactions he was not recognized and honored in some of the national or global circles.  Though he was given the Asan Prize and Sahitya Akademi Award his body of poetry failed to produce critical readings and sensitive responses from leading critics and literary historiographers.  The literary establishment was not just to him as a poet and prose writer.

Poet D Vinayachandran an early photo from mid modernism, from the internet
Poet D Vinayachandran an early photo  from the internet

D Vinayachandran was born in 1946 in Kottarathil household in Padinjare Kallada on the banks of Sasthamkotta fresh water lake the only one of its kind in Kerala in a noble family.  His creative springs were nurtured by the lake and the then pristine  rivers Kallada and Achankovil.   All those fresh water resources are shrinking today.  He remembers his mother who sensitively kindled the sixth sense of poetry into him in his memoirs and notes.  He was graduated in Physics and then joined M A Malayalam and got first rank in it.  For a brief period he worked as a lower clerk and resigned that job to continue studies and became a lecturer in Malayalam in Government Colleges in Kerala.  He worked in Govt colleges like Pattambi and University College, Tiruvanantapuram before coming over to M G University, Kottayam.

This different poet of Malayalam who lifted the language and literature to Indian and global levels  with the sheer power of his vibrant imagination and divergent rendition was also instrumental in introducing new literatures and poetry in Kerala along with Satchidanandan.  He was always keen to teach the ecological literacy to his students.  The great banyan and Pipal that stand before School of Letters today are planted and nurtured by him.  He even introduced a fig tree inside the courtyard of Letters complex.  The Mandaram that blooms before Letters and attracts numerous butterflies and birds today are products of his prudence and consistent efforts in conservation.  While I was teaching M A students as a guest faculty at School of Letters during 2008-09 I have seen emerald doves and paradise flycatchers visiting the Mandaram grove and conveyed the same to their aesthetic creator.

The Smile of the Tathagatha:  D Vinayachandran in his 60s.
The Smile of the Tathagata: D Vinayachandran in his 60s.

He was an astonishing traveler and told all those traveling tales to his students and friends.  D Vinayachandran was a true Tathagata or a south Indian Siddha.  He was a Yaksha or Gandharva to many. He was a teacher, philosopher and elder brother to me.  He inspired generations to take up letters and wandering as chief modes of inquiry, struggle and resistance.  I remember visiting the Vedagiri and Kurisumudi at Vagaman with him.  His unmatched energy, child like innocence and voice consciousness are enlightening and instructive for all of us in our present and future struggles for survival and liberation.  His writing is going to live from now on in an endless voyage of self discovery for every new reader or interpreter.  We were together at IFFK 2012 in December to watch Kim Ki Duk’s Arirang in Srikumar Theatre, Tvm.  I salute this immortal master of Malayalam letters and his imaginative oceans of eternal music as he has envisioned  in a key poem “The Sea at Kayikara.”