A lean student stands up from a side with a raised hand. Even though the voice doesn’t quite carry to the dais, the point does. Then another rises from another place. More join. The hall soon becomes a boiling pot of shouts and slogans.
A sixteen-year-old boy was standing in one corner of the hall riveted by the spectacle. With eyes filled with awe and elation, he witnessed the pandemonium seething inside the hall.
Soon the ‘men of CP’ handpicked the menace one by one, and threw them out. The boy follows them. “Comrades, today we are ousted from this Town hall, but the very Government will be ours within a fortnight!” the speech made by a student leader still raps on the memories of the young boy, who grew up to become a legendary Malayalam poet.
The year was 1946. Location: VJT Hall, Trivandrum. The boy was ONV Kurup.
“Campuses were happening places back then. We used to discuss about the concepts of Freedom, Socialism, Gandhism, Communism, progressive literature etc., in the campus,” the poet reminisces.
That was a golden age. KPS Menon, Sardar KM Panikkar, Asok Mehta, Aruna Asif Ali and G Sankarakurup were some of the dignitaries who came to inaugurate various association activities in the University College in which the poet studied. Kaumudi Balakrishnan’s speech was a regular phenomenon under the shades of the muthassi mavu inside the campus.
The big friendship circles of young boys spilled to other campuses as well. Sparks of genii were fanned to wild fires in evening gatherings and discussions. Times were hotter in all respect.
ONV first saw the city when he was a young boy of 8 in the fag end of the 30s.
The moment he closes his eyes, the poet could still hear the sound of the jadkas, the horse carts moving along the road. The hoof steps, the rasping noise of the wooden wheel, the horses neighing as the cart-driver tugged the rein to stop the cart for the passenger to alight; all remain fresh in his memories. How can he forget the occasional cracks of the whips as they tear through the air? And also through the time…
“They moved one after the other through the long and winding roads of the town,” he continues, “and one could see a whole fleet of them resting at Pulimoodu junction.” The junction also had that sprawling tamarind tree (Which gave the place, the name Pulimoodu). The Secretariat (Hajur Kacheri) and the statue of Madhavarao still remains the same, he remembers.
The poet waxes on describing the wonderful spectacles of yore. The Methanmani of East Fort, the exotic birds and animals in the zoo all attracted people from far and wide. He still remembers the beautiful lake inside the zoo and a small country boat in it. “I used to row about in that boat,” he smiles.
Once upon a time Trivandrum was a beautiful little city. “I saw it in all its splendour when the town was made a resplendent beauty during a royal marriage. The bridegroom was Colonel Godavarma. And the bride, Princess Karthika Thirunal. You can never dream of witnessing such a glittering marriage in your lifetime,” says the poet.
This is a city resonating with music and harmony. The musical tradition of the city is incomparably superior.
“Ithu Swathiyude nagaram! The first city in India which opened the gates of its innumerable temples to the backward class in respect of the temple entry proclamation! The city which even from the days of Veluthampi Dalawa relentlessly stood and fought for freedom! The city of Swadeshabhimani and Kesari Balakrishnapilla! How can I compare it with another place?” he asks.
This was also the place which used to have pure drinking water for its people round the year, he recalls.
When the poet joined the University college in 1946, Trivandrum had already changed a bit. Pulimoodu junction became a boiling pot with the nationalists thronging the junction throwing about antiestablishment ideas. On the eastern side of the junction, the members of State Congress used to frequent the Rashtriya hotel. “We always saw a tri-colour flag fluttering at the top of the tamarind tree,” says ONV. Protest marches against the rule of CP were a regular road spectacle.
“I too joined them pretty soon,” the poet says.