Acclaimed writer E. Santhoshkumar talks about his award winning novel Andhakaaranazhi and his journey as a writer

Andhakaaranazhi, a small town on the coastline of Alappuzha district, is located a few kilometres south of Kochi. Its serene natural beauty charms many tourists to visit and stay there and Andhakaaranazhi has become a much sought after tourist spot these days.

For writer E. Santhoshkumar, winner of Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for Novel, it is not the enchanting beauty or serene environment of this landscape that charmed him to title his major work as Andhakaaranazhi, but it was the uniqueness of the name which can be translated as ‘Estuary of Darkness’.

Interestingly, Santhoshkumar had never been to Andhakaaranazhi. The title was suggested by Narendran, Santhoshkumar’s long time friend and associate. ”We were enamoured by the uniqueness of the name and adapted it for the imaginary landscape of the novel,” says Santhoshkumar. Truly, the name is apt for the dark and ambiguous landscape portrayed in the novel, though it bears no resemblance to the real town.

Though it is very easy to reach Andhakaaranazhi, the literary journey Santhoshkumar took to reach it was not that easy. Through the troubled waters of literary writing he travelled a long way, struggling a lot to reach his version of Andhakaaranazhi. Upon completion of the journey, the accomplished writer feels gratified and relaxed as his novel has been adjudged as the best novel of 2012 by the Kerala Sahitya Akademi. Santhoshkumar had earlier won the Akademi award for his Chavukali, an anthology of short stories in 2006.

This creative writer, who hails from Pattikad in Thrissur was attracted to literature from a very early age. In fact, his father E. Govindankutty, who wrote stories under the pseudonym ‘Govind Pattikad’, was his role model. Santhoshkumar adds that he is also indebted to the local ‘Grameena Vayanasala’ of Pattikad that carved a litterateur out of him.

After his studies, Santhoshkumar joined National Insurance Co. Ltd. and now he heads its branch office at Guruvayoor. As a writer, Santhoshkumar had to struggle a lot to get his stories published.

“Those days were very depressing and unlucky for the writer in me. I wrote a lot and sent my work to periodicals with lots of hope. While I was waiting to see my writings in print, they were returned to me unpublished. Sometimes, they came back intact as they were never opened or read. I feel the biggest challenge that new writers face is getting their work published,” adds the writer.

Santhoshkumar finally got a break when one of his stories got published in a Malayalam weekly in 1997. With the publication of Bagh Bahadur he shot to fame and never had to look back. He carved a niche among the new generation of litterateurs with his craft and powerful imagery. A peculiar feature of his writing is its ability to stuff the reader’s mind with panoramic visuals.

Bagh Bahadur is a short story interwoven with the story of the Bengali film by Buddhadeb Dasgupta by the same name. The story won many laurels for Santhoshkumar. In fact, it is with Bagh Bahadur that he established himself as a writer.

Film is also something very close to Santhoshkumar’s heart. A regular participant of IFFK (International Film Festival of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram), some of his stories are interwoven with either the theme or the characters of acclaimed films. In his story Cheruppakaran enna nilayil ezhuthukarante chayachithram (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man), Santhosh extended the story of the film Ammuvinte Attinkutty, by Ramu Kariat. Incidentally, the title of the story was adapted from the title of the James Joyce novel.

One of the proudest moments of Santhoshkumar’s life is when his story Moonu Andhanmar Anaye Vivarikkunnu (Three Blind Men Describe an Elephant) was selected as the title story of a German anthology of Malayalam short stories published in the 2006 Frankfurt Book Fair.

Santhoshkumar lives with his wife Roshni and children Amal and Ananya in Thrissur.