Updated: January 24, 2013 20:36 IST

On the expanse of time

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Akkitham Achuthan Namboodiri is the greatest living poet in Malayalam and his contribution to modernism in poetry is remarkable. He has been a prolific writer and has published a large number of poetry collections, short stories, essays and translations. The book under review, Anthimahakaalam, received the most prestigious literary prize in Malayalam, the Vayalar award – a little late for the poet who is in his 80s.

One of the most distinguishing aspects of Akkitham’s poems is that they are simple but contain infinite philosophical insights and are metaphorical. The poet’s exasperation towards social evils is dominant and his scholarship on Indian philosophy and epics is a predominant metaphor. The allegorical contexts in the poems reveal a deep understanding of the context in which images express a deeper meaning. He is detached and dispassionate and reflects on contemporary societal decadence in a stoic but powerful manner.

He is eternally aware of the cosmic time and combines mysticism and materialism. Diversity of themes and allegories interspersed with the spirit of compassion and feeling of sorority in the poems make the poet the most distinguished living poet, despite the fact that many of the poems in the collection refer to common place events and individuals. The poetic style is what stands out, providing the reader with a sensitivity that evokes empathy.

Time and eternity are favourite themes of Akkitham’s. In the poem ‘Naimishikangal’ (page 26) he wants his faulty words to be erased and only those that are meaningful and lyrical to be stored for eternity. Another dominant theme is the universality of religions that advocate compassion and fellow feeling. In ‘Maranamillatha Manushyan’ (Eternal Man, page 69), the poem in memory of the freedom fighter Mohammed Abdurahiman Saheb, the exhortation for religious amity and the need to imbibe the spirit of the Koran is powerful. The mesmerising power of words is also a favourite theme – ‘Vithile Vidya’ (page 67) is a typical poem that epitomises the spirit of Akkitham’s poetics and philosophical approaches. When man realises that he does not know anything, man is filled with knowledge; it further states that the word humility is the synonym of knowledge; then one is able to understand that true education is also the same. The poem opens with a universal principle that when a droplet of water falls on a minute seed, a tree develops.

The same style and principle is expressed in the poem ‘Nhanenna Bhaavam’ (ego); the mind creates the word, word generates vocation and the future is the result of work. Devotion to Lord Guruvayoorappan is omnipresent in many of Akkitham’s poems. It is not in a limited religious devotion to the deity but transcends to the realisation of the ultimate and promotes the infinitely minute human life in terms of time and the cosmos. It also underlines the principle that the essential element of the five elements (panchabhootham) is one and all the devotees are made of these five elements. The philosophy that is revealed in the couplet is unparalleled. There are similar couplets in several poems that condense high thoughts in minimal words and that are the underlying force of Akkitham’s poems.

Anthimahakaalam – Akkitham, Mathrubhumi Books , Rs. 75

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