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Monograph on a poet

N.N. KAKKAD: Desamangalam Ramakrishnan; Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 25.

N.N. KAKKAD (1927-87) started writing poetry at an early age but recognition was slow in coming. Experimenting with new forms and ideas, he often furrowed a lonely plough in the factious world of literature. Eventually, however, he came to be acknowledged as one who had led Malayalam poetry forward in the last century. The book under review is a monograph on him brought out by the Sahitya Akademi as part of a series on makers of modern Indian literature.

The author is a disciple and a friend of Kakkad and a poet in his own right. He painstakingly relates Kakkad's life with his work, a task for which he is eminently suited, being familiar with both. Kakkad, who was born in a declining Namboodiri family at a time of churning in the community, was plagued by ill health in childhood.

Although he began life as a teacher, he spent most of his life as a staff member of All India Radio, which at that time had on its rolls a glittering array of Malayalam writers. He was first drawn towards the Congress Party but later moved towards the Left and was accused of pro-China sympathies in the 1960s. The twists and turns in his life made their impact on his literary outpourings.

Kakkad penned his poems at a time when Kerala was undergoing social and political changes whose effects are still being felt. He was sensitive to the changes occurring around him. The weakening of the rural ethos and the rise of the "hellish" city disturbed him. In one poem he likens urban existence to living in a tent pitched by pulling out one's own spine. While showing a preference for rural life, he does not delude himself into imagining that the village is an idyllic place filled with goodness. He is conscious of the deceit that dwells there.

As a poet, Kakkad's main concern is the plight of man. He views mankind as a crowd watching a procession and individuals as helpless creatures paralysed by fear. He illustrates the contemporary human situation by drawing material from the great epics. In the process, he builds bridges between the past and the present. The book is a good introduction to a poet who enriched Indian poetry with his contributions in Malayalam.


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