He was weak, barely recovering from fever, but the spirit of the man showed through his lively smile and exchanges with those who had gathered at the VJT Hall to celebrate his 83 birthday. As the day, marked by a seminar on poetry and soulful rendering of his poems, wound to a close, Malayalam’s revered poet received a gift with a difference: a foundation named after him.

O.N.V. Kurup was present at the VJT Hall to witness his admirers and well-wishers drawn from all sections of society make his birthday a celebration.

Transcends boundaries

Sahitya Akademi award-winning Bengali poet Subodh Sarkar, who had come specially to attend the event, said: “As a Bengali poet, I feel his influence has transcended the boundaries of language. Long ago, when I was reading one of his works, I felt as if I was reading Bengali poetry. This is the strange thing about Indian Literature; it has a similar core, and it is bigger than the multi-lingual crust.”

Mr. Sarkar said he had first met ONV when he was chosen as one of the eight writers to felicitate the Malayalam poet on his winning the Jnanpith.

“He is a perfect gentleman who truly believes what he writes. I would say he’s like a father to me. I held his hand today, and felt his pulse. I could see that he was weak, but I could also see the man behind those words; the man happy to participate and to dedicate himself not only to the written word but also the meaning and cause behind those words,” he said.

K. Jayakumar, Vice-Chancellor of the Thunchath Ezhuthachhan Malayalam University and the moving spirit behind the ONV Prathibha Foundation, said: “ONV has done the monumental work by addressing the sensibilities of his generation as well as the new one; we need to keep the younger ones in the loop so that they can carry on this tradition.” The Foundation, he said, would work for the promotion of Malayalam language and encourage studies into ONV’s poetic oeuvre. Poet Sugathakumari, who inaugurated the Foundation in the evening, summed it up best: “I feel blessed to know someone like ONV. He has wielded his sharp pen for many of our causes,” she said, calling ONV’s poetry a lesson about one’s love for humanity.