Travelling with stalwarts will leave nuggets of memories to be cherished for ever. K.P. Achyutan, managing trustee of the International Centre for Koodiyattom, is one of those fortunate ones.

From his bag of treasures, he fishes out an yellowed newsprint, which was published in 1944. The story is like this. The daily Pouradhwani published by mistake an obituary of Kesari Balakrishna Pillai, the path-breaker of renaissance in Malayalam literature.

The next day he wrote a letter to the editor pointing out the mistake. And Mr. Achyutan had the rare fortune of getting a clipping of Kesari’s letter, which was published on April 20, 1944.

“I think it was in 1951. One of my friends was doing a study on the Udayamperoor Synod. I was collecting information for him, when my friends writer Ponjikkara Rafi and P.A. Syed Mohammed, founder secretary of Kerala History Association, suggested meeting Kesari.”

Mr. Achyutan remembers Kesari as saint-like in appearance before whom “you will lose in admiration”. Also that Kesari was surprised to know that young men were still interested in history.

The scholar gave Achyutan relevant information regarding the synod before going in to get some paper cuttings. Among the material he gave was a brown cover. “Inside, I found this letter. When I pointed this out, he said with a smile to keep it with me – to publish when he dies.”

The letter published in the paper quoted Mark Twain, who also had the fortune of reading his obituary in a daily, to tell the editor that “there is a little bit of exaggeration in the report.”

Anand Haridas

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