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‘This is to tell the world that KB Sreedevi was here’

‘This is to tell the world that KB Sreedevi was here’

Bhishma, as he lay awaiting his imminent death, says he knows the arrows that struck him are of Arjun and not of Shikandi. Just as a crab gives birth to her offspring, Arjun’s arrows shot forth in an endless flurry, he laments. As K B Sreedevi recites the verse from the Mahabharatha, her voice flows in a clear stream of words. When she speaks of her own life, however, time and events get jumbled. The writer, who is approaching 80 years, says her memory sometimes plays games with her.

Sreedevi recently received the ‘Amrita Keerti Puraskar’ for her contribution to Malayalam literature. Her granddaughter, who shares her name, helps with the dates as Sreedevi recalls the event that led to her most prominent work, Yajnam. “Once, when I was serving food to my father-in-law, I happened to see a woman at a distance, standing with her hands folded in a gesture of prayer. I was curious and wanted to know her story.”

A story found

The woman, Sreedevi learnt, was the daughter of an excommunicated Namboodiri (bhrashtu was a common practice among the Namboodiri community). People from such families were usually treated as social out castes, but the doors of the Koodallur mana, into which Sreedevi was married, were open to her. “My father-in-law was a man of high thinking and he placed human values over societal norms.” Over time, Sreedevi developed a companionship with the woman, who was well read. What the woman had to go through being born to a father, who was excommunicated haunted Sreedevi. Yajnam was born thus.

Part fiction and part reality, the book depicts bhrashtu and its far reaching implications as it existed then. “I must have finished writing the novel in 15 days. I used to write at night, in the light of an oil lamp. I remember having reworked on the book, at least three times,” she says.

Yajnam went on to win the Kumkumam award in 1974. Namboodiri women were confined to their homes and venturing out for studies was looked down upon. Sreedevi, however, completed her Class X in the High School in Wandoor. She was married at 16 into a family (Koodallur Mana), which was known as a seat of learning. Having written her first story at 13, Sreedevi says she was intrinsically inclined to write. P S Subbarama Pattar, a Sanskrit scholar, who was also well-versed in English and Hindi, who was tutoring her son and younger brother, offered to teach Sreedevi Sanskrit when he heard from her son that she was interested in writing. “Subbarama Pattar taught my father-in law and my elder son too, both English and Sanskrit. I consider it a great blessing to have got a mentor like him.”

Love of letters

Sreedevi kept reading and writing, oblivious to the lack of interest or appreciation for her work from her family. “I am not even sure if my family was aware of my works, or whether they even read them. I am not so sure they did.” She, however, did what she loved the most—write. She has 19 books to her credit, Yajnam, Agnihothram, Moonnam Thalamura (which won the Nalappattu Narayana Menon Award), Kuttithirumeni and Thiriyuzhichil among them. She has written short stories too. “I had friends and acquaintances who would help me publish my works. I wrote out of love for writing.” She won the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award for her contribution to literature. She also won the Kerala State Film Award for best story for Niramala in 1976.

“The women of my times, in my community especially had a number of limitations. They didn’t have a place in society. My works automatically reflected the sentiment of the times. They contain the struggle women had to face.”

Staying with her younger son and family at Tripunithura, Sreedevi spends her time reading, writing and interacting with friends. “I derive a lot of energy and enthusiasm from my friends’ circle.” She is currently working on a book, which would have a philosophical theme. “It wouldn’t be for easy reading. This is to tell the world that K B Sreedevi was here.”


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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 5:45:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/at-80-author-k-b-sreedevi-pens-her-20th-book/article30297921.ece

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