Living spaces Metroplus

A house for a poet

Mahakavi G. Sankara Kurup's home on Monastery Road. Photo: Thulasi Kakkat   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat

A stone’s throw away from the busy Ernakulam Junction railway station, tucked away on Monastery Road, a typical, narrow, city backstreet, is Bhadralayam, the home of one of India’s well-known poets, the first winner of the Jnanapith Award, G. Sankara Kurup.

The two-storied house, painted cream and blue, is hemmed in by new high-rise apartment blocks on either side of the road. The regular black gate opens to a low house, not too large. The porch is an extension of a narrow verandah with an asbestos roof.

An unpretentious front door, strengthened by a grilled net door (a recent addition), leads into the house that treasures memories of the poet’s private and professional life. Those memories still permeate and dominate the house. No wonder the brass nameplate says G. Sankara Kurup is ‘in.’

This house was built by ‘G’, as the poet was popularly known, in 1957, and the family moved in sometime in 1958. Since then, till his death in 1978, he lived here , wrote his famous works, and met literary and political luminaries. It was the treasure chest of his life.

Before G built this house the family stayed in a rented house on what is now Rajaji Road. “That was when he was teaching at Maharaja’s College. We stayed in a delightful house and we hoped we could own it. Till my father’s retirement from the college in 1956 we stayed here. He was a person who had no plans about where to settle post retirement. But my mother (Subhadra) was insistent that we build a house in Ernakulam and my father agreed. He had by then taken up an assignment with All India Radio, Trivandrum. We, my mother, me, my brother (Ravindranath) joined him there. This was the time when this house was being built. My father entrusted the job to a contractor who he knew well. It was his design and my father was least bothered. My mother was the force behind this house and that’s why it has been named after her,” remembers Radha, the poet’s daughter, who now stays in this house with her husband Prof. M. Achuthan and their family.

From the front door you step into a small room with chairs placed against the wall and a door in the middle that leads in to the house. On one side of this ‘front room’ is a compact study and on the other a spacious ‘living room’ with large glass windows.

“The room that we have now converted into a living room is where my grandfather spent most of his time. This was his working space and where he met the endless flow of people. The wooden chair that you see in the front room was his. This used to be placed near one of the windows that opened to the road and the wide expanse of space beyond and he would sit there and write using a wooden writing pad. Writing, is always supposed to be a solitary pursuit, but not for him. He was not bothered by the banter, the noise that we children used to make just outside the window. He was in a world of his own,” says Bhadra, his grand daughter and the city’s Deputy Mayor.

This room has some of the poet’s memorabilia on the wall. “Yes, there used to be a wooden cupboard that had loads of rare books, which we have now shifted into one the inside rooms. There also used to be a radio here. So many literary luminaries such as Harivansh Rai Bachchan, Prof. Guptan Nair, N.V. Krishna Warrier…I can reel out names and names, have sat and talked to my grandfather in this room,” Bhadra adds.

There are two bedrooms on the ground floor and two above. Both the bedrooms have wooden ceilings with tiled roofing. The rooms flank a narrow corridor which leads to the dining room and kitchen. “There used to be a kalavara (storeroom), which we have converted into a bathroom. One of the bedrooms on the ground floor, the one adjacent to the present living room, was my father’s. These rooms are cool even in the hottest summer. We have an old Guruvayoorappan photograph in this room, which we still revere. When my father died his body was placed in this room,” says Radha.

The open terrace was where the poet usually took his evening walk. Bamboo curtains were rolled down to keep away the piercing rays of the setting sun. Aluminum truss work now serves this purpose. “I can’t stand this truss work. It looks so ugly, but I guess we have no option,” says Bhadra.

But the family’s favourite is the front room where they used to get together every evening. Memories are fresh of G reciting poems urging the young girls to repeat , playing cards or carrom with them, plenty of joy and camaraderie. Moments when the great poet was their own loving father and grandfather.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2020 5:31:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/a-house-for-a-poet/article7089536.ece

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