Society

A home of politics and friendship

Among the lanes and by-lanes that crisscross Karikkamuri Road is a house, hidden from sight, reeking of (a part) the history of the Congress party in the State. Old timers remember it as the house that saw many personages of renown – political and cultural – frequenting it.

The rented house was home to A.P. Udayabhanu, lawyer, journalist, writer and former Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) president, for close to three years, says his daughter Urmila, the septuagenarian based in Thriprayar. “We had come to Ernakulam from Thiruvananthapuram; that’s when we lived in the house. Achan had a publishing/printing press Prakash Publishing and Printing House there, he was also a lawyer. My two sisters and I got married at the house.

“The house was always filled with people, politicians. A.K Antony was my junior while Vayalar Ravi was my batch mate. My father was a sort of godfather to both of them. Ravi and Antony formed the Student Congress at Maharaja’s, and I was the first president. I wasn’t interested but they made me with my father’s permission, of course. The house was a hive of activity during the Vimochana Samaram, with senior leaders dropping in.”

Udayabhanu’s wife, Bharathi Udayabhanu was one of Kerala’s first women Rajya Sabha MPs, serving two terms. It is said she was given the seat in lieu of Udayabhanu contesting Parliament elections from Alleppey (Alappuzha). “It was a Communist stronghold, few dared to contest from there, but my father offered to and of course, he lost. But that didn’t matter,” reminisces Urmila.

The couple lived here with their five children – four girls and a boy – in the late 1950s. Before Independence he had contested in the elections to the Legislative Council.

Bharathi Udayabhanu, a Madras University topper, met her future husband at University College, Thiruvananthapuram. “They were classmates and theirs was a love match, it was much talked about in the day,” Urmila says. A strikingly beautiful woman, it is said, heads turned wherever she went. A prolific writer, she wrote about her journey in her autobiography, ‘Adukkalayilninnu Parliamentileykku’ (From the Kitchen to the Parliament).

M.K. Sanoo or Sanoo Master remembers his walks with Udayabhanu. Sanoo Master still lives in Karikkamuri, a little away from his old house. “He was very fond of walking and we used to go for a morning walk and later, at night also. The routine for the morning was – he’d inevitably wake me up, we’d have tea at his house and set off. Initially, it was Sahodaran Ayappan and I, later Udayabhanu joined us. The city was very different those days.” Animated discussions were inevitably part of the morning walks, Sanoo Master says, “one was a believer and the other was an atheist, there used to be intense discussions and sometimes arguments. But all in a friendly vein. At night, around 10 p.m., the two of us would set out.”

So taken was he with walking that once he suggested walking up to Kottayam along the railway track. “I dissuaded him,” Sanoo Master says. He remembers the mild-natured, highly principled politician with much affection and indulgence, the kind reserved for an older brother.

The house, today, is rundown. For Mohan Babu, Udayabhanu’s son-in-law, it houses memories of his late wife Ashalatha; of meeting her and getting married in the house. The octogenarian doesn’t remember much of the house, since he didn’t live there.

But he does remember his father-in-law as a man of wit and philosophical insight.

Udayabhanu has written for and been editor of a number of periodicals/ dailies such as Prabodham, Deenabandhu and prominent vernacular dailies.

His autobiography is Enteyum Kathayum Alpam. A writer, he is remembered for his brand of light essays reminiscent of English essayist John Addison. “His writing style was laced with humour, at the same time he could be extremely philosophical. His love of literature was evinced in the fact that personages such as Mahakavi G. and Vennikulam Gopala Kurup were frequent visitors,” Sanoo Master says.

A popular story, about the house, is that Indira Gandhi came to this house, at Karikkamuri and stayed with the family. “No. She came to our house in Thiruvananthapuram. She stayed for the two days, or rather two nights. She came as Pandit Nehru’s daughter, before she became ‘Indira Gandhi’. My parents accompanied her on her trip from Kannur to Kanyakumari,” says Urmila.

His nephew, M. Ramesh Chandran says, “I have heard stories about my uncle and Mannath Padmanabhan’s friendship. Those days caste did matter and few Nairs would get to an Ezhava house, let along eat from there. But if Mannath Padmanabhan was in the vicinity of the Karthikapalli Taluk, in Haripad, where our ancestral house is, he would lunch only at our house. That, despite there being many prominent Nair families in the vicinity; it speaks volumes about their friendship.” Udayabhanu belonged to a prominent Ezhava family in Muttom, near Haripad.

The family moved back to Thiruvananthapuram in the early 1960s, when he was appointed member of the Public Service Commission, where he lived and worked till his passing away in 1999.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 5:57:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/A-home-of-politics-and-friendship/article14503009.ece

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