Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri | A bicycle rider etched in collective memory

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, KERALA, 24/09/2013: Poet Vishnunarayanan Namboothiri in Thiruvananthapuram. Photo: S. Gopakumar   | Photo Credit: GOPAKUMAR S

Widely respected as a poet, scholar and teacher, Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri who passed away on Thursday was a familiar face to the people of Thiruvananthapuram. Until a few years ago, it was not uncommon to see the poet, khadi-clad and riding a bicycle, on the city streets.

Some years ago, during an interaction with schoolchildren, he had this to say, “It’s true that I travel by bicycle, but that is because I do not know to ride any other vehicle. I have been wearing only khadi from the age of six because that helps families involved in the weaving of the cloth.”

On Thursday, a large number of people, many of them former students, visited Sreevalli, the poet’s home at Thycaud, to pay their last respects. “He was someone who practised what he preached. He never taught me, but nonetheless he was a role model. He used to live near us years ago, and I often came across him riding his bicycle to college to teach. As a human being, he was as pure as a dewdrop,” recalled former Chief Secretary Jiji Thomson.

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Priest crosses the ocean

The poet came across as a mild-mannered, smiling personality, but his progressive and revolutionary ideas and actions often did not sit well with many. Once, during his stint as a priest at the Sri Vallabha Temple at Thiruvalla in the 1990s, he travelled to the U.K. for a lecture. This created a hue and cry with a section demanding his removal as priest as he had dared cross the ocean.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri as a poet who modernised traditions and harmonised them with the new times. Mr. Vijayan, in a condolence message, recalled two occasions when the “forces of intolerance” attacked the poet; once when his poem was included in the college syllabus, and the other, when, as a priest, he crossed the ocean. His death is a great loss to the culture and language of the State and to progressive values, he said.


The poet was part of campaigns to save the environment, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M.A. Baby recalled. He was at the forefront of the environment struggle in Aranmula and penned a poem to express his solidarity, Mr. Baby said.

Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri, who taught English at various government colleges across the State, had retired as head of the department at the University College after a teaching career spanning over three decades in 1994.

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan condoled the death stating that in Vishnu Narayanan Namboothiri’s works, modernity blended with Indianness, evolving a new sensibility.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 11:57:48 PM |

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