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Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Rebel without a Cause

“When I am dead you’ll find it hard, said he.

To ever find another man like me.
What makes you think as I suppose you do,
I’d ever want another man like you!”
~ Eugene Fitch Ware

He was a compulsive 'emailer'. And he had an impressive contact list. Interesting emails received from his contacts and anecdotes ferreted out from his colourful past used to be forwarded to each one in his contact list regularly. He seems to have had an unofficial Certification Board categorising his mails into 'U' 'R' or "A' category. This was necessary as his correspondents included from the very young to the very old.  The last email I received was on 3rd March 2012 and contained fading black and white photographs of Rail Engines from the S.I.R days.
All his emails used to have a quote at the foot of the message. Sometimes it varied but mostly it was:
"You just live and die; the rest is trash."
Not in the last few mails though. 
He lived; and now he is dead. 
'നീണ്ട മൂക്കും മെല്ലിച്ച ദേഹവുമുള്ള സുന്ദരന്‍ ശിന്ന പയ്യന്‍' 
 'ദിസ്‌ ഫ്രണ്ട് ശിന്ന പയ്യന്‍ ' എന്ന് ഹിപ്പിനിക്ക് പയ്യന്‍ പരിചയപ്പെടുത്തി കൊടുത്തപ്പോള്‍ 'പയ്യന്‍ സാര്‍ മൈ ഗുരു' എന്ന് തലകുലുക്കി സമ്മതിച്ച തലമുറിയന്‍. 
കഥാവസാനത്തില്‍ മടിക്കുത്തില്‍ നിന്നും മിന്നല്‍ വേഗത്തില്‍ ലൈഫ് ബോയ്‌ സോപ്പെടുത്തു ഹിപ്പിനിക്ക് കൊടുത്ത വത്സല ശിഷ്യന്‍. (ഹിപ്പിനി. വി.കെ.എന്‍.)

Certainly he lived. 
He is dead now. 
He died yesterday in his son's apartment in UAE. He had gone there on a visit, a week ago.

I knew him since our school days. He was a couple of years senior to me in school. In those days when everyone knew everyone  else, he was Achath Gopalan Nair's son.  Younger brother of Devidasan ,Vijayan  and Sivadas. He was a class mate of my eldest brother. 
I don't think he played any team game.  Students of NSS KPTHigh School, Ottapalam in those days used to play  baseball (with a soft ball),hockey, besides football, volley ball etc. I do not remember having seen him in the playing fields. He left for Calicut for his college education. Devagiri College took him in. 
I do not know much about his Devagiri College days. Knowing him, I do not think it could have been all smooth sailing. He became part of Ottapalam life again when he came back after graduation. In those days, the Head Cashier State Bank of India could offer appointment in the Bank as cashier. The Head cashier assumed personal responsibility for the Cash dept and that personal responsibility gave him the right to chose the cashiers he wanted. Achath Gopalan Nair's son's antecedents could not be faulted and Mukundan joined the Shoranur branch of SBI as a cashier.
By the time I had joined Victoria College but nevertheless used to receive news of him. Besides making life miserable for the officers, he had engineered a 'pen down' strike at Shoranur branch. He had also befriended V.K.N who was a bigger hellion both in physical proportions and the range of 'activities'. In a write up which appeared in one of the news papers immediately after Sri Azheekode's death (Azheekode was his professor in Devagiri college) with the caption 'പ്രിയപ്പെട്ട ശിന്ന പയ്യന്നു ഇത് ജനുവരിയുടെ മറ്റൊരു നഷ്ടം.....'( VKN also died in one January, some years ago) the author recollects that during the strike days VKN sent a letter to Mukundan: "പ്രിയ ശിന്ന പയ്യന്‍. അപമര്യാദയായി പെരുമാറിയ കാഷിയന്‍ ആര്‍? മറ്റു പത്തൊന്‍പതു നീചന്‍ മാരെയും നമ്മുടെ ധാര്‍മിക പിന്തുണ അറിയിക്കുക."
He was a quintessential rebel. He couldn't resist the temptation of tilting his lance at every windmill he saw, which he imagined were dragons to be subdued . During one of the agitation days, he locked up the Branch Manager and the Officers inside the branch and disconnected the electricity and telephone lines. They were trapped inside the branch for a whole night. He used the RTI Act widely, complained about the BSNL, the Railways and did not spare his own Bank or his colleagues. He met with limited success as the grievances were many a time imaginary or even frivolous. He did not particularly want to succeed either and seldom followed up his efforts to their logical end. The very gesture of defiance satisfied him. 
But he left behind bitterness too. He antagonised all his brothers. And quite a few of his colleagues. I do not know whether he succeeded in developing any abiding friendship. He was like Jonas Cord of Carpetbaggers, a book he liked,  disagreeable for no reason, unpredictable. Yet he had a robust sense of humour and was well read.
The last time I met him was about a year ago. He was an in patient in Mother hospital. Close friendship with Bacchus had started taking its toll. He used to drink everyday but I never saw him drunk. The fatty liver had turned cirrhotic. He gave up liquor.
A week before he left for UAE, his pet dog died. It has been his friend for the last so many years when he drifted apart from his brothers and close relatives and few friends. Possibly he may have felt that they have all abandoned him. It is doubtful whether he saw any fault in his own make up. He may have felt that his last, true friend had abandoned him. He brooded on its death.
He was 67 on 3rd March. He sent photos of the celebration at his son's house to some of his correspondents. I was not among them. I am told he was cremated in UAE yesterday.
The prodigal will not be returning. 
All the rebellion in him  has subsided.
Certainly he lived. 
And now he is very dead.
Rest of it is trash.
Or ash. 
Possibly his children will be bringing it back for the dried up Bharthapusha to receive it.
 Trash to trash. Ashes to ashes.
Life goes on. 


  1. I was one among the very few he shared his exploits. And one in his “A” list of mail forwards which became very embarrassing on many occasions till I was able to convince him, at the cost of being termed a prude, that I no longer enjoyed such dirty jokes. There after it was his RTI struggles. He would forward me provisions and articles of the act and his correspondence with the local Panchayat (his last target) for my views and comments. He would follow it up with a phone call. I would try to dissuade him from such futile pursuits. He would chastise me for losing all the rebellious fervor of my youth. I would blame that age hasn’t mellowed him a bit.
    The only time I could sniff a little emotion in him was when he called me up to tell about the death of his pet dog Fredo and his impending departure to Dubai. I could sense he desired a visit from me but other pressing matters at home kept me out. I feel sad for this omission.

    He may not be a very lovable person but you just couldn’t disregard him , which I discovered during my association with him in office and elsewhere. Chenakathoor Pooram would miss this enfant terrible and the Local Municipal clerk will heave a sigh of relief. My e mail box will never be the same. The last one was on 6th Mar and I was one of the privileged to receive his birthday photos. Good Bye , Mukundan
    Thanks Raju for the wonderful obit which he richly deserved.

  2. k. ramachandran
    6:42 AM (1 hour ago)

    to me
    The article touched the inner cords of my heart. The language was formal yet intimate, objective yet full of feeling and melancholic with a touch of humor somewhere between the lines.

    He was close to me and his death was a shock to me.

    The last mail he sent me was on the act in 1969 that recognized the constitutional right of every Indian citizen to vote for 'no candidate' and it was an eye-opener to me.

    The death of his dog must have pained him. Just like Yudhishtira insisting on taking his dog to heaven, his dog must have fought for the right to have him with it in the other world. After all, the 18th verse of chapter 5 of Bhagavat Geetha sees no difference between a Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater. All are same for those who are wise and for God..

    1. Probably he will bring about some 'constitutional' reforms in Heaven or Hell, where ever he is. മുന്‍പേ പറന്ന പക്ഷി ' പെരിയ പയ്യന്‍' അവിടെയുണ്ടല്ലോ. രണ്ടു പേര്‍ക്കും കൂടി ' അപ്സര കന്യകളെ, 'ചിത്രശലഭങ്ങളെ' പെറ്റു വളര്‍ത്താന്‍' സഹായിക്കാം!

    2. avide mukundanu athinulla youvanam namukku aasamsikkaam

  3. I have some faint memories of meeting him at Keralassery branch(or was it Ongallur branch?)during my visit as a 'Controlling authority'(What control? What authority?Laughable to think of it now!)I also remmber to have received negative news about him. Well everything is over now. The photo shows he was strikingly handsome with the special Malayalee looks!It is clear that one more rebel has left the scene unsung.

  4. Janaradhanan Menon
    11:47 PM (4 hours ago)

    to me
    dear Rajagopal.,
    I read through your mail twice as it sounded to me as one of the best epitaphs-no the best epitaph, I have ever read. I knew .Mukundan from the late seventies, yet we came closer only after retirement specially during the last five years through the continuous flow of mails he used to forward almost every day till the 2nd week of last February. your depiction about him cannot be scripted differently. when I came to know about his demise from one of my earlier colleagues K.Ramachandran last week, it was really a very sad moment for me.. He was illustrious in his own ways . Obituary --R.I.P as usual - rest in peace- could also be taken as - return if possible


  5. Jayaram P
    3:13 PM (20 hours ago)

    to me
    Enjoyed reading this about my dear friend Mukundan. Contrary to the impression, he had many friends. He made it a point to not only keep in touch with them but also ensured that they, in turn, remained in touch with one another or kept them up-to-date about the ebbs and tides in others' lives. I would call him an eccentric, who lived his life the way he wanted and, I am sure, he left with no regrets.

  6. Ram Mohan
    Mar 21 (2 days ago)

    to me
    A touching tribute. May his soul rest in peace !

    1. Thank you Uncle, for this obit. You are, indeed a gifted writer and it is a beautiful article. I happened to see it only a few months ago and was initially very happy that he had friends who loved him enough to write about him. But, as I read through till the end, I started doubting whether the article really translates your intent or maybe that’s the way you knew Achan. Every death is to be mourned but after a while, their lives are to be cherished and I believe, obituaries are meant for that. The finishing of this obit, I feel, sadly, leaves the impression that Achan’s was a rather depressing life and so, this reply…

      To start with, none of his struggles were futile; Achan always had a reason, which may not have been enough for us. The way I see it, he was courageous and cared enough to make a change or at least try to. He just did not agree that silence is wisdom and argued that it is, for cowards, a lethal weapon! I would say that the title of the obit he deserves is ‘A rebel with too many causes’ rather than no cause!

      And one thing he never ever felt, Uncle, was abandoned. As Jayaram uncle said, inspite of all his fights and revolts, Acha was a happy man with lot of intimate friends. I remember there were many days when he was overwhelmed with others affection for him and even preferred some privacy...

      Yes, it was unfortunate that he had to antagonize his brothers or vice versa but I feel proud that my father had the strength to do this. It was a huge compromise that he made, for none other than their mother. He took up the fight with them, not because he cared to win over them for anything but only because he cared more for the mother they shared. If it was for himself, he would have just ignored the happenings that preceded this battle but it was solely, for Achamma and she stayed with us, happily, till the end…As was his nature, am sure he never took efforts to justify his actions to anyone….

      All that said, Achan was no hero (though he is mine as would be, you all to your daughters)….he was rash and had little tolerance for timidity and could in no way offer patience to people who hesitated….and so his countless enemies….

      Freddo’s demise did take its toll on him. Nevertheless, in his last days, he was overwhelmingly happy and excited to be with his granddaughter and had ventured out to get her toys. Sadly, he wasn’t too cautious about the dusty Dubai weather and it took him down with pneumonia though I won’t be too sure that his rebellion was taken down. It still lives, through many a life that knew him, through his children and through those pathonpadhu neechanmar and their kids who got to hear that story….

      Thanks again, Uncle for remembering Achan and for giving me this opportunity to differ with your impressions….. It comes a year and a few months late, but guess I owe it to Papa Muku :)!

  7. Thank you for your comments.

    I must admit, I was a bit surprised to receive a response from you and that too over a year after publishing the blog. My blog has a very limited number of followers and I have not made any effort to increase the number either. The posts are basically random thoughts of mine.

    I would have been extremely surprised if you had agreed with my views on KGM. You are bound to have a different perspective, in view of the spatial, temporal separation and genetic link up. You should expect differing views on a three dimensional, colourful ( and controversial) personality like KGM even among his close friends.In fact this theme of differing perspectives has been used time and again in literature (A stone for Danny Fisher), films (Anatharam by Adoor, Antha Naal of Shivaji etc).

    I remember his father was bed ridden for quite sometime. I could recall him hurrying back home in the evening almost everyday because his mother needed help to tend to his father. Perhaps, she received scant assistance from her elder sons either because of their absence from home or lack of concern. Perhaps the drifting apart from his siblings was inevitable. I just know that it happened.

    The post is just a fond remembrance of a person who remained a friend till his death, warts in his personality notwithstanding. Probably he could tolerate bigger warts in my make up. The post should be read just as a remembrance and not as a critique.


    (By the way, I attended your marriage reception at CSN hall)

  8. Ha! belated thanks, uncle, for coming to my wedding.... I would love to meet you again, whenever possible, be it to share thoughts about Achan or just to congratulate you in person on your writing skills.....
    I only got to see your blog when Vappala Unni uncle scribbled on Achan's facebook page for his b'day this year and I visited his page where he had given the link. Thanks again for this article uncle. You are right, we differ the way we see him and his life and I agree that our respective perspectives won't surprise anyone, but Achan had a happy ending or maybe I should call it transition :); No regrets, no loneliness but only a shared fear of unknown and so, I felt that I should not let anyone leave your blog with the same feeling as I had :)..
    Once again, thank you, Uncle, for giving me space to share my perspective! Please take care and hope to see you sometime soon!