The Endless Dissolves in the Unknown !
Those were Kargil war days. Lt. Colonel Vishwanathan was killed on 2 June 1999. His body was being brought to Kerala for final rites. The atmosphere was loaded with Anti-Pakistan feelings and hugely so.
At this juncture, the renowned Malayalam intellectual and writer Late O. V. Vijayan gave a statement, "We should learn to respect Pakistan's Vishwanathans too". I felt outraged and wrote a letter to the Editor of Indian Express in protest.
My letter was published and it went something like this, "How on earth can O. V. Vijayan compare Vishwanathan, a respectable soldier from India and those terrorists ? We can do without this kind of 'Spurious Statesmanship' by the likes of Mr. Vijayan".
That morning, my Father in Law handed over the paper to me and said, "There is a letter to the Editor. I believe it must be you who wrote it. The name is yours. The language is good and the intentions are fine. But O. V. Vijayan is a Legend and please don't make derogatory comments on great people like him. To know the importance of O. V. Vijayan, you should know Malayalam. If you know Malayalam, you'll not write like this".
This statement was coming from a man who was the State President of the RSS. Yes RSS, that organization accused of Fascism, intolerance, Hindu Right-wing fanaticism and a lot more. More importantly, he was defending a man who had only a few weeks ago lambasted RSS in print.
I first met him in 1995, almost 2 years before I married his daughter in September 1997. He came across as a no-nonsense leader of a tough organization but with very mild manners. And an extremely handsome man he indeed was. Never had an idea fate would conspire to make our next meeting a huge event in my life.
Soon after my marriage to his only daughter, I accompanied him to a public function conducted at our Hospital. A gentleman who did not know of my marriage came rushing to introduce me to him. He hurried with his words, "Ananthetta, do you know who is this ? This is Dr. Govind Raj. He is our TMV Shenoy's nephew".
Looking very keen he asked me, "Oh, so which place do you come from ?". Surprised, I replied, "Karkala". He went further, "So Malayalam is a problem. Right ? Learn Malayalam. Your profession needs good command over local language". He went on to ask a few more questions. Recognizing the mischievous glint in his eyes, I decided to play along and replied to his questions in all seriousness.
Suddenly he turned to our introducer and quipped, "This boy has another relationship here in Kochi. He has married the only daughter of an Advocate Ananthan living on Convent Road". Now the man who came to introduce was profusely embarrassed. Before he could recover, our man had moved on to another part of the hall. This gave me a glimpse into the funnier interior of a man who looked very serious from outside.
In these 13 years I have known him from proximity, I have seen a great human being and a fantastic organizer. But after undergoing a bye-pass surgery in 2000, he started to slow down. He wanted to resign from the post of the RSS President in 2001. But the organization refused. Finally in 2003, his request was granted.
He resigned from all the posts he held citing failing health as the reason. He told me, "I don't want to be a non-functioning functionary. Don't want to be a burden of a leader. Let the younger lot take charge". He knew he wasn't doing great long before we, the Doctors knew.
He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease and gradually faded out of public life from 2004. But for occasional glimpses of old spark, he was a shadow of himself for most of the last 6 years of his life. The last time we went to Guruvayoor in November 2009, he required help for most of his walking and boarding the vehicle.
At one point he blurted out in sheer frustration, "I have become a public nuisance [Pothu Shalyam] for all of you". There was genuine hurt in his eyes and a feeling of "I have lost it". He refused to go out after this. Most of his sojourns out of the home were to the hospital after that.
After a long battle with Diabetes, Heart Disease, Anemia, Alzheimer's and age related debility, he passed away on 15 September 2010, just 6 days shy of completing eighty. This again is typical of the man. He didn't over-stay just to complete a mile-stone.
Here is an extremely fond and solemn obituary to a Great Man from a humble son-in-law who is proud to be the husband of his daughter. Will always cherish you and your wisdom Ananthetta.
Adieu Ananthetta, My Great Father-in-Law, Pranaam !
|Adieu Ananthetta !|
|Adieu Ananthetta !|