Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri, the legendary poet who brought the Njanapeedam. the highest literary award of the country, for a sixth time to the land of Malayalam, has died at the age of 94. What thus came to a close is a life illuminating the minutiae of humanity and love through his verses. Akkitham, who had started radiating delightful rays of creativity right from his childhood, paved his own path in the galaxy of Malayalam poetry by lamenting the agonies of generations and with unrelenting faith in humanity and love. It was a surprise for that time because he had firmly believed that poetry is a fire that would extinguish the fire of 'aham' (meaning 'I'). In the same vein, what stands out in his creative life is the fact that none of the awards or laurels conferred on him, thanks to his sheer poetic genius, dented his instinctive qualities of humility and otherworldliness. It went to the extent of even his forbidding others calling him 'great poet'.
The life of Akkitham, born in March 1926 in Kumaranalloor in Palakkad district, and his philosophy were an embodiment of truthfulness and humility. His acceptance speech following the award of Njanapeedam recently, does share the paths he had traversed and the picture of life he had encountered. His stint in Kozhikode and friendships in the city, and the youth that was influenced by Edasseri Govindan Nair and VT Bhattathirippad, enriched his poetic career. Though influenced by communism in his youth, soon he got estranged from it and imbibed Indian metaphysics as an abiding inner glow. Even his affinity to Communism, as he revealed later, was a translation of the egalitarian vision in Rigveda. The only pleasure is patient perseverance; in other words pleasure consists in forgetting sorrow; there is only one antidote for sorrow - unconditional love. He exhorted that what makes man is unconditional love. Akkitham, who elevated tears as a valuable divine medicine of life, had taken care to keep far aloof from controversies and criticisms. All his poems took side with forces against violence and immorality, at the same time celebrating love and quarrelling for humanism.
A poet who succeeded in internalising modernity, Akkitham however did not take trouble to grasp the questions raised by the post-modern world or to address them. By that time he had become a proponent of Vedic legacy. It was only natural that the thoughts of the poet, who was born and bred in Vedic tradition and lived under the care of that very tradition, got nourished by that very heritage. For the same reason, one can see in his poetry the ultimate humanism of the Vedas and Upanishads. When compared to his contemporaries, his verses are rich with philosophical enquiry and insights.
It was but a bit paradoxical that the poet, who had injected compassion to an extraordinary degree into his poetry, was made a fellow-traveller of sangh parivar politics. That the great soul, who was seized of the value of tears and smiles, politically had to take position in a camp opposite that of his own world view, may have been due to a 'lazy innocence' that marked his life. When Communism had risen in the firmament of Kerala as the sole path of humanism and liberation, he had the temerity to take a position, at the risk of displeasure of people all around, against bellicose ideology and to predict that armed revolution would be short-lived. But even those who get mermerised by the beauty of his immortal works would keep wondering why he was not able to size up the fascism of Indian politics. In that sense, Akkitham would also become a text book on the contradiction where the worldview in the poetry and the political vision of the poet part ways. And that may be how he will live in the memory of Malayali soil.