(Sukumar Azhikode,(1926-2012) award-winning writer, scholar and the most influential Gandhian intellectual in Kerala, had been fighting cancer for nearly a year. Hailing from Kannur in north Kerala, he had made Thrissur his home but was cremated at the historic Payyambalam beach in Kannur with full State honours.An intellectual giant, a great humanist, a cultural guru, a committed secularist, a champion of human rights and a sentinel of social values, he gave expression to his ideals through more than 35 books, thousands of articles and countless orations — all laced with grace, dignity and humour. As a literary critic, he upheld the timeless values of the classics. His range was wide, ranging from Indian philosophy, Vedas and Upanishads to the subtly nuanced pure literary criticism. His writings on poetry gravitated towards sociological and cultural criticism)
I knew it was my last visit. For around two months, Sukumar Azhikode, the charismatic presence in the dais in all important functions in almost every village in Kerala for the last 60 years, was bed ridden, his thundering voice becoming weaker every day, the non-stop procession of people from all walks of life coming to see him day and night outwitting the medicines’ limited ability of rejuvenation, the cancer cells gnawing at him hesitating for the final kill. It was really a befitting scenario to the farewell scene of one of the luminaries of Kerala’s cultural scene.
We had shared many platforms during the last decades and his canny sense of humour was invigorating in equally in personal talks and before the mike and it was always a pleasure for all to hear him. He was vicious in his attacks on leaders who he felt are erring at the cost of justice and social ethics and the beautifully venomous words he used endeared him to the audience and readers, but in most of the cases put an indelible wound which remained as a scar mark on the victim. Azhikode was a Gandhian to the core, in deeds and personal life, and regarded these comments to the Gandhian dictum of never hate the enemy, but only his wrong acts.
Sukumar Azhikode had a brilliant mind which Kerala will miss and it is a real loss to our society. He took upon the responsibility of a corrective mechanism, a watchdog syndrome within the system. He never wanted to change it, but was satisfied with creating awareness about the mistakes and he left the process of corrective action to the societal mindset.
He was the super star in Malayalam oratory and the beauty of Malayalam language was really felt by the listeners when the words flowed with colourful ripples supported with his enchanting body movements.
On the material ladder, he was not an achiever. He was never made a vice-chancellor by the politicians, offered only the lowest of the padma awards when comparables got vibhushans and bhushans, his ambitions in literary field to become President of Kendra Sahitya Academy thwarted at last moment and in political field to become Lok Sabha member decisively smashed in political equations and his love affair never had even an endearing Devdas climax.
But he was one of the greatest real achievers of our generation. He was throned in the minds of millions of ordinary malayalees, whose causes he always championed fearlessly and vehemently. Funny part is that even diametrically opposite groups, ideological or social wanted him to be with them. But he wanted everybody to be with him.
In our present money oriented psyche, he was one of the very few leaders who gave more importance to the economic value of justice, happiness and equality rather than the value of material possessions.
His last words to me were futuristic.
It was the second time I was visiting him in the Amala hospital in Thrissur . Both times I told: I will take you to Ernakulam for an inauguration in a few days after your discharge from here. The first time he smilingly agreed. The second time I had gone with GPC Nair, one of Kerala’s top technocrats in management educational field in his newly acquired Rolls Royce car. I told Azhicode about the car and said that we were going to take him next in the Rolls Royce. He smiled and when we were leaving he called me and whispered in my ear.
He and I knew that the golden Rolls Royce from the heaven was waiting for him for many days and nobody can say no to the Gods.