Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Kadammanitta and the Poetry of Revolution

In memory of poet Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan who died on Monday, March 31, 2008.

I FIRST met Kadammanitta Ramakrishnan in 1977 or early 1978 when I was a student at the Malabar Christian College, in Kozhikode. I was a first-year degree student and in the first college union election after the Emergency, I was elected a university union councillor.

Those were unforgettable days. The nation had been coming to grips with the terrible experiences of the Emergency through the investigations conducted by the Shah Commission at the national level and in the State, the Rajan case was unfolding which later resulted in the resignation of K Karunakaran as chief minister. Indira Gandhi had been defeated in the election and the country was under the rule of the first non-Congress government.

We were young and committed to a romantic revolutionary politics, and the Students Federation of India had been making waves in campuses across the state. The established left parties were not known for their resistance to the Emergency, and the CPI openly supported Indira Gandhi throughout the 19 months of internal emergency, but the SFI was active in campaigning against the semi-fascist rule during the Emergency. Many of the senior leaders were in jail or were underground and at the national level leaders like Prakash Karat were active in the students’ movement.

I remember the day when Emergency was declared, on June 26, 1975. We had already completed our SSLC examinations and as the news spread the students in our school at Koduvally took out a demonstration in the town and soon the police jeep came rushing in, giving us the first lessons of the Emergency rule, and all the demonstrators ran helter-skelter, most of us running home through the vast paddy fields…

Those two years were suffocating. Then in March 1977 Indira Gandhi called for elections and I remember that I was in a small town called Omassery near our village, coming home after a students meeting somewhere in the hills, when the news came through the All India Radio.

It was evening and suddenly a crowd collected in the town and in no time there took place an impromptu demonstration, people shouting slogans condemning Emergency and Indira Gandhi, in an expression of defiance after so many months of frustration. I forgot about going home and I was there in the demonstration, shouting slogans lustily as I never had had an occasion to shout slogans as we used to in all those 19 months...

It was then Kadammanitta came to our college one day. He was an imposing figure, a dark and stout man, with a coarse khadi jubba and dhothi, some books or magazines tucked in his shoulder bag…There was a lean young chap who came along with him and they said it was a poet called Balachandran Chullikkadu. I had never heard of this Chullikkadu and I didn’t care either, because I was so excited about this dark and stout man whose fiery lines had been etched into my mind.

In the two or three hours they were in the college, Kadammanitta and Balachandran recited many poems and I still remember the booming voice that hit our hearts directly, stirring something within us, telling us how revolutionary a weapon indeed was this poetry…

Since then I had heard Kadammanitta many times and at many stages, but all my memories of the man and his poetry of power take me to the first occasion as a young boy of 17 or 18, I saw him recite his poems in a thunderous voice. Kadammanitta was a symbol of defiant energy, a raw humanism that inspired all our activity and his poems brought something refreshingly original, something quite lofty and elevating to us who were small beings living through the most extraordinary times.


J.Geetha said...

Thank you Che for sharing your thoughts with us. You have captured the impact Kadammanitta had on his readers and yes his viewers: especially the strong impression he made on those listening to him for the first time. I agree, he did have a defiant energy about him that struck me when I knew nothing of his poetry and later when I did it only confirmed the image. In placing him in the context of post-Emergency, you have evoked the immense influence he had on students, youth, radicals and revolutionaries. He will be remembered by many.


pls read http://kadammanittasmrithi.blogspot.com