Ayyappa paniker’s Eightieth Birthday was celebrated in a befiting manner by the Ayyappa paniker Foundation at V J T Hall Trivandrum on 12 Septemeber, 2010 with a Memorial Lecture by U. R. Ananthamurthy, the renowned Kannada writer and thinker.
Priyadas, Secretary to the Foundation welcomed the admirers and friends of Ayyappa paniker who had packed the hall and presented abrief overview of the Foundation’s activities including the translation workshop held earlier, the Seminar series launched in Calicut with a symposium on the poet R. Ramachandran and the works of and on Dr. Paniker in the pipeline .
Prof. U. R. Ananthamurthy in his memorial lecture on the dalit Contribution to Indian Literature spoke of the emergence of Dalit literature with special reference to Kannada, its context and its significance as an assertion of Dalit identity, values and dignity. He referred to sevaerl works including those of Devanooru Mahadeva whose works can stand comparison in its literary merit with any other writer in the language. He also reminded the critics that dalit literature is not something new if we take into account the centuries-old oral traditions of Dalit literature in the form of sayings, songs and stories. He put forward the view that Gandhi and Ambedakr were compemented each other and it is a gross misrepresenation to treat them as opposites. If Gandhi tried to pull down the caste structure from inside, taking the risk of some rafters falling on himself, Ambedkar pelted stones from outside to complete the demolition.Later replying to a question he said that discussions like this, even if there are not many Dalits among the audience, would certainly force the upper castes to introspect and critique themselves and transform their attitude and behaviour towards the dalits.Answering another question he said while non-Dalit writing on Dalit lives was certainly a contribution towards the awakening of a new consciousness, that cannot be considered Dalit writing as only the Dalits can properly represent their community and their lived reality.Ananthamurthy remembered Ayyappa paniker as a great teacher and a unique poet with great vision. He peppered his speech with Paniker’s poems like ‘Snake’ from the book later released by him, Poetry at Midnight.
K. Satchidanandan, poet and the President of the Foundation in his presidential address introduced Ananthamurthy as a great bridge-builder between tradition and modernity and the pioneer of the Navya movement in Kannada combining in his thinking the influences of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Lohia.He observed how Ayyappa paniker innovated poetry and thinking by introducing new forms, juxtaposing the contraries. He was a great shape-shifter who would now appear as a recluse and then as a comedian, now a lover and then a traveller.He praised P Ravindran Nayar who had faithfully translated his long-time teacher’s last poems collected in the book Poetry at Midnight and read a few poems from the book.
T. P. Sreenivasan, renowned diplomat and the Vice-President of the Foundation , spoke of his long assoiation with Dr Paniker and also congratulated P. Ravindran Nayar while introducing in brief the book Poetry at Midnight.He also read some poems from the book.
M. A . Baby, Hon.Minister for Education, paid glowing tributes to Ayyappa Paniker and said that the Govt is in the process ofidentifying a suitable piece of land for the Foundation to build a memorial for the great poet.He honoured Ananthamurthy with a memento from the Foundation.
The programme waas followed by the visualisations of chosen poems by Ayyappa paniker by the students of five colleges in the city.All the presentations- by Mar Ivanios College, Univesity College, All Saints’ College , Govt. Women’s College and the University Departments of English & Malayalam separately were carefully organised. The first prize went to Mar Ivanios College for their moving and powerful dramatisation of ‘We, Marys’ ( Njangal, Mariyamar).
The programme ended with a vote of thanks by Sajeev.
Ayyappa Paniker Foundation celebrated the birth anniversary of the poet in a befitting manner on 20 September, 2009. Sitakant Mahapatra, the Jnanpith award- winning poet, translator,social anthropologist and a good friend of Dr. Paniker delivered the third Ayyappa Paniker Memorial Lecture at the V.J.T. Hall, Thiruvananthapuram before a packed audience of writers, poetry lovers, Paniker’s disciples and friends. It may be recalled here that the two earlier lectures had been delivered respectively by Dilip Chitre and Ashok Vajpeyi.
Remembering the Poet
K.Satchidanandan, the President of the Foundation led the speaker to the dias and introduced him to the audience. He recalled that Ayyappa Paniker, though unfortunately misrepresented by some critics as an individualist was in fact a poet of great social concern even while upholding the dignity of the individual. It is wrong to qualify him as an individualist as poetry to him had been a multidimensional engagement with reality and not an expression of a readymade ‘self’. He spoke in many voices , had various styles and employed diverse masks in his poetry-as lover, philosopher, traveller, clown, singer, social critic and a lover of nature, thus producing a series of subjects rather than a single unified subject in his oeuvre as a poet.He employed traditional myths and archetypes chiefly to present a contemporary experience or to provide a dream or offer a warning to the present. He constantly hurt the false seriousness of the romantics through his black humour and the feeling of levity he conveyed in his lighter verses. He revived forgotten meters and introduced new forms like the cartoon poem and the sequence poem in Malayalam. He was critical of oppression in all its forms as proved by his poems written during the Emergency. He was dismissive of hypocrisy and vanity of every kind and expressed great truths through the juxtaposition of opposites.He was equally inventive as a critic and did radical re-readings of significant texts from C.V. Raman Pillai’s Ramaraja Bahadur to Thakazhi’s Kayar and from Ezhuthachan’s Adhyatma Ramayana and Kumaran Asan’s Duravasta to the plays of CJThomas and CNSreekantan Nair. In short his vision was quintessentially democratic.Satchidanandan then introduced Sitakant Mahapatra as a pioneer of modern poetry in Oriya besides being a translator of world poetry and tribal poetry and an outstanding social anthropologist and cultural administrator.
Discovering Brahma in the Market Place
Sitakant Mahapatra in the preamble to his speech fondly recalled his association with Ayyappa Paniker and the plans they had for collaborative projects. He remembered how Dr. Paniker while being a distinguished poet, was also a formidable scholar and critic with wide-ranging interests that included theatre and cinema. He illustrated Paniker’s inherent strength, sense of irony, urbanity and metaphysical enquiry as a poet quoting verses from his “Days, Nights”. He qualified Paniker as the Zorba of Thiruvananthapuram on the shores of twilight.
The central theme of the speech Sitakant Mahapatra delivered in memory of Ayyappa Paniker was “ Poetry’s Shrinking Space: Search for a Suggestive Magic”. He said it is a trying time for poetry. The dark forces of our time are trying to order our dreams and put to sleep human imagination, creating mistrust for any scent of mystery. He echoed Holderlin’s desperate cry, “ In such spiritles times, why be a poet at all?”
Poetry, he said, has always expressed the perpetual tension between the self and the other. The self has various layers from the gross to the sublime. While the saints may transcend the gross, the poet cannot get away from any of them as all merge into the crucible of his own self. This self however is no closed monad; the world outside constantly impinges on it. So the poet’s self is not hermetic; it also involves others. Rationalism was an indictment of intuition and an exclusive emphasis on the self; it despised man’s capacity to dream; but the poets , painters and philosophers of our time reacted to rationalism and found, like Rimbaud, that ‘the delicate flower of truth cannot stand the analysis of logic and cognitive semantics’. We also learnt of the complexity of the structure of the human mind from psychology and anthropology. They all helped shape the intellectual climate of our time.
While poetry cannot be experience in the raw and the poet cannot do sloganeering, a true poet is at the same time in the room and and on the street.There are no more walls. But the poet invests words with a magic seldom possessed by the language of utilitarian communiacation. This magic comes from linguistic nuances, associations and layers of meaning. The poet is a visionary even while being the man next door. His involvement with other selves is inbuilt in his vision. This is what makes all poetry authentically individual and yet poignantly universal. An Oriya saying claims that Brahma cannot be known in the market place; but the poet today is destined to seek and find his Brahma by meditating in the market place. The speaker quoted Baudelaire: “The modern conception of art is to create suggestive magic including at the same time object and subject, the world outside and the artist himself.”
The Festival: Visualising Poetry
The Memorial Lecture was followed by an audio-visual presentation of Ayyappa paniker’s poetry titled “Utsavam” (Festival) co-ordinated by Dominic J. Kottoor. The programme was ably introduced by Priyadas Mangalath, Secretay of the Ayyappa paniker Foundation who spoke of the high esteem in which people continue to hold Dr. Paniker. He asserted that Paniker was a people’s poet and that was at the core of the presentation to follow.
Rajeev ONV, Dr. Raja Warrier and Regatta Girija were the chief forces behind the presentations made by the students of University College and the Centre for Visual Performing Arts, Trivandrum.The poems were at times sung in a chorus (eg, Pookkatirikkan Enikkavathille-I Cannot Help Blossomig, a piece from Pakalukal, Ratrikal-Days, Nights), and at other times presentd as dances (Gopikadandakam; Priyatame, Prabhatame). The acting techniques of Koodiyattam were deployed by Margi Madhu in presenting an episode from Gotrayanam to great effect. There were also theatrical presentations of poems like Maranakkurippu (The Epitaph), Ente Bhittimel ( On My Wall), Gandhiji Pathicha Moonnu Pathangal ( The Three Lessons Gandhi Learnt) and Kazhutha( The Donkey).The spectacular visual version of the poem on the temple festival, Utsavam, opened and closed the presentation.The whole event won great appreciation from the discriminating spectators.