P. K. Balakrishnan
|P. K. Balakrishnan|
Edavanakkad, Eranakulam, Cochin, India
P. K. Balakrishnan (1926–1991) was a Malayalam novelist, critic and historian. His multifaceted interests took him through politics, journalism, public speaking and creative writing. He was a patriot who gave up his studies for the freedom of the country.
Balakrishnan was born to Panickasseri Kesavan and Mani in the small village of Edavanakkad in Eranakulam district in erstwhile Cochin state (Kerala), India, in a lower-middle-class family. He was the youngest of 4 children following 3 sisters. Though his father was bedridden with paralysis, his studies were not neglected. Bright in studies, he created a good impression on people around together with his mischievous cousins Kesavan, Chennan and Sekharan. The childhood flavours and the beautiful village where he lived can be caught in his novel ‘Pluto’.
He joined Maharajas College, Ernakulam. However, academic studies were last in his agenda. It was the time when the freedom movement had gathered momentum and there was no way the energetic boy could keep himself out of it. He whole-heartedly jumped into it. The involvement in quit India movement ended in jail. Thus, his four eventful years in college ended without any qualification degree. Language was a gift he had and he had made prolific use of it throughout his college days and subsequently mostly for political purposes. Though not formally, he had proved his mettle and the first job offer as chief editor proved that the caliber of the man was recognized. He started his formal career in journalism as Chief Editor of the daily news paper Dinaprabha, at the age of 32 years which was published, from Kozhicode. He quit after a year due to differences with the management. His journalistic career spread through the Malayalam dailies Kerala Kaumudi, Kerala Bhooshanam and Madhyamam Daily.
His studies on Chandu Menon (the first widely accepted Malayali novelist), the art of poetry studied through Kumaran Asan (the doyen of Malayalam literature) Vyasa Bharath and Ezhuthachan (the father of Malayalam poetry) and the art of the novel are unparalleled works that enriched critical literature.
As a historian, he found that there was a disconnect between what the existing writings on history projected and what he saw of Kerala from the old literature, travelogues, and other first-hand sources that is used to study history. In his writings he first dealt with Kerala history in the anthology ‘Narayana Guru’ on the great social reformer of Kerala who changed the face of its caste-ridden society. He brushes with Kerala history again to study why Tipu Sultan, an able ruler and administrator is perceived only as an aggressor and religious fanatic in our[who?] writings. The culmination of these studies over three decades resulted in his work on social history Jaathivyavasthayum Kerala Charitravum (The Caste System and Kerala History). It is a seminal work that deals with various aspects of Kerala's history including the development of the Malayalam language.
However what catapulted him as a popular writer was his second novel Ini Njan Urangatte (And Now Let Me Sleep), a novel that subsists on the Mahabharath. The book is unparalleled in its lofty language, imagery and depth and is considered one of the best classics in Indian literature. The novel is the story of Karna as seen through the eyes of Draupadi. It maintains the original story, epic atmosphere, events and characters which distinguish it from other works based on Mahabharatha. This novel was quite a departure from his first novel Pluto, the story of his dog set in the backdrop of his native village of Edavanakkad peopled by his friends and relatives.
While his extensive interests resulted in full-fledged books, his numerous other interests resulted in various articles. No serious attempts were made to preserve the articles he wrote. So, many of these were lost after their first publication. Some of these were compiled and published in his lifetime Mayatha Sandhyakal (Unfading Twilights) and Nidra Sancharangal (Sleep Walkings). These were combined and brought out as Balakrishnante Lekhanangal (Articles of Balakrishnan) in 2004. A subsequent collection of articles was published as Keraleeyathayum Mattum (The Essence of Kerala etc.) A series of articles he wrote as chief editor of Madhyamam Daily was published in 2011 titled "Veritta Chintakal" (Thoughts Apart)
- Narayana Guru (1954) - an anthology on the great spiritual leader and social reformer of Kerala.
- Chandu Menon - Oru Padanam (Chandu Menon - a Study) (1957) - on the author of the first Malayalam novel 'Indulekha'
- Kavyakala Kumaranasaniloode (The Art of Poetry through Kumaran Asan) (1970) - on the noted doyen of Malayalam poetry Kumaran Asan
- Ezhuthachante Kala - Chila Vyasa Bharatha Padhanangalum (The Art of Ezhuthachan) (1982) - a work on the father of Malayalam literature
- Sidhiyum Sadhanayum (Gift of Genius and Nurturing) (1965) - a work on the craft of novel writing
- Balakrishnante Lekhanangal (Articles of Balakrishnan)(2004)
- Keraleeyatayum Mattum (The Essence of Kerala etc.) (2004) - a collection of 20 articles published in various periodicals over a time
- Pluto Priyapetta Pluto (Pluto, my dear Pluto) (1963) - the story of his real life dog named after the Walt Disney counterpart
- Ini Njan Urangatte (And now, Let me Sleep) (1973) - A work originating from the great Indian epic Vyasabharatha (Mahabharath).
- Tippu Sultan (1959) an historical biography
- Jaathivyavasthithium Keralacharithravum (The Caste system and History of Kerala) (1983) - a work in kerala history.
- "Veritta Chintakal" (Thoughts Apart) (2011) Commentaries on social and political history of India triggered by contemporary events. Collected from articles written in Malayalam daily 'Madhyamam'