Punathil Kunjabdulla

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Punathil Kunjabdulla
Punathil W.jpg
Kunjabdulla in August 2013
Born (1940-04-03)3 April 1940
Vatakara, Malabar District, Madras Presidency, British India (present-day Kerala, India)
Died 27 October 2017(2017-10-27) (aged 77)
Calicut, Kerala, India
Occupation Writer, medical practitioner
Nationality Indian
Notable awards Sahitya Akademi Award (1980)
Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award (1978, 1980, 2001, 2010)

Punathil Kunjabdulla (3 April 1940 – 27 October 2017) was an Indian writer from Kerala. A medical doctor by profession, Kunjabdulla was a practitioner of the avant-garde in Malayalam literature.[1][2] His work includes more than 45 books, including 7 novels, 15 short story collections, memoirs, an autobiography and travelogues. His work Smarakasilakal (Memorial Stones) won the Central and State Akademi Awards.[3]

Early and personal life[edit]

Kunjabdulla was born in 1940 in Karakkad near Onchiyam in Vatakara, Malabar District (present-day Kozhikode district, Kerala) as the son of C. K. Mammu and Saina, Kunjabdulla.[citation needed] He completed his primary education from Karakkad Mappila Lower Primary School and high school from Govt. Fisheries Technical School, Madappally. He joined Government Brennen College, Thalassery and completed his pre-degree and a bachelor's degree in science.[citation needed] He wanted to continue his studies at Brennen College and to do his masters in Malayalam. He was dissuaded by the late critic M. N. Vijayan, who was a teacher at the college's Department of Malayalam. "You don't have to do an MA to be a writer; all you need to know are the letters," his teacher advised him.[citation needed] He heeded the advice and went to the Aligarh Muslim University to study MBBS. He was a registered medical practitioner and served in government sector from 1970 to 1973 and at Vatakara from 1974 to 1976. He married Haleema and had three children.[citation needed]

Despite a conservative Muslim backgrounnd, Kunjabdulla was known for his wanton and unconventional life-style.[citation needed] He literally chose to celebrate life. Sethu once said: "His calibre to depict commoners was astonishing. With this magic, he could have written great works. However, he chose to celebrate life and did not care to write great works unlike many of his contemporaries. His lifestyle can be cited as the reason for this hindrance."[4] Though he was born in a Muslim family, he never wanted to lead a religious life but wanted to live like a human being. He always described himself as a Hindu by culture, despite being born a Muslim.[5] He liked alcohol and pork and never hesitated to admit it publicly.[citation needed]

In the 2001 Kerala assembly elections, Punathil unsuccessfully contested for Bharatiya Janata Party from Beypore constituency. He pitted against industrialist-turned-politician V. K. C. Mammed Koya of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and veteran politician M C Mayin Haji of the Indian Union Muslim League. He finished third, securing 10,934 votes. Kunjabdullah’s decision to contest on BJP ticket was a surprise for many. He later said in an interview: "They were the first to offer me a ticket. If the Congress or the CPM had offered me a ticket first, I would have accepted it. It is my commitment to the people and not any kind of affinity towards any particular party, that inspires me."[6]

Suffering from various ailments during his final years, he died at Baby Memorial Hospital in Calicut on 27 October 2017, aged 77.[7][8]

Literary career[edit]

Kunjabdulla was inspired by S. K. Pottekkatt and Thakazhi.[citation needed] He sent his first short story Bhagyakuri (1958) to Mathrubhumi Illustrated Weekly while he was still at school, hoping to get published in the children's section.[citation needed] However its associate editor M. T. Vasudevan Nair chose to publish it in the general category.[5] Kunjabdulla has called MT his only guru, both in life and writing.[9]

Smarakasilakal (Memorial Stones), published in 1977, is set in a region near Vatakara where he grew up. The novel tells the story of Khan Bahadur Pookkoya Thangal, the head of a feudal family, and the patriarchal structure at work within the family.[citation needed]

Through the novel Marunnu (Medicine), which narrates the story on the life of MBBS students and of a medical college, Kunjabdulla introduced to Malayalam literature the world of hospitals and doctors.[citation needed] Paralokam also picked up on themes of death, another novel richly informed by his own life experiences as a doctor. He was a prolific writer of short stories as well. His story Kshethravilakkukal (Temple Lights) was chosen by M. Krishnan Nair in a collection of best short stories in the language[citation needed]. Kunjabdulla co-authored the novel Navagrahangulude Thadavara with Sethu. They discussed it together, wrote separately and then edited it together. According to Sethu, it was a work with a difference, though born ahead of the times.[4]

The writer in Kunjabdulla had a great affinity towards Karakkad village in Vatakara where he was born. Many of his stories were reflections of his village and the characters like Vandikkaran Kunjhan, Bappu Kanaran, Moosa Musaliyar and Sankarakurup were real life people in his village.[10] The years he spent at Aligarh also left deep impressions on Kunjabdullah. He was known as Aligadhinte Kathakaran as he introduced Aligarh in Malayalam literature. As an MBBS student, he spent 9 years in Aligarh Muslim University (1962-1970) and during his stay at Room No. 31 at VM Hal of AMU, he would write short stories on Aligarh and publish them in Malayalam journals. His experiences in the Uttar Pradesh city helped him write some of his most widely read short stories. Aligadhile Tadavukaran (The Prisoner in Aligarh), Marunnu (Medicine), Aligadh Kathakal (Aligarh Stories) are some of the famous books on Aligarh that he wrote. Cycle Savairi (Cycle Riding), Jeevachavangal (Living Cadavers) MoulanaInam Khureshi, Kathi (Knife), Velichaththinte Maranam (Death of Light) and Smasanathilekku Nayikkunna Njan (Leading by me Towards the Graveyard) are some of the most known short stories on his Aligarh days.[11]

Like Pookunjeebi in Smarakasilakal many of his female characters were strong personalities. Instead of depicting women in moodily love, he celebrated lust, passion of love and beauty through his women characters. The women characters in Kure Sthreekal, Pranaya Kathakal and Ente Kamukimarum Mattu Kathakalum represented life as it is and the underlying tone was the lust.[12]


Selected works[edit]


  • Smarakasilakal (DC Books, 1977)
  • Marunnu (DC Books)
  • Paralokam (DC Books)
  • Punathilinte Novellakal (DC Books)
  • Kanyavanangal (DC Books)
  • Navagrahangulude Thadavara (with Sethu) (DC Books)
  • Agnikinavukal (DC Books)
  • Ammaye Kaanan (Children's novel, Mathrubhumi Books)[18]

Short stories[edit]

  • Aligarh Kathakal (Mathrubhumi Books, 2012)[19]
  • Ente Priyapetta Kathakal (DC Books)
  • Kshethravilakkukal (Mathrubhumi Books)[20]
  • Kure Sthreekal (Mathrubhumi Books)
  • Malamukalile Abdulla (Mathrubhumi Books, 1974)[21]
  • Marichupoya Ente Appanammamarkku (Poorna Publications, 1997)
  • Neelaniramulla Thottam
  • Pranaya Kathakal (Mathrubhumi Books)[22]
  • Punathilinte 101 Kathakal
  • Ente Kamukimarum Mattu Kathakalum
  • Kathi (Mathrubhumi Books)[23]


  • Atmaviswasam Valiya Marunnu (memoirs & essays, Mathrubhumi Books)[24]
  • Kaippunyam Athava Chila Adukkalakkaryangal (cookery, Mathrubhumi Books)[25]
  • Nashtajaathakam (autobiography, DC Books)
  • Puthiya Marunnum Pazhaya Manthravum (memoirs, Mathrubhumi Books)[26]
  • Randaam Chemmeen (memoirs, Manorama Books, 2012)
  • Volgayil Manju Peyyumbol (travelogue, Mathrubhumi Books)[27]


  1. ^ Rajan, P. K. (1989). The Growth of the Novel in India, 1950–1980. Abhinav Publications. ISBN 81-7017-259-4. 
  2. ^ Natarajan, Nalini (1996). The Handbook of twentieth-century literatures of India. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-28778-3. 
  3. ^ a b Awards & Fellowships-Akademi Awards Archived 28 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ a b Sethu (October 28, 2017). "Punathil Kunjabdulla: He exemplified joie de vivre". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  5. ^ a b Anand Kochukudy (October 29, 2017). "Both life and literature were unconventional for Malayalam writer Punathil Kunjabdulla (1940-2017)". Scroll.in. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  6. ^ Jestin Abraham (October 29, 2017). "How Punathil Kunjabdulla tested political waters in Beypore". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  7. ^ Mohan Lal (1992). Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature: Sasay to Zorgot. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. p. 4119. ISBN 978-81-260-1221-3. Retrieved 28 October 2017. 
  8. ^ "Noted Malayalam writer Punathil Kunjabdulla is no more". The Hindu. 2017-10-27. Retrieved 2017-10-28. 
  9. ^ K. Rekha (October 27, 2017). “Punathil: the writer who transformed experiences into words”. Malayala Manorama. Retrieved November 1, 2017.
  10. ^ Ajith Kannan (October 28, 2017). "Characters carved out from Karakkad in Vadakara". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  11. ^ T. N. Satheesan (October 27, 2017). "Punathil Kunhabdulla, Malayalam Writer Who Brought Aligarh to Kerala, Passes Away". News18.com. Retrieved 2017-10-29.
  12. ^ Saritha S. Balan (October 27, 2017). "Punathil Kunjabdulla: The Malayali modernist who broke the mould in life and his writing". The News Minute. Retrieved 2017-11-01.
  13. ^ Kerala Sahithya Academy Award – Novel (in Malayalam)
  14. ^ Kerala Sahithya Academy Award – Short story (in Malayalam)
  15. ^ "Kerala Sahitya Akademi awards presented". The Hindu. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2013.
  16. ^ Literary awards
  17. ^ "Punathil Kunjabdulla wins Mathrubhumi literary award". Mathrubhumi. 14 September 2013. Archived from the original on 7 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2017. 
  18. ^ Ammaye Kaanan
  19. ^ "Aligarh Kathakal released" Archived 31 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ Kshethravilakkukal Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  21. ^ Malamukalile Abdulla Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  22. ^ Pranaya Kathakal Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  23. ^ Kathi Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  24. ^ Atmaviswasam Valiya Marunnu Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  25. ^ Kaippunyam Athava Chila Adukkalakkaryangal Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  26. ^ Puthiya Marunnum Pazhaya Manthravum Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is
  27. ^ Volgayil Manju Peyyumbol Archived 28 June 2013 at Archive.is