“A man who donned many hats and excelled in all of them”
Recollections on M P Veerendra Kumar
With the departure of M P Veerendrakumar, Kerala loses not just a politician but a great humanist who often stood with the underprivileged and the needy. A voracious reader, a prolific writer and an exceptional orator, M P Veerendra Kumar influenced the lives of many people he met in his various capacities. Three well-known figures – Writer Sethu, K V Mohankumar IAS and Vasudevan Vaidyamadhom – prominent in their own ways, recollect their memories of the departed great man.
A patron of art and literature
“M P Veerendra Kumar was a multi-faceted personality. He donned many hats and excelled in all of them – a very rare quality. His life experiences, wide reading and extensive travel contributed to his uniqueness. I personally admire him for his multi-disciplinary talents. He was a writer, reader, orator, traveler, a newspaper owner and a politician at the same time,” remembers renowned Malayalam writer Sethumadhavan, popularly known as Sethu.
Veerendra Kumar was a socialist and among the few people in contemporary India to serve an year or more as political prisoner during the emergency period. He is widely applauded for his activism at Plachimada; he deserves it. His travels to the Amazon forests and Himalayas might have helped him realise the importance of nature conservation. For Veerendra Kumar, each trip was a learning experience. He discovered something from every trip and tried to practice the lessons he learned,” he added.
The writer also reminisced about the integrity and character Veerendra Kumar exhibited while heading a widely-read daily like Mathrubhumi. “He had his politics but the newspaper’s editorial positions weren’t influenced by it,” he opined.
Writer Sethumadhavan also remembered how passionately M P Veerendra Kumar initiated the ‘Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters’ in Thiruvananthapuram in 2018. “Once, I decided to release a collection of my stories in English at the Sharjah Book Festival. For releasing the book I chose M P Veerendra Kumar who was there among the delegates from India attending the book festival that year. Prior to the book release function, he went through my stories and delivered an excellent speech on my work, exhibiting all his oratory skills. When we met later, he asked my opinion about hosting a similar book festival in Kerala. I was the chairman of National Book Trust (NBT) in Delhi back then and, I asked him to attend the annual book fest being conducted under the aegis of NBT, a 9-day-long festival attended by about 10 lakh people every year. He could not attend it.
Later, on a January 1, he called me over phone and said that Mathrubhumi had decided to conduct an annual book festival in Thiruvananthapuram. “He said he wanted it to be held in Kozhikode but chose Thiruvananthapuram instead because an annual literary festival was already being held in Kozhikode. The festival has been conducted every year since 2018, and it is such a brilliant festival enriched with sessions of eminent orators like Sashi Tharoor. I pay my homage to M P Veerendra Kumar,” Sethu signed off.
A similar memory was shared by K V Mohan Kumar IAS. “In 2013, when I was serving as the district collector of Kozhikode, we had a collective of around hundred writers. The team was named Calicut Writers’ Forum. M P Veerendra Kumar used to attend the meetings and I had suggested the idea of an annual literary festival at Kozhikode. He very much approved of the idea and offered us all support. But before we could actualise it, I was transferred out and gradually, the Calicut Writers’ Forum became defunct,” he said.
He also remembered that M P Veerendra Kumar was exceptionally well-read and always ready to talk about anything under the sky with eloquence. “One day I visited him at Thrithala where he was undergoing treatment. I had gifted him my novel Pranayathinte Moonnamkannu earlier. It was a novel based on the Vajrayana sect of Tantric Budhism. I was literally amazed by the knowledge he had on the topic. From Vajrayana, the conversation shifted to many other topics. M P Veerendra Kumar has always been a wonder. He was a great patron of art and literature,” he said.
Tale of an extra ordinary bond
Vasudevan Vaidyamadhom, the youngest son of departed Ayurveda exponent Vaidyamadhom Cheriya Narayanan Namboothiri, tells the story of an extraordinary bonding his father shared with M P Veerendra Kumar. “It was in 2003, M P Veerendra Kumar consulted my father for a prolonged back pain. He was suffering heavily because of it. After a course of systematic treatment, he was cured and their friendship endured,” he said.
Later, Mathrubhumi Books came forward to publish many of my father’s works. “He used to come here almost every year since then. It continued till my father passed away in 2013. They used to spend hours talking and discussing many things. My father was translating Maharshi Palakapya’s Hasthayurveda, a text on treatment of elephant diseases. M P Veerendra Kumar encouraged him to complete it by assuring that he would publish it. And he did it soon after my father finished the work.”
“His other books such as Kavyatheerthadanagal, a translation of Adhyathma Ramayanam, ‘Devaayanangaliloode’ were also published by Mathrubhumi Books. When Mathrubhumi started publishing his works, Manorama and DC also showed interest and one book was published by each of them. Besides, M P Veerendra Kumar used to refer other famous personalities to our Vaidyasala at Mezhathur. He used to say that his seminal work Haimavatha Bhoovil was greatly influenced by the long discussions he used to have with my father. We are honoured that it was mentioned it in the introduction of the book itself.”
“M P Veerendra Kumar was a down-to-earth human being. He used to go for evening walks during his stay here. He had a great appetite for local myths and history. Our place is famous for the mythical ‘Parayipetta Panthirukulam’. He loved listening to those stories from my father and one day they went to see the ‘kanjiram’ (a tree with leaves that taste bitter) at Pakkanar (a character of the tale of ‘Parayipetta Panthirukulam’) Colony with leaves not bitter in taste! He did not believe it until they went there to experience it,” remembered Vasudevan.
“Veerendra Kumar met my father minutes before he breathed his last. I strongly believe that it was because of the exceptional bond they shared that made that meeting possible,” Vasudevan Vaidyamadhom concluded.