I am a Bengali, Punjabi and a Keralite: Brinda Karat
"I am not just a visitor to Kannur. I first came to Kannur over three decades ago, and it was Susheela Gopalan who took me here to speak in a rally organised by the All-India Democratic Women's Association. She was the general secretary of the association. It was a huge rally.
"Afterwards, I came here numerous times, to attend conferences and election campaign meetings," Brinda Karat told Mathrubhumi. This time, she was here to take part in the 'Yuva Sagaram' programme of the DYFI.
"I love coming to Kannur. There is something that woos me to this place apart from politics -- rice and fish curry. The food in Kannur is delicious, especially the fish curry. I have had food from many houses in the villages here. I have been to the houses of Sreemathy Teacher, Shailaja Teacher, M V Govindan Master, and of Suma.
"Suma, a native of Ezhome, works at AKG Bhavan in Delhi. It is amazing how guests are treated by the people here. I love Kerala food, and try to prepare it while in Delhi. There is no compromise on the rice variety; we use only matta rice. Prakash's mother was a very good cook. But she passed away soon after we got married. Had she been there, I would have learnt to prepare tasty fish curry," says Brinda with a laugh.
"The thing about Kannur that attracted me the most is the love people and party workers give me -- their huge hearts, manners, and sincerity. I travel a lot and have come across Kannur natives in various parts of the world. Last week, a group of people came to meet me in Mumbai during a programme. How loving and friendly people are they! Still Kannur is portrayed in a bad light in other places, which surprises me."
"AKG is my first memory about Kannur. I met him first in the 70s in Kolkata, during my initial days in the party. I was just back from London and was engaged in party work centered on the University of Calcutta. I was one of the volunteers for the SFI meet there. The party central committee office was in Kolkata then. At the office, AKG talked to me... asked about my family... I was on cloud nine!"
"My wedding. Only 15 persons attended the ceremony including Surjit, AKG, Susheelechi, and close relatives of myself and Prakash. Both Prakash and I had told Surjit that the marriage could wait till the Emergency was over. But he said it could not be said when the Emergency would be over. Prakash was doing research at JNU then, at the same time assisting the then Opposition Leader AKG. In the wake of the declaration of the Emergency, I had changed my work scene to Delhi.
Brinda and Rita
"I was Rita in Delhi. I had a room in Kolkata, which I had not vacated before leaving for Delhi. One day I was informed that police had raided my room. Surjit said it was no longer safe to be in Delhi without changing the name.
"I was working in the branch of textile mill workers in Delhi. Comrade Sriram, who was in charge of the branch, said they could not call me by the name Brinda. I suggested 'Sheela'. But Sriram objected because that was his wife's name. It was he who gave me the name Rita. I was Rita till the Emergency was over. Many people did not know Rita Karat and Brinda Karat were one person."
Back to wedding memories
Venue: Dr Veena Majumdar's house in Delhi. Date: November 7, 1975, day of the October Revolution.
"Prakash and I had decided that should be the day of our wedding. Prakash's mother and my sisters were present. Comrade Surjit addressed the gathering first. She mentioned the romance and married life of Karl Marx and Jenny von Westphalen. Prakash and I read out an oath which said that we would work together for a revolution in India and for the party.
"AKG spoke next. He welcomed us to his family. He assured that he would be there for us and asked us to inform him if there was some problem... as if he had become our guardian. Susheelechi also said the same words. Do you still think I am a guest here?
"Prakash has travelled a lot in Kerala along with AKG. He collected all the stuff required for the research during those journeys. He never completed the research as be became busy with party work, but he still keeps a box containing all those notes and documents like a treasure.
"During the finals days of the Emergency, when AKG was undergoing medical treatment in Thiruvananthapuram, Prakash and I stayed with him for 10 days to look after him. We returned to Delhi a few days before his death.
"You will think Prakash is the only link between me and Kerala. Actually, I used to visit Kottayam when I was a child. After my mother's death, my father married Susheela Kuruvila, member of a Syrian Christian family in Kottayam. I had visited her house.
In love with Kerala
"Kerala is a beautiful place... very very beautiful. The greenery, the waterbodies...," Brinda says from the sit-out of the Government Guest House, Kannur, which is facing the Arabian Sea. "And the forward-thinking people... This place gives one a particular energy.
"But there is a problem along with all these developments. Kerala has gone forward in many areas. But the increasing liquor consumption among the people is a serious issue. It will lead to huge social problems, the major victims of which will be women. Awareness should be created among the public against alcohol abuse. Like in other parts of the country, Kerala women are not harassed at home. However, there do exist remnants of male domination. The number of men helping women in kitchen works is still very less. The society remains conservative as far as male domination is concerned.
"But I love Kerala as a whole. Don't brand me as a Kannurian though. I am a Bengali, Punjabi, Palakkadan, and a Keralite."