MT Vasudevan Nair revisits memories of Mathrubhumi

MT Vasudevan Nair

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Illustration: Madhanan

"Mathrubhumi must be read to improve Malayalam language": This is a saying that I heard from my adults during my youth, even before I first got a glimpse of Mathrubhumi. There was also the saying that 'Hindu' newspaper should be read to improve the English language. However, I did not see any newspapers in Koodalloor during my childhood. I heard that someone was bringing a Hindu newspaper through postal mail. But, the reader can get hold of the edition only two or three days after publication. I used to see a steward coming to the post office to pick up the newspaper. Later, when I was about to read and understand English, I accompanied the steward back to his house. During this brief walk, I was able to skim through the news articles before returning the newspaper to him. At that time, Mathrubhumi was not delivered by post.

I first saw the Mathrubhumi newspaper when I went to study at Kumaranallur High School. During my time there, I saw many people reading the newspaper. The Beedi workers in Kumaranalloor would gather together and one person reads it out aloud for all. When I was a bit older, I went to the Kuttipuram railway station to buy the Mathrubhumi weekly. It takes around six hours to reach the railway station after crossing the river. The mail arrives at this station. The Mathrubhumi weekly was bought from a small makeshift shop in the station that sells newspapers and publications.

Uroob's 'Ummachu' was published in part at that time. Everybody back home and the whole village was eager for the next chapter to come out. Even before that, 'Ramanan' was also read with great interest by everyone.

During those days, there were no libraries in our neighbourhood. However, my older brother, MT Govindan Nair had somehow managed to get hold of many publications. Among them was Mathrubhumi Weekly. I eagerly go through the weekly to see whether there was anything that interests me. Soon, I started reading short stories and other write-ups that children could read.

The most important news that crosses my mind is the assassination of Gandhiji. I still remember that title. At a young age, I was not aware of the seriousness of the incident. Further, I still remember the newspaper article on Indian Independence. Before that, events of the World War 2 were shared through the newspaper. With the advent of war, rice became scarce in the country. Wheat was supplied in place of rice. Similarly, I was unable to read the newspaper as the kerosene, used in lamps, was hard to come by.

Although we were children when we were studying in Kumaranallur, a lot of unrest in the country caught our attention. Additionally, many marches were held in front of the school as part of the freedom struggle. I saw leaders like Muhammad Abdurahman Sahib and Aruna Asaf Ali during the time.

I was fortunate enough to read poems from Ulloor and Vallathol through Mathrubhumi weekly. I also remember the publication of Edappally's last poem, 'Maninadam'. There was also works of Thakazhi, Basheer, SK Pottekkatt and Balamani Amma.

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