MT Vasudevan Nair opens up about his early days at Mathrubhumi


MT Vasudeven Nair

In 1956, I joined Mathrubhumi. I was interviewed by the editor, KP Kesava Menon. I still remember that he had very poor eyesight. Meanwhile, NV Krishna Warrier was heading the Mathrubhumi Azhchappathippu(weekly). He was busy and engaged in his work during the time. He asked me if I could shoulder the responsibility of the weekly edition. Not sure, I replied that I could try. "I will not say a word about your chances for the appointment. However, if there is an appointment, then you should dress neatly," he said while I was about to leave the interview room. 

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In 1954, I won the first prize at the World Story Competition for my story 'Valarthu Mrighangal'(Pets). It was a competition organised by a network of major dailies in India. In Kerala, Mathrubhumi conducted the competition in the Malayalam language. I won the first prize in the second year of the competition. It is also worth noting that, the inaugural edition of the competition was won by KT Muhammad. I started to develop an interest and passion for journalism during that time.

In 1956, I joined Mathrubhumi. I was interviewed by the editor, KP Kesava Menon. I still remember that he had very poor eyesight. Meanwhile, NV Krishna Warrier was heading the Mathrubhumi Azhchappathippu(weekly). He was busy and engaged in his work during the time. He asked me if I could shoulder the responsibility of the weekly edition. Not sure, I replied that I could try. "I will not say a word about your chances for the appointment. However, if there is an appointment, then you should dress neatly," he said while I was about to leave the interview room.

I took the train to Kozhikode from Palakkad for attending the interview. I reached the railway station at 10 am, washed my face at the railway station and went straight to the Mathrubhumi office. By the time I reached there, my dress was all shabby. During that time, I owned only two or three pairs of clothes. Observing my shabby appearance, NV Krishna Warrier advised me that I should dress neatly.

When I first started working in Kozhikode, I realised that KP Kesava Menon was a public figure in Kozhikode. He was well known for his diligence and hard-working nature. He attends public functions and others without waiting for anyone. It is not common for him to get angry or irritated.

He often inquires to me about the opinions of others about stories published in the weekly edition. Someone once told him that there are inappropriate words used in a story. When asked about it, I replied to him that I have the authority over what I want in terms of the story. He accepted my reply as it is. He does not show any resentment at what is being said. That was his nature.

NV Krishna Warrier, who was the editor during the time, was always busy with writing and reading. Therefore, he was not a person who was willing to talk amidst his busy schedules. Despite being close to him, I rarely visited his house where he lived.

NP Muhammad, Thikkodiyan, KA Kodungallur, P Bhaskaran Master and Pattathuvila Karunakaran were in Kozhikode at that time. VKN (Vadakkke Koottala Narayanankutty Nair) also appeared occasionally. Akkitham Achuthan Namboothiri stayed with me for several months. There are also friendly gatherings with people like SK Pottekkat and Vaikom Muhammad Basheer. During the holidays and nights, I used to go to Deshaposhini, where drama rehearsals were held.

Krishnan Nair as Mathrubhumi's own man

There is also a need to share some light on N Krishnan Nair, who was the manager of Mathrubhumi. He was the one who played a key role for Mathrubhumi. As he stayed at Govindapuram, he walked to the office every day. Sometimes later, he travelled using a jeep accompanying CH Kunjappa and others. He was up to date on printing and managing the company.

During this period, Kuttikrishna Marar, CH Kunjappa and Madhavanar were working in Mathrubhumi. I had a good rapport with Kuttikrishna Marar. In poetry, there were Vallathol and Nalapat Narayana Menon factions at that time. Marar often sides with either of these poets though I was not interested in any of this. Madhavanar translated the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, and Kunjappa translated Nehru's works into Malayalam.

It is also important to remember the contributions of VM Nair in the growth of Mathrubhumi. He had experience working in big companies and had new ideas. It was his vision that led to the decision to start printing the newspaper from two different places at the same time. As a result, Mathrubhumi started printing newspapers in Kochi apart from Kozhikode.

Pressure as an editor

While working as an editor, one could have to bear a variety of pressures. I had similar experiences while working as an editor for Mathrubhumi weekly. The stress can vary depending upon the situation. It is also important how you handle it. I have a habit of openly saying things that are in my mind.

When you are working as an editor, it is worth noting that you should know what the reader wants or what to do to let them gain new knowledge. Editors' tastes should not be considered as the only criteria while choosing content. In general, I read a lot. However, I rarely go through scientific literature. However, it does not mean that I should not publish such content.

Further, the editors need to be vigilant in the contemporary world. The readers' tastes change from time to time. Unlike in the past, the readers gain knowledge about all topics in many other ways. In the past, newspapers and publications were the only sources of knowledge, but not today. Today, the challenge is very high, and it is very important to adapt accordingly.

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