October 01, 2020
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'Death! Here I Am'

This time, after many "battles and victories over the arrogant and obstinate character called Death," the noted journalist and author finally gave in. "But am I going to give in that easily?" he would ask rhetorically. He didn't.

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'Death! Here I Am'
It's been a tragic time for Indian literary landscape. Three titans from three different languages - first Nirmal Verma (Hindi), then Amrita Pritam (Punjabi) yesterday and today, V.K. Madhvan Kutty (Malayalam) - have passed on in the span of a week.

A Padma Bhushan winner, Madhavan Kutty was conferred the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award in 1991. He was awarded 'Swadeshabhimani Puraskaram' in 2002 by Kerala government for his contributions as a journalist.

When we interviewed him in 2001, his book, A Village Beyond Time, was on the shortlist for the Crossword Book Award. But he had held forth on the subject of death, the subject of his next book which he had then tentatively called Curtains Not Yet. "It is a book about survival, " he had said. "Death is the main character and I am the other":

I have been amused by the way death has chased me time and again. After a number of attempts it tried to trap me once in mid-air. There was this air crash on May 31st 1973. I survived that miraculously. I vanquished him. Then 20 years later he caught up with me again. But again I slipped out from his clutches. Before I was through with celebrating that triumph of mine, he appeared yet again, ambushing me from behind the bushes. But am I going to give in that easily? I am firm in my resolve. This one thing in my life that I (and only me) am going to decide. Not Him. The book is all about my battles and victories over the arrogant and obstinate character called Death. I am, in fact, very excited about the project

Born in Palakkad, Madhavankutty began his journalistic career in Mathrubhumi in the 1950s. He came to Delhi as the Chief of Bureau and went on to become the editor of the Malayalam newspaper. And thereafter, he launched the successful satellite channel Asianet as a founding director. A known figure in the cultural milieu of Delhi, he had authored 16 books in Malayalam, including two novels, several short stories and memoirs

But he thought of himself as a journalist first. That's how he said he wished to be remembered. Like "Hemingway, Marquez...". "My works in journalism are also literature so how does that leave me out?" he would counter, when reminded that the two stalwarts are remembered as authors first.

Our interview with him in 2001 had ended with these words from him, "For the time being it is a battle. Death! here I am. Ready for a fight to the finish."

He breathed his last at 9.35 pm at Escorts Hospital, where he was put on ventilator on October 31, after a heart attack. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

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