Writer and filmmaker M.T. Vasudevan Nair, popularly known as ‘MT’, is one of the most illustrious
cultural icons of modern Kerala. Chronicling the decadence of a magnificent and uninterrupted
agrarian civilization in the lush county side of central Kerala, his novels and short stories won
him the Juanpith and several central and state Sahitya Akademi awards. MT’s work as screenwriter
and director is Indian cinema at its finest.
To readers in English this book of memories and stories offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a
literary master who recollects the people, places and ideas that inspired his stories. Featured in
this collection are anecdotes, accounts of journeys, a homage, meditations on the literary craft,
personal photographs and such classic stories as ‘The Soul of Darkness’ and ‘Elder Sister Oppol’.
M.T. Vasudevan Nair was born on 15 July 1933 in Kudallur village in Kerala and was the youngest of
four brothers. He began to rite very early in the life, and his short story ‘Valarthumrigangal’,
written while he was a student at Victoria College, Palakkad, won the first prize in the World
Short Story Competition conducted by the New York Herald Tribune.
He went on the win several literary awards, including the Central Sahitya Akademi Award for his
novel Kaalam (1970); three Kerala Sahitya Akademi Awards: one for the novel Naalukettu (1959), the
second for the play Gopuranadayil (1978) and the third for the short story ‘Swargam Thurakkunna
Samayam’ (1981). He was given the prestigious Jnanpith Award in 1995.
Vasudevan Nair has been associated with Malayalam cinema since 1965. He has directed six feature
films, three documentaries and television serial. He has directed six feature films, three
documentaries and television serial. He has written forty one screenplays, and many films based on
his screenplays have won national and state awards. His first film, Nirmalyam, which was written,
produced and directed by him, won the Presidents’ Gold Medal in 1973. He won the National Award
for the best screenplay thrice: for Oru Vadakkan Veeragatha in 1989, Sadayam in 1990 and Parinayam
in 1994, and the National Award for the best film twice: Kadavu in 1991 and Oru Cheru Punchiri in
He was conferred the Padmabhushan by the Government of India in 2005.
He lives in Calicut in Kerala.
Gita Krishnankutty has a doctorate in English from Mysore University. She has a number of
translations form Malayalam to English to her credit, including Cast me Out If You Will, a
collection of short stories and memories by Lalithambika Antharjanam (1998), several short stories
by M.T. Vasudevan Nair and two of his novels, Kaalam (1998) and Naalukettu (2008). She is the
author of A Life of Healing: a Biography of P.S. Varier (2001). She won the Sahithya Adademi Award
for her translation of N.P. Mohammed’s The Eye to God (1997), the Crossword Translation Award for
M. Mukundan’s On the Banks of the Mayyazhi (1999) and for Anand’s Govardhan’s Travels (2006). She
lives in Chennai.
To my mother, M.T. Ammalu Amma (1903 – 53)
She never knew what her youngest son kept scribbling all day during the vacations, in the room
upstairs in our pathayappura. All that bothered her was that the kerosene lamp burned too late
into the night – kerosene was always a scarce commodity.
I had a few stories published while she was still alive. Again, she knew nothing about them.
She is very much there in most of the memoirs and appears directly in some of the stories in this
collection. And her presence can be perceived in the background of the rest.
It was she who narrated to me the youthful marital, adventures of the old grandmother in the short
story ‘Vision’. We children were frightened of Velayudhettan (‘Soul of Darkness’), who was put in
chains in the woodshed of the house next door to us. His family was closely related to us.
Everyone said he was insane. One evening, there was a huge commotion outside. People kept shouting
that Velayudhan had broken his chains and escaped. I was five or six years old at that time. I saw
him walk towards our house, dragging the chains on his feet. Mother came to the portico.
Velayudhettan smiled when he saw her and asked her for some rice to eat. Mother asked him to sit
down in the veranda and served him a meal. He ate well and walked away calmly.
She did not live to see her youngest son make a career in writing. He picked up many of the
characters and events that feature in his work from the endless stories she use to narrate to her
after – dinner audience of women from the neighbouring houses and shored them secretly in his mind
for future use.
This book is for you, Mother. Bear with me.
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