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Blend of fact and fantasy

PRAKASH PARAYATH

Sethu, winner of the Vayalar Sahitya Award this year, feels that a book is a partnership between the reader and the writer.


No book is complete when the writer completes it. It becomes complete only in a reader's mind.

Photo: H. Vibhu

CREATIVE RAPPORT: Sethu says he has a loyal group of readers who travel with him in his literary journey.

In today's competitive world it is not easy to attain excellence in any field. When a person simultaneously scales the peaks in two areas that are as diverse as chalk and cheese it is nothing short of incredible. The winner of the prestigious Vayalar Sahitya Award this year, Sethu, has managed to reach the pinnacle in the literary world as well as the banking profession.

"I am happy to have won this coveted award. I was amazed by the prompt and wide coverage given by the media on the day the award was announced. I feel that such coverage will instil interest in the common man to read such works," says the writer

After having had his first short story published in a Malayalam magazine in 1967, this writer rose quickly to become one of the harbingers of the `New Wave' in Malayalam literature in the Seventies. But while many writers faded away, Sethu has stayed on at the top echelons for over three decades. A winner of many awards like the Kerala Sahitya Akademi award and the Padmarajan award, he has now won the Vayalar Award for his novel `Adayalangal.'

Sethu joined State Bank of Travancore as a probationary officer in 1969 and worked there for 25 years. Then he moved on to two other banks before capping his career with a six-year stint as Chairman of South Indian Bank until he retired in 2005.

Juggling careers

"Many have asked me how I juggled two diverse careers for over 35 years. I have managed it without much difficulty. Time was never a constraint. What matters is how you prioritise. I never had to write under compulsion or write for a living, since I had another profession. Whenever I had the urge to write I created time. For example, `Adayalangal' was written entirely during my tenure as the bank chairman," says Sethu.

He adds, "People often ask me if writing is my hobby. It is not. It is a much more serious affair, a painful process where you often internalise a character's tensions and trauma."

He feels that today's youth are obsessed with the flippant kind of campus-oriented programmes on television.

"In the Sixties and Seventies, the campuses had a large number of serious readers who discussed and analysed books. But today serious reading among the youth is on the wane. But I am optimistic. This must be a passing phase, as it proved to be in the West."

This is because he feels that a book communicates in a unique one-to one fashion with a reader, generating a creative rapport between the writer and the reader.

"A reader reads in solitude. Each reader finds a new meaning based on his imagination and interpretation. In fact, it is a partnership between the writer and the reader. No book is complete when the writer completes it. It becomes complete only in a reader's mind."

His stories are noted for a delightful blend of fact and fantasy right from `Pandavapuram' in 1976 to `Adayalangal' in 2005.

Has he ever experienced a conflict between self-expression and communication?

Loyal readers

"Never. As I said, each reader becomes the writer's partner during the reading exercise. I have always had a loyal band of readers who have travelled with me in my literary journey. I have often been fascinated by some readers' interpretations of my works."

And he adds, "I have never compromised on my writing style. I have found that the realistic method of narration will not always suffice to narrate a story. That is why I bring in myths and legends into my writing. I do not do this consciously. It comes on its own during the process of writing. The writing evolves. The writer is often in a trance. This is the ultimate ecstasy for a writer. It is an exhilarating "high" that one experiences during a creative process. This is what a writer lives for."

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