When Vaikom Muhammad Basheer was honored with D.Lit by Calicut University, he told Punathil Kunjabdulla, "You are the doctor for skin diseases. I am the actual Dr Vaikom Muhammad Basheer!!"
Punathil Kunjabdulla, who passed away Friday, was one rare genius who came to the literary field from medical profession. However, he never followed the prevailing norms in literature.
His intense experiences, candid writing and beauty of the language combined to give Punathil a singular voice in Malayalam literature.
His friendships and literary get-togethers in Kozhikode played a major role in shaping the writer in Punathil. It was the time when Kozhikode used to live and breathe literature in the company of leading luminaries, including Uroob, Thikkodiyan, N.P. Mohammed, U.A. Khader, Akkitham, K.A. Kodungallur, M.V. Devan, Artist Namboothiri, Sukumar Azhikode and N.N. Kakkad.
M.T. Vasudevan Nair had always been his mentor. “My only guru, both in life and writing, is M.T.," Punathil used to say.
Writing was a passion right from his childhood, when he devoured the writings of Pottekkat, Thakazhi, Uroob and Dev. His first story was - 'Kalyanarathri' (wedding night). He sent it to the children's section of Mathrubhumi. M.T. used to handle the children's section too then. Punathil was taken by surprise when the story appeared in Mathrubhumi weekly, not in the children's section but in the general section.
Punthil always believed that a writer has wipe off dust that clings to his feet and travel like a prophet. “Take in all the experiences, except suicide," he had said in his usual witty self. "I have never waited for a subject or a concept to start writing. I wrote about experiences that didn't come my way.”
The story 'Jeevashavangal' is a great example. “The main character in the story was a worker in the college I studied. He used to take care of bodies. He keeps all the bodies that come there in tanks filled with formalin. Every day he takes them out and gives it to students to dissect them. Finally, what he got was his lover's body. She had committed suicide -- that too carrying someone else's fetus,” he had explained how the story travels.
How does he define a writer?
“A writer is like any other human being. He is someone who mingles with people from different walks of life, travels through the ups and downs of life. However, being a writer I transform my experiences into delightful stories. I get inspired by people and events that surround me." He created Karakkad village from Madappally’s Uralunkal village for his 'Smarakashilakalil', he had said.
He was a writer who could combine dreams with reality and take readers on a captivating journey.