P. Aravindakshan, the versatile journalist whose career spanned almost 45 years, has left his imprint, on several branches of journalism in Kerala. Whether it is Malayalam or English,magazine journalism or daily newspaper, reporting or editing, Aravindakshan had a unique style which he preserved with felicity thoughout his career to the immense relish of his loyal readers.
After taking a high second class B.A.(Hons) Economics degree of the Madras University from St Josephs College, Thiruchirappally, Aravindakshan started his journalistic career as a Sub-Editor at the Indian Express, Madurai. His flair for writing and reporting however marked him out and he was soon being sent out on special assignments including the coverage of the Rmeswaram-Dhanushkodi disaster in which the landmark Pamban bridge was also washed out. The excellent comprehensive coverage of the tragedy brought much acclaim to the Indian express, especially from the government of Tamilnadu,which too had little idea of the dimensions of the tragedy in the initial stages. The loss of the Pamban bridge, with a train on it was first reported by the Express and was even deniedby the authoritiesw.Another assignment to follow was the reporting of the Saraswathy School collapse in which a score of girl students were killed. Those reports, which followed styles and angles unprecedented in the newspapers of the time, brought him the congratulations of none other than the illustrious. Frank Moraes,who was the editor in chief at the time.
The result was instantaneous, as Aravindakshan was soon taken off the desk and despatched as Staff Reporter to Kerala. After a short stint in Thiruvananthapuram, he undertook his main mission and moved on to Calicut to organise the Malabar bureau of IndIan Express which was the third bureau of the paper in Kerala. His regular beat was the whole of the erstwhile Malabar area, north of Shoranur.
It wil be no exaggeration to say that Aravindakshan’s arrival in Calicut in the early sixties, which synchronised with the arrival of two other veterans,K R Chummar of Malayala Manorama and L Subramanian of the P T I, redrew the news map ofKerala and put Calicut and Malabar on the national focus as well. In those days of acute food shortage, governmental instability, and political tumult, the news despatches from Malabar assumed much importance and Aravindakshan’s reports were keenly watched and appreciated by the readers and the power managers of the day as well. Those reports, analyses and interpretations contributed not a little to the state’s search for the correct political combinations and power balances which were to determine the destinies of the state and the contours of its public policies for several years to follow. Calicut also became the venue of several events of national importance. A string of momentous happenings and events, including the formation of the seven party front, its collapse and the emergence of the mini front, the national conference of the Jana Sangh, the first central committee meeting of the CPM,the Tellichery Pulpalli-police station attacks and the rise of the Naxalite movement in Kerala, the Tellicherry riots, the Kasargode disturbances,and the Guruvayur fire accident were but only a few of the events, reported by the one-man army of express in Malabar which got national and even international attention. For almost ten years ,Aravindakshan held the centre stage of the journalisitic circles of Calicut.
When the Kochi edition of the Indian Express was launched , he was again one of the principal characters setting the tone for its Kerala coverage. After a short stint at Trichur as Staff Reporter, he was called to head the Kochi bureau as Chief Reporter during the critical days odf the Emergency when Indian Express was the worst victim of the censorship regime and the official persecution. On many an occasion he was at loggerhead with the official censor. As the emergency was lifted, Aravindakshan was called to the State capital to shoulder still higher responsibilities as the capital news bureau chief and Special Correspondent. The Trivandrum reports, especially the assembly coverage, the political commentaries and analyses ,all assumed a new vigour and contributed a good deal to the setting of the political agenda of the state.
However, it was the idea of the then executive editor of the Express, Arun Shourie, which uprooted Aravindakshan and drafted him to Kochi as News Editor bdefore eventually taking over as Resident Editor. A reluctant Aravindkshan who preferred the reporting field rather than the editorial and its administrative responsibilities, was soon on the lookout for alternative assignments.That came his way when the Malayala Manorama launched its first English vehicle-The WEEK magazine. He was almost a natural choice for them as the lone Special Correspondent in Kerala, based at Trivandrum At the initial stagesof the magazine, Aravindakshan had a significant role in moulding its approaches and format besides covering Kerala and the neighbouring areas of Tamilnadu .It was during this period. But before long he was once again moved to Kochi as Senior Editor of the magazine.
It however came as a surprise when he was pitchforked as the Resident Editor of Malayala Manorama at Thiruvananthapuram to succeed the illustrious K R Chummar in 1994. Aravindakshan had no experience of Malayalam journalism till then. But he acquitted hiself creditably in that lofty position for almost ten years. He wrote in Malayalam with equal falicity as in English till then. His bylined commentaries and analyses were highly rated and contributed not a little to the setting of the political agenda of the state. It was even more surprising when he continued Chummar’s weekly satirical political commentary under the pseudonym,Parthan. That column too was a big hit with the readers as well as the powers that be. It continued for almost ten years—until he called off his career in 2004.
In between Aravindakshan also played an active role in the Trade Union of the journalists in Kerala, The Kerala Union of Working Journalists. He was in the forefront when the Kozhikode District unit was revived and re organised. First he was Secretary and then President, succeeding TKG Nair. The Kozhikode Pressclub movement was initiated, the land got assigned and the foundation stone for the building layed by then Chief Minister Achuthamenon, when Aravindakshan was President. Later he was also Vice President of KUWJ when M.Venugopal was the President. He was also active in the Trichur, Ernakulam and Trivandrum units of the Union. For one term he was president of the Trivandrum Press Club also.
Place of birth:Vatanappally, Thrissur district
Mother: Pulakkazhi Ammu Nessiar
Father: Palliana Kunhunny Kaimal
WIFE: Radha Chorinchath, Cherpu, Thrissur
Children: Ramachandran (Saudi Arabia), Mini ( USA ),Jayan Menon (Chief Reporter Malayala Manorama, Thiruvananthapuram)
In-laws: Anuja, Dr. Gopikrishnan Vasudevan, Remya
Education: East Hindu Elementary School, RC Higher Elementary School, Vatanappally, National High School, Engandiyur. St Thomas College ( Thrissur), St Josephs College, Thiruchirappalli.
Address: Chorinchath House, Cherpu ( West), Thrissur, 680573
E-Mail: [email protected].