VKN’s Sir Chathu surfaces in digital illustrations

By S.Anandan
(Published in The Hindu, Kochi:, February 25, 2016)

“The Sun is not allowed to rise before Sir Chathu wakes up.” That’s how the legendary writer VKN has illustrated his conceited, sneering character Chathu Nair as a representative of the self-righteous Kerala gentry.

Nearly 12 years after VKN’s passing, Chathu surfaced recently in the social media as a bossy school teacher in a series of digital illustrations made by award-winning poet and teacher P.P. Ramachandran.

“May I come in, Sir?” asks the Sun, wedged between the mountains, before showing up in the first drawing of the series.

Mr. Ramachandran was trying out the digital pen on his cell phone when the idea of an illustration around Sir Chathu dawned on him. “I thought of the Sun as a lazy, mischievous student, a habitual latecomer,” he says.

The illustration received a whopping response when he shared it in a whatsapp group, Njattuvela, where poets, writers, cine actors, and singers are members.

Eventually, he thought up Sir Chathu as a lethargic riser in a laidback world and the Sun soon became a naughty boy playing tricks to wake him up.

An early riser, he shared successive illustrations in the series at daybreak on whatsapp and facebook, much to the amusement of his friends.

The ubiquitous morning crow suddenly became a constant in the drawings, where the Sun, still surfacing from the mountains, reflected on several things in pure, unadulterated joy.

It lost the way to the east once in a ‘drunken’ stupor; forgot to wear the hat of radiance another day; got showered in the crow’s droppings; hinted at the controversial solar scam by referring to the Kathakali padam, ‘Oorjithaasaya…’ rendered by Hamsam (swan) to perk up the King Nala in Nalacharitham; forgot to show up one day; recited the dawn poems of Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon; paid tribute to ONV Kurup; and bade an ominous adieu on February 19.

Reminiscent of a poem by Mr. Ramachandran, the mountain ranges had by then turned into the ridgeline of high rises from where the Sun was scooped out by an earth mover, bringing an end to the impressive series. His friends and well-wishers lapped up all of it, and were instantly sad at the Sun’s sudden demise.

“It was a morning exercise for me — a moment of instant wonder while I was at it.”

As a child, he used to draw, but colour blindness eroded his confidence as he grew up. “I would not have attempted it had it not been for the medium,” he says.