Great books born from life experience: Kerala JCB operator wins literary award
Akhil got the recognition for his collection of short stories — 'Neelachadayan', published in 2020.

Great books born from life experience: Kerala JCB operator wins literary award

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Without a considerable amount of life experience, great books will not come into existence.

Here’s the story of a JCB operator from Kerala who won a prestigious literary award, rising from the hard reality of life.

As the Kerala Sahitya Akademi recently announced the winner of its coveted annual award for literature, it also put the spotlight on the tale of resilience of 28-year-old Akhil K who moonlighted as a writer.

Fittingly, the remarkable journey of creativity comes from the southern state which has often been hailed for the highest literacy rates in the country.

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Akhil is the recipient of the prestigious Gita Hiranyan endowment award for the year 2022, instituted by the Kerala Sahitya Academy.

The Kannur native, who discontinued his studies after plus two, got the recognition for his collection of short stories, ‘Neelachadayan’, published in 2020.

“I feel happy for the recognition I received. This was not expected,” Akhil told PTI and detailed his struggles for publishing his first literary work.

Even though his work as a JCB operator during the day was tiresome, Akhil still finds time in the night to pen his thoughts and story lines.

He had to discontinue studies in order to support his family comprising his parents, brother and grandmother but his love towards the world of literature was kept alive.

Dearth of publishing opportunities

However, beneath the remarkable achievement of a daily wage worker bagging a prestigious literary award, there lies a harsh reality that plagues aspiring writers — securing publishing opportunities.

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“For almost four years, I had approached numerous publishers and magazines to publish my work. Some of the publishers liked the stories but told me that they may find it difficult to market it as I am not a known name in the field,” he said.

‘Neelchadayan’ was first published after Akhil saw an advertisement on Facebook offering to publish a book if the author pays around Rs 20,000.

“I had some Rs 10,000 saved up. My mother, who is also a daily wage worker, helped me to gather another ten thousand rupees and we paid to publish my first book. It was for online sale only,” he said.

The book was not on sale at any bookstore in the state and didn’t create any impact.

He added that ‘Neelachadayan’ got recognition after screenwriter Bipin Chandran shared a positive thought about it on Facebook.

“Later people started asking for it at bookstores and the publication started. Now the eight edition is in print,” Akhil said.

He added that the endowment by the sahitya academy will be an inspiration to budding writers.

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“It is often challenging for debut authors to gain visibility and attract readers and break into the publishing industry,” he said, adding that publishers turn down many original, well-crafted works in favour of more marketable names in the field.

Financial hardship

Growing up facing financial hardships, Akhil drew inspiration from the people around him.

“I started working as a newspaper delivery boy from a very young age. To support my family, I had to go for multiple jobs including sand mining from the rivers which happens late in the night,” he said.

I meet a lot of people in my daily life, I observe them and listen to their various experiences, he added.

Working as a sand mining worker in the night and the early morning newspaper delivery, Akhil found himself almost alone in the dark most of the time. He found solace in the world of storytelling, using his imagination to dispel the fear of the lonely nights.

“In order to overcome the fear and loneliness of the nights, I started imagining stories based on the experiences I have heard or seen during the day,” Akhil said.

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He had authored Story of Lion in 2021 which is based on Theyyam, a ritual practiced in northern Kerala and Tharakanthan in 2022 which is a Ramayanam-based story. Both the books are currently published by Mathrubhumi Books.

Akhil’s nights became a canvas for creative expression and his triumph over adversity serves as an inspiring tale of determination and passion for writing.

(With agency inputs)

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