V S Achuthanandan: No movies for 30 years, no school beyond Class 7, his first job was weaving coir mattresses
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Ironically, it was technology that helped him come back from the cold—into the warmth of the state's hot seat.
From a group of software engineers in New York who set up a website on him to anonymous SMS-ers, the entire campaign to re-elect him had one defining refrain: Achuthanandan (VS) is not against development and technology. In other words, he's not Buddhadeb's diametrically opposite pole.
The next days, weeks, months are going to test this but in one thing, the Kerala CM isn't so far away from the Bengal CM: his personal is fused with the political.
So if Bhattacharjee's two-room house has become a party symbol of austerity, VS's entire past is paraded as an allegory for his present and future. As a child who lost his mother when he was only four, his father at 11, he dropped out of school when he was in Class 7. End of education.Recalls a senior colleague at Deshabhimani, the party paper: "I once asked him why he, who loves to read so much, dropped out so early. He said he could have continued even without buying books but just didn't have the strength to starve in school every day."
The 12-year-old dropout then began helping his elder brother at a tiny village cloth shop. His first regular job: meshing coir to make ropes at a local factory. Since then, he has weaved a political fabric, art and craft in equal measure and today at 83, he is still doing it.
In the party, he's almost a mythic character, his hardline so hardline that for many in the party, it evokes more nostalgia than frustration. Even in his personal life, it's the hard line that he walks. A typical VS day begins with a 20-minute yoga session before dawn after a five-hour sleep. His personal aides say he doesn't waver from the routine: breakfast of three idlis, "a fistful of rice" and vegetables as lunch at noon, three rotis and a Robusta banana before 6 pm for dinner. The same menu, the same timing, day after day.
"A few months back, he mentioned in passing that he had not seen a movie in the last thirty years. I asked if he would let me take him to one and he abruptly agreed. We went for a commercial Malayalam movie that he sat through silently," says a close confidant. You won't catch him listening to music either — though he sprang a surprise on a TV programme last week, singing a 1960s romantic song.
He is a voracious reader, often spending almost every minute of his travel hours in it. The rear seat of his car is crammed with newspapers, periodicals and books. He, however, is not known to be particularly fond of any genre of fiction.
VS's wife Vasumathi used to be a nurse in a Government hospital, before retiring 15 years ago. His son Arun, a Master's in Computer Applications, is a Deputy Director in a Government institution in Thiruvanantapuram, daughter Asha is a Phd in Pharmacology—infotech and biotech is perhaps his next generation. -firstname.lastname@example.org
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