His wife’s pyre burns, he receives Padma Shri


Shantha succumbed to cancer on Tuesday morning while in Delhi to receive the award

Writer Balan Putheri, one of the Padma Shri recipients for 2021, couldn’t smile when he accepted the honor from President Ramnath Kovind in New Delhi on Tuesday.

The pyre of his wife, Shantha Kadavath, was still smoldering when Mr. Balan received the award with shaking hands. Visually impaired for more than a decade, Mr. Balan had wanted to have his wife by his side while accepting the greatest honor of his life.

Tragic loss

But her hopes were dashed Tuesday morning when Shantha took her last breath after a long battle with breast cancer.

The news of his death shocked him. It took him some time to come to terms with the reality that he couldn’t even attend his funeral which took place on the family land of Karipur, near Kondotty.

“It was with a heavy heart that he allowed us to move forward with the funeral,” said his younger brother Santhosh Putheri.

Santha’s funeral began at 3:30 p.m. and the pyre continued to smolder even as Mr. Balan received the award. He was accompanied by his older brother Damodaran.

His 20-year-old son Ramlal was unable to join him in New Delhi because he suffers from visual and mental disabilities. According to his itinerary, Mr. Balan is due to return home on Wednesday evening.


The death of his wife, who provided vision and support for his life despite her eight-year battle with cancer, turned his biggest day into one of the darkest.

Yet he did not cry, with the firm conviction that it was God’s design.

The world of Malayalam writers was taken aback when the Union government announced the 2021 Padma Prize winners in January. Mr. Balan, one of the six Kerala Laureates, was not so well known in Kerala literary circles. But his contributions to temple literature were commendable.

He has published 213 books, most of them on Hindu mythology and temple rites. He made a living selling these books in temples and places of religious gatherings.

Mr Balan’s selection for Padma Shri had drawn criticism from a section of writers who claimed he had been awarded due to his affiliation with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Not hardcore

However, Mr Balan denied the allegations saying he was not a die-hard RSS man, although he supported the ideology.


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