Dasan Mekkayail dies while holding his first exhibition in Kochi
by Shevlin Sebastian
Photos by Suresh Nampoothiri
On Saturday evening, Roopa George had gone to the Durbar Hall art gallery, Kochi, to view the paintings of her friend, Minu Ninan. After seeing them, Minu led her to the next hall. The moment, Dasan Mekkayail, 74, saw Roopa, he said, “You look like an artiste.” Which turned out to be true. Roopa is a Bharatanatyam dancer.
Then, Dasan took Roopa and Minu around and showed all of his 22 paintings, a mix of oil and acrylic on canvas, on show. The subjects included the power of the Goddess Durga, a boat ride through the Meenachil River, the beauty of the Athirapally waterfalls, Krishna's Vrindavan, and a loving embrace between two cows.
“But Dasan's Sir's notable work was against excessive drinking,” says Roopa. It is a painting where youths, of different castes and religions, are standing around, in a large ground. A group of women are watching mutely. And at one side, a man is hanging from a scaffold, but the lower half of his body is inside a large glass. There is an image of Mahatma Gandhi behind the man.
“This was Dasan Sir's first exhibition at Kochi,” says Minu. “He had invited me to come to Kozhikode to hold an exhibition there.”
And like a true artist, always on the alert, Dasan felt that Roopa could be a subject of a painting. “You are like a daughter to me,” he said, as he made her sit on a chair and began sketching her. After a few minutes, he looked up and said, “When I go back home, I will develop this.”
Unfortunately, destiny had other plans. On Saturday, at 10 pm, Dasan had a massive heart attack at his lodge near Ernakulam Town railway station. He passed away in minutes, even though he was rushed to Lisie Hospital by his wife, Sathi. At 5 am on Monday, the last day of his exhibition, the body was taken by car to his home town of Kakkodi in Kozhikode. The cremation took place in the afternoon. Dasan was a retired Senior Superintendent of the Kerala State Electricity Board. He leaves behind two sons, Sangeet and Nisheed.
“I am deeply shocked,” says Roopa. “Life is so unpredictable. He was such a nice man.”
(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi)