MY WORLD, MY WRITING
Like any other person living in this world I am also a social animal. Hence it is quite natural that my writing is my world and vice versa. But it is not a photographic portrayal. Instead, from the outer world somehow I reach my own inner world and my recreation is from this inner world.
As a child in a middle class family, my early childhood world was limited to a small circle- home, street, nearby drama theatre, school, a small river in front of the school, and temples and ponds. Shyness and lack of self-confidence hindered me to a certain extent from mingling freely with the people around me in those days, although members of our family and neighbours were large in number, I think so.
Sensitiveness, imaginative nature, and a habit of keenly observing of things that are unimportant to others lead me to a kind of restlessness and emotional impact. Even from those early childhood days I felt affected by trivial and trifling events around me. May be this trait was inherited. Naturally, I could not but escape to find out an outlet for expressing my responses and reactions to the actions and the activities of the world around me.
I was born (26-4-1938) and brought up in the capital of a princely state (Travancore) whose southern boundary is Kanyakumari District. My maternal grand parents and other relatives live in interior villages like Padmanabha puram-Thuckalay, Thiruvithancode, Eraniel, Colechel etc in this district-within a small radius of the capital. Only after 10 years of my birth i.e. in 1947 this state merged with Indian Union.
Though I grew in a house consisting of my father, mother, brothers, sisters, and paternal grand- mother (widow), my frequent and close contact with the large number of the people in the neighbourhood and the grand parents and other relatives living in the nearby villages mentioned above expanded my world to a great extend.
In addition to all these, now I remember, during evening hours of those days, our street was filled up with the sweet waves of music and dialogues coming from the nearby drama theatre. Besides, I occasionally witnessed not only classic songs and dances but also folk songs and dances from the main big temple in the city and nearby small temples. The beauty of nature, sudden changes in the seasons and particularly the two rainy seasons in a year, are also catalyst agents in keeping the aesthetic elements in me alive. These are some of the facts and figures of the scenes of my world-environment to rekindle and inspire the hidden artistic talents within me.
The folk tales and songs, stories and poems from our ancient legends (purana), the affairs and happenings in actual life heard from my grandmother, mother and father fostered the writer in me.
My path to reading and writing through the alphabets of languages starts from my school days in the forties. Though we people speak Tamil in home and family circles, Malayalam is the spoken and official language here. In school, Malayalam is the first language and English is the second one. Hindi is compulsory for us. After the state reorganization on the basis of languages Kanyakumari District has become Tamil Nadu. It is an irony that we Tamil people here are strangers in both of these languages and states since the Tamil we speak here has a Malayalam accent and the Malayalam we use has a Tamil accent. In spite of a feeling of isolation haunting me from my school days I started reading stories, poems and classics that I came across in Tamil, Malayalam and English. Simultaneously my raging appetite forced me to engage writing too.
Even now I have no idea to pinpoint any specific reason for my starting of writing in that early boyhood days in Tamil though my acquaintance with both Tamil and Malayalam are equally good or bad. May Tamil (?)-even if it is spoken colloquially in our house and family circles as mother tongue and hence more fluent to me be a reason, I think so now.
Writing poems, stories, plays for children, enacting some of the plays with my young friends in the street, editing manuscript magazines were some of the literary activities in those days. Simultaneously my solitary raptures with books and periodicals began during my student days. Public library in our city helped me for this. I have been reading books of poems, fiction, dramas, essays etc in Tamil, Malayalam and English as well as translations from Russian, French, Bengali, Hindi and other Indian and foreign languages. The overall effect of what I read enhanced my innumerable impulses on the real world and people around me by which an inquisitiveness to know life in all its realities-beauties and ugliness overwhelmed and made me restless.
Even from those early days, though not always, I have had a feeling of hollowness. Perhaps, I cannot find out any specific reason for this phenomenon of mind. But, now I guess, because of my witnessing the deaths that occurred in our family and neighbourhood houses and also closeness to people not only of my age but also elder ones a feeling have been developed in me that there are many things in this world, which cannot be reached and explained by our material means alone. Hence even while dealing with the lighter or romantic moments in life my natural inclination is towards serious and critical matters.
I don’t want to analyze here the specific inspiration and root cause around my world for all my writings, though which is laborious and tiresome I have repeatedly expressed in my speeches and interviews on some previous occasions. In this forum I am just trying to recall or rethink loudly the essence of such crucial moments in my creative world.
Every individual has his or her own mental moulding by birth or by the compulsion due to the strong influence of the surroundings or circumstances of the world where he or she lived in his or her early years. A writer is not an exception .Of course, this state of mind may shape or reshape by the deep real experiences in life in the course of elapsing of years. Although his experiments and explorations on various techniques, processes and other up-to-date ways of expression are changed according to time and space, his basic mental moulding may not undergo any major or revolutionary change. Hence, if one carefully analyze or distil and filter all the major creations of a writer he can find out that they are repeatedly encircling or wandering within the radius of that writer’s particular basic mental moulding though the forms are different.
I am now 73 and nearly 60 years in the writing field. In this some what long span of literary career, I have to my credit 20 novels, 11 collection of short stories, 4 volumes of poems, a collection of plays and 11 collections of essays—all in Tamil, besides a novel, 5 collections of short stories, a collection of poems and a collection of essays written in Malayalam, and a volume of essays and a poetry collection in English. In addition, some translations from Malayalam to Tamil and Tamil to Malayalam. I have consciously tried to avoid the imitation of myself in these works even from the beginning. I shall just mention specifically in brief hereunder some of my major novels in Tamil (7 numbers).
In sixties-nearly half a century back I began to write Thalaimuraikal (1968) (Generations). This novel was the outcome of the hazy impressions of social life of a world around me in my very early childhood. Here there is earnest attempt of the present generation to seek a strong foothold where the past and the future meet by which I can have a close look of my society of that period enabling a comparative study. Then, my next novel Pallikondapuram(1970) (Where God sleeps) came. It was entirely based on different aspects-mythology, historical background, geographical details, social and political realities-setbacks of yester as well as contemporary periods of my home-town where the Lord sleeps and where I was born and brought up. Next my major novel Uravugal(1975) (Relations). Distinct from Thalaimuraikal and Pallikondapuram, in this novel total experience is portrayed through father-son relationship in a hospital atmosphere. Nowadays as the joint family has given place to the nuclear family, may be this portrayal of that father-son relationship in this novel, a traditional as well as timely concept of the sacred value of the family, if not of the joint family, is sought to be revived.
Differing from my previous 3 novels, my next novel Vattathin Veliye(1980) (Outside the Circle) which deals with the world of technocracy that has to be guided by the practical wisdom is also bound by the red-tapism found in the bureaucracy. Again a few of the hidden seeds began to sprout from my sub-conscious mind and they came out as another novel Therodum Veedhi(1987) (Chariot Road).Though the world portrayed here is a dream world, it reflects not only the sheer bitterness that pervades life but also the intervals of relief that go with them. This novel was woven round the central figure Kathiresan who was born 10 years before India attained freedom, lived only 40 years in free India and at last died in his 50th year. The basic theme is the struggle for existence and the need to establish oneself as an average Indian, who has no backing or support on political or other grounds but who is supposed to be a free citizen with equal opportunities in a country that proclaims that all chains of slavery are broken.
In my next novel Koondinul Pakshikal(1995) (Birds in a Cage) the quest for self-realisation in the spiritual sense that resounded in my first major novel Thalaimuraikal reached in its ultimate fulfillment I think. It is neither escapism nor flight from the society, but it is an entity of society itself and not cut off from the society. One does not renounce the world and preach the negation of charity towards all and malice towards none. However, its writing changed me thoroughly as a writer and individual and I attained tranquility of mind that leads me to a relief or rest to my creative urge. Though I have handled with understanding and compassion not only in the above novels but also in some of my earlier short stories old people or senior citizens to whom I have a soft corner from childhood, when I too have gradually reached old age I felt that there are many live problems of them, which deserve treatment with a humanitarian and psychological approach. Thus nearly after 13 years Ilai Udhir Kaalam(2005) (Autumn Reveries), my next novel is born.
Before concluding, I may tell a few words about my translations also. As I mentioned earlier, though I began to write in my mother tongue Tamil it is quite natural that I could not neglect Malayalam, the language spoken by the majority people of the outside world even from my young age. Hence, along with my translation of my own heart felt agonies and feelings of my inner world in to words of my original writings I am inclined to translate the writings of others that affected me from one to another of these languages I know, simultaneously. Thus, I translated some of the Tamil stories of the stalwarts like Mauni, Ka Naa Subramoniam, Nakulan and some of the younger ones in to Malayalam and published under the title Kurukshetram(1976) and other 2 anthologies in Tamil (1985 &2000) contained my translation of famous Malayalam writers. Also Ayyappa Panikkar’s poems (1999, 2002) and Basheer’s novel (Mathilukal (1966) have been translated by me from Malayalam to Tamil and published. As far as I am concerned translation is more difficult if we do it seriously and sincerely. In original writing I have my freedom, ease, joy, but in translation it is not so. In spite of this, I know we cannot avoid it to interact with the souls of different cultures of this land of diversity.
After traveling this long literary journey, may I call it as a pilgrimage? I understand that even if the world around me is appeared me somewhat hurting and against my will and pleasure, everything I wish to be within me, I have to bring out those qualities by positive thinking and concrete imagination. I am trying continuously and constantly to affirm and practice this all these years, I think so.
I shall conclude this by reciting the English translation of one of my small Tamil poems;
Kavi Yogi (Saint Poet)
As he uses to exhaust his emotions and feelings
lavishly on even petty matters to others
a man of letters asks him to write poems.
Writing and writing of poems
his emotions, feelings and urges
have become more sharpened,
intense and harden.
Why not you divert your attention on yoga
to control your emotions and urges?
Asks a yogi.
On immersion in yoga
all his emotions and urges are
more sharpened, intense and harden
with the self strength- soul power.
Now with the unquenched
emotions, feelings and urges
poems and yoga too
dissolved in his life
விரையம் செய்வதைக் கண்டு
கவிதைகள் எழுத எழுத
யோகத்தில் முழுக முழுக
உரம் பெற்ற ஆன்ம பலத்துடன்
உணர்வுகளும் ஊக்கம் பெற்றன
முற்றிலும் சமனம் அடையா
உணர்ச்சிகள் உணர்தல்களின் கூட