Thursday, 5 September 2013

A Reader, Writer and Traveler

Writer S. Ramakrishnan in a chat with me

At a time, when many strive to complete their academic education to seek a secure job and settle ‘peacefully’ in life, it is very strange to know that eminent Tamil writer S.Ramakrishnan discontinued his PhD in English in fear of getting a job for a lucrative salary!

Implying how the mundane life could confine a writer within the bounds of his family and job, S. Ramakrishnan, who was in the city recently, said:

“Had I completed my academic research successfully, I would have lost much in life ending up reading, writing and traveling”.

Ramakrishnan is an author of numerous books, which include novels, collections of short stories, essays, plays, children’s literature and translation works.

Sharing his early literary influences, the writer says that he was brought up between two different intellectual environments at home, which helped him understand both atheism and theism.

“My father, a staunch rationalist and atheist, used to discuss Dravidian ideology and progressive literature with his friends at our home, which was named as Periyar Illam. On the contrary, my mother, an orthodox Shaivite, talked over theology and Bhakthi literature there!” he says.

However, as the destination of both the ideologies is the development of Tamil language and Tamil society, Ramakrishnan’s family environment provided him knowledge in both spheres and ignited his passion for writing in Tamil.

Ramakrishnan, who has earned lakhs of readers through his writing, says that he developed an interest in fiction by reading comics, even while he was a boy in his native village Mallankinaru at Virudhunagar. Moreover, he even made his own hand-written comic books and circulated them at a local library during school vacations.  

“I would also leave a blank page at the end of my comic books to receive feedbacks from the reader” recollects Ramakrishnan.

A script writer for about 15 Tamil films, the author says that writing screenplay is something mechanical, as it is done on compulsion and deadlines.

“But, writing a short story or a novel is left to my choice. I can either continue writing, or even discard, if I don’t like writing it” differentiates Ramakrishnan.

Quoting his favourite authors as Charles Dickens, William Faulkner, Willa Cather and Emily Zola in European and American literatures and  Rabindranath Tagore, Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay and many others in Bengali literature, Ramakrisnhan points out that he read modern Tamil literature only after reading the foreign authors.  

“Later, when I wanted to know whether there were any writings in modern Tamil literature similar to ones in Bengali, I found them in the works of Pudhumaipiththan, Thi. Janakiraman and Jayakantan” avers S. Ramakrishnan.

Asked about the popularity of literary activities in Coimbatore, Ramakrishnan informs that Kongu region is the birth place for many philanthropists, who patronized plenty of Pulavars in the Sangam era.  

“ In a world, where writers are hardly given due respect, Coimbatoreans once honoured great Tamil writer Pudhumaipiththan by taking him on the elephant’s back across the city, when he came here to address a literary meeting!”  

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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