I don’t remember at what age I started reading books. I always loved the books that were part of the school work and used to finish reading the English and Tamil books which had short stories, Non detail books, etc... even before the school year began. And then one day my sister and I stumbled upon the big, rusty Trunk potti. It belonged to my mom and she had loads of Tamil books in it. Pages torn from the Tamil magazines every week and neatly bound, sort of like a DIY novel! And I was hooked. I was too young to read "that" kind of books, according to my parents. I was 12. So I sneaked them to the bathroom or to school or to the terrace and devoured them. I have forgotten the titles and authors of so many books I read during that period of time but a few of them left a lasting impression. Here are some of them.
Paalangal by Sivasankari.
It was about three generations of women. I vaguely remember the story but I can say for sure that it was unputdownable. I love the details in her books. The elaborate way she describes the customs and the rituals of the older generation when a girl attains puberty, during an engagement, the wedding,... Its the same thing I have heard from my grandma a dozen times but when you read it, you wish you belonged to that generation where you did nt have a care in the world or so I thought! I got to get hold of this book soon. I wonder how I will like it after 18 years!
I remember another book "Naan Naanaaga" by Sivasankari which I read again recently. Its about a 40 year old woman who is bored after her sons go off to college and takes up dancing once again much to the shock of her family. A simple but lovely novel.
Kadal Pura by Sandilyan
My mom absolutely did nt want me to read books by Sandilyan until I finished my 10th standard, when I would turn 15. But her rule only made me curious and I finished Kadal Pura even before she found that the book is gone! Its a Raja-Rani story set in historic times and is an absolute thriller! Im ashamed to say I don’t even remember the story line. Another book, I am not sure if its Mannan Magal, was an amazing read too. I understand there are tonnes of more books by Sandilyan. Its time I pay a visit to a Book shop in Chennai the next time I go to India. I’m rubbing my hands with glee already at the thought of it!
Another book from my Moms Trunku potti was Pirivom Sandhipom by Sujatha. The teenage me loved this book. Is nt this the book with Kamal Hassan and Sripriyas photos as illustrations? Was this book made into a movie with them? I never found out. But loved looking at Kamals pictures while reading the story! I also read Aa and Karai Ellam Shenbagapoo. Don’t remember anything about the former except the title illustrations but liked the latter a lot. Pratap Pothan and whatshername completely spoiled it for me in the movie! His short stories, Srirangathu Dhevadhaigal are my favourites and I am hooked to his articles, Katradhum Petradhum, in Anandha Vikatan magazine.
Works of Kalki R Kirshnamurthy
Oh, where do I even begin? Kalki is my most favourite writer in the whole wide world. (Kalki and Roald Dahl to be honest!) I am sure every person who reads Tamil will have Ponniyin Selvan in their favourite list. What a book! Its a long story with five parts and it took me a couple of months to finish all of them. The last part I finished in a 10 hour flight without a wink! Its a book set in historic times and the amount of research Kalki must have done for this book leaves me absolutely dumbfounded. And since my birth place is Kumbakonam and I grew up there, I could imagine the places he describes, the temples he writes about and made me realize what a historic place I am from and how clueless I have been about the Cholas and their history. I am sure kids will learn a lot more if Ponniyin Selvan is recommended as a text book for schools instead of the boring history books! I am the proud owner of all the five parts.
I read Sivagamiyin Sabadham before PS which I found in our local library in the UK. This is the book which introduced Kalki to me and am I thankful to the library! Soon after, I bought Alai Osai and that’s another classic. I have read loads of articles and short stories by Kalki in the Kalki magazine and every time he proves what a great writer he is. Veenai Bavani, Sunduvin Sanyaasam, Kailasamaiyar Kaabara, ... Oh I can go on and on about his short stories. Some are so hilarious that I have literally rolled on the floor with laughter! A sample passage from கைலாசமய்யர் காபரா -
பாம்பை அடிக்க வேலைக்காரன் கொண்டு வந்த தடியைக் கைலாசமய்யர் பிடுங்கிக் கொண்டு பையனை அடிக்கப் போனார். நல்ல வேளையாக, அந்தச் சமயம் ஜோஷனாரா பீகம் வந்து குறுக்கிட்டதால் பையன் பிழைத்தான்! ஜோஷனாரா பீகம் என்றதும், சில பேருக்குச் சுவாரஸ்யம் தட்டலாம். ஏதோ இந்தக் கதையில் நவாபுகளும் அவர்களுடைய அந்தப்புரத்து அழகிகளும் வரப் போகிறார்கள் என்று நினைக்கலாம். அப்படியெல்லாம் ஒன்றுமில்லை. கைலாசமய்யருக்கு வடக்கத்தி ஹிந்துஸ்தானி சங்கீதத்தில் அதிகப் பிரியம். "பயமில்லாமல் கேட்கக் கூடியது ஹிந்துஸ்தானி சங்கீதந்தான்" என்பார். ரேடியோவில் அவர் அடிக்கடி லக்னௌ ஜோஷனாரா பீகத்தின் சங்கீதத்தைக் கேட்பதுண்டு. ஆனால், வீட்டிலே மற்றவர்களுக்கு - முக்கியமாக அவருடைய மனைவிக்கு - ஜோஷனாரா பீகமும், அவளுடைய சங்கீதமும் கொஞ்சமும் பிடிப்பதில்லை. எனவே, அவர்கள் வீட்டில் வளர்த்த ஒரு கறுப்புப் பூனைக்கு 'ஜோஷனாரா பீகம்' என்று பெயரிட்டிருந்தார்கள். இந்த ஜோஷனாரா பீகத்தைக் கண்டால் கைலாசமய்யருக்குக் குலை நடுக்கம்! அச்சமயம் அந்தப் பூனை வந்ததினால் தான் அவருடைய பையன் மண்டை உடையாமல் தப்பிப் பிழைத்தான்.
Is he a genius or what? I hope to read every short story written by him. Is there a collection of short stories by Kalki? Any book suggestions?
Though I have always wanted to read Mogamul by T Janakairaman, I started reading Sembaruthi last month at my sisters place. As you would have already guessed, I was hooked and spent more time reading the book much to my sisters disapproval. And that idiot would nt let me borrow the book. I could nt finish the book before I left. If I die without finishing the book, you know who will be haunting your bathroom, Sis? The book is set in the 40s and is about a young man Sattanathan Pillai and how he struggles to bring up his family which includes both his brothers family. It has an nice flow and the feeling and emotions of the women folk are surprisingly well told. I hope to finish it soon.
I have a love hate relationship with the works of Balakumaran. But his books have always made me think so got to give credit to this eccentric man. I would have read a dozen books by him, I don’t remember a single title. I would dislike him less if he stops telling women how to be a woman.
For the first time, I followed a story in Anandha Vikatan magazine. Usually I have always read the novel later after the book comes out. I have never read the thodar kadhai.(One chapter each week.) But this one was too engrossing. It was Karuvaachi Kaaviyam by poet Vairamuthu. I have always disliked the man for reasons unknown. May be many of his lyrics for the Tamil film songs irked me, I don’t know. I have never given him a chance. And then one day, I read the 3rd or 4th chapter in Vikatan and predictably, I was hooked. I followed the story religiously for around 40 weeks. Its quite thrilling to read a novel that way, a chapter a week. Its about a village girl, Karuvaachi and her depressing story and how she raises above it all. The illustrations by Maniam Selvam were apt. Every week, I saw the pictures and wondered what’s going to hit Karuvaachi next. (Trivia: Maniams Selvams father Maniam did the illustrations for Kalkis Ponniyin Selvan in the magazine) Especially this one chapter where Karuvaachi goes into labour and all alone in a deserted part of the village, the description of how she gives birth to her baby is amazing. I could nt help wonder if Mrs.Vairamuthu wrote that chapter. The entire story takes place in a remote village with village slang, their customs and traditions, their daily lives and to be honest nothing surprised me as I have grown up in a village myself and know what he is talking about to a certain extent. I am glad I followed this story from beginning to end and pleased that Vairamuthu proved me wrong about the impression I had on him.
I have read very few English books by Indian authors. Lots have said about those books too. So for the record, I LOVED God of small thing by Arundati Roy, Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri, Sister of my heart by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni(did not like its sequel, The Vine of desire though!) and RK Narayan of course!
Seeing everyones list has onle made me hungry to read more. Im sure Im going to spend a small fortune on books the next time I go to India. Thanks Desi Girl for tagging me. I am surprised I even remembered all the books I read 15 years back. Brought back loads of memories. Thanks again.
I tag UTBT, Priya, Terri, Kiran, Tharini, Gauri, Kodis Mom, Rohini, Sheela and Kowsalya. Take it up if you are interested guys! (Terri, no pressure!) And any one who wants to, of course. It would be great to read all your list and add to my alarmingly growing list of books to read.
One of the reasons it is tough for me to recollect all the Tamil novels I read a long time back is back then, I read for instant pleasure and was weary of getting caught. My dad thinks reading is a waste of time and was very strict when it came to his school going daughters. So I never discussed the books with anyone which is very important to remember them, if you ask me. I was always on high alert not to include myself in book conversations and none of my class mates read anything beyond Ramani chandran, Tamil Nadus answer to Mills and Boons. Oh, I read her too! :) And then of course once I went to college, it was only "Englees" books to look cool! Funnily enough, my dad never bothered to reprimand me if I had an English novel in my hand. Poor guy!
The Tamil translation of this post is here. How can I not write about the Tamil writers in Tamil, however finger breaking that ordeal is!