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July 16, 2007

My favourite Indian Writing.

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!


Anonymous said...

I am sure you must have stumbled by

If not chk out Kalki's books. They have all his books here.

This tag is making me nervous. Being out of touch with most of the new releases, I feel so outdated!

Kowsalya Subramanian said...

oh, Boo.. I have read all the books you had mentioned and your post made me really enthu about writing mine. You know what, I completed ponniyin selvan in 5 days - all the 5 books - breakfast, lunch and dinner all with the book in hand and I even did nightouts for 3 days to complete that book.. All my reading or catching up with novel is done on the "3 days" when noone can disturb me :) For this one reason, I never crib that I am not allowed to mingle with the family during that time :-)

Anonymous said...


Surprised you have not read "arthamulla hindumadham" by kannadasan...

an amazing work on hinduism and its meaning..

i am in the process of reading "ponniyin selvan" :)


B o o said...

UTBT - Yup, I have read some short stories from that site. But Im not able to read books online for a long duration. Really tiring.
And yeah right! As if this tag did nt make me realize how ancient I am? Except for Karuvaachi which came in the Vikatan, I have nt read one latest book.

Kowsalya - Consider yourself tagged. You finished PS in 5 days? Wow, that should go down as a record or something! LOL at the 3 days thing!

Srivathsan - My list is really silly. I have nt read loads of amazing books but I plan to catch up with at least some of them in my life time. I have read parts of "Arthamulla Indhumadham" as a thodar in a magazine. I believe in the saying "we dont choose the books, the books choose us". So Im waiting for that book to choose me in a decade or two! ;)

The Inquisitive Akka said...

I am ashamed to say that I can barely read tamizh but I read the english translation of Ponniyan Selvan and I totally loved it. I was threatening to name our future offspring Vandiyathevan much to the husband's dismay :)

Premalatha said...

Kadalpura is about Rajendra Cholan's Navy capturing Sumatra (and other indonesian islands (Java, Bali), cambodia and Lao). It is one important hostorical happening in the world history. Sandilyan concentrates on War-Ship makking and its intricacies.

Mannan Magal is about illegitimate child of Rajaraja chola who was actully the right heir to throne, whereas Rajendra chola actually gets the throne. The story is in Rajendra chola time. No heroine(!) in the story is the speciality of this one (considering Sandilyan ;-) ). The only woman Kundavai II, sister of Rajendra chola comes in the background.

Kariyellaam Sngappoo is one of my favourites too. The movie ruined it for me too.

Is Thariyail Irangum vaanangal by Sivasankari? I liked the concept of the story (that the hero appreciates everything and anything, iirc).

Kalki is not my liking. Accuracy is not strictly adhered in PS.

Should read Karuvaachi Kaviyam. Haven't heard about it. Thanks for the mention/reco.

I read books by hiding them iside my texts books and going to the terrace too, but my folks figured it out very soon. that actually relieved me from having to hide the discussions. Still had to hide while reading though.

English never attracted me until I come here, by then I have had lost the habit reading altogether. Have read some Agatha, J. Archer, and some not very popular writer's books. Do not have interests to read Namesake kind of books.

Loved Balakumaran's few books. Loved they way he portrayed intelligence and rebelliousness in his women. But later I started hating him too. Then I stopped reading him totally.

Have read Mogamul and Sembaruthi, but don't remember anything about them.

Pretty Woman said...

hey boo!
great post! BTW, Sivasankari is my mom's thickest friend for the past 40 yrs...will let her know! :)

Anonymous said...

Palangal still my favourite. Ponniyin Selvan, I finished it in a week, couldn't read during lunch since I had to go to work ;-) What an amazing novel...

Anusha said...

read that labor episode of Karuvaachi Kaaviyam when I was 3 months postpartum. could relate to every word. relived the pain in my mind. you're right -the excruciating details make you wonder how a man can write so. I really need to read more tamil literature..third language in school doesn't demand much of you!!

Sheela said...

B o o, i shall take it up with pleasure, perhaps in a week or so... thank for tagging me.

you know, the only 2 tamil novels i have read during my childhood are my mom's bound collection of "thodar kathai" in kalki/Kumudam that she collected and got bound into books: Sivagamiyim Sabadam and Ponniyin Selvan.

I haven't read many tamil books, unfortunately, but, do remember my Tamil lessons in school - and I am still awed by Thirukkural, believe it or not! I used to participate in the local Thirukkural competitions when I was little :-)

Sue said...

I read a collection of Kalki's short stories, translated, for reviewing, and was so very impressed. Sometimes I wish I'd learnt Tamil instead of Telugu.

B o o said...

Akka - I so wanted to name my daughter Nandini but cancelled due to a nosy neighbor of the same name! ;)

Latha - I remember the gist but nothing more. Like I said, its going to be fun when I go to India next time. From your description, I dont think I ve read Mannan Magal. Perhaps, it was Yavana Rani which I read. Got to check with my mom. Not sure about Tharaiyil Irangum Vaanangal. Have nt heard of it. Since Im very weak in history, cant defend PS. But it was an amazing read, nevertheless. You should read Karuvaachi if you get a chance. You will like it, methinks.

Pretty Woman - Wow! A celebrity friend! Wonder why theres no one in my family, friends! ;)

B o o said...

Yaadayaada - A week? And Im supposed to be a fast reader in my family! You guys are something!

Kodis Mom - Your comment makes me realize how little we know of each other in spite of the blog. I did nt know you read Tamil. that chapter was really something, no?

Sheela - My pleasure. Looking forward to read your list. Thirukural is amazing. Tamil classes were nt so bad now when I think about them! ;)

Sue - I love his short stories. What amazes me is his stories written so long ago are still so relatable!

Premalatha said...

I did like PS for its way of story telling. Particularly liked the episode in which Athitha karikalan gets killed, not that I am a weirdo who likes murders (which I actually do. I like murder movies :-) ), but because of the way he maintained the conspiracy and secrecies surrounding the murder.
I don't know much about history either, may be little more than many PS readers, but I didn't like the author naming the fictional character Nandhini, however sweet that name is, it doesn't (didn't?) fit with the period. Whereas in Yavanarani, Sandilyan didn't name his fictional character YR, just to leave it even more dreamy and to keep the period issue unaffected. Tiperius (hope the spelling is correct) was a real character, so he didn't have to bother much. He could have done some research to name the princess, but he left her without any name to make the character more dreamy. Whereas Kalki achieved it (the dreaminess, mesmerising everyone) by giving her a sweet name, but didn't bother to make it authentic to the period, which does not sound good for a great writer. if he is any writer that is fine, but to be a historical story writer, one has to do some research and has to have/display some more qualities than just story telling. that is my opinion of course.

mnamma said...

That is a really wonderful post of yours! Kalki was, and is, my most favorite author ever since I started reading his books. My all time favorites are Ponniyin Selvan, Sivagamiyin Sabadham and Paarthiban Kanavu in that order. I have read his other books too, like “Kalvanin kaadhali” and “Thyaaga Bhoomi” but I find “Ponniyin Selvan” the most fascinating. I did not get to read it until I was in college and I simply was bowled over, by his writing style. It is so endearing and brings alive all the characters in front of your eyes. My favorite character is VanthiyaThevan. Kalki added a lot of historical anecdotes in “Ponniyin Selvan” but they blended well with the story flow and like you said – History would be better learnt if these books were incorporated as text books or Non-detail. He also added these romantic little poems or sometimes a verse from Thevaaram in the course of the story, which made the reading much more interesting! I have not yet read Chandilyan’s works and those are high on the ‘to buy’ list when I visit India.
I have read some works of Balakumaran and Sujatha. I liked "Aah" and " En iniya Iyandhira" and "Anithavin Kadhalgal". En Iniya Iyandhira was also telecast as a TV serial but it wasn't half as interesting as the book. For that matter I feel that the movies based on a book doesn't work the same magic with me, be it in Tamil or English. That is fodder for another post altogether! I don't want to take too much of your comment space with my ramblings! Keep your posts going!

Anonymous said...

Looks like I am the fastest reader in the family...

Terri the terrific said...

Apologies, boo. I was tagged before, but compared to everybody else who sounds so erudite, I feel quite like the village idiot. I barely find time to read the newspaper these days. I need my old life back.

B o o said...

Latha - This is news to me. That "Nandini" is too modern for that period. Hmm...

mnamma - You are welcome to leave long comments! :) You are right. I could nt watch En Iniya Iyandhira as well. Names like Nila and Sibi are hard to forget! :)

yaadayaada - Are we related? No, seriously!

Terri - No need to apologize. Dont be so humble! If I can pull it off, anyone can! ;)

mnamma said...

I owe you a thanks Boo! for introducing me to Indian Mommies and the DesiMomzclub blogspot. I really enjoy reading all your blogs!

Anonymous said...

He He He...

The Visitor said...

PS is something that my other half is urging me to read ever since we got married, somehow the bulkiness thwarts me from getting started.
My favorites were more in the humor genre - Thuppariyum Sambu by Devan
- Appusamy and Seethai - Pakkiam Ramasamy
- Saavi's numerous stories - like Washingtanil Thirumanam.

Tharaiyil Irangum Vimanam - by Indhumathi was definitely a good one, the only one I can recall of Indhumathi.

Sila nerangalil, Sila Manithargal - Jeyakaanthan - a bit heavy, but that was a period when I considered myself hi' brow ;)

Then I vaguely remember reading Mercury Pookal by Balakumaran, though I cannot recall anything about the story.
Thaayumaanavan by Balakumaran was also a great read.

Sivasankari - There are too many to enumerate. One can actually see her writing mature over time.

And who can forget the family dramas of Lakshmi.

Sujatha - of course brought in a new style with his fiction. Nobody can match him in his genre.
More later...

B o o said...

mnamma - thanks. My pleasure!

yaadayaada - Now, whats that supposed to mean?

Visitor - HOW COULD I FORGET BAGYAM RAMASAMI IN MY POST? Wow! What a hilarious writer! I love his short stories and funny articles. I used to take tonnes of Appusamy books from our village library and read during summer holidays. I loved Thuppariyum Sambu too. Was "Mathura Vilas" by Lakshmi? That was a pleasant read. Sila Nerangalil... Movie was pretty good I think, thanks to Lakshmi. and Thayumanavan I ve read too and remember the TV serial with Chandrasekar as well. Was not bad. Now go start on PS. I inisit! :)

Anonymous said...

Boo- Please try Nice down-to-earth style of writing.. very realistic.

Anonymous said...

He He He... You know...

Goofy said...

Quite an old post to comment on Boo - but loved it. I am yet to start on this journey, having stuck to "Englees" books by virtue of "caanvent" education!
Soon. Soon. Soon.

And more importantly - I admire the way you make time to update the site and keep it going despite having your hands full all the time!

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