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"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Last updated
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A Tribute to Grandpa - Nandhu
Noted Tamil litterateur Sundara Ramasamy dead... "Chennai: A leading contemporary Tamil writer Sundara Ramaswamy,74 died at California in the United States early on Saturday 15 October 2005. He is survived by his son Kannan, present Editor of the revolutionary Tamil literary magazine ''Kaala Chuvadu'', and a daughter...

A prominent literary critic, Ramaswamy was the founder-editor of the magazine. He had been suffering from a lung ailment for quite some time. He was staying with his daughter in the US when the end came. The body will be brought to India and the funeral would take place at his native place, Nagercoil in southern Tamil Nadu, Kannan said from Nagercoil.

Winner of the Katha Chudamani Award, Sundara Ramaswamy had authored several novels, including ''JJ Silakurippugal'' and ''Puliamarathin Kathai'' (Story of a Tamarind Tree), which were considered watersheds in the history of Tamil literature. Both were translated into English. He had also written more than 100 short stories, notable for their conscious experiments with form.
Sundara Ramasamy on Puthumaipithan
சுந்தர ராமசாமி - Wikpedia
Poems by Basuvaiah (Sundara Ramasamy)
 

 


One Hundred Tamils of the 20th Century

Sundara Ramaswamy
சுந்தர ராமசாமி:
வாழ்க்கையும் படைப்புகளும் 
[see also Tamil Language & Literature]

Biographical Sketch - [courtesy RR at Chennai Online], 22 June 2004

Sundara Ramaswamy: was born on 30th May 1931, in Thazhuviya MahadevarKovil, a village in Nagercoil). At 20, he began his literary career, translating Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's Malayalam novel, Thottiyude Makan into Tamil and writing his first short story, 'Muthalum Mudivum', which he published in Pudimaipithan Ninaivu Malar.

He was influenced by the works of great reformers and savants like Gandhiji, E.V.Ramaswamy Naicker, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Dr.Ram Manohar Lohia, Dr.J.C.Kumarappa and J.Krishnamurty. He met the great literary luminary of Malayalam, M.Govindan, in 1957 and remained his good friend till the end. In 1952, he met the charismatic Communist leader T.M.C.Raghunathan. He was influenced by Marxian philosophy. His relationship with the literary magazine Shanti, edited by Raghunathan, and his joining the editorial-board of Saraswathi, edited by Vijayabhaskaran, also an ardent Communist, were decisive in his growth as a writer.

His talent manifests itself uniquely through his novels. Oru Puliamarathin Kathai (The Story of a Tamarind Tree, 1966), his first novel, was well received as a work that proved to be a new experience both in form and content, extending the frontiers of Tamil novel and creating new perspectives. He gave up active writing for nearly six years; and when he began again in 1973, he had gone far beyond executing an interesting and agile narration.

He still remained a stylist, but his concerns took new directions and his language acquired a solid texture, retaining a powerful and pointed humour.

Oru Puliamarathin Kathai has been translated into English (Tale of a Tamarind Tree, Penguin India, New Delhi), Hindi (Imli Puran, Nilakant Prakashan, New Delhi), Malayalam (Oru Puliyamarathinte Katha, D.C.Books, Kottayam) and into Hebrew language (by Ronit Ricci, Hakibbutz Hameuchaud Publishing House, Tel Aviv).

In 1959, he wrote his first poem, "un kai nagam" under the poetic pseudonym 'Pasuvia' and published it in Ezhuthu. Poetry brought him the experience of a dimension beyond the concreteness of words and their meaning. The early poems were rigorous in language and heavy in tone. His poems gradually became more translucent and immediate. All his poems are collected in the volume, 107 Kavithaikal.


A Note on Sundara Ramaswamy's Writings -  S. Ramakrishnan
at Kolam - a Mirror of Tamil Culture, Volume 2, 1998 -  Institute of Indology and Tamil Studies University of Cologne Germany  

"Sundara Ramaswamy who has written poetry under the name Pacuvayya is perhaps the most important writer today in Tamil. His earlier short-stories, with which he began his writing career, influenced by Marxist philosophy transcended the rigid perceptions normally seen in such writings in Tamil at that time and revealed his natural instinct for both form and style.

Ramaswamy is by nature a stylist. His inspiration derives partly from Pudumaipithan, the writer who ushured in modernity into Tamil literature. Right from the beginning, Ramaswamy developed for himself a unique sense of narration, marked by a keen sense for local languages and honour. Thus, his stories were delightful and compelling. His first novel Oru Puliyamarattin katai ("Tale of a Tamarind Tree") extended the frontiers of Tamil novel and created new perspectives on novel.

Sundara Ramaswamy suspended active writing for nearly six years; and when he resumed in 1973, one found a different Ramaswamy whose considerations outgrow those for an interesting and agile narration. True, he still remained a stylist, but his concerns took new directions and his language which ceased to be soothing and amusing acquired a solid texture yet it retained a strong feel for humour, only now more powerful and pointed. It was in this phase that he wrote his stories in the "Palanquin Bearers" volume, and later an outstanding novel "J.J. Some Notes". This novel defied all the notions prevalent in Tamil writing about the concern, form and language of a novel. It eschewed narration, brought in a tone of intense meditation on the quality of human life and the problem of remaining human.

Ramaswamy started writing poetry in 1959. His urge for new poetry stemmed from the condition of Tamil poetry which, in spite of the great poet Subramaniya Bharati in the early decades of the century, remained weak and which was heavily regimented by the classical prosody. Also poetry brought him the experience of that dimension which was beyond the concreteness of words and their meaning. The possibilities inherent in poetry were challenging.

As a poet, Ramaswamy's output, though not quantitatively vast, is very significant. Fundamentally, his is a mind of a poet, and what his poetic sensibilities could not capture in poetry, one may say, spilled over to prose. In fact it is more difficult to speak about his poetry. His poems are a severe questioning into one's existence, perceptions, conflicts, tireless but often defeated search. The early poems were rigorous in language and heavy in tone. But gradually, his poems became more translucent and immediate. Often, he adopts a discussive tone. His poems are not rhetoric; his language usage has set new directions and possibilities.

Almost all of Ramaswamy's writings have appeared in little magazines which though reaching limited readership have sustained serious literary work in Tamil during the last fifty years. Ramaswamy has also contributed significantly to the disciplines of literary criticism and essays. He has translated poems from English and novels from Malayalam. Ramaswamy has travelled widely; he was a participant in the Indian Poetry Festival in Paris. He has visited Malaysia, Singapore, London and Toronto for talks on literary topics.

Ramaswamy has translated from Malayalam into Tamil Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai's Cemmi and Tottiyue Makal and short stories by Thakazhi, Basheer, Karoor Neelakanta Pillai and M. Govindan. He has also translated a few poems of N.N. Kakkad. He was awarded the prestigious Kumaran Asan Memorial Award for his collection of poems Naunici Noykal .

A Tribute to Grandpa - Nandhu
 My grandfather Sundara Ramaswamy, who died over a month ago, leaves behind a rich legacy shaped by his written works -- novels, poems, short stories, critical essays.

But for me, he was just Grandpa.

My earliest memories of him are of a bald man sitting in his room, a wall entirely made of glass, loudly dictating Tamil words to the clang of the typewriter. Sentences would jump out of him, the typewriter would struggle to keep up, and words would start again. When permitted inside the room, I always found it boring in a few minutes.

He was strict and unapproachable, more in my imagination than in reality. I spent most of my holidays in his house, but I tried hard to avoid him. There would always be some small sin I had committed that he was bound to pull me up for. His idea of playtime was colouring books, mine included violent games, the victim usually being my brother.

I detested Tamil and never read anything outside of school work. His first short story that I read was a little known translation into English of Stamp Album. When I told him about it, he was surprised and asked for the book. He didn't realise that the story had been translated. That incident left no impression on my mind. I thought compared to Sherlock Holmes, Stamp Album was nothing.

Then for years, he was absent from my life. I rarely visited my grandparents and for a time it seemed like I didn't know them anymore. My father would keep mentioning JJ: Sila Kurippugal in his conversations about books. After one such conversation, I dusted a heavily marked first edition copy of the book from the loft and looked at it. I had never read a Tamil novel before and I seriously doubted I would read this one. The first sentence on JJ's death was striking. I was curious about how a writer could start a novel with his main character dying right in the first line. I kept reading and over three or four days finished the book.

I realised then that books do change your life. And for the first time in years, I wanted to meet my grandfather. I went over to his place and told him that I had read JJ. He wanted to talk but I grew shy. He said he would like to suggest a couple of books that I might like, but I somehow slipped away.

Years later, after my mother died and father became ill, I moved to my grandparents' home.

I read a lot of him during this time which gave me the confidence to ask him questions about his work, his idea of creativity and virtually everything under the sun. I joined him in his evening walks and we would have long conversations. Looking back, I realise that I was more naive than I thought I was and he was more patient than he needed to be.

He had a mind that always thought things through. He could, with great style, incisively analyse issues, a quality that make his essays valuable. But there are aspects to him like his conversations -- funny, clever and poignant -- that went unrecorded. He also laughed like no one else, his facial muscles completely loose, his mouth wide, his eyebrows as if frowning.

I remember talking to him when he had just begun his third novel -- Kuzhanthaigal Pengal Angal. From random conversations to the manuscript to the published book, the creative process was fascinating. He approached it like a 10 to 5 job. Even 10 minutes away from his work affected him badly.

It was as if he had tons to say even after 50 years at it. He would always keep grumbling about distractions that keep him away from work. He had a spirit that wasn't easily suppressed. From the way he exercised in the morning till in the night when he read himself to sleep, he displayed an enthusiasm for life that I envied.

One of the first things that my uncle Kannan did around the time he revived Kalachuvadu, the literary magazine, in the mid 90s, was to publish my grandfather's collection of poems. Unlike his other works, the poems kept growing on me with every reading. When dramatised or sung, these poems reveal a dimension to them that make me marvel at their writer.

He was in great health when he wrote the short stories collected in Maria Thamuvukku Ezhuthiya Kaditham in 2003. It's hard to believe that barely two years later, he is no more.

When news that he had been admitted to hospital came, I grew restless. His voice when he had last spoken to me had been really subdued. Even after seeing his body in the casket at the funeral, the reality of his death never hit home. It was unreal to see people crying unabashedly and to walk among showering petals to the cemetery alongside his body.

My relationship with him was in many ways unfulfilled. I had somehow deluded myself to thinking that he would always be there. Today, I regret deeply that
another conversation with him is impossible.

The day after his funeral, my six-year-old cousin imitated my grandfather's ritualistic arrival at the dining table for lunch. The door of his room would open, my grandfather would emerge humming a tune and walk the few feet to the large hall, switch on the fan and sit in his regular chair. None of us would look at the time. It would always be 1 pm.

Most people, I think, go through life without ever having a shot at what they really want to do. My grandfather decided in his teens that he wanted to be a writer and pursued that path with rigour. Amidst all this sorrow, that's one thing that makes me happy. Happy of his fulfilled life and our unfulfilled relationship.

என் படிப்பனுபவமும் படைப்பனுபவமும் - சுந்தர ராமசாமி, 1999
Why do I write?...  நான் எனக்காக மட்டும் எழுதக்கூடியனாவாக இருக்க வேண்டு மென்றே ஆசைப்படுகிறேன்... together with English Translation by Nadesan Satyendra
A Note on Sundara Ramaswamy's Writings -  S. Ramakrishnan 
Some Jottings (JJ: Sila Kurippugal)  "..  is nothing less than a thoroughgoing critique of Tamil culture and society and by extension, much more. With the pretext of talking about the Malayalam literary world, the novel delves into a deep introspection of Tamil culture. Wrestling with the pressing philosophical questions of its time, it provides insights into ideas, institutions and individuals, and the souring of idealism. Despite the generally adverse reaction to it from fellow writers and critics, the novel has continued to capture the imagination of young readers and writers. Sundara Ramaswamy stands unique among his generation of writers, in being still taken seriously by new readers..."
Reflowering in PDF -First published in Tamil as “Vikasham” in the Tamil edition of India Today, January 31 – February 5, 1990.  Sundara Ramaswamy won the Katha Award for Creative Fiction in 1991, for this story. India Today (Tamil) received the Journal Award for first publishing this story in Tamil. The Katha Translation Award went to S Krishnan. This story first appeared in English translation in Katha Prize Stories 1, 1991

“Reflowering” is witty, engaging and enormously positive. A very humane story, that brings to mind the fact that while a machine may increase the efficiency it can be no match to the thinking, feeling, caring human being. – Adoor Gopalakrishnan

பசுவய்யா: வாழ்க்கைக்குறிப்பு - கிருஷணன் நம்பி, 1975
 திருவள்ளுவர் என்னும் நண்பர் - சுந்தர ராமசாமி, 2000
*Tale of a Tamarind Tree
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