Thursday, September 29, 2011

Indira Parthasarathy – Sirukathaigal (short stories)

The book is a collection of short stories by Indira Parthasarathy, who is a renown Tamil writer and playwright. When I decided to pick up this particular edition, was not sure if I had read his previous works, though had a faint memory of having read, maybe years back.  In the recent past, find myself being pulled into Tamil works, good ones, as if to appease the guilt, I seem to have harboured right from my teen years.

 Opted for French in my final years in school, as foreign languages, seemed to lure you like no other. Tamil was so ‘local’, of course when compared to its more romantic and alluring counterpart! Well, so when most of my friends used to spend hours labouring through their Tamil literature and grammar, we the lucky few had a heyday, skimming and dilly-dallying with basics, a la l’ecole, le garcon, la fille, and and by the end of the course, found myself bursting with pride, that I could dash off a decent letter, all in French, even if it be to a Bookseller, to order quelques  livres!

Well, back to the book in hand, was thoroughly impressed and even inspired by the writing. The style and content speaks of infinite command and mastery over the art of storytelling. Very powerful yet subtle. Silences brimming with intensity.  Characters with morphed rage and lust, vice and greed. Characters with pain, borne of abject poverty and self damnation. They’re all there. Reverberating hollowness amidst the opulent class, stark bleakness that strangles the lower class, and the just about surviving, caught-in-the-middle class, are elicited, through sensitive and intricate character sketches. The author sustains the anticipation of the reader by presenting in each story, a surprise element, either in the form of content or the persona he portrays.

So many images rush through my mind, as I try to recollect or list a few of them. The father with his 10yr old daughter, on a hot sweltering Sunday noon awaits a bus, to take them home; what transpires then, seem  to reinstate the absurdity, of trying to make a decent living, holding on to your mores.  A soft spoken aspiring poet forced into a marriage of convenience, in a quirk of destiny transforms herself into a thumping success; her friend though tries in vain to search for traces of the lost someone. Are some things lost forever, overridden in pursuit of success? The flashy call-girl who turns up as the friendly neighbour, the conniving politician, making a fool of himself before a phirangi, the ever faithful manager, quitting because he finally realises what it is, to stand for what ones very being believes in. The list is endless, and the characters are endearing, each in their own way.  

Another feature of Indira Parthasarathy's writing is that, the social issues, inconsistencies, delusions, codes, pressures, are brought out vividly, through the eyes of the protagonist, in accordance to his state of mind prevailing then, at that point of time. This helps the reader to totally identify himself with the situation, and the plethora of thoughts and emotions conveyed, making the reading process a very genuine experience, to be savoured and mulled over at leisure.

I would definitely recommend the book to all Tamil readers, and there seem to be translated versions available too. Seriously thinking of looking up his other award winning works, especially Kuruthi punal, the Sahitya Academy winner. Glad this quest for Tamil books, has turned out to be a rewarding and satisfying one, so far.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A different Life

During my stay in Trichy, this August, had an opportunity to get to know about a NGO organisation, New Life. It was a brief acquaintance and my association did not yield any fruitful results from my side. Was not able to contribute my time or help in a concrete, worthwhile form. But, it did leave an indelible mark. It opened up the fact that, there exists sections of society which we are totally unaware of,  or rather choose to be unaware of, and there is another faction of society who silently serve this neglected, but much in need-of-help section, who exists, camouflaged in every corner of our nation.

New Life carry on their services with the help of Donors and Sponsors but volunteers who pitch in, make all the difference I would think. When they gave me a brief sketch of their projects done so far, and the ongoing ones, I could see the level of commitment and sustained work put into it wholeheartedly. The successful attainment of several goals, achieved within a well knit network, reaching across a huge population in and around Trichy, holds testimony to this.

One of their projects involve identifying children who live in an environment deprived of moral or emotional support, an environment highly conducive to development of delinquent habits. This identification is done with help from Police Department, and subsequently these children are in a sense adopted by New Life. It is seen to that, the child completes his school education, atleast up to High School, and he or she is equipped vocationally, to enter society as an independent and productive member. This effort is greatly laudable as the follow up  is a long drawn process, which involves several hurdles, socially, economically and emotionally. Thanks to New Life which has consistently and effectively been carrying on this project for the past 15 years, there has been instances of many individuals, who lead a successful and meaningful life, head held high.

I have just touched upon a tip of an iceberg with regard to the services done and people's life being touched upon by Service organisations. But it was very heartening and inspiring to visit the centres and be an observer of the changes that are, and will be taking place in the chidlren's lives, instilling hope and self-belief, and heralding a promising, bright New Life.

This post is a part of BlogAdda's Bloggers Social Responsibility (BSR) initiative. I am exercising my BSR. You can too with three simple steps. Visit  and support the NGO's.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Taste of History

This Summer vacation did not have any major trips, but it was dotted with short and interesting trips around Tamilnadu. It started with, visit to Madurai, followed by Nagarkoil, Thirupurankundram and culminating in Kanyakumari. It was a pleasant trip, and Nagarcoil being a relatively new place to us, was exciting to get acquainted with the little town, which seemed to be an interesting fusion of Kerala and Tamilnadu! Kanyakumari as always was awe-inspiring, and a sense of calm and peace descends, while you are there. 

Another mini trip was made to Tanjore, which is hardly an hour's drive from Trichy. The highlight was, our visit to Saraswati Mahal Library and another museum nearby. The Library is a very old one, dating back to 16th century, started by the Nayak kings; but it was Serofji II, a Maratha king who out of his sheer passion for language and books, collected a huge collection (60,000 volumes), of old and rare books, in French, Dutch, Russian, Tamil and Marathi tooIt was truly amazing to see the collection of old palm-leaf manuscripts, illustrated medical books, detailed maps of old cities, (London, Moscow, Tanjore - how they had such clear aerial perspective was beyond comprehension), caricatures of rulers, common man, historic monuments, all preserved for posterity. 

The neighbouring museum was very interesting too, filled with works of art, on stone and metal. The exquisite skill was amply evident, and we were almost carried back into the world of the ancient dynasties. The mueseum was housed in an old structure as you can see here, which was used by kings or maybe noblemen as abode of residence, we presume. It was fun climbing our way up along the dark, narrow staircases, on either sides, all the way  to the top floor. A multi-storeyed building with perfect architectural symmetry, and provisions for numerous carved windows and niches, which opened out to the lushy green fields of the Chola land. Could almost imagine the pretty princesses and maidens peeping out, and chasing each other down the stairs! 

By evening, reached the Periya koil (Big Temple), or the Bragatheeshwar Temple, a renown structure in South India, built by Raja Raja Cholan in the 11th century. The vimana of this temple is very special, as the structure does not cast a shadow at any point of time! 
The huge Nandhi idol found outside, is made from a single stone, which is said to weigh more than 25 tons.The place was teeming with tourists and local visitors, and as the sun went down,  everyone seemed to be filled with a sense of being a part of history. And me for one, was glad, my children, were there with me to partake in this special moment!