A musical writer

Posted in books, writers introduction by udoit on June 26, 2010

Lalgudi Saptarishi Ramamirtham is a Tamil language writer who is also known as La.Sa.Ra. During his teen-ages’, he was inspired by Ernest Hemingway  so he started writing short stories in English. He switched to writing Tamil stories, but his writing continued to possess influence of Hemingway. He wrote contemporary social stories based on Hindu mythology. This post discusses about his writing style and two of his stories.

Like Hemingway, La.Sa.Ra also used detached descriptions of actions to capture scenes precisely. He considered writing as a holistic ritual in which the stories manifested themselves. He wrote them as a transcriptionist. Thus, he gave more emphasis to emotions rather than his viewpoints. He provided materials to the readers to feel the stories as well as live with its characters. In an interview, he said that the readers’ tongues should burn when they read his writings about fire. In other words, he created different moods using words as musical notes. As a result, he wrote too slowly during his seventy years of writing tenure . He had written less in numbers (three hundred or so short stories) compared to his counterparts.

In the majority of his stories, he captured the emotions, frustrations, needs etc. of women. One such a story is “Parkadal” which means ocean of milk in Hindu mythology. I feel “Milky way” will be a good English title for that story. In that, he starts depicting heroine’s (Jagatha) melancholy, love, anger and sacrifice during the days when her husband leaves to a different town for work and she has to stay in the big combined family with her husband’s parents, grandparents and brothers’ families.  Then gradually, the focus switches to Jagatha’s mother-in-law in a fascinating, gripping plot. At the end, Jagatha feels that family as “Parkadal” from which the terrible poison and the “Amirtha” — the nectar of immortal life — were emerged.   In summary, he  illustrates livelihood of south indian (educated, middle-class) combined families using a series of detached descriptions of various events and a mythological metaphor.

Another story is “Uthrayanam” which means moving towards north in the Sanskrit language. This story deals with the final days of the Hindu mythological character Rama and his devotee Hanuman. In that story, Hanuman was reflecting on his experiences with Rama in solitude. At that time, Rama visits him and enquires about his thinking. Hanuman replies that he thinks that the whole point of his Avatar is to show the people the importance of their fathers’ words. Rama nods his head in agreement. People (usually men) leave their home and goes towards north for solitude during their final days in Tamil culture. By naming this story as “Uthrayanam”, La.Sa.Ra showed his command in Hindu mythology as well as his mastery in Tamil culture.

La.Sa.Ra is the first Tamil writer who used sequence of scenes’ descriptions to depict the stories to his readers like a movie. He wrote stories and columns based on his real life incidents and experiences besides contemporary social stories based on Hindu mythology.  Incidentally, he received India’s highest literary honor award “Sahitya Academy Award” in the year 1989 for his collection of autobiographical essays called “Chintha nathi”.