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This week I made yet another discovery in my attic. An old book of articles written by Tamil writer Thi Ja Ra (Thingalur Jagathratchaka Ranganathan). Most of these articles were published in Hanuman, an important Tamil literary magazine of the 1940s.

The book titled Pozhuthupokku (Pastime) boasts of having a preface written by Ki Vaa. Jagannathan (folks, remember Ki Vaa Ja? He was the editor of Kalaimagal magazine. The social media generation may have no idea about him. Hence this briefing).

Writing in simple Tamil is really a great art which was beyond the range of several writers of the last century.

Popular writer Sujatha once said, “If an association is started for writing simple prose, I’d be a lifetime subscriber. At present, Tamil writers think and write seriously and their writings feel labyrinthine.” He was referencing a writer’s lines published in some highbrow literary magazine. Those lines were as complicated and complex as multiple layers of noodles, meandering into what felt like eternity, challenging the readers to wrack their brains.

As my friend and publisher the late ‘Kriya’ Ramakrishnan said, such a heavily convoluted prose, though rich in thoughts and ideas, would be suffocating, setting off weariness in the minds of readers.

Popular writer Sujatha once said, “If an association is started for writing simple prose, I’d be a lifetime subscriber. At present, Tamil writers think and write seriously and their writings feel labyrinthine.”

By the way, a few words about my attic, called ‘paran’ in Tamil.

The paran is home to old bottles, vessels gifted to grand-daughters for their weddings by grandmas and great-grandmas, easy-chairs that used to keep grandfathers comfortable, mostly couch potatoes in the twilight of their life, three-legged chairs bereaved of one leg, a wedding blanket in tatters, walking sticks that walk no longer,  pickle jars whose insides are now full of cobwebs, moth-eaten postcards and inland letters dripping with affection expressed by close relatives…all memories and materials that sank into oblivion and are sleeping uncared for and unnoticed as rejects in the paran.

In moments of pure serendipity, my paran throws up books from a trunk of grandfathers’ times. The books, dog-eared and silverfish-eaten, now and then tumble out of a pile predating 1950 – a hunting ground of moths and all sorts of insects.

Also Read: From the attic: A 1957 book shows Periyar in new light

This column brings the books of antiquity to light, one by one. An intro about an old book and some excerpts make up this column.

(Note: Most of the books that figure in this column are out of edition. Yet sometimes as it turns out, some old books are found brought out in new editions. That can be forgiven as it will not be a regular occurrence).

The book Pozhuthupokku written by Thi Ja Ra takes the cake in breaking the stereotypes of cumbersome Tamil prose style. In fact, the reputable literary magazine Manikodi featured writers such as Stalin Srinivasan who broke new ground in simple and lucid prose that goes straight to the readers’ hearts. Among them was Thi Ja Ra, who wrote prose that, unlike the heavy jottings of other scholarly writers of olden days, is an easy read.

The book Pozhuthupokku written by Thi Ja Ra takes the cake in breaking the stereotypes of cumbersome Tamil prose style

Thi Ja Ra knew well whom he was writing for. So, breaking the fourth wall, he speaks rather than writes. Thi Ja Ra’s writings feel more like an interactive chat under a tree or on a parapet wall. Ki Vaa Jaa echoed these feelings when he said, “Thi Ja Ra comes across more as a conversationalist than as a writer, sitting in our midst, cracking jokes now and then and conveying messages unobtrusively.”

Let us see from the excerpts given below how the Tamil scholar stands vindicated.


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