Writer Su. Venugopal, whose works Paalkanigal and Aattam are just out at the Chennai Book Fair, captures human emotions in his stories

We see them on the streets, at bus stops, railway stations…They lead difficult lives; we can see it on their faces. A lot has been written on transgenders — about how they are ostracised in society, how they are forced to live as close-knit communities, away from the rest of the world. But what about their families? How do their relatives treat them? Are their mothers open to their choices? Do they get a share of their parents’ property? Do they find love? Writer Su. Venugopal explores the answers in his novella Paalkanigal (Tamizhini).

His family humiliates him; he is forced to live away from those he holds dear. But despite it all, Krishnan, the protagonist, refuses to give up. The novella tells the heart-warming story of the transgender in under 60-pages. It is an easy read. The author ends it on a poignant note that gives you hope — Krishnan, who yearns for love and acceptance, adopts a child as his own.

Paalkanigal tells you of its author’s deep understanding of the female psyche. This, explains, Venugopal, is the result of his growing-up days. A professor of literature in an arts college in Pollachi, Venugopal spent 28 years of his life in the village of Bodi Ammapatti. “I walked to school every day after working in the fields from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.,” he says. In the evenings too, he would dip his feet into the wet earth and work side-by-side with the field hands, who were mostly women. They would talk to him as they de-weeded the cotton plants.

He heard the love stories of the akkas and periammas; listened to their gossips and grew up on a dose of their secrets. “There were always some 20 women at home; they were always working. In the villages, 90 per-cent of the work is done by women,” says Venugopal. Their world opened up to him — this can be seen in his every written work.

Venugopal has written ten novellas, three novels, 70 short-stories and 100 scholarly essays. He is presently working on his Ph.D. The soft-spoken writer is silently churning out masterpieces from his home in Thondamuthur village near Coimbatore — his publisher Vasanthakumar rates him as the best Tamil writer at present.

Paalkanigal consists of two novellas; the other, titled Ezhaigal tells the success story of a Dalit teacher. Venugopal’s recent works also consist of the novel Aattam. “It is the story of a defeated man. He is a state-level kabaddi player who gives everything up for his marriage. But he fails in everything,” explains Venugopal. The novel’s title is a metaphor — it signifies life, a game that is full of surprises.

Venugopal is allergic to the computer — he writes with a pen. “I write a novel in one sitting. I do not re-write. Paalkanigal was written over two nights and a day.” If he does not transfer what is on his mind to paper, his body won’t let him be. “I write so I can sleep.”

Paalkanigal and Aattam are available at stall nos. 436, 437, and 749 at the Chennai Book Fair. It is on till today at YMCA College of Physical Education, Nandanam.