Friendship with Chudamani Raghavan inspired and motivated like none else did…
My friend, noted Tamil fiction writer, R. Chudamani has passed away, leaving me shocked and shattered.
She was a rare beauty who walked this world. Lovely of mien, charming in manners, lofty in thought and firm in her ideas - that was Chudamani. Every time I met her, I felt I had attended a course at a university. She was a fount of knowledge. She could discuss any subject right from literature to mysticism. Her background was such. Though confined to her house most of the time, her mind reach was extraordinary. She was kindness personified. I had always wanted to get closer to her but an esteem, verging on worship prevented that. My relationship with her was like an impressionist art work, legible only to the artist and the connoisseur. I happened to see, years ago, a line drawing – a few gold-yellow silk strands on a square of black velvet; it was so suggestive of hidden mysteries. Gradually the painting revealed two ladies reading a book by a table lamp. I almost heard their sotto voce rapport, their tie of friendship, the silence of their surroundings. My communion with Chudamani was somewhat like that: though what was voiced was little, there was an unspoken but complete understanding. Every time we met, I had to school myself to tear away from her. Volumes can be written about this queen of short stories. It is some comfort that the literary world had acclaimed her work in her lifetime. Every story of hers is thought provoking and has a psychological background. Her felicity of expression is apparent in every word she wrote. Even the shortest of her stories, pregnant with meaning, speaks volumes. I am not able to single out any particular work, every one of them is a gem. Chudamani hated giving interviews; ‘Let my work talk; why should I?' was her stand. She could write both in English and Tamil. Her prize winning novel published in the Tamil magazine, Kalaimagal, was praised by one and all for her insight into human relationships. Another novel, Yamini, was about a young maiden very conscious of her dark complexion. This book that stands out as a beacon of her brilliance has been translated into English by Vasantha Surya. Chudamani was always appreciative of her fellow writers. We admired and appreciated each other's writings. We were no rivals, though.
Pillar of strength
I have gained much from my association with her. I would be ungrateful if I did not mention a signal help she proffered me. After I lost my husband, I suffered a mental block and became completely apathetic to the pen. The writer in me had died, I thought. And when after fifteen years of silence, I wrote a novel, I could not go further than the first twenty chapters. The block was at work. I threw away the manuscript. I told Chudamani about my predicament, when I met her next. She at once took me in hand. She argued and augmented her words with a similar experience her mother had had. She convinced me. I started to write again, though very reluctantly; I completed the novel. I told her that it was in deference to her kind advice. She magnanimously read through my manuscript and approved it. The book got published after two years. I forgot to ask her for a foreword and I wrote no introduction, either.
We fell ill almost at the same time. Our telephone conversations became infrequent. We had almost lost contact. Now her end has come to me as a bomb blast.I am grateful to God who gave me such a strong hand-clasp in Chudamani. May God rest her soul.
Anuthama, aged 87, is a senior writer with many novels and short stories to her credit.