Sumathi Ram has won the Tamil Nadu Government Award for her poetry collection ‘Koditta Idangalai Nirappudhal'

Oru naalum palli paerundhil

Yaetri vidaadha

Appa vaaikkappatta magal

Paarthu vidakoodadhu

Perundhirkaaga kaathirukkum

Than magalin palli seerudaiyai

Sari seidhu kondirukkum

Aetho oru appavai

This poem titled ‘Praarthanai' from Sumathi Ram's ‘Koditta Idangalai Nirappudhal' (Filling The Blanks), roughly translated says, ‘A girl whose father does not see her off at the school bus, should not see a father lovingly adjusting his daughter's uniform at the bus stop.'

The poetry collection won Sumathi the Tamil Nadu Government Award for modern poetry for the year 2010 from chief minister J. Jayalalithaa this month. “I'm happy that I received the award,” says Sumathi. “But I wrote it for my satisfaction. I didn't expect it. More than anything, it earned me more readers and paved way for new friendships.”

‘Koditta Idangalai Nirappudhal' is a record of a doting mother's observations about her little girl. Sumathi lives with her 10-year-old daughter Shri in Coimbatore, away from her husband Ram, a film director. “The child's and my yearnings find form in the poems,” she says. In fact, Sumathi first set out to write poems for her husband to tell him how she felt about living separate lives.

“But when he read the poems, he saw them as works of literature and took efforts to get them published,” she smiles. Sumathi says that people connect with the poems since there are many who live far away from loved ones due to the demands of work. “It's nice to see that some readers draw comparisons between the poems and their lives,” she says.

It was her husband Ram who encouraged her to write, says Sumathi. “He introduced me to books during our days at The American College in Madurai. He wrote a lot of poems and short-stories and I sent them out for publishing. I also took the liberty of editing his work at times.” Sumathi gradually started writing herself — some of her poems and short-stories were published in literary magazines. But it was only in 2010 that her poems came out in the form of a book.

Dinner-table conversations, her daughter's antics with her pet dog, the naïve questions she pops up with time and again…Sumathi's poems are both funny and moving. “I wrote what I saw. Nothing in the book is imaginary,” she says.

Sumathi is currently working on a novel. “It is about the lives of people from villages who migrate to the metros to earn a living.” A short-story collection is also in the pipeline.

A collector who read poet Vennila's poem about the lack of proper toilets in girls' schools was so touched that he ensured that toilets were built for schools in his district. Says Sumathi, “Like Vennila, I too want to make a difference in society through my words.”

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