“I would like to complete at least five more novels in Kongu Tamil,” desires M. Natarajan, Associate Professor of Tamil, CBM College, Coimbatore.
One who has been writing for more than three decades and the author of 13 books, mostly in the Tamil spoken in Kongu region (Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Namakkal, Salem, Karur and Dindigul districts), he has dabbled in various genres but stuck to novel as his major medium of expression. More than 90 of his research essays have also been published.
He believes in the philosophy of the famous Tamil writer Jayakanthan: “Yarukku enna theriyumo, adhaithan ezhuthavendum” (one should write about what he knows). “This has made me stick to the regional dialect I am familiar with. Besides, I believe in presenting only fact.”
“Literature should help man progress at least by a step and imagination should be integrated with fact,” he observes.
Born in a poor agrarian family at Malaimanthiripalayam, Palladam taluk of Coimbatore district, his thoughts are of the proletariat. “I belong to the category that believes art is for the people not for art's sake.”
In a chat with G. Sathyamurthy, the 58-year-old expresses his love for the regional dialect, inspirational professors and friends, efforts to contribute to Tamil literature in spite of penury and vision. “I started writing as early as 1970 when I was doing B.A. Tamil Literature in Chikkanna Government Arts College, Tirupur. He is so brutally frank admitting, “I did not join Tamil Literature out of love but because I could not get a seat in B.Com.”
His first venture was in poetic form thanks to Komuki Velanar. While Prof. Muppal Mani introduced him to Modern Literature, Mr. Natarajan came into contact with eminent Left leaning writers like Jeeva, Na. Vanamamalai and Ramakrishnan.
“It was Jayankanthan's ‘Agnipravesam' which led me into short story writing.” Tho.Mu.Si. Raghunathan was also an inspiration.
He holds Ma.Ra.Po. Gurusamy, an illustrious professor of PSG Arts college, in a very high esteem for his exposition of classics, especially Silapathikaram. Similarly, V.R. Sivaraj gave a special dimension to Sangam literature.
Writings of authors like Na. Parthasarathy and Indira Parthasarathy were introduced by Prof. Marudhanayagam.
He came into contact with Vanambadi-Mullai Aadhavan in 1975. The same year, he joined the Tamil Department of PSG College of Arts and the next few years he read a lot.
He also came into contact with Gnani, R. Shanmughasundaram and Ka.Na. Subramaniam.
Of them, he has immense regard for Mr. Shanmughasundaram, who was the first to write about the role of Indian regional languages in world literature.
The latter wrote novels like ‘Nagammal' and ‘Chattisuttathu', which had societal consciousness and were in ‘Kongu Tamil'.
“I should say it was Shanmughasundaram, Mullai Aadhavan and Gnani who inspired me to write Kongu regional novels. Every day these people met and discussed various literary and social issues, and I used to listen to them avidly for hours together.”
Mr. Natarajan also had another interesting facet. He joined the “Vandiporattam” (bullock cart stir organised by farmer leader Narayanasamy Naidu), was arrested and jailed for 15 days. “First hand experience of agriculturists' problems, their poverty and ignorance also proved an excellent material for my writing.”
When Plus Two was introduced in Tamil Nadu in 1977-78, he was found surplus in the college and was out of job for more than two years. “You won't believe, I was virtually grazing cattle in 1979 when I was attracted to Communism.”
His first novel ‘Ondikaran Pannayam' in 1986 was about small farmers, how knitwear companies were trampling upon the rights of the small farmers and how politicians were cheating these ignorant people.
The second novel ‘Oorkalaindhu Pochu' was his own grandfather's story wherein once again the conscientiousness of the villagers and their humane behaviour is handled deftly.
Mr. Natarajan points out that next to Shanmughasundaram, he was the one to be recognised as who focussed on Kongu regional language and the culture of the villages in novel form. He has produced two compilations of short stories, one of them being ‘Kandhayam', once again relating to Kongu region.
Among those involved in regional language writing, Mr. Natarjan points out Jayakanthan as the one representing Chennai, Ki. Rajnarayanan, Ponnalan, Vannadasan and Vannanilavan as depicting southern districts, Sujatha - Tiruchi region, Balakumaran and T. Janakiraman - Thanjavur zone and Neela Padmanabhan- Thiruvananthapuram Tamil.
While his work on K.C.S. Arunachalam was published by Sahitya Akademi itself under the Indian litterateur series, he has written about ‘Perasiriyar Ma.Ra.Po. Gurusamyin Aayvuthadam' (research work) and also about ‘Sirpi', a Sahitya Akademi awardee poet from Pollachi.
Mr. Natarajan's works have been prescribed by various universities. Recognising his contribution to Tamil literature, the State Government allotted a seat to his daughter in Engineering under the Tamil litterateurs' quota. Besides, Tamil Nadu Kalai Ilakkiya Perumandram chose his ‘Oorkalaindhu Pochu' as the best novel of the year in 2002.
His plan after retirement is what Pazha Karuppiah, another eminent writer, advocates: “Suduginra unmayay solla vendum” (tell the scalding truths for the benefit of society).