Authors

Writer Sivasankari is back with four short stories

“I am amazed at how we have adapted to the new normal within a short span of time,” says Tamil writer and activist Sivasankari Chandrasekaran.

“Events, seminars, classes and even social interactions are today happening on the virtual world. I gave a 45-minute talk to members of the Singapore Writers Association this past week. Adapting to a changing world is crucial, and staying emotionally stable is the need of the hour.”

The 77-year-old released her two-part memoir titled Suryavamsam, last year, to much cheer from her readers across the globe. She has not been actively writing fiction for the past 28 years, but now during lockdown, has penned four short stories.

“The lockdown has not affected me much as I have been home-bound for over two years since I experienced two heart attacks within a span of a year. But what did impact me was the continuous stream of COVID-19-related news from across the world. I was moved especially by the condition of migrant workers. I did not want to continue being in such a melancholic mood and turned my attention to being more productive,” Sivasankari says.

A full life

Sivasankari’s literary project, Knit India Through Literature, took 16 years to complete and involved translation of interviews in 18 Indian languages.

“It was a massive project and during those years, my work included research, field work, interviews with authors from other languages, writing and editing. I was also travelling across the country to network with writers and as a result, was left with absolutely no time to pursue my fiction writing,” she explains.

The project, which she expected to wrap-up in five years took much longer than expected; it was finally completed in 2010 and published both in English and Tamil in four volumes each.

The magnum opus
  • Sivasankari’s Knit India Through Literature consists of:
  • Volume 1 on the languages of the South (from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu)
  • Volume 2 on the languages of the East (from Assam, Bengal, Manipur, Nepal and Orissa)
  • Volume 3 on the languages of the West (Konkani, Marathi, Gujarati, and Sindhi)
  • Volume 4 on the languages of the North (Kashmiri, Punjabi, Urdu, Hindi and Sanskrit).
  • Each book consists of travelogues of the States covered, interviews with leading writers of each language, a representative selection and an overview of the literature of each

The writer says she later developed a sense of complacency as a result of fatigue from all the physical work for the project.

“I also had by this time developed a sense of fulfilment as a writer. But I was active in the literary field, speaking at various events within and outside the country,” says the author who has written 38 novels, 49 short stories, 16 travelogues, 12 anthologies, three biographies and numerous articles on diverse themes since 1968.

In 2018, when she was recovering after a heart attack, she decided to publish her memoir, which, she states, was the result of a “restlessness within”.

“But during the COVID-19 crisis, I have been going through a myriad of emotions. This was also when I had the creative urge to get it out of me,” she says.

Looking back

Sivasankari goes on to add, “Fifty-two years ago, my début short story titled Avargal Pesattum, and my first novel Yedharkagha (1970), were a result of personal agony, pain and tragedy. For me, my creative urge is similar to labour pain. I feel restless and uneasy until I get it out of my system through words.”

During lockdown, Sivasankari says some older ideas also resurfaced.

“Getting back to writing after almost three decades was a fulfilling experience for me and it also turned out to be a satisfying one,” she says. “It all fell in place naturally. It was like getting back to my groove, a familiar terrain, a homecoming.” Sivasankari also had the time to clear up her old files and she stumbled upon a few drafts of short stories written some years ago but were unpublished, which she has decided to rewrite and publish.

Currently, Sivasankari has also taken up the translation of Jaya Wahi’s 108 Pearls of Baba Sai, from English to Tamil. “This work has been pending with me for over three years and I plan to complete it and then go back to writing. I have now withdrawn from active social life and at this stage in my life all I wish is to be relaxed and peaceful and focus on the spiritual. Getting back to writing was unexpected, but it has happened in a graceful and natural manner and I am thankful about it,” Sivasankari says.

Life as it is

Sivasankari has written four short stories during the lockdown. One of the stories titled, Kudiyerigal (Migrants) is about migrant labourers from Tamil Nadu living in Telangana and the saga they face as they walk their way to their home town. Ninaippu (Memories) deals with the thoughts of a young widower about his deceased wife during a road trip he takes all alone. The narration uses the stream of consciousness technique, oscillating between the past and the present. Another story is titled Maatram (Transformation), which although happens during COVID-19 times, has nothing to do with it; it is about the change a man goes through in his life. The fourth one is titled Bodhi Maram (The Bodhi Tree) where a young married woman gets enlightened. The story’s theme is that anyone can get enlightened under any situation, by anyone in our lives. The stories are to be published in four different Tamil magazines.

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 7:59:52 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/books-authors/writer-sivasankari-is-back-with-four-short-stories/article32161683.ece

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