Society

The Kongunad author

R.Shanmughasundaram (1917 - 1977) was an important 20th Century writer, novelist and publisher who lived on Trichy Road in Coimbatore. He was born to Rathnachala Mudaliar and Janakiammal at Keeranur near Kangeyam. Having lost his mother early, he grew up under the care of his paternal grandmother in the company of his only brother Thirugnanasundaram. Shanmughasundaram studied in the ‘Thinnai school’ of those days and later went to the Zilla board school were he learnt English. Formal education was not his forte and he quit by the time he was 16 years of age. However he was an avid reader and enjoyed reading Kalki, Tagore, Bharathi, Rajaji and Thomas Hardy. He was so fond of the magazine Manikodi that he cycled all the way to Coimbatore to get a copy! of the same.

Shanmughasundaram began writing by the age of 19 and his early short stories, Paarai arugil and Nanda Vilakku were published in 1937. The family moved to Madras and this gave Shanmughasundaram the opportunity to learn Hindi and also read the works of authors like Premchand. He began writing for Hindustan by the year 1938. He met Ku. Pa. Rajagopalan who was the motivation for his first novel Nagammal.

Shanmughasundaram was associated with a number of publications, writers and freedom fighters such as Kalki, Rajaji, Pudhumaipittan and A.N.Sivaraman of Dinamani, Sundararajan (Chitti), etc., He read Prachanda Vikatan, Anandha bodhini and also translated Sharat Chandra's Achala into Tamil. Rasikamani T.K.Chidambaranatha Mudaliar was a great influence on him. During the Second World War, his family relocated to Coimbatore. Shanmughasundaram took up space on Trichy Road in the property of Lakshmanan Chettiar a close relative of Sir.R.K.Shanmukham Chetty, and established the publishing company ' Pudhumalar Nilayam' and the magazine Vasantham along with his brother Thiruganasambandham. Valliammal was his wife and though the couple did not have children of their own, they looked after his brother's family all their life. It was in 1944 that Shanmughasundaram and his brother conducted the first Tamil writers’ conclave at the residence of G.D.Naidu. He was honoured in 1969 by Municipalty Chairman C.P.Nanjappa who was joined by Dr.N.Mahalingam, Sitra K.Srinivasan, K.S.Periyaswamy Gounder, Ganga Nair and Kumari Lakshmi Bai.

Nonagenarian journalist T.C.Ramaswamy the former Deputy Editor of Vasantham and Nava India fondly recalls, “I met Shanmughasundaram in 1944 and he asked me to take up a writing career. He trained me for three months and made me work for Madhamani and later Vasantham for three years. He had a broad chest and strong eyes and he wore Khadi at all times. He was fond of betel leaves. I named my son, Shanmughasundaram after him. "

The works of Shanmughasundaram included Nagammal, Poovum pinjum, Aruvadai, Udhaya Tharagai, Satti suttadhu, Malini, Idhaya Thagam and Asaiyum Nesamum.

He used the pen name 'Aloolam '. Shanmughasundaram gave great prominence to regional influences in his works. The heart of Kongunad can be seen in them.

He wrote about the dry farm lands, cultivation of corn, the hot weather, hunger and famine and disappointments in love! Shanmughasundaram employed Kongunad Tamil with ease. Says T.C.Ramaswamy, “It was Shanmughasundaram’s ability to observe that made his writing so realistic. He accepted poverty and had the foresight to understand that his literary pieces will be immortal. There should have been an award in memory of R.Shanmughasundaram who was a pioneer of regional impressions in Tamil literature.”

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2021 8:24:39 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/the-kongunad-author/article7210193.ece

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