Tamil Nadu

‘Ashokamitran didn’t wear his scholarship on his sleeve’

While growing up in Chennai, I developed an interest in short stories. There were great novelists living at that time, and I had read many of their novels, but it was the form of the short story that fascinated me. In the early 1970s, through Ilakkia Chintanai, I became acquainted with a number of writers. Among them was Ashokamitran, then about 40 years.

He was gentle, soft-spoken and not at all inclined to project himself or occupy centre stage. He was obviously well-read but did not wear his scholarship on his sleeve. I became a reader of Kanaiyazhi and struck a friendship with Kasturirangan, the founder-editor, and Mr. ‘Indira’ Parthasarathy. I hung out with them during my occasional visits to Delhi. Kanaiyazhi was a great literary magazine, but it was struggling for survival. At one stage, Kasturirangan found it difficult to run the magazine and decided to suspend it. I protested, and offered to publish it from Chennai. Ashokamitran was the resident editor in Chennai. Kanaiyazhi was a one-person organization, and I was helping Ashokamitran. He selected the material for publication, designed the issue, got the material composed, proof-read the pages, got the issue printed and scouted for distributors. He did all the work for a very modest salary. I have no hesitation in saying that it was Ashokamitran who saved Kanaiyazhi from certain demise. Apart from his gentle and self-effacing nature, the quality that is imprinted in my memory is his sense of humour. Undoubtedly, he was one of the great Tamil writers of the last 50 years.

(The author is a former Union Finance Minister)

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 9:58:30 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/ashokamitran-didnt-wear-his-scholarship-on-his-sleeve/article17656886.ece

Next Story