She had remained all along a unique writer; fairly prolific but quite a low profile. She hailed from a family of affluence in education and finance. But, destiny cruelly designed her life in a different way. She was denied the life of a normal life and confined mostly to the four walls of her residence and under the care of the parents. Her father educated her at home. What was surprising is she could see the whole world and a host of human characters and surfeit of their emotions from the four walls of the home and put it in writing very effectively. When she passed away recently as a solitary soul, the entire wealth of hers has been donated to the service organization like Ramakrishna Mission Students' Home, Ramakrishna Math Charitable Dispensary and Voluntary Health Services through her lawyer.
She is Tamil writer R Choodamani who had also penned stories in English in the name Choodamani Raghavan.
I had the privilege of reading writer R Choodamani’s works from my school days. Though not very popular, Choodamani’s name was well known at that point of time in the Tamil magazine and literary field. The basic reason being during those times, magazines and journals did not concentrate more on cinema and filmstars. There was no visual medium in one’s home to watch endless mega serials. So it was reading, the major pastime for the educated and enlightened which created an opportunity for a lot of sensible and serious writers during those days.
Choodamani hailed from a family of highly educated background; her stories, novels and novellas normally centered on the subtleties of human emotions than unexpected twists and turns. Her award winning novel in Kalaimagal, a Tamil monthly ‘Manathukku Iniyaval’ (The Sweet Heart) was the story of a young crippled woman, the characters around and her swinging moods. They were effectively portrayed by the author and a disaster brings the protagonist to her senses notwithstanding her major handicap. Choodamani’s drama ‘Iruvar Kandanar’ (Two have Seen) won the second prize in the drama contest conducted by Ananda Vikatan. It was the depiction of the two sisters who happened to witness the labor pains of an expecting young mother at the advance stages of pregnancy. One visualizes the enjoyment of the mother with the child after its birth while the other feels the necessity to go and comfort her to give her a safe delivery. The elder is a young widow and the second is a girl whose marriage has been fixed. How the life turns for them differently after this episode was psychologically dealt with in this play.
Two of her novellas are memorable; One on the emotional bonding between a doting father and her two daughters and the other about a mother and her incapacitated child. The first one titled ‘Magalin Kaigal’ (The Daughter’s Hands) narrated the affluent father’s apathy for his daughter who has married a poor young man much against her father’s acceptance. The second daughter goes for a rich bridegroom as per father’s desires. The father was surprised to see the same happiness of his elder daughter who leads a modest life unlike her sister and also extends the same love and affection for the father she got from his younger daughter. How the wisdom dawns on the biased father after introspection formed the crux of this novella.
The other one ‘Pinju Mukham’ (Tender Face), described the story of a mother who was personification of beauty and benevolence and why and how she was responsible for the death of her child. Her mental agony and trauma were explicitly brought out by the author Choodamani in a telling manner. ‘Mangai BA’ was another novella narrated the terrible anxiety of a hapless girl from a family of devadasis to come out and educate herself.
There are several short stories written by Choodamani which were worth reading. Her stories will not be just a time pass material but will carry profound messages related to human psyche and complex relationships. She had never aspired for publicity or recognition except that she used writing a medium of her expressions. Because of her physical problems she never wanted to appear in the public at any point of time. She felt she communicated with her readers through her stories. How true it is!
Choodamani was quite well versed in English and many of her stories have been translated by herself in English and got published. Writers of Choodamani’s caliber appear rarely in the literary world. In the last few years she was writing but very rarely on specific requests.
Death is inescapable in a human’s life. But Choodamani’s demise is really a loss since as a littérateur her pen did not stop writing till her last days. She will continue to live in the hearts for long of those who have read her writing. That makes one’s life more significant than any honors and awards. Her final act of benevolence and regard for mankind makes her life more laudable.