Anuradha Ramanan - The Taslima Nasreen of TN by Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam SignUp

Anuradha Ramanan - The Taslima Nasreen of TN
Dr. Bhagyalakshmi Seshachalam Bookmark and Share

 Anuradha Ramanan can be rightly called as the “Taslima Nasreen” of Tamil literature. Her short stories and novels revolved around the complexity of the relationship between a man and a woman and the internal conflicts that a woman has to deal with when she cannot marry the man of her dreams. But more than anything, until her death, Anuradha remained a controversial writer. She apparently had some inborn hatred towards the Tamil Brahmin community and she lost no opportunity to express that hatred towards her community in most of her writings. Interestingly, some of her novels are semi-autobiographical.


Ramanan had a troubled marital life and it appears that she never could recover from the tragedy. This angst was expressed by her in several of her writings – to the extent that beyond a point, it became repetitive. She was feisty and never hesitated to call a spade a spade. She drew a lot of flak for her writings and observations, but none could deny that Ramanan, a prolific writer, was able to up the emotional quotient in her novels to unimaginable levels. Readers could vicariously experience the afflictions that her leading men and women were subject to.


In the early ’70s, ‘Mangai’ was a famous women’s magazine in Tamil and this magazine actually brought out the writer in Ramanan who was widowed at a young age and had to bear the responsibility of bringing her two daughters as a single parent. Through the pages of ‘Mangai’, Anuradha assuming the name of “Vijaya”, shared the pages from her personal diary.


Brought up by her grandparents with a strict disciplinarian as a father, Ramanan admitted that she was drawn to a man in her neighborhood who also happened to be a doctor. Her father was strictly against inter-caste marriage and he censured her relation with this doctor. Eventually, she married Ramanan, who as per her own admission, could not handle the pressures of domesticated marital life. Anuradha realized that she was hopelessly entwined in a meaningless marital relationship with a man who would disappear from home for days together. When he returned, he never answered questions about his whereabouts. Till his death, her husband apparently was an enigma for the writer. After his death, she found new meaning in life through her writings. Encouraged by “Mangai”, she started writing short stories and novels. Eventually, she became a prolific writer and some of her stories were translated on celluloid.


Anuradha’s stories were high in their emotional quotient. In “Chataka Paravai” (the chatak bird that drinks only rainwater), Ramanan talks about Janaki, a housewife, whose husband never consummates the marriage. Janaki’s brother promises a gold chain during the pre-nuptials and when he fails to deliver the promise, Janaki’s cantankerous mother-in-law orders that Janaki’s “first night” can wait until the gold chain arrives. The gold chain is never delivered and Janaki is forced to sever all ties with her maternal home. She immerses herself in household work, working like cattle day in and day out, but never grumbling about her fate. Her husband never communicates with her. Several years later, during a festive occasion in the house, Janaki suffers a fall and her husband comes to her rescue, lifts her and puts her on the bed and gently admonishes her.


For Janaki, that single touch from her husband is mesmerizing and she feels that she can die that very moment. Like the “Chataka Paravai” (Chatak Bird) that only drinks rainwater, Janaki has waited all her life for her husband’s love and affection. In that one incident, Janaki realizes that her husband does have affections for her though he hasn’t expressed it. The story ends on this note.


In “Ganapathi Gurukkal Poi Solkirar” (Ganapathi Priest is lying), Anuradha talked about a temple priest who is unable to resist the urge to steal from the temple hundi to buy medicines for his ailing child. Though he succumbs to his temptation, he is unable to sleep at night and the story talks about the catharsis that the priest experiences as a result of the incident.


In “sadharna manitharkal” (ordinary people), Anuradha wrote a story (supposedly inspired by a real-life incident) about the valiant attempts of an elderly man to give shelter to a young woman who is found abandoned in a railway station. He marries her and is ostracized by his family, including his first wife. When he meets with an untimely death and the young woman is caught unawares, the man’s 20-year old son assumes the role of a responsible son and takes care of his step-mother.


Anuradha’s creative potential was amazing and her writing style was something that the reader could easily relate to. She could weave plots from the most unexpected situations in life that she experienced. One of her stories revolved around a woman who is subjected to severe mental torture by her husband and brings a mistress home to spite her. When his torture becomes too much, the woman sets fire to herself and hugs her husband in a time embrace – an embrace that is so severe that both of them are killed in the fire. A Tamil filmmaker copied this idea and made a movie with Pandian and Revathi in the lead. (Pandian and Revathi had debuted in Bharathi Raja’s Manvasanai). When Anuradha found this, she took the filmmaker to court and successfully fought the battle.


But the most (in)famous controversy that Anuradha got embroiled in was with respect to a story that she wrote for “Ananda Vikatan” magazine and for which, way back in the ’80s, she got a princely sum of Rs.50000. Which was that story?

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