Cultural centers

Left-wing parties failed to adapt to cultural needs, says Tamil writer Indira Parthasarathy

“Even Karl Marx’s revolutionary calendar failed. He visualized it happening in England, but it happened in an agrarian society in Russia’

“Even Karl Marx’s revolutionary calendar failed. He visualized it happening in England, but it happened in an agrarian society in Russia’

The end of the novel Yesuvin Tholargal (Comrades of Jesus) by famous Tamil writer Indira Parthasarathy was said to have been comforting to the comrades at the time – “We are all waiting for Jesus to come. But instead of a cross, he will be holding a hammer and sickle,” says Asha, a character in the novel set in Poland.

When asked why the euphoria of the first half of the previous century culminated only in discouragement, Mr Parthasarathy sought to justify his red-tinted glasses, saying that Poland, steeped in a happy mixture of Christianity and Marxism, could have ushered in a new era. “You have to keep in mind that the Communist Party not only built offices for itself, but also built the famous St. Paul’s Cathedral. Yet the system failed because of excessive police control and the inability of communist parties to adapt Marxism to the cultural needs of the various countries where they came to power,” said Parthasarathy, who had been a professor of Tamil at university. University of Warsaw for five years.

Not to mention that he had been a member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) during his student years at Kumbakonam and later at Annamalai University in Chidambaram.

He said that even Karl Marx’s revolutionary calendar had failed. “He imagined it would happen in England, the most advanced industrial country since he was sitting and reading in the British Library. It happened in an agrarian society in Russia,” said Parthasarathy, 92, one of the few writers to closely follow the country’s political development.

“Unless the opposition parties in India sink their egos and come together with the sole agenda of tackling the BJP, the party will return to power in 2024. The Congress party has become a laughing stock. If the BJP is re-elected with as much majority as it currently has, the party will make India a Hindu rashtra and will make changes to the Constitution to fulfill its agenda,” warned Professor Parthasarathy, who had worked at Delhi University prior to his tenure in Warsaw. Later, he joined the Department of Drama at the University of Pondicherry.

Indira is the name of his wife, who encouraged him to send his story Manitha Enthiram (Human Machine) at Tamil Magazine Ananda Vikatan, which was published as a featured story in 1962. His short stories were published in two volumes. His game Ramanujar won the Saraswathi Samman award.

fertile soil

Born in Chennai and raised in Kumbakonam, Mr. Parthasarathy had the advantage of living, observing and participating in an environment of intense political and literary activity. Kumbakonam has been the birthplace of some of the best writers including Ku.Pa. Rajagopalan, Na. Pitchamurthy, Karichankunju and MV Venkatram. Another writer, T. Janakirman, lived there and taught Mr. Parthasarathy in school. Mr. Parthasarathy lived in Saranagapani Sannidhi Street where the mathematical genius Ramanujan also lived.

The composite Thanjavur, of which Kumbakonam was a part, was a nerve center of the communist and Dravidian movement, and Mr. Parthasarathy, known as “Epaa” in literary circles, was inevitably drawn to the political and literary currents of his time.

A massacre told

He shocked his father, who had dreams of becoming an IAS officer, by enrolling for an MA in Tamil at Annamalai University. “It was then an aspiration of every Brahmin father. He thought that I was studying English literature. But it was my desire to study Tholkappiyam with comments by Senavarayar. I have no regrets,” laughed Mr Parthasarathy, who later wrote Kuruthipunala novel based on the Keezhvenmani massacre in the then composite district of Thanjavur where 44 Dalits were burned alive in 1968. It won him the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1977 and was also adapted into a film.

“When the novel was published, the CPI(M) protested saying that I had deflected the issue by depicting the owner as helpless. I looked at the Keezhvenmani massacre from the Freudian angle because among those who have killed, there were 26 women and 12 children. Why the women and children?” he asked.

The title Kuruthipunalhe explained, came from a poem by Kambaramayanam in praise of Parasurama, and recalled the entire lines from his memory.

He also explained that he suggested the title ‘Poisoned Root’ for the English translation of his novel. Worm Patru, although it is slightly inaccurate and may even convey a negative meaning. “I got the idea from Eedu, the commentaries on Vaishnavite literature. If the root is poisoned, it will poison the tree. The root of my novel is the caste system, which is toxic,” said Mr. Parthasarathy, who has extensive knowledge of classic Tamil literature and on his table nestled among Tirukkural and Kamba Ramayanamis the novel by Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago.

‘Indira’ is the name of Mr Parthasarathy’s wife, who encouraged him to submit his story Manitha Enthiram (Human Machine) at Tamil Magazine Ananda Vikatan, published in 1962. | Photo credit: R. Ragu

But his literary works do not show his erudition. “The scholarship should be integrated into the storytelling and should not be difficult for the reader,” he said.

He also disagrees with the assertion of some writers that they write primarily for themselves.

“A kite would only emerge into the sky when there is wind to support it. When an incident affects me, I react by writing. The plot develops when two characters strike up a conversation. don’t know how my story ends,” he said.