In his young age, Ki.Ra suffered from poor health and was afflicted by tuberculosis.
Ki. Rajanarayanan the grand old man of modern Tamil literature and winner of Sahitya Akademi award, died in Puducherry on Monday night. He was 98 and is survived by two sons.
Born in Idaiseval near Kovilpatti, Rajanarayanan popularly known as Ki.Ra, moved to Puducherry in 1989 after his appointment as the professor of folklore of the Tamil Department of Pondicherry University.
“A pioneer in writing stories in dialects, Ki.Ra. also authored a dictionary of dialect — Karisal Kaatu Sollagarathi — which paved way for similar dictionaries from other regions of the state,” said advocate K.S. Radhakrishnan, a close associate of Ki.Ra.
He was a friend of Tamil writer Ku. Alagirisamy, nagaswaram player Karukurichi Arunachalam, musician Vilathikulam Swamigal and litterateur T.K. Chidambaranatha Mudaliar.
“In his earlier days he worked closely with the communists and was imprisoned. His name was also included in the Nellai conspiracy case, but subsequently dropped,” said Mr Radhakrishnan.
In his young age, he suffered from poor health and was afflicted by tuberculosis. Ki.Ra. dropped out of school after seventh standard and began his literary career only after the age of 30. His first short story ‘Mayamaan’ was published in 1959 in the magazine ‘Saraswathi.’
The story heralded the arrival of a new writing. His works captured the lives of the people of Karisal Bhoomi — hot and dry land — of southern Tamil Nadu in their authentic language.
He won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1991 for his novel ‘Gopallapurathu Makkal’ depicting the Telugu people who had migrated to southern parts of Tamil Nadu. It was followed by another novel ‘Andaman Naicker.’
In an interview to The Hindu in 2019 on the occasion of his 97th birthday, he reiterated his conviction that the spoken language was the ‘correct’ form of language.
“Language had no letters when man started speaking it. Do we interact with our children in written form? We also do not use the written form of the language in our day-to-day conversation. Then why should we follow a written form of a language in writing,” asked Ki.Ra.
Ki.Ra’s first novel ‘Gopallagramam’ remains as one of the greatest novels even though in the beginning it was not acknowledged by literary critics. His novella ‘Kidai’ was converted into a film and was screened at the International Film festival of India in 2003. ‘Karisal Kaatu Kaduthasi’ is another novel that caught the attention of readers as well as critics for it use of dialects.
During his tenure in the Pondicherry University, he recorded and collected 200 folk stories and they were published as Nattuppura Kadhai Kalanjiyam.
“Recording the narration is important since writing them down will change the tone and original words used by the narrator. The beauty of the folk stories lies in their narration,” he explained in the interview.
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