Pudumaipittan (The Complete Short Stories)

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Item Code: NAH885
Author: R. E. Asher and V. Subramaniam
Language: English
Edition: 2014
ISBN: 9788126046249
Pages: 861
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 1.20 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

Pudumaipittan ( 1906-1948 ) was born in Thirupaathiripuliyoor, now known as Cuddalore town in Tamil Nadu. Spurning all comforts and luxuries of a coveted career in law, he chose the hard path of becoming a journalist.

The present volume is aimed at presenting the complete short stories of Pudumaipittan written during a short span of fourteen years. This anthology also includes the lone novella he left incomplete. His characters are dotted over a very large social canvas ranging from the destitute Ammalu, a penniless mill worker who has to take care of her invalid husband to the tea estate coolie worker Maruthi, compelled by circumstances to work in the tea estate and face all the travails of a coolie-life in distant Ceylon. These are of course random illustrations of the large canvas on which Pudumaipittan revelled in creating a fine blend of magical romantic satirical realism.

Pudumaipittan was one of the pioneers of short story writing along with Manikodi group of writers in Tamil to establish the genre of short stories. His writings occupy a pivotal place in the history of short story writing in Tamil.

Pudumaipittan: The Complete Short Stories translated from Tamil by R.E. Asher and V. Subramaniam is a commandable anthology of its kind.

About the Author

R.E. Asher is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, University of Edinburgh, and also visiting Professor of several universities in India, the USA and France.

Prof. Asher's stupendous contribution include his publications Malayalam (Routledge 1997), The Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Pergamon Press 1994), Atlas of the World's Languages (Routledge 1994, with C. Moseley), Colloquial Tamil (Routledge 2004, with E. Annamalai), and The Encyclopedic Dictionary of Speech and Language (Wiley-Blackwell 2005, with John Laver et al.) among others.

He is a recipient of the medal of the College de France, and is also fellow of the Kerala Sahitya Academy, Royal Asiatic Society and Royal Society of Edinburgh and Honorary Fellow of Sahitya Akademi.

Vridhachalem Pillay Subramaniam is involved in teaching English language and literature at various levels for more than forty years. Holding M.A. and Ph.D degrees, he was trained in E L T in Deccan College, CIEFL and Edinburgh. He is recipient of the UNESCO Fellowship in Pedagogy and a British Council Bursary in Microteaching. He evolved a new concept of transmemes as part of Ethno- methodology.


I am glad to accept the invitation from Professor R.E. Asher of Edinburgh University and his co-translator Dr Vridhachalempillay Subramaniam of Chennai to go through the final draft of the translated stories of Pudumaipittan in English. I find it challenging as well as most inviting. I am happy to be associated with this work.

The name of Pudumaipittan has become a household name in all the Tamil speaking Diaspora cultures far beyond what one can imagine. His stories are so realistic and faithfully reflect the stark realities of the natives of Tamilnadu and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) of his times. I am not too very sure if he ever set foot in that neighbouring island which has had several centuries of close historical and socio-political association with the Indian sub- continent. But his picturesque descriptions of the Waterfalls tea estates reminds me of the beautiful landscape of several tea gardens and coffee estates in tropical countries such as India, Ceylon, Burma and Malaysia, where almost all the working class hail from Tamil families. The working class people who were identified by their below-poverty GDP factors by the erstwhile colonial rulers of those times were conveniently bundled into swarming armies of muted "indentured labourers" whose sole possession was a few half-starved human skeletons by their side. We, in Mauritius, have full empathy for the lot undergone by Maruthi and Vellachi in the story "tunbakeni" because of the very similitude of experiences undergone by several of our own forefathers and their grandmothers in the sugarcane fields of this charming island before they managed a roof of their own. One is reminded of the strong sensibilities echoed by the poet Subrahmanya Bharathi whose verse on the plight of these poor folks in the midst of exploitations of human nature are so graphically described in his lyrics. There is no doubt that the tales describing the ruthless and selfish group of Kanganis, who returned to their motherland sporting the glistening metals around their neck and waist, symbolic of their rewards for their servile behaviour towards their Masters in addition to the ruthless ill treatment of the daily wage workers under their charge are true. There is no doubt that the patterns of ethics and morality in human relationships smacked of their own base carnal desires. The nature of tragic experiences we find in the stories of Pudumaipittan reveal his choice of realism as his preference over romantic fascination for dreaming unrealities, as we often tend to come across in the modern formula-oriented box-office - focussed Bollywood-type of movies.

As a student of European literatures and those of Dravidian languages especially in Tamil, i can very well imagine the impact of the emerging style of short story over the creative writings of several other genres of literature. But I wish to state very convincingly that Pudumaipittan was not by any stretch of imagination a duplicating machine of the style of O. Henry, Allen Poe, James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Tchekov, Maxim Gorki, Guy de Maupassant, Anatole France and Prosper Merimee to name but a few. In the course of that valuable historical survey, Ka. Na. Subramanyam establishes very clearly the place of Pudumaipittan among the group of pioneers and pathfinders who followed the trio of Subrahmanya Bharathi - V. v. S. Iyer - and A. Madhaviah in ushering a new narrative format and style. He points out that, "It was in the thirties that the short story came in to its own in Tamilnadu. The group of serious writers of short stories acknowledged their indebtedness to V. v. S. Iyer and set about ushering in the era of the short story in Tamil. Pioneers and path- finders in this wave of the short story were Na. Pichamurthy, Ku.Pa.Rajagopalan, Pudumaippittan, Mowni and nearly a dozen others. Their theories and their high seriousness were however questioned by a group of writers who approached the story as of other writing as wholly for purpose of entertainment or as handmaids to propaganda of a political or social nature. Chief among the entertainers and propagandists should be mentioned Rajaji and Kalki".

Whereas Pudumaipittan had a very different agenda in his mind. He issued a blunt "Warning" as an Introduction to his collected stories published in 1943 that, "these stories were not written as the result of a vow to bring about cultural uplift, not as a kind of service to the reading public. They are merely stories. Neither I nor my stories have the least desire to save the world or to enrich our culture. This is an anthology of episodes reflecting what I have heard, seen dreamt, and wanted to see and also what I have not wished to see." (1943)

In this respect Pudumaipittan provided a sharp foil to the transparent statement of didactic objectives mentioned by George Bernard Shaw in his Prefaces to Plays. No such ambition seemed to have operated within the mind of Pudumaipittan. He felt there was an urge to weave these stories as he wished and that is all about it. No fuss beyond that stand point of view. A straightforward intellectual commitment.

In an interesting and analytical approach to the relationship between language, truth and literature, Richard Gaskin has a thought- provoking observation :

"Fiction is not the kind of thing you can lapse into unwittingly: it has to be specially secured by intentionally engaging in a quite specific cultural activity, the activity of fiction making. And making fiction is a success story; it is not a failure to do something else."4 Extending that logical proposition to Pudumaipittan's depiction of literary humanism makes profound sense. His characters whether truly alive or not (Sanku Thevan, C.I.D. Inspector Vittal Rao or Marudappan Maruththuvanar, Vellachi, or the mysterious entry and exit of Kanchanai, Melakaram Me. Ka. Raa. Kandasamippillai, and the most unbelievably magnificent Brahmaraakshas, and more such creations) carry with them an indelible stamp of reality which cannot be relegated to the realm of figment of one's feverish imagination. They are the real heroes and heroines who transform those episodes of Pudumaipittan uniquely human. This makes one agree with the more current concept of literary humanism from a metaphysical point of view :

"According to the literary humanist, works of imaginative literature have an objective meaning which is fixed at the time of their production and which is the same for all readers, then' and thereafter, not subject to the vagaries of individual readers' responses. Such works refer to the real world and make statements about that world which are of cognitive as well as aesthetic value; the two kinds of value are indeed intimately connected." 5 I am happy to endorse an authentic piece of fiction translated.


Acknowledgements xi
A Prtface to the translation of the complete stones of Pudumaipittan xiii
Pudumaipittan: Personality and Creativity xvii
The Riverside Pillaiyar 1
Sanku Thevan's bounty 8
The Golden City 15
The Pandemonium caused by Tirukkural 19
A Bed speaks 28
Paradise 31
Ramanathan's Letter 34
The Temple of Kali 37
Slaves of Emotions 40
Preparing for Finals 43
Justice 51
A Nandan for our Times 54
Kounthan and Cupid 62
This is the Machine Age! 65
A Contract 67
An Open Window 72
For just a Single Individual 75
Forfeiture 81
The Street Lamp 86
Ahalya 88
A Letter 93
As the Whim goes 98
If only some good comes out of it 101
A Good Samaritan 108
The Kannan Flute 113
The Never-Fading Jasmine 115
The Manila Tamarind Tree 119
Trust 123
The new Beacon of Light 126
A Dream Girl 128
'It was I who killed him!' 134
Twilight Giddiness 142
The Teak Saplings 145
Two Worlds 154
The new Kanda Puranam 159
Kuppan's Dream 164
Grandma's Diwali 167
Manliness 171
God's Representative 182
Gopala Aiyangar's Wife 188
Chanappan's Hen 194
The Illusory Net 199
Palvannam Pillai 205
Who is the Culprit? 209
AWay Out 218
A Facade 222
Gopalapuram 225
The Pumpkin Boy 229
Sarna's Mistake 234
Kalyani 238
An Experience of a Murder 255
A Well of Misery 257
Dr Sampath 286
The Cave of Wisdom 294
A Sculptor's Hell 301
Life! 308
The new Cage 315
Brahma Rakshas 334
The Vinayaka Festival 347
A Day Passed 356
The Story told by a Demon 367
The Human Machine 375
Yama and the old Woman 385
A Vicious Gang 392
The Pathway of Memory 415
A Question Mark 420
Pictures from Mental Caves 422
It is Right 427
Advice 433
The Revolutionary Attitude 438
The Modem Snob 443
A Strange Desire 448
A Saint, a Child and Some Snacks 453
The Impact of Mars 456
The Loves of Subbiah Pillai 464
That Fatal Laughter 473
The Dummy Horse 479
Miscarriage 487
The Given Word 493
The Vast Cremation Ground 497
Kanchanai 503
Chellammal 514
Deliverance from a Curse 534
A Story of not getting down from the Bed 550
God and Kandasami Pillai 562
Heavenly Bliss 583
Service to Lord Siva 598
Nir Vikalpa samadhi 606
Reality and Imagination 614
Everything always turns out for the best in the end 628
Kapadapuram 641
That Night 663
Hurry-Scurry 682
Reincarnation 688
The Rope Serpent 696
'This Sinner' 704
The Epic of Literary Mamma Nayanar 711
The Stepmother 717
The Fire that Mother Lit  
(An unfinished novel) 769
Glossary 808
Life Sketch of Pudumaipittan 815
Index 817

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