About the Book
Translated from the Tamil Kurinjithen, Rajam Krishnan’s lyrical, erudite novel is a family saga of three generations of Badagas in the Nilgiris. As the winds of social change and modernity invade their protected lives, the innocence and harmony is replaced by conflict and tragedy that precede a new beginning.
Using the blossoming of the kurinji as a motif for the passage of time and the disappearance of a way of life, Rajam Krishnan paints panoramic views and captures the enormous vigour of a people in the grip of transition.
About the Author
Rajam Krishnan (1925) was born in Musiri, Tamil Nadu and married before she completed high school. A prolific writer, she wrote her first novel Swatantra jothi in 1948. Publishing almost continuously since then, her work spans a variety of literary genres: fiction, essays, biographies, short stories and a travelogue. Her writing is bold but lyrical and her feminist perspective and socialist ideology are tempered by her deep humanism. She has won several literary awards for her writings and her work has been extensively translated into other Indian languages. She lives in Chennai.
Preface Kurinjithen was first serialised in the magazine Kalaimagal forty years ago. I wrote it after thoroughly researching the life of the people of the Nilgiris. Though I have written many other novels, equally well-researched, this is the most highly acclaimed of them all. All my readers, academics or otherwise have identified me with Kurinjithen.
Once in twelve years, in the season when the blue kurinji flower blooms in these hills, the bees store honey in combs in the crevices of rocks and on the branches of trees. Nowadays, no one is aware of when the kurinji blooms. Living close to nature is a thing of the past. Today people are primarily concerned with making money. The tea and coffee which are the means to achieve this goal cover the hills as far as the eye can see. While enjoying the aroma of fresh tea leaves and imagining the sweetness of the honey from the kurinji, I have tried to portray the changes in the life of the people in these hills and the struggles they face. I summoned the courage to write this novel specifically to bring to light this change. Much to my sorrow this has made people lose the feeling for fellow men that had been deeply ingrained in them. However let us have faith that love is a natural human feeling. As our elders have said, we can wait for a generation for this feeling to return.
When Kalaimagal brought out this novel in book form, Dr. Mu. Varatharasan honoured me by kindly writing the preface. That gesture was an opening for a novice like me, who had just then stepped into the literary world, to be introduced to learned men of letters. Though I have written novels before and since, this work made me known as a literary writer to historians, research scholars and students. I will always be indebted to Dr Na. Sanjeevi, who eagerly and enthusiastically made a study of this book from the viewpoint of a literary critic even before I received recognition.
I encountered innumerable difficulties while gathering the facts for this book. Holding the book in my hand has made me forget them. But, I really wonder whether the reader will ever be aware how painstakingly I have collected facts, verified each of them and woven the details into the story.
Four or five years after the book was published, much to my delight, something that I had never dreamt of happened:
Dr Na. Sanjeevi who had read and admired the book, presented a paper on its anthropological value. He had studied the book with the same thoroughness with which r had checked facts about the hill people before writing about them. What greater accolade could a creative writer have got?
This was the first Tamil novel of its kind. It was published in 1963. It has subsequently run into four editions. r am grateful to Orient Longman for bringing out this English translation. I hope it will be well received by readers.
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