Chitti recollects...
13 November 2003

The Hindu as it has been told elsewhere, reprinted the notice welcoming the appearance of Manikkodi in 1933, in its column �This Day That Age fifty years later in 1983.

The Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1984 were a great success and served to remind the lovers of modern Tamil literature about a golden period of its growth. Distinguished Academicians like Prof. V. I. subramaniam V. C. of Thanjavur University Muthu Shanmugam of Madurai Kamaraj University, Silamboli Chellapn and director of Tamil Development; Tamil Nadu Government cheerfully participated in the celebrations and expressed their appreciation of the literary endeavour, known as Manikkodi.

S. Sivapadasundaram whose cooperation was the most valuable in these celebrations was the first to identify the Manikkodi group in his writings in Eelakesari in SriLanka in the Thirties. He was later associated with Radio Ceylon, when he was invited to start the Tamil Programme Thamizhosai in B. B. C. in 1948. Acquiring Indian Citizenship he, later settled in Madras. He became famous as a writer of travelogues and had written books like Manikkavachagar Adicchuvattil, Gautama Buddha Adicchuvattil and Sekkizhar Adicchuvattil emulating William Norton's travels of Jesus Christ, under the title, "In the Foot Steps of The Master". Later he became my collaborator to historize the Tamil Novel and Short Story. (He shall be hereafter referred to as SS)

His prophetic assessment of Manikkodi's literary value was proved valid during the celebrations.

By then many scholars had delved deep into the pages of old issues for their research for studies like Ph.D., etc., Foreign scholars sought the help of those like Pichamurthi, Chellappa and myself for information on Manikkodi for their researches.

Richard Stanton Kennedy who came to Tamil Nadu to undertake research on the Tamil Short Story soon discovered the importance of Manikkodi. In his thesis submitted to the California University for the Ph.D., degree he had this to say about Manikkodi and the atmosphere prevalent during its existence:

“Manikkoti at this point was in a transitional stage between being primarily a political nationalist magazine and becoming the literary journal of the latter half of the decade. In the early editions, Va. Ra. continued to write political essays while an occasional short story, often written by B. S. Ramiah, the subsequent editor of Manikkoti, or a review of music appeared. What Manikkoti really was introducing to Tamil literature at this point was a new sense of criticism. Kalki’s Anantavikatan and other magazines had sponsored short stories the quality of which was not much worse than those which appeared in the early Manikkoti, while the political essays carried on the tradition of Cutantira Chanku, and Gandhi. The real contribution Manikkoti made at this stage was to introduce regular essays on topics of literary criticism. In the December 17, 1933, issue Srinivasan began the weekly article “Reporter Ramayanam” in which writers discussed the problems of literary criticism in the short story, novel and the puranas.”

Prof. Brian Weinstein of Howard University Washington, who met me during his study of the use of language by politicians in administration, traced the growth of the Tamil literary renaissance, which gave birth to Manikkodi. He observed in an article back home in the States:

“While Bharati was alive a small group of wealthy Tamils such as a police official, Krishnaswamy Iyer and the Mandayam family in Madras paid his printing costs. After his death, Va. Ra. a writer, critic and editor, publicized Bharati’s style and form; Va. Ra. encouraged younger Tamil writers in the 1930s and 1940s to study Bharati and to resist the temptation to write in English. The main vehicle for his message was his literary review Manikkodi. Like so many other avant-garde reviews Manikkodi had a limited audience and a small group of regular contributors, but it had considerable influence. Va. Ra. born a Brahmin, rejected the strictures of his class and caste; he and his contributors felt free to experiment with Tamil as well and they were inspired by Bharati. After the disappearance of Manikkodi, many of its regular contributors went to work with Dinamani an important newspaper read by middle classes in Tamil land. Others went into other communications media such as the radio; they included P. G. Sundararajan (pen-name Chitti), an important critic who wrote a book about Bharati and Tamil writing.”

12 November 2003

When Srinivasan was thinking of closing down the magazine, Ramiah, who was all along assisting Va. Raa., sought Srinivasan’s permission to continue it as a short story magazine. Till then the magazine was a miscellany of valuable essays, critical studies and poems with an occasional short story. Rather surprised at Ramiah’s daring, Srinnivasan cheerfully agreed. Thus was born the second phase of the magazine, which was exclusively devoted to the short story.

Manikkodi in its new garb ran for about five years in spite of the severe economic constraint, owing to the enthusiasm of the writers. Under the editorship of Ramiah, all the old writers also continued to contribute short stories to Manikkodi. The experiments in the literary forum handled by the practitioners, soon caught the attention of readers and critics to such an extent that in the days to come Manikkodi became the synonym for short story.

Newcomers sought its hospitality and the ‘Manikkodi Group’ as it was later known, compelled the attention of lovers of literature. It was mainly due to the tenacity of Ramiah that it continued in spite of economic hurdles. He also had to leave three years later, when his talents were available to the film field.

The impact of Manikkodi on the future generation of writers and readers continued though the magazine itself was extinct. This was visible when Chellappa and myself along with my friend Sivapadasundaram, conceived the daring ideas of celebrating the Golden Jubilee of Manikkodi in 1983. The novelty of a Jubilee for a literary effort, which had disappeared, was to our delight, welcomed by many.

V. Sundaram, an I. A. S. officer in the Government of Tamilnadu, a literary enthusiast, wrote in the course of an article in The Hindu:

“It is fitting and proper that a group of senior Tamil writers (some of them were associated with Manikkodi right from its inception) are planning to hold a literary convention in Madras in commemoration of the Golden Jubilee of ‘Manikkodi’. It is usual for critics and chroniclers of modern Tamil writing to refer to Manikkodi as the acknowledged mouthpiece of a Literary Renaissance in Tamil. ‘Manikkodi’ was indeed an avant-garde journal, setting new trends establishing new norms, proclaiming new values, destroying old customs and upholding new ideas. Though it died within six years of its birth, it achieved its avowed mission of proclaiming to all the world that Tamil literature is a movement and not a condition; a journey and not a harbour”
P.G.Sunderarajan, affectionately called "PG" by many of his friends, is the renowned "Chitti", a highly respected litterateur and Andhra Pradesh's gift to Tamil literature. He is a bilingual author of innumerable books, which include creative works such as poetry and fiction, criticism, literary history, biographies, and books on spiritual discourse. He writes with equal felicity in English and Tamil.

August 2003 / September 2003 / October 2003 / November 2003 / December 2003 / February 2004 / March 2004 / April 2004 /

P.G. Sunderarajan ("Chitti")

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