I am coming back here today to mourn one of my childhood heroes. Sujatha died today. It sounds crazy because I never felt him to be a old person. He was something like a demi-god to me right from the day I started reading 'En Iniya Iyanthira' till today and probably will remain so for the time to come as well. I dont remember whether 'En Iniya Iyanthira' was the first Sujatha story I read. But I remember the days, when I was in 8th standard then, when we (me and Anantharaman, another childhood friend disappeared without a trace) would wait for the next episode of 'En Iniya Iyanthira' in AV (it was serialized). We used to discuss a lot on the science behind such a story and terms like 'teleport' or 'hologram' introduced me into a science I never heard of till that date. It astonishes me that such a novel like that was written by Sujatha in 1986-87 for a bunch of readers who dont even have TVs in their houses(we had none). It also shows the reach of his intelligence and the gift of simplifying things for the lay man. Even today, both 'En iniya Iyanthira' and 'Meedum Zeno' remain my favorite sci-fi novels. Who can forget that little presumptive robo-dog giving lecture on Zeno's paradox?
If 'En iniya iyanthira' introduced a new world, his essays in the, now stopped, 'Dinamani Sudar' explained in simple terms the workings of a computer and pushed me to start taking seriously the primer computer classes happening in my school(1988, I think). I still have those note books with my first basic program and the base-2 calculations along with flowcharts. If not for Sujatha, I dont think I would have sit through those saturday afternoon classes (while the other kids went home and having fun).
In those days, I had a crush on this neighbourhood girl. She is slightly older than me and was good friends with me. When she presented a book of short stories by Sujatha, the first story in it was 'Thanimai Kondu'. This has been analyzed, ripped apart, praised in various forums. But it is a story that is seductive and triggered a lot of thoughts about Love and Death. It is probably the most powerful story written in Tamil after Pudhumaipithan and would rate probably 'Nagaram' (another Sujatha gem) on par with it. It had a profound influence on my thought process in those days.
It was a period in my life that shaped me as I am today. There was lot of exciting things happening (although I never realized at that time). I had computer classes, buying old issues of magazines like 'Computer world', 'Semiconducters' etc in the bylanes around Meenakshi temple, trying to discuss literature with neighbourhood girls, writing,literally, hundreds of poems in my journal, trying out my hand in story writing, I remember writing a porno story even (1988-92). Much of my interest in literature and world literature had its origins in three important influences.
1. Sujatha, who introduced various technological innovations, and the nuances of writing short stories or Haikus etc.
2. NCBH, which was selling the works of Dostoevsky, Pushkin and other Russian masters in throw away prices. I remember buying 'Idiot' for 28Rs.
I read 'Nylon Kayiru' and other Ganesh-Vasanth thrillers along with what Rajeshkumar, PK Prabhakar, Subha were churning out. I believe Sujatha started the trend of the 'detective with a sidekick' concept. Apart from 'Naren-Vyj' I dont think I liked anyone better.When I learned that Sujatha is not held at a high esteem by the literature crowd, my world crashed down. This is some time in the 1993-95 timeframe when I got introduced to the masters of the modern Tamil writings.He was accused of compromising with the commercial world (meaning he is writing in Kumudam/AV etc). I never understand how writing in a junk magazine will make your writings also junk. Guilty by association?
But I never got tired of Sujatha. His 'Srirangathu Devathaigal' or 'Anithavin Kathalgal' or 'Aah!', he was the master who just hooked me into his writings. Everytime I read a novel or a short story, I was never tired of wondering how this is possible for him to think through such a plot. His computer essays 'Silicon sillu puratchi' or '1000 kanipori vaarthaigal' are all shaped my thoughts and he was a pioneer in thinking about the necessity of coining tamil words for various computer terms. Ofcourse, nothing beats the 'Kanaiyazhiyin kadaisi pakkangal'.
When I read Carl Sagan for the first time, I was wondering the similarities with Sujatha's writing. Sujatha introduced Jay gould and others and discussed the existence of God and it is difficult to find a topic on which he hasn't written.
Today I am saddened that the man who was talking to me through his writings, his wit is no more. I can go on write about 'Nila Nizhal', 'Irul varum neram', 'Pookkutty', 'Vannathu poochi vettai' and may other short stories/dramas he has written. But I stop here.
Rest in Peace!
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