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A writer eyeing the Guinness

— PHOTO S.SIVA SARAVANAN

Rajesh Kumar

“There are certain writers whose prolificacy seems to have little connection with supply and demand. In this category are people like Rajesh Kumar, the author of 1,500 pulp paperbacks, written in Tamil” writes Geoff Nicholson in his essay “Can't Stop Writing” in the New York Times (dated Feb 22, 2009).

He puts Mr. Rajesh Kumar in the league of Kathleen Lindsay (a ka a Mary Faulkner) who once made it to the Guinness Book of World Records with 904 books written in 45 years. The romance novelist, Barabara Cartland, seems positively idle by comparison. She wrote, in many cases, dictated about 700 books, achieving the inconceivable feat (according to BarbaraCartland.com) of leaving 160 novels “unpublished” at the time of her death.

“But, accurate or not, “prolific” definitely didn't feel like an unalloyed compliment”, Mr. Nicholson himself adds.

However, Mr. Rajesh Kumar, who hails from Coimbatore, is planning to approach the Guinness authorities with 1,250 novels. “Though I have written more than 1,500 in the past 30 years, about 250 of them are missing”, he tells G. Sathyamoorthi.

Son of a handloom sari merchant, he studied at the Devanga High School and graduated in Botany from the Government Arts College, Coimbatore.

Education

He obtained B.Ed. from Ramakrishna Vidyalaya and was a teacher in Bhavanisagar Basic Training School for some time.

“In our family, I was the first degree holder and nobody else had any inkling of writing as well”, he adds.

It was sheer accident that forced him to write a short story at the instruction of his Tamil professor T. Meenakshisundaram in 1968. The publication of this in the college magazine was a morale booster. Those days, vernacular eveningers and also dailies were giving prize money of Rs. 10 per short story.” This was the major attraction as this was the only pocket money I could dream of”.

During the next few years he wrote about 150 short stories for various dailies and magazines including Kumudham, Ananda Vikatan, Kalaimagal, Amudhasurabi,etc.

When he was 26 years old, he joined his father in the business and travelled all over North India. This gave him immense opportunity to know the outside world.

First novel

“My first novel—“ Vaadagaiku Oru Uyir” – was born in 1980, thanks to S.A.P.Annamalai, proprietor of Kumudham. It was published by Malaimathi which was publishing the novels of PVR, Na.Parthasarathy, Jayakanthan, Lakshmi, Sivasankari, etc.

Once again, the very next year, SAP gave him one more chance and thus was born “ Ezhavathu Test Tube”, on the lines of Tamilvanan, a master detective fiction writer.

“I was encouraged by a number of people including Saavi, Manian, and Balasubramanian. At one stage I was writing a novel a week. By then I had completed 40 novels. These novels, priced Rs. two, were selling like hot cakes and I was given even advance payment by some publishers. From a struggling sari merchant, I became an IT assessee in 1984”.

Mr. Rajesh Kumar points out that it was G. Asokan, a publisher, who made him write a novel a month, that too for more than 25 years.

“Under him, I authored as many as 350 crime novels and 250 social novels, all of them called “pocket novels” those days.”

He is happy to mention that there was a time when eight magazines were carrying his writings every week in some form or other. “There is not a single top notch magazine which has not given me a chance and I could sleep only for four hours a day.”

By 1998, he completed 1,000 novels. In addition, he has written about 2,000 short stories and has provided stories for 25 TV serials. “Even now two are under production”.

“Though I have written more than 1,500 novels till date, I cannot apply for the Guinness record with all my writings because many of them are missing and some of the publishers are also dead and gone.”

Despite such a Himalayan achievement, Mr. Rajesh Kumar looks distraught thinking of the decline in readership and enthusiasm among the younger generation for reading.

“When I visited a school and asked the students to mention a couple of Tamil magazines, not even one was able to point out. It is really a pathetic situation”, he laments.

“Such a great writer like Sujatha mentioned once that he did not receive even a single letter from his readers when one of his serials did not appear in a magazine for a week due to some technical glitch .It really hurts a writer.”

How does he find the current scenario?

He is brutally frank. “Now nobody reads novels and all those who read are only travellers. Thus reading is done only in buses and trains. From novels and serials, the situation has grown so bad that some magazines have chosen to provide one page story, half-a- page story, quarter-minute story, and one-line story.”

The most disheartening development, according to him, is that a very big magazine has stopped publishing serials.

“Buying books has become the least of the priorities in a domestic budget whereas cinema and TV are imperatives”.

Mr. Rajesh Kumar faults TV as the main reason and to a certain extent movies for the loss of enthusiasm for reading.

“From 6.5 lakh copies, the circulation of a major magazine has slumped to 2.5 lakhs .Similarly, the crime ( pocket) novels I authored which had a print order of one lakh copies when they were priced at Rs. two each has slumped to 50,000 copies as it costs Rs. 15 now”.

Similarly, he is extremely worried about the new crop of writers.

“Gone are the days of great writers. We don't even know the names of many nowadays. I don't know who are in the horizon”.

He blames the current education system for the loss of creative thinking.” In the current craze for marks, teachers have made their wards just photocopiers”.

He admits that parents are also helpless and cannot fight the “TV culture”.

“Children are being poisoned by the TV and reading is the major casualty”, he concludes.

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