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Rooted in reality

Writer Chandramathi’s muse is the picturesque environs of Vellayani, writes Shoba Nair


The writer you admire the most is your bitter enemy in your career as a writer


Photo: S. Gopakumar

Raconteur Chandramathy is planning to write a novel

Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, writer Chandramathi finds her muse in the picturesque environs of Vellayani. Perhaps it is the tranquil surroundings that has given Chadramathi the felicity with words to create a fictional world that re sonates with characters who sound and read real. Perhaps it is again the same surrounding that has given her the will power to fight the Big C and emerge a winner.

A satire

Chandramathi, a recipient of the Padmarajan Award for the best short story of the year for her ‘Oru Navavadhuvinte Jeevithathil Graham Greeneinte Prasakthi,’ says, “It is written on a humorous note, a satire, revealing the black and white in people.”

While her award-winning book is a fictional work, one of her best sellers has been ‘Njandukalude Naattil Oru Idavela,’ her account of her battle with cancer.

Diagnosed with cancer in 2002, Chandramathi has undergone six sessions of chemotherapy. Even then she wrote, as per the request of the doctor who treated her at Lakeshore Hospital, Kochi, about her war on cancer.

“People dare not speak about cancer, though the fact is that, if detected early, it can be cured,” she points out. Thus she published her first draft which carried this message in a Malayalam magazine.

“It is like a handbook on cancer, based mainly on my experience – on the treatment, chemotherapy, and rehabilitation. The response was tremendous. DC Books published it with two editions in three months,” she says.

Chandramathi’s romance with stories started from a young age. The only daughter of the late V. Bhaskaran Nair, himself a writer and humorist, there was a wide collection of books in her home.

“I used to read whatever I laid my hands on. My father never restricted me,” she reminisces. At the age of 12, she published a criticism ‘B.A. Mayaavi, on E.V. Krishna Pillai’ in Malayala Rajyam. And that was her first step on her journey in a fictional land. She used to write under her name Kumari Chandrika and later just Chandrika.

“But writing on certain themes was considered taboo for an unmarried girl then. Objections arose from my kith and kin and the last straw was when my father admonished me to be careful about what I write, and that silenced me for almost 18 years,” she recalls.

The end of that 18th year saw the 100th year of Malayalam short stories. Although DC Books published a collection of stories titled ‘100 years, 100 stories,’ Chandramathi’s stories were not included.

That motivated her to renew her tryst with fiction. That was the time she was working on a Central Sahitya Academy project on Medieval Indian literature. Poet and academician Ayyappa Paniker was the editor of that project.

Sound advice

He advised her: ‘Try and prove yourself, go back to your village, Vellayani, and write about the life of people there.’ Thus was born her short stories ‘Devigramam’ under the pen name Chandramathi. The book consisted of stories connecting the Devi’s rituals, the life of the people around and so on. ‘Aryavarthanam,’ ‘Reindeer Swayam,’ ‘Swantam,’ ‘Daivam Swargahthil,’ are her other collection of short stories, that are centred on the themes of womanhood, human relationships and so on.

“I expected an award in the name of an eminent writer for ‘Aryavarthanam.’ However, I received the Thoppil Ravi Foundation Award for the same work. I was on cloud nine,” says Chandramathi. She adds, “I still write a column. I plan to bring out a compilation of those articles as ‘Surya Rajavinte Pranayini.’ I am also planning to write a novel.”

A reader in Department Of English, All Saints’ College, Chandramathi says her relationship with her students is more that a friend than a teacher.

She feels that to instil values in students, they should be made to work with the aged, the ill and the poor. Her book ‘Perilla Prashnangal’ deals with articles that inculcate values in children.

And her message to young writers is: “The writer you admire the most is your bitter enemy in your career as a writer. One has to shake off that influence or else the shadow will always fall on your writing.”

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