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The women who wrote

A. Vennila shares inspiring stories of women who wielded a mighty pen



Word power Jaganmohini, a monthly Tamil magazine, edited and published by Vai. Mu. Kothainayaki Ammal ( below) Poetess A. Vennila

“W riter R. Soodamani was abnormally short. She suffered an inferiority complex all her life and rarely stepped out of her house. Every evening, she would ask to be driven to the beach. She would open the car's door wide and observe the passers-by from her seat. This was her closest brush with the outside world. Yet, I know of no other writer who has written so deeply on man-woman relationships and the intimate issues that rule a woman's heart,” said Tamil writer and poetess A. Vennila.

Vennila was here in the city recently to take part in a book introduction function organised by Rasanai Ilakkiya Mattram. Sahitya Akademi award winner Nanjil Nadan gave an introduction to three of her latest works – Iravu varaindha oviyam, a poetry collection, Nigazhmugam, a collection of interviews of celebrities in various fields and Vandavasippor 250, a historical document on the battle of Vandavasi. An initiative of Tiruvannamalai District Collector Dr. M. Rajendran, the book gives an insight in to the battle of Vandavasi that changed Indian history.

A Math teacher based in Vandavasi of Tiruvannamali district, Vennila has five poetry collections, a collection of essays and a short story collection to her credit. She has also compiled a book of letters she wrote to her husband, writer Sorkal Mu. Murugesh. Vennila has submitted an anthology on Tamil poetesses around the world to Sahitya Akademi.

Historic



Her other important works include Meedham irukkum sorkal, an anthology on women writers in Tamil who wrote from 1930 to 2005. “It's a historical document. It has descriptions on the writers along with their photos and a selection of their best short stories,” she explained. Vennila said that in the past, a lot of women wielded great power with their pens, despite living in a male-dominated society.

“Monthly Tamil magazine Jaganmohini had an all-women team working in it, even in the 1930s. Writer, singer, freedom-fighter and composer Vai. Mu. Kothainayaki Ammal was its editor. Every aspect of the magazine such as proof-reading and compiling were done by ladies. In fact, when Kothainayaki Ammal was imprisoned for taking part in the Freedom Movement, she continued writing on the papers that were used for wrapping food,” said Vennila.

“Writer S.Ranganayaki wrote about 60-70 novels in the 1940s. She was a domestic help during her time.” Saroja Ramamurthy and Kumudhini are among the other notable Tamil writers of yesteryear, added Vennila. “Kumudhini wrote stories with a psychological approach for a Kaalam column in Kalaimagal, a magazine. Writing such stories was a big thing those days,” she explained. “Writer Moovalur Ramamrudham Ammal wrote a book against the Devadasi system in 1937. It had two titles, as was the case with movies and books back then. She called it Dhasigalin Mosavalai and Madhipettra Minor. In fact, Dr. Muthulakshmi Reddi, the legislator who strived to abolish the devadasi system is said to have been inspired by Ramamrudham Ammal,” said Vennila. “My favourite women writers in Tamil are Ambai and short-story writer Dhamayandhi,” she added.

AKILA KANNADASAN

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