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Furthering Bharati's legacy

Vijaya Bharati, the granddaughter of the fiery poet Subramania Bharati, reminisces about a man whose words of wisdom are relevant to this day.


"THE HOUSE permeated with the spirit of Subramania Bharati, poet, spiritualist, nationalist and much more. At every relevant opportunity, Amma spoke the writings of her father. Amma Thangammal's conversations were always intellectual. Amma's younger sister's name was Sakuntala. The two girls, Chellamma patti often said, were an integral part of thatha's life. He made sure that they learnt Sanskrit." Vijaya Bharati reminisces thus about her famous grandfather.

She continues, "In fact, she said that thatha always presented his new songs to his family first. It was common knowledge that Chellammal's personality was moulded by her husband. She had got married to him when she was just seven. Such was the mental strength that she derived from her husband that she actually led his funeral! Patti often regaled visitors with little known facts about Bharati thatha."

Sometimes, the grand daughter also got to listen to some exclusive bedtime stories on Bharati. As age advanced, Chellammal spent almost all her time reading the poems of Bharati. Vijaya never saw her grandfather as he had died young. Move to Canada, 2002. Vijaya Bharati was at her desk. She had just completed a novel attempt at writing the biography of her grandfather. It ran to 544 pages. It was now time to choose a caption. It had to suit the stature of the protagonist of her work. She picked up her pen and wrote decisively "Amaran Kathai".

Back home in Chennai, Vijaya Bharati talks about her writings. "For that matter, many years ago, my biography of Bharati in English was published by the Government of India. This book has since been translated into Tamil and Hindi. But this time I have adopted a totally different approach to present his story in the form of a novel."

Is there an element of fiction in it? "Oh, most certainly," replies Vijaya Bharati, "but facts are facts and they have been scrupulously scrutinized for accuracy. Other than the scores of people whom I interviewed, I relied heavily on Bharati's own writings to understand the man and his contribution."

"Bharati is not my surname, I was named Vijaya Bharati at birth by Chellamma patti's elder brother, Appadurai." However, Vijaya Bharati has much more to her credit than just being the grand daughter of Subramania Bharati and Chellamma. She is the first woman to acquire a doctorate in Tamil Studies. Her next research work, titled "Bharati and his contemporaries," was completed under the auspices of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London.

Says Vijaya Bharati, "I was initially apprehensive about how my work would turn out. But, when I started writing it was a great experience. I honestly felt that somebody else was writing and I was just moving my pen." But, being Bharatiyar's granddaughter, weren't her misgivings unfounded? "No," she protests, "It is absolutely absurd to compare me with Bharati. A person of his calibre is born very rarely on this earth."

Vijaya Bharati's reservations about her ability to bring out a satisfying book may well have been unfounded as her publications reveal. She has written 10 books on Bharati in both English and Tamil. She has also presented research papers at the Tamil Research Conference held at Malaysia and Chennai. She has delivered lectures on Bharatiyar in several countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, England, France, Canada and Australia. At the invitation of the Mauritius Government in 1988, she visited the country and presented a talk on her grandfather. Several have been her experiences relating to the legendary Bharati. On a train, a four-year old candidly owned up that she had not heard the song "Odi villayadu papa", but when shown a picture of Bharati, surprisingly she recognised him. However, Vijaya Bharati feels that the younger generation has not understood Bharati in his entirety.

Vijaya Bharati and her husband plan to produce a film on Bharati. In the offing are also plans to start a publishing house to publish books by Bharati and on Bharati. Is this a classic case of justice pronounced by the Providence? For the poet during his lifetime had tapped several sources unsuccessfully, requesting for an interest attached loan, to publish his works. The amount he expected — a princely sum of Rs.100!

LAKSHMI DEVNATH

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