Jeyamohan: A game changer in contemporary Tamil literature
Contemporary Tamil literary world is decorated with great writers and creative thinkers like Jayakanthan, Ashoka Mitran, Prabhanchan, Melanmai Ponnusamy and many more. Through their novels, short stories, poems and essays, they have created wonderful feelings and brought new ideas and fresh thoughts. They touched the hearts of people by writing about their agony, anxiety and aspirations. Many of them wrote about the prevailing social conditions and happenings in the day-to-day life like love, hatred, conflicts, controversies and blossoming of best qualities in human relationship.
Few writers have criticised the superstitions, casteism, dowry and other social evils. In the name of progressive attitude, many Tamil writers were purveying leftist theories or atheist view points. Some of them were highly critical about the Hindu spiritual thoughts. Very few writers wrote about the core Indian values. Modern Tamil writer from Kanyakumari district, Jeyamohan has presented India’s rich literary and classical traditions in a majestic manner. With his original ideas and continuous writing, he has created biggest impact on the Tamil literary landscape.
Jeymohan’s most appreciated work is Vishnupuram. This novel carries the readers on an interesting journey. It is a fantasy set as a quest through various schools of Indian philosophy and history. Before writing this novel he took a tour of the entire country. During the centenary of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian Railways gave a concession ticket for one whole year. After purchasing that ticket, a person can travel anywhere in India in any train. Jeyamohan did not take even single pie along with him, except a pair of clothes to protect him. He had problem of food initially for few days. Then in the whole journey he had never suffered from starvation because every temple and Gurudwara served him food. He slept in railway stations, temples and choultries. He studied the life of ordinary Indians, interacted with scholarly people and made observations about the impact of our great culture on the day to day life of a common man.
During the tour, one day he visited Pandaripuram. After the darshan and food he slept on the corridor outside the temple. During his deep sleep he had a dream. He saw a golden river. On the banks of the river many artists and sculptors were carving stones and wooden planks thus making idols. Then he got up and started thinking about the heritage of our country and the culture. This is the seed of his novel Vishnupuram on the banks of his imaginary River Sona. In 1993, Jeyamohan met Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati in Ooty near Coimbatore. It is the turning point in his spiritual journey. The dialogues with the Guru gave him a new vision. Those sacred and divine perceptions made him to write Vishnupuram.
Jeyamohan’s prolific contributions includes 9 novels, 10 vol. of short stories, 13 literary criticisms, 5 biographies of writers, 6 introductions to Indian and Western literature, 3 volumes on Hindu and Christian philosophies and numerous other translations and collections.
Some of his famous novels include Rubber, Pin Thodarum Nizhaun Kural, Kanyakumari, Kaadu, Panimanithian, Eashaam Ulagam and Kotravai. He had close interactions with Communists in Kanyakumari. One of his relative was a card-holder in Communist Party. There were a lot of discussions about the intolerant attitude of Stalin towards Trotsky, his close associate. Trotsky was deported from Russia and then got him eliminated in Mexico. Then he wrote a novel, “The voice of a following shadow” – Pin Thodarum Nizhaun Kural. This novel resonates with audiences even today with its incisive analysis of self-appointed destiny makers and the movements that they create.
Award Winning Novel
Rubber was the first published novel of Jeyamohan. It portrays the transition of farmer’s mindset in Kanyakumari district. From times immemorial Kanya-kumari is famous for cultivation of bananas. These banana trees are natural home for birds. Banana tree is useful to the villagers from the bottom roots to the top leaves and fruits. But the farmers shifted the cultivation from banana to rubber for the sake of earning more money. Birds don’t go and sit on rubber trees. Rubber is made by cutting the trunk of the tree. It was the first major work in Tamil Nadu that explored ecological and environmental degradation in the State. It is written as a multi-generational family drama taking place against the backdrop of rubber plantation. The novel describes the hunger for social and commercial growth that inevitably exploits the environment. Rubber, introduced into India as a cash crop, is the alien specie that chokes the land and destroys the values symbolised by the traditional banana tree. In a subtle way he communicates, “How western culture is overpowering Indian value system”. The novel won the Akhilan Memorial Prize in 1990 heralding the arrival of Jeyamohan in the Indian literary scene.
His writing is heavily influenced by the spiritural personalities and by the works of humanitarian thinkers like Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi. Jeyamohan is conducting literary conferences and writers conclaves in the Southern part of Tamil Nadu at places like Kutraalam, Ooty and Thirparappu in Kanyakumari district. These sophisticated discussions and exchanges of ideas between scholars, poets and creative thinkers gave him special and unique place in the contemporary Tamil literature world.
Tamil film industry is always associated with popular writers. He has written screen-play for Tamil movies Kasthuri Maan, and Vasantha Balan’s Angadi Theru. Famous film director Bala took his novel Ezaham Ulagam as a film called, Ahambrahmsin, Alais, Naan Kaadavul. It described the horrifying experiences of poor beggars intending to create sympathy and pity about their sufferings. He has described how artificially and forcibly the organs are cut or deshaped or chopped off. This film got a National Award. Then he wrote script for a Malayalam dubbed Tamil film called Pazhasi Raja. This film is about the life of freedom fighter from Kerala.
Jeyamohan had been an active participant in Tamil internet discussion groups during the early years of the medium in India. As part of the debates, Jeyamohan produced some of his best essays on literary standards and criticism during this period. Recognising the possibility of losing some of these important works, Jeyamohan's fans circle created a literary website for consolidating the author's works. Over the decade, www.jeyamohan.in website has become an important repository of the author's essays. Jeyamohan registers his contributions extensively on his website, with more than 10,000 entries on topics ranging from Indian literature to commentary on contemporary India. Jeyamohan uses his website to continuously engage in a dialogue with his audience and develops new ideas by active association and participation of all.
More significantly, the website allows the author to freely engage in discussions with thousands of readers. In early 2011, the Vishnupuram Ilakkiya Vattam (Vishnupuram literary circle) has created an online discussion group for discussing literature, criticism, art and related topics.
Son of Visalakshi Amma
Jeyamohan was born on April 22, 1962 to S Baguleyan Pillai and B Visalakshi Amma in Arumanai, near Kanyakumari. inTamilnadu. Baguleyan Pillai was an accounts clerk in the Arumanai registrar's office. Visalakshi Amma hailed from a family of intellectuals and trade-unionists – Jeyamohan considered her equal to Saraswati in knowledge and wisdom. Jeyamohan's siblings were an elder brother and a younger sister. Jeyamohan's younger days were spent in voracious reading and absorbing the richness of the culture around him. His first publication during schooldays was in Ratnabala, a children's magazine, followed by a host of publications in popular weeklies.
After high-school, Jeyamohan was pressured by his father into studying commerce at the Pioneer Kumarasamy College in Nagercoil. It was a period of tremendous inner-conflict and depression, and the suicide of his childhood friend Radhakrishnan finally drove him to leave home on spiritual quests. He sought to become a Sanyasi and travelled through the holy places of India, like Benares, Tiruvannamalai and Palani. Supporting himself through odd-jobs and living the life of an ascetic wanderer, he was constantly on the move internally and externally.
Expedition and Exploration
Jeyamohan continued his frequent travels throughout India as a common man, in order to sustain the integrity of his narrative style and to gain intimate knowledge of the fabric that kept the nation together despite the vastness of its size and differences in culture. He is one of the few authors who have travelled and witnessed regional conflicts, droughts and political problems like Naxalism in tribal areas. His experiences convinced him of the continuing relevance of Gandhian idealism and non-violence as the sensible alternative to naked capitalism and militant socialism.
Thus Jeyamohan has established an unique way of writing with words that captures the imagination of the reader by language. It is not elaborate. The simplest language of him powerfully evokes admiration. Jeyamohan’s style is quite influenced by post modernism. Jeyamohan’s ascetic experience is an asset and has largely influenced his perception. His spiritual ideas are a combination of scientific interpretations and social values of historical scriptures. His writings on Hindu traditional values are considered significant by many. Personally I am very much inspired by reading his articles on Kamba Ramayanam, Thirukural, Bhagwad Gita, Sankiya Yoga, and Vedantic philosophy. Spirituality is woven in Tamil literature. Jeyamohan wants to renew the same at an hour when literature is dominated by secular and temporal writing. True literature must echo eternal values of Indian life. Jeyamohan has done exactly the same.