Tuesday, December 13, 2011


Just Finished Reading Bharathi Krishnakumar's arunthavappanRi (அருந்தவப்பன்றி).

A very interesting book about a phase in Bharathi's life which has not been talked about much - either by his biographers or by himself. A phase of about six years - teens to early twenties and later a four month period- when he says poetry abandoned him.

The interesting title is from a word Bharathi coined in a poem where he rues about being bereft of poetry (abandoned by kavithA dEvi, is how he puts it). He narrates the story of a sage, who - due to a curse- is about to into a pig. He is asks his son to kill him, rather than let him live a pig's life. But once he turns into a pig, he sinks into the life becoming of it - much to the shock of his son - and forbids him from killing him.

Bharathi, recalling his old lows, likens himself to the life of a the formerly wise-sage wallowing in filth. The suggestion is, the horror of filth is striking only when viewed from the outside/later.

Krishnakumar pieces together a couple of undernoticed poems, rare publications and the semi-autobiographical (autofiction?) bitingly satirical unfinished novelette/short-story Chinna Sankaran kadhai to give us a wider basis to infer about that phase in Bharathi's life.

And in all this, as Krishnakumar himself writes, the flavour is scarcely one of his discrediting scandal but of sympathy as the picture that emerges is that of a struggling human being

Surely worth a read.


  1. Nice review! Makes me want to read the book. My grandparents were Bharathiyar's neighbours in Pondicherry when he lived with his family there. My mother used to say that my grand father thought he was one mad cap. Sad how Saraswathy was acknowledged!

  2. Thanks. Didn't intend it as a review, more an intro.

    //My mother used to say that my grand father thought he was one mad cap.//
    He very much was. Would've been one difficult customer to those who knew him in person. We have the comfortable distance of time :-)

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  4. No Sir.
    You mean this tweet?!

    இது ஒரு கார்ப்பரேட் பழக்கமா பரவலா பரவிடுச்சுன்னு சொல்லக் கேள்வி :-)

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  6. Comment by DrunkenMonkG

    //Read your aRundhavappanRi today. Blogpost is not allowing my comment to pass for some strange reason. Strange because I was able to comment on the latest post. Anyway, I just thought I'll share my two cents here:

    //the picture that emerges is that of a struggling human being//

    True. In the autobiographical accounts of VOC and Bharathi on each other in the book, வஉசியும் பாரதியும், VOC gives a fleeting account of Bharathi's life in one of the chapters after he has come out of prison (post 1910) where Bharathi, with a saamiyaar friend, pays him a visit.

    "மாமாவின் (addresses Bharathi as மாமா) முகத்தில் பழைய மலர்ச்சியை நான் கண்டிலேன். காரணம் அப்பொழுது அறியேன். மறு நாள் மாமா அந்த சாமியாருடன் சிரித்துப் பேசிகொன்டிருப்பதை பார்த்தேன். சற்று விநோதமாக இருந்தது. போய் பார்த்தால் ஏதோ லேகியத்தை சாப்பிட்டு கொண்டிருந்தார். என்னவென்று கேட்டால், மோக்ஷலோகதிற்கு கொண்டு செல்லும் மருந்து என்றார்".

    Also, Bharathi himself thanks Parasakthi in one of his diaries, archived later, for bringing him out of addiction and begs her for blessings to meet daily struggles and says he is ashamed to lie to the landlord, unable to pay the rent.

    I guess if we move out of his poems and look at his life, we can observe a man who has struggled with his inner demons more than we have fathomed. That elevates what he has achieved in his short life to a greater height.

    1. In an interview I read recently Kamal talks precisely about how 'knowing the human side' of an artist makes it reassuring for him as an artist but still baffling as a reader.