A Portable P. Raja
Introduced by Dr KV Raghupathi
Reliance, New Delhi
Review by A Vengada Soupraya Nayagar
When we read Prof P. Raja’s writings, we are reminded of Virginia Woolf’s observation on writers in general: “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” We have now the opportunity to browse through the gems of such a great writer of Pondicherry, who lives always surrounded by books and people who love him. Writing in different genres and about different content, he is acclaimed as a versatile writer. The long awaited dream of Prof P Raja’s readers to have glimpses of his writings in a single volume has realised in the form of this book, a collection of his selective literary works, neatly compiled by Dr KV Raghupathi, a noted poet and Professor of English.
The book is divided in four sections: short stories, poems, plays and essays (the e-interview with the author not to be ignored). Besides, he has written a scholarly elaborate introduction where he provides useful information on the biography of the writer and some planetary notes on his texts. Here, he paraphrases selected stories, poems and other works.
Anyone, who chooses to read the stories in this compendium, will really be rewarded with a broader vision of the genre. In his stories,
P Raja narrates his childhood experiences such as attending the pyal school, plucking mangoes, learning to savour them with his“sharp white tool”. To any reader of his locality or similar remote place, his descriptions appear fantastic and cause reminiscence, by remembering the bygone memories of the distant past.
Most realistic, the narratives are deeply lyrical. At times he employs dreams, fantasies and myth to enhance the emotional impact. For example, the myths of Ahalya, Noah and Bartruhari are dealt with some of his stories. Similarly, the author hosts even ghosts in two stories of this collection.
In selecting his characters, P Raja reveals his artistic sensibilities and his keen psychoanalyst’s eye. In one of his stories, he chooses his daughter Radhika. Here, we understand that a painful nostalgia for the lost days of childhood stirs beneath the surface of his fiction. Apart from his own childhood, he cares for his daughter’s and his grandson Ramana’s childhood.
While reading these stories, one would agree to what the editor says in his introduction: “Truth and sincerity in the narration are the two dominating elements of Raja’s stories. He handles the day-to-day incident of ordinary and familiar human life with dexterity and no pomp”. That is why, some of his stories sound like fables.
The next section houses, poems on different moments of life. Knowing that we can’t change what happens to us or around us, we can always make the choice of our reaction to these events. His poems reflect his delighted mood and incessant positive attitude towards life. Some of his love poems are adult-rated, but still they are not adulterated.
The third section stands testimony to the creative skills of P Raja as a playwright. “Dharma’s dog” depicts the plight of human beings who ignore their meaningful purpose of their existence to be helpful to others. “The Choice” is a satirical play where the author describes how the members of royal community have their own calculations to conceal their illegal relationships and justify them to fool the innocent subjects. In the third one, a playlet entitled, “The Green Eyed Monster”, he presents how the famous Russian poet Alexander Pushkin fell prey to his jealousy over a French baron D’Anthes who is supposed to have courted his wife.
The final section consists of the author’s selected essays and articles. As the editor rightly points out in his introduction, Raja’s essays too prove that he is a “pure entertainer” – but an intellectual entertainer with a mission. In a variety of essays, he shares some delightful experiences and useful tips on writing and reading. Some of his articles pay tribute to his shapers like KD Sethna and to his intimate friend Marimouthou. One of his articles is dedicated to his devoted wife to whom he rightly owes for his laurels.
This fine collection, meticulously prepared and presented in lovely attire, offers insights into the art and process of fiction. This beautifully produced book is to be safeguarded for posterity and therefore deserves to be a part of every reader’s collection.
(SA Vengada Soupraya Nayagar is a tri-lingual writer and translator with several published books. A Professor of French, he teaches in Tagore Govt. Arts College, Pondicherry.)