Mind journeys by courtesy of Anton Chekhov, Thi.Ja, and Kalki
I do not know what is up with me lately- play of words make me cry; I appreciate them as a learned carnatic singer would appreciate music; I shake my head and move my mouth as if I tasted some delicious food. It happened when I read a story from Anton Chekov’s short stories collections and when I read a story by Thi.Janakiraman in Tamil.
Though I had known Anton Chekhov as one of the best writers, I have not read his stories until recently. Now that I have read his stories, I am in awe of his writings; I found his work to be poetic that captured everyday events of an ordinary life in an interesting way. His stories portray the nature of a living being’s feelings as it is- with all the imperfections and ugliness of the living being and the workings of its mind. In one of his letters he wrote that the aim of fiction is absolute and honest truth. Is that why his stories transcended the time period in which it was written to enthrall me?
When I read his short story, Grief, I was just mesmerized by how his writing captured the character’s struggle to cope with the loss of his son and how the character tried to cope with his grief by unsuccessfully trying to talk about his son’s death to strangers and eventually talking about it with his horse. Here is a part in the story that justifies Anton Chekhov as a wordsmith who could express what the mind felt – “Should his heart break and the grief pour out, it would flow over the whole earth it seems, and yet, no one sees it. It has managed to conceal itself in such an insignificant shell that no one sees it even by day and with a light.” I wondered how Anton Chekhov wrote about it; did he go through grief to express it so poetically in words?
In another story, Chekhov portrays the countryside of Russia so well that you could visualize them in your mind. This story reminded me about two Tamil writers, Thi.Ja and Kalki, who took me on a similar journey to back in time and made me yearn for the lost world.
I came to know about the Tamil author, Thi, Ja, back in my school years when one of the then popular authors wrote that his writings were inspired by Thi.Ja. However, I did not read his stories until I came to US when a book written by Thi.Ja was loaned to me by my friend several years ago. I do not exactly remember my thoughts then, but I know that I was impressed by the writing. Couple of days ago, I again took out this book and started to read and savor it slowly. I completely enjoyed the author’s beautiful use of words to describe the place, people, and feelings of the heart. The story transported me to that world in the story and I just loved the simplicity of lives described in the story. While the way of life described in the story was simple, the author had captured the complexity of the human feelings with his masterful use of words. At first, I thought that the author was bold to write about such feelings in those days. I thought that he was progressive, but now I know that writing only with absolute and honest truth, one can write a compelling story that captivates the readers. There is simply no other way to write.
Thi.Ja’s portrayal of Kumbakonam and Cauvery river in that story also reminded me of another story that took me on a journey back to several centuries; it was the novel Ponniyin Selvan, in Tamil, by Kalki. His novel described the scenes in the Cauvery delta region of Tanjore; the land and the river in the novel felt pristine- filled with purity and divinity. I remember my college days of traveling through this region in the bus; the rush of green fields, and small canals running in front of small huts still stay fresh in my mind. I tried to imagine the life of the characters – kings and queens, princes and princesses, knights and brave soldiers – as I scanned the Kollidam river from the window of the bus as it sped on the bridge. Did the hero pass by this very river on a white horse? Oh! How I wished I had lived during that time period.
I guess this kind of world only exists in stories with the authors’ clever use of words to describe the world that they saw through their minds’ eyes; the authors had spun a enchanting world with all its imperfections which took each reader on their own mind journey. In reality, that world might have been a harsh one – without any poetic imperfections that the authors beautifully created.
Oh! The power of words and the journeys that they launch!