| An intimate portrait of
Tamil writer Kalki, as told to Chennaibest.com by his
daughter K Anandhi.
Kalki at home
are several things I remember well about my father. His sense of humour.
We always looked forward to his coming back home from office, because
he had so many interesting things to tell us. But when he used to
write, we never used to disturb him. Our mother had trained us that
way; that we should not make a noise, when he was writing. Even at
that early age, we had immense respect for him. He used to be very
affectionate towards us. Whenever one of us was not well, he would
sit next to us, and do his writing. He would never leave our side.
Now-a-days people speak about "quality of life". We had
that in our home. Back then there were no telephones. Whenever he
was late, he would send us a note through his peon, asking us go to
sleep, as he would be late that night. He knew that we would be waiting
for him to come back, tell us a story and put us to sleep, so he would
send those notes.
In spite of all the work that he had, he was a writer, movie-critic,
music critic, he used to write about dance and so many other things;
he would still take care about whats happening at home. I still
wonder, how he knew so many things, because, today there are lots
of opportunities to learn many things, but back then, there were none,
yet he had knowledge of so many things. Probably because he had a
natural ability to grasp and appreciate things. And for that we had
deep respect for him. He did not even pass his SSLC (Senior School
Kalki - the progressive thinker
He was born and brought up in a small village called Puttamangalam,
10 miles from Mayavaram, and he had long hair at that time. When he
came to Madras, he cut off his hair, and it was talked about as a
serious crime in our village. In spite of being brought up in such
a circumstances, he propagated khadi, prohibition, abolition of untouchability
and womens liberation.
When he was imprisoned, my younger brother, my mother and I used to
stay with our Periappa (fathers elder brother) at Puttamangalam.
At that time he had arranged for a dance teacher, Subramaniam Pillai
from Pandanallur, to teach me dance. Subramaniam Pillai used to
travel seven miles in his bullock cart, teach me for four days in
a week, and on the fifth day, he used to go back to his village. Since
my aunt was very orthodox, my mother had the responsibility of cooking
for my teacher and his bullock cart driver. She also used to take
care of the bullocks, and she used to do that with a lot of enthusiasm,
without making much ado, as those were my fathers wishes. People
in our village were amazed that anybody could go to the length of
arranging firstly a dance teacher, and that too from a different village
to teach dance to a little girl. So these things were very new in
the Agraharams (a Brahmins locality) of those days, and he was
brave enough to do all that.
we did not understand that he had these progressive opinions, we could
understand to some extent that he was doing something great, involved
in Gandhijis movement, serving the country. He was also
a staunch follower of Rajajis principles. He started
a magazine exclusively for the cause of prohibition. Right from the
lead lines to the back cover, it was totally devoted to prohibition.
It was called Vimochanam. It was run from
a Gandhi Ashram in Trichy. He used to write short stories for this
purpose. If you read his book titled, Banker Vinayakrao,
its very interesting. Even those stories will have a surprise
He was criticised for being a propagandist. Many people did not accept
him as a literary writer. Even for this criticism, he wrote an essay
on the coming of spring, which goes like - "Spring has come,
flowers are blooming and the bees are drunken
" so on
and so forth. After a description of Spring, he addresses the reader
thus: "For this season, wear Khadi clothes and learn to spin
" and then he goes on to say, "Oh! I started
this essay with the description of Spring and now I am finishing with
propagation of Khadi. This is not very literary". And the
punch line of the essay is This Spring, everybody wear Khadi
But he had the courage of his convictions and he stood by his principles.
He wondered what was the use of writing, if it did not help society
in any way.
So the major issues he dealt with were propagation of Khadi, prohibition,
propagation of the Swadeshi movement, propagation of the arts
and crafts of Tamil Nadu, abolition of untouchability, womens
progress, (they did not use the word 'liberation' in those
days because, back then, women were so backward, they did not have
a right to education. They were not allowed to voice their opinions).
My mother was not educated, and after getting married to my father,
when he found this out, he was shocked. He then said, "Its
not your fault that you did not go to school, so if you do not mind,
I will teach you at home, you can learn to read and write even now".
The same day, he started teaching her. Subsequently she went to
the extent of writing short stories herself. So he was not merely
preaching about womens progress, he started it at home. He educated
his wife, he made me learn Bharatanatyam, the veena, classical music,
and I was anyway going to school.
Kalki wasnt just a patriot and a literary figure. He wanted
everyone, even the common man to know, understand and enjoy Tamil
literature. His magazines did not only carry stories, he also used
to devote space for a critique of some literary work. I think it was
one of his great achievements to reach Tamil literature to people
who would usually not have read them.
Kalki in prison
was imprisoned; the first time for one year, than for six months and
then for three months. He had written a book titled, Moondru
Matha Kadunkaval (3 month's rigorous imprisonment).
Only if you read it, you will know how humorously one can write about
life in prison. He has written about all the people who were there
with him in prison. He was in prison along with people like Muthuranga
Muthaliar, Rajaji and K. Santhanam. Even water scarcity
in the jail is written about humorously. They used to serve only Radish
Sambaar everyday. He says - "One day we have Radish Sambaar,
the next day Radish leaf Sambaar, and the day after we have Radish
and the last day we have Radish-fragranced Sambaar".
So in every situation he will see the funny side to it.
Even the difficulties he underwent during imprisonment he has written
about funnily. So one never felt that he was away from his family,
suffering and sacrificing for the country. One more thing is, they
never spoke of their sacrifices as something great, because that is
how they were, they did not know to lead their lives in any other
manner. Their lives were very simple and they had a sense of fulfilment
in their lives. They never felt that they wanted this or that, and
so they were never disappointed. They were contented being with their
friends, talking to them and taking care of them.
The origin of his pen name
reason for his taking Kalki as a pen name was based
on the myth of the Kalki Avataram (the final incarnation
of Lord Vishnu, in the age of Kali). Through his writings,
he wanted to bring about change in this age. Another reason was, he
used to work for Kalyana Sundaram Mudaliar, who was at that
time running the publication called Navashakthi.
He learnt all about how to run a publication from him. Kalyana
Sundaram Mudaliar, was also a great patriot, he had worked for the
cause of workers. As my father was his great fan, he took 'Kal'
from his name and added the 'Ki ' from his own name (R Krishnamurthy)
and made it Kalki.
In the magazine Kalki, his novel used to be under the name 'Kalki',
Music criticism used to be under the name Karnatakam,
for political writings he used to take the pen Langulan.