CHENNAI: Tamil poet R Ranganathan, who wrote under the name ‘Gnanakoothan’ died on Wednesday night due to age-related illness. He was 78. The last rites were performed at his son’s Triplicane residence on Thursday morning.
Gnanakoothan, who is survived by his wife and two sons, is often referred to as the face of modern Tamil poetry.
He was the second of eight children, born to Kannada-speaking parents in 1938. His early works constituted primarily of devotional poetry before transitioning to the social satires that he is known for today.
His refreshing simplicity caught the fancy of young poets and continues to influence the works of several poets of today. Tamil poet and writer Rajathi Salma said, “The language that he used took on a certain character that was unique to his poems. The simplicity, novelty and beauty of his work compelled several poets like me and will always be admired as someone who changed the face of Tamil poetry,” she said. Quoting her favourite verse from one of Gnanakoothan’s work, ‘Nai’ (Dog), she read, “If you stop the last of a group of dogs who are barking in a chain and ask why it’s barking, what would you expect it to say.” (‘sangili thodarai kuraithidum naigalil kadaisi nayai marithu kaaranam kettal ennathai koorum?’)
Incidentally, he famously distanced himself from Tamil chauvinism with the words, “Tamil, it’s true, is the breath of my life. But I won’t breathe it down my neighbour’s neck.” (as quoted in ‘The Oxford Anthology of Modern Indian Poetry’ by Vinay Dharwadker and A K Ramanujan). Salma, who wrote on her wall earlier in the day that a poet never really dies, said, “Today is a dark day for those who loved him and his work.”