CHENNAI: Real-time anecdotes, relevant themes and a realistic approach to storytelling — for the past 63 years, SRG Sundaram, a popular children’s Tamil literary writer, has been on a journey of weaving words and verses, which resonate with the youth. “My continuous interaction with children, over the decades has helped me understand their evolving thought process and requirement, making me a perpetual learner. This is a symbiotic journey. This wisdom has helped me write stories that are relevant to changing times and pushed me to constantly ask the question: ‘What are our children reading?’” says the writer, who recently turned 80.
Born in Mylapore in 1940, Sundaram grew up soaking in the stories narrated by the elders in his house, enabling him to think beyond the obvious. “My formative exposure to a plethora of stories helped me win my first ever short story writing competition in January 1957. It was conducted by Mylapore Kasturiba Club. I won the second place and that laid the foundation for my future endeavours,” shares the author, who has penned 80 short stories, 87 poems and songs, authored 15 books, scripted 123 stage dramas and several radio dramas for All India Radio (AIR) — all for children. “In 1960, I received a letter from AIR to write children’s dramas for them. That’s when I first wore the hat of a playwright. I am eternally grateful for the opportunity and encouragement I have received from AIR over the years,” says the recipient of several awards, including the Kavimamani Award and NCERT National Award for Children’s Literature.
The octogenarian, who worked at the Chennai Port Trust for 37 years, while working for the welfare and development of children’s literature, says that his stories have often been reflections of the things and events he witnessed in everyday life. “I used to cycle every day to the Port Trust. During one such commute, I noticed a huge boulder in the middle of the road, blocking traffic. But like everyone else, I too overlooked the obstacle and used the little space available to continue my journey. But while I was returning home in the evening, I found the boulder still lying in the same place. I suddenly had the urge to act. I got off the cycle and with great struggle moved it aside. The happiness it gave me was indescribable. This experience of mine translated into a children’s drama called Vazhi Kaati (Guide/role model), taking forward the message of being a trailblazer instead of waiting for others to take the first step. Most of my creations have been built on such simple, every day events that offer a slice of life and a profound message,” shares the creative, who also established the Parkadal Children’s Club.
A lover of the Tamil language, Sundaram has often been a crusader in taking the richness and culture of his mozhi to the uninitiated. Emphasising the need for children to have a basic knowledge of their mother tongue, he elaborates, “Today, children want to go global, and in the process, are learning international languages like French, German and Japanese. But, the interest in learning their mother tongue is bleak. This is an area that I want to focus on in the current scenario. To develop an interest in children, the stories not only have to be captivating but also add value to their life. We as writers and creators should focus on this.”
Over the last six months, Sundaram has been busy attending literary Zoom meetings and delivering virtual lectures on current-day problems and on the development of children’s literature. “I have been open to different mediums and schools of thought over the years. It is important to look at the different tenets and perspectives, to grow. Now, with everything taking a digital trajectory, I too am chalking a plan to digitise my songs and poems. It is an exciting process and I am looking forward to learning from it,” he says.