When I went to Madras, now Chennai, for my college studies, Pachayappa’s College kindled my literary instincts and they found many outlets. I was surrounded by Tamil scholars and writers of repute and the college itself was a breeding ground of first rate scholars and politicians, all bred in the then prevailing environment of Dravidian political consciousness.
Alone among my class mates in the college, I was the one who was a habitual wearer of pure white khadi and I was a nationalist, having been trained in a pucca Gandhian school, the school’s foundation stone was laid by none other than Mahatma Gandhi himself! That was in 1934.
So, my literary tastes in Madras were not influenced by the then prevailing narrow cultural environment. I read widely even then, I remember having read the bulky tomes of biographies of Shelley and John Keats, among others. The college library then (I hope so even now) was stocked with the best books, all hardcover editions and imported from England.
I remember reading the Keats’ letters and greatly touched by the many small details of his tragic short life. Shelley, of course, was very popular among the Indian readers, though I got to read him, along with Byron only in later years. I well remember those days. The Presidency Book Store on Pycrofts Road, Triplicane which we used to frequent on our visits to the Marina beach, sold the latest editions from London. I myself had bought the hardcover edition of Harold Laski’s Grammar of Politics and books by Mulkraj Anand and Somerset Maugham.
Now, in Chennai I started writing more poems. One of the poems that were widely noticed was published in the then top literary magazine “Shanti” (Peace) brought out by the late TMC Raghunathan, a highly talented writer and poet, a close friend of Pudumai Pithan, a legend in Tamil short story writing.
I became an intense fan of Pudumai Pithan and Raghunathan and all the stalwarts of the short story pioneers, the so-called “Manikodi” writers. I was also writing stories, competing in a way with the rising stars of Tamil short stories and poetry and prose writers. I started publishing articles in all respected magazines like “Kumari Malar” edited by A.K.Chettiar, a rare individual who remained my mentor all his life. “Imayam” founded by S.S.Marisamy, “Kathal” edited by Aru Ramanathan, “Manithan” edited by Vindan, all these editors were originally writers of immortal stories and they then launched into magazine owning and editing.
My poetry writing continued when I went to study at Tagore’s Santiniketan, West Bengal, the environment there was extremely conducive for great many literary and artistic pursuits. I became immensely interested in the Tagore music, Rabindra Sangeeth and became also acquainted with Hindustani music and other musical instruments, especially Sitar. Most students also studied music as part of their cultural interests and pastime and today some of them are India’s well-known great musicians and artists! I myself started learning Tabla as part of the learning process! Only my leaving for England made me to part with my musical instruments! I donated the tabla to my teacher who was also a watchman in the Santiniketan ashram! Where every one was an expert in some arts or other!