That title relating RK Narayan to me is the height of hopes. But seriosuly there is a thin line of connection. Read on.
Last week, I had to meet a childhood friend at Purasawalkam and hence went there. Purasawalkam is at slightly north of Chennai just after Egmore near the Poonamallee High Road. If you can remember Hotel Dasaprakash, you can remember Purasawalkam. It’s my most favourite place on earth. Quite Naturally. I was born and brought up in Vellala Street of Purasawalkam. Until 15, my entire childhood was spent at purasawalkam. Being a born go-rounder, I had literally walked, cycled, biked through every square feet of Purasawalkam. It had some nice temples like the Gangadeshwarar temple and some beautiful parks around. Also crowded with theatres/sabhas, Purasawalkam was probably one of the reasons why I grew a movie/music buff. From Abirami complex to Sangam, Ega and more, we had totally 15 theatres within a 3 KM radius, some of them are either converted to wedding mahals or run porno stuff these days. A lot of sabhas which are now converted to flats played enough carnatic music next to Mylapore. The musical legends like the gods’s own voice, MS Subbulakshmi, DK Pattammal and others had lived at Purasawalkam. At that time Purasawalkam was still striving to become the heart of Chennai. Today it is the shopping paradise of Chennai after Pondy Bazaar in T.Nagar. I no more live there but now when I go the place even after few months, I get a feeling the place, the roads and the buildings are getting smaller. Donno if someone had a similar feel when they visited their childhood place after long time.
Like anybody else, to tell about that place and my childhood, I have enough stories. But back to point. In his Autobiography, My Days, RK Narayan writes the first few chapters of his childhood that was spent in Purasawalkam. His full name being Rasipuram Krishnaswami Ayyar Naranayanaswami. After Swami and his friends, he shortened it as RK Narayan. He was born and brought up at Vellala Street of Purasawalkam. He talks about the corner of the street to where he used to run and see the bullockdrawn carriages moving around. Also RK Narayan recollects about the nice Ponni Amman Koil that he visted with his family. I had read his autobiography a long time back and didn’t give a note to it, truly.
A friend’s dad and also another friend of mine had asked if I knew the exact house where RK Narayan lived. One of them even told the place but I wasn’t grasping it. I wasn’t too sure because the street was a kilometer long and had many sub-lanes and he could have lived anywhere.
Yesterday I was talking with my thatha, my grandpa, who had spent more than 45 years of his life in the same purasawalkam, I remembered this interesting point to clarify. When I asked him “ Thatha!! RK Narayan, namma vellaala theruvula enga irundharunu theriuma? “. Do you know where RK Narayan lived in Vellala Street ?. He smiled and with a natural ease said ” Namma aathukku rendu aam thalli irundhaar. Ethana thadava idha onakku sollirukken, badava”. He said “RK Narayan lived just two blocks away “. Oh ! my gosh. Just two blocks. We were just two blocks away to where the malgudi creator RKN lived and even after my grandpa pointing it out when we lived there, I hadn’t noticed it. Fool, I thought to myself. Though RK Narayan wasn’t even there when I was born, it was a GREAT joy and delight to know that my house was located so close to RKN’s childhood home. That was be sufficient to allow myself, a RKN fan, to feel connected to the genius. Thanks Thatha!!, You made my day.
The musical memories of Purasawalkam.
Walking with RK Narayan in The Frontline
An interview with RK Narayan’s brother RK. Ramachandran by Randor Guy.