Manushya Puthiran is the penname of S. Abdul Hameed, an important voice in the new generation of Tamil poets. Since his first book, Manushya Puthiranin Kavithaigal, published in 1983, this Chennai-based poet and critic has published three collections of poetry and two books of essays, and whas ritten several articles on Tamil poetry for India Today, Kalachuvadu, and other magazines. In 2002, he was awarded the Sanskriti National Award for his outstanding contribution to Tamil literature as a young writer.
He has been part of the editorial collective of a well-known Tamil literary journal, Kalachuvadu, from 1994 to 2000. Currently, he is the editor of a Tamil literary monthly, Uyirmmai, and runs a publishing house, Uyirmmai Pathippagam.
Writer, scholar and translator C.S. Lakshmi regards him as a significant presence in the contemporary Tamil poetry scene: ‘Manushya Puthiran is a poet who has written some excellent poetry which has emerged from the small town he comes from and from the city he currently lives in.’ She regards his terse, precise, non-florid idiom and the muted unsentimental register he has gradually evolved as the distinctive strengths of his poetry.
Manushya Puthiran’s poetry was initially shaped by a broadly humanist sensibility, but grew more overtly radical in the early ‘80s. However, disenchanted with the ideological certitudes of the organised left, his poetry later dissociated itself from its Marxist Leninist affiliations. It continues, however, to retain an implicit political vision even while it explores age-old themes of death, pain, loneliness, love, rejection and waiting.
The poems included here are from Manushya Puthiran’s third and fourth collections of poetry, published in 1999 and 2001 respectively. The poetic voice that emerges is restrained, and remarkably, almost ominously quiet. It is a conscious quiet that enables it to register the subtle ironies, the minute discordances, the unrecorded spiritual silences that underlie the frantic busyness of urban middle class life. There is a razor sharp observation of detail and an aesthetic strategy of unrelenting spareness that gives each utterance a resonance and implicit stance, making more didactic comment unnecessary. Unsentimental but not unsympathetic, the poetry embodies an unspoken rejection of a culture that has chosen bluster, rhetoric and grand gesture over basic human values and ideals:
but no one goes away.
These one-and-a-half years
with no latch on the bathroom door
no one’s privacy.
The broken leg of this chair
will not insult a guest,
only slightly imbalance him . . .
is Tamil life.
(From ‘Tamil Life’)
Also on this site
Prayers in Solitude
An interview with Manushya Puthiran by Arundhathi Subramaniam (translated by C.S. Lakshmi).
Manushya Puthiranin Kavithaigal. Manimegalai Prasuram, Chennai, 1983.
En Padukai araiyil yaroo olithirukirargal. South Asian Books, Chennai, 1993.
Itamum Iruppum . Kalachuvadu Pathipagam, Nagercoil, 1998.
Neeralanathu. Kalachuvadu Pathipagam, Nagercoil, 2001.
Kathiruntha Velayil. Uyirmmai Pathipagam, Chennai, 2003
Eppothum vazhum kodai. Uyirmmai Pathipagam, Chennai, 2003
Websites featuring Puthiran
‘Contemporary Tamil Literature’ (Review of a two-volume anthology, Kanaiyazhi Kalanjiyam, featuring Manushya Puthiran)
Sanskriti Awards announced (News feature announcing the Sanskriti Awards of November 2003 for ten young talents various fields, including literature)
‘Peaceful Shadows’ (News report on the use of Manushya Puthiran’s poem in a theatre presentation)