Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Writer Sujatha & principle of "Management of the Absurd"

I have been recently reading a lot of Sujatha. For the uninitiated, Sujatha is the pen name of a successful Engineer of yesteryear turned successful writer - novelist, screenwriter in various capacities including screenplay, dialogues for various successful movies including "Roja", "Mudalvan" (Nayak), "Indian" (Hindustani). His other brownie points include being a classmate of APJ Adbul Kalam and supervising the design and production of the now successful Electronic Voting Machine. More details @ Wiki

In his famous collection of essays in Tamil "Katrathum Petrathum" he discussed a book called "Management of the Absurd" by Richard Farson in which Sujatha summarized the paradoxes in leadership that shaped and changed the world. He quoted several examples from the book that made for very interesting reading! For example, the first of Abolitionists - people who voiced equality of African Americans in the US - were non-African Americans; Child-rights activists are almost universally adults; some of the most successful divorce lawyers are happily married!

Sujatha drew parallels in the Indian context. Indian National Congress was instituted by A.O. Hume, a non-Indian. Some of the most ardent pro-Tamil activists had a mother-tongue that is not Tamil.

In fact ironically enough, I think Sujatha himself fits into this paradox if you will. I started reading Sujatha's creations after his death on February 2008. I have known Sujatha before that more for his novels and back-stage involvement in the film industry than for his essays. I have read some of his novels for which he was very famous, including "En iniya iyandira", "Aryabatta" and a few others that didn't find as much mention, like "Niramatra vaanavil", "ilamayil kol" etc. To my surprise, I was disappointed with the lack of quality in all his novels, famous or otherwise. Drifting storyline turns out to be the common denominator in all his creative writings, though the famous ones did have some substance that allowed me to stick with the book till the end.

Ironically, I found his series of essays in "Katrathum Petrathum" as the best of his creations that I read so far. This book truly highlight his unique ability to discuss complex scientific concepts like "uncertainty principle" (yeah.. that wretched concept that we used to memorize in our 11th grade!) in ridiculously simple Tamil, his off the cuff wits, and most of all his well-known versatility in areas as unrelated as creative writing and science.