Remembering late Malayalam Author TA Rajalakshmi on her 90th Birth Anniversary

Thakkathu Amayankottu Rajalakshmi, a writer who writes stories on the subject of subjectivity and intensity, wrote: “If I stay alive, I will continue writing stories. Wonder how many people I might be causing trouble? Hence, let me bid adieu.” These lines were the last jottings on the author’s suicide note.

TA Rajalakshmi is still a painful memory and an enigma in the Malayalam Literary Horizon.

Rajalakshmi was born on June 2, 1930 in Cherupulassery, Palakkad District. Thiruvambadi Marath Achuth Menon and Kuttyammalu Amma were her parents. As her father was practicing law at the Ernakulam Bar, Rajalakshmi’s childhood was spent in that town. She was the last of five siblings. She evinced great interest in reading when she was still in primary classes. Rajalakshmi showed the propensity for writing, when she enrolled in the high school itself. When she passed her Intermediate Course from Maharaja’s College, Ernakulam, Rajalakshmi pursued her degree course with Physics as her elective subject in the same college. Later, she passed her post graduation from Banaras Hindu University in Physics.

Her official life began when Rajalakshmi joined the NSS College at Perunthani in Thiruvananthapuram. Eventually, she would serve in Pandhalam NSS College and return to her hometown Palakkad where she was serving in NSS College at Palappuram in Ottapalam.

Literary contribution

Rajalakshmi became a noted writer, when she began wrting a long fiction in Mathrubhumi Weekly way back in 1956. The renowned Literary luminary, late Prof NV Krishna Variar was the then Editor of the weekly, who was the colleague of Rajalakshmi’s elder sister Saraswathiamma in Kerala Varma College, Thrissur. Rajalakshmi accompanied her sister and visited the Mathrubhumi office for the first time to meet NV.

In 1958, the Mathrubhum Weekly began publishing her novel, ‘Oru Vahziyum Kure Nizhalukalum,’ (One way and several shadows). Two years later, although, yet another novel that flowed from her pen by name ‘Uchaveyilum Ilamnilaavum,’ (Forenoon Sun and Light Moon) got featured in the weekly in parts, after seven parts, the Editor had to stop the publication of the novel, as per the insistence of the author herself. Apparently, the reason for the withdrawal of her novel was due to the allegation few of her relatives made that it was their real life incidents, Rajalakshmi was trying to write and make money out of it. Following this furore, the author got so miffed that she burnt the manuscript of the said novel. In 1965, the novel, titled: ‘Njan Enna Bhavam,’ (Egocentric) again came through Mathrubhumi Weekly. Apart from this magazine, her works were published in other publication such as Mangalodhayam, Thilakam, Janayugam and Navajeevan, though most of her works were published in Mathrubhumi Weekly.

Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum, one of the best novels of late TA Rajalakshmi.

In his Memoirs, NV has written about this. In 1964, in the Special Issue of Mangalodhayam Weekly, Rajalakshmi wrote a story, titled: Suicide. The following year, on January 18, the sensitive academic and writer committed suicide. Apparently, the professor, as usual, went to college on that fateful day, but came back soon and hung herself on the ceiling of her room on a saree. She died at an young age of 34, thus leaving a colossal vacuum to the Malayalam literary world. Although, he was aware of the reasons that triggered this mavarick write to end her life, nevertheless, NV maintained in his memoir that he would’t reaveal anything more than what the deceased author’s elder sister Saraswathiamma had made in a statement. Till date, the reasons for her tragic end were shrouded in mystery, Rajalakshi’s presence is felt in a big way in the Malayalam literary horizon as a painful memory.

Emily Bronte

No wonder then, Rajalakshmi was termed as Emily Bronte of Malayalam Literature, an honour, none of the other contemporary authors of hers could stake claim.

Rajalakshmi’s Literary Works.

  • Novels
    Rajalakshmi (2005). Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum. Current Books Thrissur. ASIN B007E4WWMO.
  • Rajalakshmi. Njanenna Bhavam (in Malayalam). Thrissur: Current Books.
    Short stories
  • Rajalakshmi (2005). Rajalakshmiyude Kathakal. Current Books Thrissur. ISBN 9788122610581.
  • Rajalakshmi (2006). Makal. Thrissur: Mangalodayam. ISBN 9788184230383.
    Poetry
  • Rajalakshmi (1994). Abhayavarnangal. Chethikode.
    Rajalakshmi. Paranjilla Ninnodu. Chethikode.

Translations

  • Rajalakshmi; Jayasree, R. K. (translator). A path and many shadows and twelve stories. 2016: Orient Black Swan. ISBN 9788125063513.

Award and Accolades

Makal, a short story published in Mathrubhumi weekly in 1956 was her first notable work, which was followed by a number seven short stories and a poem in prose. Apart from the short stories and two poetry anthologies, she also wrote three novels, starting with Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum (A Path and a Few Shadows) where she portrayed the delicate emotions of women.

For her novel, Oru Vazhiyum Kure Nizhalukalum, Rajalakshim bagged the Kerala Sahitya Akademi Award in 1960, making her the third recipient of the honour. The novel later became a television serial and was broadcast as a play by All India Radio. Her other novels are Njaneenna Bhavam and Uchaveyilum Ilam Nilavum while her notable poetry anthology is “Ninne Njan Snehikkunnu”.

When Anita Nair, the Crossword Book Award winning author, has based her 2018 novel, Eating Wasps, on the life on Rajalakshmi, Abhayam, the 1970 movie by Ramu Kariat, was also inspired by Rajalakshmi’s life. Without doubt, Rajalakshmi will remain an enigma in the Malayalee literary minds for generations to come.