Reading aloud is fun 21/09/2010

What do you do when you have three-and-half decades of experience living in a metro? Put it down in writing and make it into a book. Like N Meera Raghavendra Rao did.

She recently presented her book,‘Madras Mosaic’, to an elite audience at the Oxford Book Store, Chennai, where there was a reading session. 

Meera, a freelance journalist and journalism teacher, had started off by writing letters to the editor. She then graduated to writing children’s stories, features and interviews. And finally into producing a book!

Meera made the reading session lively by interjecting it with her off-the-book explanations and observations and throwing in bits of information about herself. 

She studied in Jamshedpur and came to Chennai, then Madras, as a young bride. Once she took up writing letters to the editor, she flayed the corrupt officials with the might of her pen. Once she started interviewing people, she met a range of people from the “highest to the lowest”, as she put it.

She has met former Governor to Tamil Nadu Bheeshma Narain Singh to Galbraith, who was the US Ambassador to India during Kennedy’s time.

She has put together these writings in ‘Madras Mosaic’, published by Parity Paperbacks, New Delhi. 

Meera’s favourite in the book, and she finds that of most other readers, is the first story on her mother-in-law going to a five-star hotel. The story juxtaposes the old world values of her mother-in-law with those of the younger generation at a five-star hotel. 

In fact, the book is a projection of this idea. Meera has watched Chennai grow and change and this shows in her writing. The recurring theme in the 20 chapters of the book is that of a younger generation growing more and more distant from its cultural moorings. 

“The book is a social commentary on life in Madras. But I have not been judgemental,” says Meera. That is because she is able to see the funny side of any incident in life. Once when she had a chance to meet R K Narayan, he complimented her on her “light touch” – not surprisingly, Meera cherishes this compliment as the best in her life.

She herself was unaware of the funny streak that runs in her writings until some students from Pittsburg asked her – during a reading session of her writings when they visited Chennai – if she was a fan of O Henry!

‘Madras Mosaic’ has done extremely well as it went into second print within three months of being launched in Chennai in November 2005. The book is dedicated to her handicapped brother-in-law who did the typing work for her. The proceeds go towards charity. The foreword is by V Rajalakshmi, a professor from Presidency College. 

Says Sundera Gopalan, who attended the book-reading session, “Meera and I became good friends through Duchees Club. Thanks to Duchees Club I became a great fan of Meera after reading Madras Mosaic and her articles in Chennaionline. Meera is a very down to earth person and her articles are humerous: connected with day-to-day events to which we don’t give much importance. This shows what a keen observer Meera is, observing things/situations around her and putting them wonderfully into writing.”

Meera is into her second book, for students of journalism, on feature writing.

R Chitra 

Published on Jan 25th, 2007

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