How do reading groups or so called Book Club members select their books to read is a question that has been haunting me for quite some time.I always felt that when quite a few members of these groups declare that they are serious readers they mean that they read only the so-called acknowledged writers’ works. Many members of such groups have stock names of writers to drop at any conversation as is necessary to establish their level of reading knowledge. Therefore definition of a good book normally remains highly subjective by these ‘serious’ readers.
To beat them all here we have MeeraRaghavendraRao, a free lance writer, who has been quietly bringing out books that are highly readable with subjects that are directly related to ordinary human being’s everyday life.
Thus the collection of articles in this book, as her writings have always been, throws light on ordinary things in life and when seen through an appreciative eye and told through a creative pen such ordinary things can become quite interesting to read. Simple but truthful are the expressions of the characters of her writings, whether an old grandmother or an auntor any of the plethora of relatives that South Indians have. How the protagonists of the articles feel and react to things with child-like curiosity and sincerity is explained in simple language and therefore would appeal to anyone. A reader is able to cherish the writing of Meera as she connects people with ideas and transforms ordinary happenings to readable story, creating an identifiable space for both the reader and the character that defies time. Most of her articles are, as she says, picked from real life; names are changed to protect the identity of persons.One can open any page of the book and start reading. As the articles are short, they are easy to read; once an article is read, the reader is enthused to reader further, thus establishing a genre of its own to the book.
For instance, in the articleCulture Shock, she introduces a grandmother, who could be anybody’s, and therefore the reader can at once be comfortable both with situation of the story and its character. How in spite of the tasty food etc., the grandmother stays glued to the idea of behavior of girls and eventually gets concerned about her own granddaughter’s behavior and well-being is typical of any lady of her age.
Since the author has been living in the then Madras for many years, her narration of history of the place in her article on Eldams road is interesting. H. D. Love in his Vestiges of old Madras about this road, says, “Was laid out before 1816. It is named after Mr Richard Yeldham, a free merchant who in 1801 was the last of a long line of Mayors of Madras. In 1803 he was a Commissioner for the Recovery of Small Debts and Muster Master of the Kings Troops and in 1811 was Treasurer of the Government Bank.” That she is able to trace the history of the road and establish her family’s connection with old Madras makes a sense of belonging of the author with the place making the story authentic.
Beware of Watchmen is another article that any apartment dweller would readily identify as his/her own, and therefore the strength of narration is real. Similarly other articles are all easily understandable narrations as most people experience the situations explained. There are some serious articles like building of the new Raghavendra temple and the experiences of people connected with it that adds to the originality of the writing and establishesthe author’s story telling ability. All in the Family is another article onfamily relationship and a clear message to elders in advising youngsters.
Much written about subjects like Mylapore festivals and Madras Music Season get fresh and different treatment from her pen.
As the title suggests the stories relate to goings-on in the city of Chennai, a metaphor for itself, known for character different from other metropolitan cities.
I am sure this book would find appreciative readers as her earlier books did.
R. A. Narasiah
Author, Columnist and Historian