The face of rural Tamil Nadu, especially the southern region of the state would not have gained so much popularity in Tamil literature, had it not been for his man. Now dead at the age of 66, Melanmai Ponnusamy is remembered by Tamilians for his eye for the plight of the poor in the rural areas, including the farmers.
Born in a farmer's family in the Melanmarainadu village in Virudhunagar District, he was a farmer by heart and soul. Although a school dropout, he was highly influenced by the Marxist philosophy and related it to his surroundings in an amazing way. Running a grocery store was a part time job, but revelling in the simple, yet difficult life in the village was his passion. Reading translations from Soviet Literature provided him a strong background to look into things
A Tamil Novelist Su Venkatesan, speaking to the Times of India , rightly pointed out, "Ponnusamy's style was simple. His characters sprang from the Karisal Bhoomi (rain-fed region). He even recorded the plight of farmers of that region very powerfully . He was not a scholar, but a great reader of human minds and a keen observer of the land where he lived."
His writing, indeed, were not hypothetical or fictitious. They were very much grounded in the life of the rural. He went places, heard stories and exchanged stories with villagers, especially farmers, and celebrated their way of life in every possible way in his novels.
One of the founding members of the Tamil Nadu Progressive Writers Association (TNPWA), Ponnusamy won the Sahitya Akademi award for his short story collection `Minsara Poo' in 2008. His writings were poignant and smelt of the arid regions of Tamil Nadu. His first short story was published in 1972 and there was no looking back after that. His writings appeared in some of the leading newspapers and Tamil magazines like Kalki, Semmalar and Ananda Vikatan.
The characters of his works inadvertantly sprang from the Karisal Bhoomi or the rain-fed region from where he belonged. He had published more than 24 collections of short stories, five novels and six novellas.
According to The Hindu, writer and theater personality Mangai had once said, " In whatever he did, he made it clear that he was not going to compromise on what and how he was going to communicate both in terms of style and content." She had further added that the writer could easily relate to someone on the streets, a child or even an elderly person. He was also won Ilakkiya Chinthani award, Adithanar Award and Tamil Nadu State Government’s award.
The last battle
Melanmai Ponnusamy lost his battle to life at the Government General Hospital in Chennai where he was undergoing treatment for nerve-related illnesses.