The author is a historian, editor and translator. A professor at the Madras Institute of Development Studies, Chennai, he is known for his efforts in collecting and publishing the works of Tamil writer Pudumaippithan. He was awarded the VKRV Rao Prize for History in 2007.

Drawing on the expertise that has held him in high regard in this part of the world, his latest book, aptly titled Tamil Characters: Personalities, Politics, Culture, talks extensively about the biggest names from Tamil history. Popular political personalities like Periyar, Anna, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa are elaborately assessed through the works of significant poets and writers like Subramanya Bharati, Pudumaippithan and Iyotheethos Pandithar. Delightfully, vivid sketches of these significant characters embellish the book.

The book falls into three sections. The first section profiles key political personalities of the past century. The second section talks about cultural and literary figures of Tamil Nadu and will kindle interest in their life and work. The last section comments on important cultural issues like the anti-Hindi agitations, the classical language issue, prohibition, jallikattu, etc.

The book proves to be a good read for those who enjoy politics and the arts as it comes interwoven with the author’s life-time of experiences and understanding in these fields. The book offers a ring side commentary of the greatest developments in Tamil society, starting from how the ideology of Periyar affected the people to spontaneous uprisings like during the jallikattu movement.

Notes on prohibition
The chapter on Prohibition traces the history of how prohibition is handled in politics. The author suggests that regulation, overseen by civil society, should be accompanied by a campaign of education. He also suggests that our hospitals need to be equipped with de-addiction clinics complete with health professionals and peer support groups. He further suggests that the State consider legalizing toddy tapping, so that there’s a cheaper and less harmful substitute for industrially-produced liquor.

2015s rains that
drowned chennai
As author AR Venkatachalapathy recounts the real and horrific incidents that unfolded during the massive deluge in 2015 – including stories of deaths in a hospital due to power failure in the ICU; multiple deaths of small children; a loving middle-aged couple found dead in their last embrace; and the washing away of bodies as far as the Trincomalee beaches in Sri Lanka – it’d take a heart of stone not to be moved by such tragedies. The book traces the lasting effects of the damage, but not without doffing its hat to the spirit of camaraderie that revealed itself in this dire hour.

Publishers: Pan Macmillan India
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