He is old, hungry and poor, but believes spring cannot be far behind
In a small room near a congested bylane of Madras, lives C S Chellappa -- a freedom fighter and well known writer. In spite of ailing health and grim poverty, this 86-year-old Gandhian has kept his creativity aglow.
The author of two novels, 109 short stories and 50 odd articles, Chellappa continues to weave tales of hope and freedom. The octogenarian has just completed The thirst for freedom, a three volume epic novel and plans to dedicate his work to the nation on the occasion of the golden jubilee of Indian Independence.
"While national poet Subramania
Bharati failed to publish his 300 odd poems, I have managed to
publish The thirst for freedom which is penned on a bigger
scale than Tolstoy's War and Peace," says Chellappa.
Chellappa's literary mission, running into 1,650 pages could only materialise after he sold his wife's jewellery. Of the total cost of Rs 120,000, he has
raised Rs 40,000 for the first volume and is struggling to
arrange for the rest.
The novel, with Tamil Nadu, particularly Madurai as the
backdrop, traces the freedom struggle. The leadership of
Mahatma Gandhi, the Salt Satyagraha and the seven-year Civil Disobedience
Movement form the main focus of the book.
Chellappa has been associated with the world of literature, for
the past 62 years. Drawn towards the movement
by the fiery speeches on Sarojini Devi, T Prakasam, Rajaji and
Perivar E V Ramasamy, he started dreaming about Indian's freedom
even as a school student in Tuticorin.
Chellappa's thirst for freedom drew inspiration from Bhagat Singh and Subhas Chandra Bose, who advocated armed struggle to secure freedom. He was an admirer of S M Somayajulu, a freedom fighter who was
a disciple of firebrand Subramania Siva.
The nationalist freedom was strengthened by the sacrifice of Bhagat Singh.When Bhagat Singh was hanged,
a young Chellappa seething with anger, told his father
that Gandhiji had betrayed Bhagat Singh.
"My father said do you want swaraj or the
life of Bhagat Singh? If it is swaraj, then many more have to
die," remembers Chellappa. The incident left a strong effect on Chellappa and he
became a firm believer in the Gandhian philosophy of nonviolence.
Chellappa could not join the Civil Disobedience Movement
in 1932 as Gandhiji had decreed that students
should not participate in the movement without their parents's consent.
However, when the second World War broke out, Gandhiji
launched individual satyagraha. "This war is not ours and
we should not support it with men and materials," was his
So Chellappa participated in the satyagraha at Batlagundu,
courted arrest and was jailed for six months on January
10, 1941. Though
he could not participate in the Quit India Movement, he was arrested.
After his release, he set up a cottage industry for handmade paper.
Chellappa's father, Subramania Iyer, was a government servant. An overseer
in the public works department he was also a nationalist, who spun
khadi on a charkha and attended meetings of national leaders.Young
Chellappa grew up in this environment, wearing khadi, singing,
patriotic songs at street corner gatherings and attending meetings
with his father.
He completed his BA degree in
Economics but was unable to get his degree because he failed four times
in English literature. "Milton and Shakespeare
wrought vengeance on me," he says.
story, Markazhi Malar, was published in 1934 in Swatantra Sanku. His first earning from a published work came four years later -- a sum of Rs 5 for a short story. He also worked in dailies, like Jayabharati, Tamil Nadu and the weekly section of Dinamani.
Later, Chellappa turned to literary criticism and brought out
a magazine Ezhuthutu.With a will that was stronger
than his body he carried his
books from one town to another to sell them and make a living.
swaraj, there were values. Morality in public life. But all
was lost afterwards," laments Chellappa, "Gandhian values have been forgotten.
What one sees now is
criminalisation of politics instead of spiritualised politics
advocated by the Mahatma."
"They talk of restoring Kamaraj and MGR rule. Why not the
Ram Rajya dreamt by Gandhiji? Revive nationalism,
morality, spiritualism and proper governance
based on truth and nonviolence. Make India self
reliant and self sufficient by going to the villagers," he continues.
But Chellappa is still hopeful that one day India will come on course. "I am a spent force, yet optimistic. Can spring be far behind?" he asks, with sparks of hope brightening his face.