Editors and publishers take stock of the situation — comparing the happy past with the dull present
A children’s writer must fire on all cylinders. He must use catchy phrases, kindle the child’s curiosity, and stoke the child’s imagination. A story shouldn’t be dystopian, or too syrupy. Death may have to be portrayed, but it cannot be a stark presentation. These are just a few of the many problems a children’s writer must agonise over.
And yet, here is an interesting statistic. The Who’s Who of children’s writers in Tamil brought out in 1971 by Kuzhandai Ezhuthalar Sangam founded in 1950 by Azha Valliappa, had a list of 370 writers! So clearly, there were many writers, who liked the challenge of writing for children, and there was a robust reading public for children’s literature.
Tamil magazines fostered the reading habit among children. As early as 1891, C.V. Swaminatha Iyer had a separate children’s section in his magazine Viveka Chintamani. Forty children’s magazines were in circulation during 1947-52, according to the Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature.
AR. Narayanaswami of the Kalaimagal group of publications, says, “Kalaimagal had a kiddies’ section, but in 1950, we started a children’s magazine called Kannan, priced at 25 paise an issue, with Aarvi (R.Venkatraman) as editor. Kannan came out till 1972. Eminent writers Ki.Va Ja, Thi.Ja.Ra, Kothamangalam Subbu, Azha Valliappa — have all written for Kannan. We used to organise story writing contests for children. We had a Kannan Kazhagam — a club for readers of Kannan, and Kannan Pena Nanbargal — an association of pen pals. Illustrations were by Shankar, Umapathy and Azhi. Kannan Deepavali malars had cover illustrations by Gopulu.”
This writer has read Sanskrit scholar V.S. Karunakarachariar’s ‘Gandharvan Kudai,’ which won a prize from Kannan in 1967. It continues the Ponniyin Selvan story, from where Kalki left off, and weaves in the story of Vaishnavite Acharya Nathamuni.