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A rare literary jewel

A rare literary jewel
Highlights

For three generations of Telugu households the name Malathi Chendur spells “love, affection and endearment’’. She had been a family...

Malathi Chendur is a rare breed of that generation of writers when their hearts embraced one and all and their warmth and concern to the community was total and lasting.

For three generations of Telugu households the name Malathi Chendur spells “love, affection and endearment’’. She had been a family counsellor, friend, philosopher and guide to them. In the entire literary and journalistic world of any region or language of any State, perhaps, no other writer kept herself in touch with her readers so whole-heartedly for a whopping 52 years through her column. It is history. Her “Pramadavanam’’ had been the most popular column for decades.
And, “Vantalu-Pindi Vantalu’’- a book of Andhra vegetarian cuisine written some 50 years back -- is still in circulation and is an inevitable gift for any married couples even today. It went into 29 reprints to date! Her rare recipe “Kakarakaya Podi’’ made with plump, luscious, happy looking bitter gourds is still popular among food lovers and a sole patent of Malathi Chendur. She had the rare genius of delving into the psyche of her audiences and deliver what exactly they wanted. Some 20 years back when my son was married, his mother-in-law came along with her daughter for the first time to Chennai. She requested me -- a film man -- to introduce her to only one person among many in this tinsel world: Malathi Chendur! That was the glamour she commanded by sheer virtue of her pen.
About 60 years ago, she came to erstwhile Madras along with her husband –another important name in the literary world – NR Chendur and they travelled in a bullock cart to an old Madras hotel, according to her. Eventually they purchased a house in Kutcheri Road, Mylapore. Their house was Mecca for several stalwarts of literary world for over five decades: Be it Chelam, Kodavatiganti Kutumba Rao, Bezawada Gopala Reddi, Vasudevan Nair or anybody. Her husband, who used to run a monthly “Jagathi’, had been her source of inspiration and guide all through her life. She was a journalist, translator, story writer, novelist, literary critic and more than anything else, a warm human being.
Malathi Chendur never poked her nose in any controversy nor did she had any flair for it. She embraced everything, every ideology that is worth imbibing and always had a sympathetic ear even for those ideas that are not palatable or popular. Her hands were always full with work and her heart was an open book for any good story, poem, song or an article. When I read a kavita “America Patalu’ soon after my return from the US at Potti Sreeramulu Centre, Chennai, at a literary gathering, she coolly walked to the podium and snatched the papers from my hand and walked back to her seat. Her affection invites, cajoles, commands and even demands. Chendurs were inseparable pair we Chennaites used to cherish and welcome at any and every literary gathering. For all of us the Kutcheri Road in Mylapore was only a place belonging to Chendurs.
She did an astounding number of translations -- about 300 to be precise -- from all classics, right from Jane Austin, Arthur Hailey, Pearl S Buck, Daphne du Maurier to MT Vasudevan Nair, Taslima Nasrin, Arundhati Roy. She published about 10 volumes of these translations. She was the recipient of Central Sahitya Academy Award, State Sahitya Academy Award, Padmavati Mahila University Award, Grihalakshmi Award, Lok Nayak Foundation Award, to name a few. Her “Satabdi Sooreedu’’ and “Sisira Vasantham’’ stand tall for the mastery of her narrative skills and the subjects she handled therein. The other novels include “Bhoomi Putri’’, “Hrudaya Netri”, “Alochinchu’’, “Kalala Velugu’’, “Manasuloni Manasu’’, “Kotta Keratalu’’.
She had a rare sense of humour with is almost contagious. Months back, we were all there at Hotel Savera at a reception given to the former Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh K Rosaiah. As we were coming out of the hotel, I found a nice, new car waiting for the couple at the foyer. NR Chendur opened the door of the back seat and held it for his wife. Immediately I quipped rather teasingly: “An endearing tiny, new car for the old man!’’ She turned to me angrily and said “Durmarguda! Am I not endearing to him!’’. I was apologetic; folding my hands I said: What can I say about an 81-year-old wife to 94-year-old husband! She laughed heartily and got into the car.
After the demise of her husband, she was isolated and forlorn and was almost counting her days. When I recorded her for her husband’s story “Mangalore Mail’’ for my series “Vandella Kadhaku Vandanalu”, she was musing with all melancholy saying that her only source of inspiration had gone forever. She was never her usual self in the last two years but only a shadow of the past. When she breathed her last on Wednesday, she was a shrunk package of hardly 40 kg. May her soul rest in peace.
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