IN 1952, when Tyagarajan (he had not yet assumed the pseudonym of Ashokamitran) left Secunderabad, where he was born, grew up and spent the first 20 years of his life, he thought it was going to be a clean break from the past. The last few years here had been so full of political and social turmoil and had caused him such disillusionment and anguish, he probably welcomed the shift to another city. For many years after that, Hyderabad and Secunderabad were farthest from his mind. Seventy-two years old now and many decades and writings later, he can now however, assert that the place and the people he encountered here had a shaping influence on him. In fact, he is yet to exhaust the creative possibilities they have been offering him.
After moving to Chennai, he went on to become one of the most influential figures in post-independent Tamil literature. His oeuvre includes now over 200 short stories, eight novels, some 15 novellas besides other prose writings.
Ashokamitran's fiction is almost exclusively focused on middle class urban life - of Chennai and Hyderabad. He is rather an unusual figure in Tamil literature by virtue of the sparse, chiselled quality of his prose, the self-effacing nature of most of his characters, his meticulous eye for detail and a subtle undercurrent of irony. Not for him the bluster of overarching idealism or grand manifestoes. And when you meet him in person, you can immediately see that this is not a mere writerly stance. But, of course, the ordinariness and the calm are deceptive. Deep down he is a troubled man puzzled by the deceptions and treacheries of men and time. Yet he never loses an opportunity to have a humorous take on them all and himself. Laurels and fame have come in ample measure to this unobtrusive writer. He has a sizeable following among discerning readers in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere.
He began his literary career with the prize-winning play Anbin Parisu, which was followed by many short stories, a collection of novellas, Viduthalai, and eight novels, including Karainda Nizhalgal, Padinettavathu Atchakodu, Indru, Manasarovar and Vizha Maalai Pothil. A distinguished essayist and critic, he has been the Editor of the influential Tamil journal, Kanaiyaazhi, for many years. He has been the recipient of many literary awards, including the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1996.