Excerpt from Exile

Exile is a 2013 Tamil (Indian regional language) Auto-fiction novel by Charu Nivedita. This is indeed the first auto-fiction novel in the country. An interesting mix of authors real life experiences and fiction, with Charu’s agony splashing all over on the philistine nature of his fellow Tamilans, especially towards Tamil literature. Clearly Exile or other similar works of Charu do not fall under the conventional framework of novels for an average reader. They are few of those books around that talk about the obscenities of real life. How then can a person/book influence cultural reform against transgressions without detailing what they are or describing the sufferings the victims endure.

Below is my attempt at translating a part from novel where the author vents out some more,

There is no unfortunate situation like writing in Tamil – the thought occurs to Udhaya so often these days. In a recent article, he had written about Raayar Café at Kachcheri Road in Mylapore. Being a foodie he often writes about Raayar Café. He has nowhere else witnessed the taste of the café’s delicacies – the morning idly, green chilly chutney, Kothchu, thick white-chutney, the evening specialties adai, Mysore bonda, rava dosai, gulab jamoon, kesari. It has been at Kachcheri Road for so many years. The father of the brothers who run it now, used to look after the café. He had always had the numbers accurate in mind no matter the number of people eating or the number of items eaten. Apart from taste another specialty of Café is the way food is served. They serve with such an affection that our mother even won’t serve with. And one another important thing about Raayar Café is that the cooking is done using firewood. Sometimes because of that the café gets filled with smoke burning the eyes.  Yet the taste of the food will shun the irritations of smoke. In many old Tamil movies when the hero and heroine go on about a duet song, the entire space starts filling with smoke. One of Udhaya’s friends is so certain that Raayar café should have been the inspiration for that cinematic smoke.

Thirty years earlier, Raayar café was opposite to the police station at Kachcheri Road. Then, he has seen many personalities of Chennai there often. After he left for Delhi, he visited the café every time he returned on holidays. Later on the café got moved. No one knew where it is. And just three years before, he learnt that it was moved to Arundel Street which is just opposite to its old location. Since then he got used to visiting the café once a week. The shrine where Peyaazhwar incarnated is only close to Raayar café, but he had not visited it yet. Even after fifty years Raayar café’s quality and taste hasn’t gone down. Except for one thing only – instead of firewood they now use gas stove. But other such popular restaurants have changed completely in tune to the changes of time.

No, this is not what he was going to say about. Recently he wrote about Raayar café right? Soon one of his (Tamil) co -writers wrote on the internet “It has been so many years now since Raayar café was closed. Yet he has written like he has eaten there. And we had to read all these.” Immediately, scolding Udhaya, so many feedback and hair splitting comments and replies followed in battalions trashing the internet. One smart-head feedback-d like: “I have been living in Mylapore for twenty years. I have never heard of such a café here. It appears like just by being a writer one can write any sort of tall tales!”

Won’t he get sick of hearing the same kind of chants for around thirty years? Tamilans biggest curse are Tamilans only. How could things better if one writer blames another writer’s words as untrue? Even today the Raayar café is at the Kachcheri road’s Arundel Street only. Now he has given the location of the café. And he says he would even get the door number too. Now please tell what punishment can we give to those who say “He’s lying”? This is like someone accusing a woman ‘You are a whore!’ And other scholars follow conceding “Yes, yes she’s a whore. I have been with her’. Now the woman has to prove her chastity going around “I am not a whore”. This is what Mr. Udhaya has been doing for thirty years.


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