Home Literature A. K. Ramanujan: Biography and Works

A. K. Ramanujan: Biography and Works

by Litinbox

A. K. Ramanujan (Attipate Krishnaswami Ramanujan) was born in 1929 in Mysore. He was a popular Indian poet, scholar and translator. He attended D. Bhanumaiah’s High School and Maharaja’s College affiliated to University of Mysore in the Indian state of Karnataka; and later he was a Fulbright Scholar at Indiana University in the US in 1960-62.

A. K. Ramanujan was working as a Professor of Dravidian Studies and Linguistics at the University of Chicago during the latter part of his life.

A. K. Ramanujan’s Works

Many of his works very popular in India. He tried to make his poetry interesting by blending modernity and conservatism. In some of his poems, the family bond, love and the family motif are dominant in poems such as ‘Of Mothers Among Other Things‘, ‘Obituary‘, and ‘Small Scale Reflections on a Great House‘.

Ramanujan’s popular collections are ‘Fifteen Tamil Poems’ (1965), ‘The Striders’ (1966), ‘Relations’ (1971), ‘Speaking of Siva’ (1972), ‘Selected Poems’ (1976), ‘Second Sight’ (1986) etc. He received the Gold Medal of the Tamil Writers Association in 1969 for his work ‘The Interior Landscape’ published in 1967.

A K Ramanujan is a part of the anthology ‘Ten Twentieth Century Indian Poets’ chosen and edited by R Parthasarathy. Selected poems from his collections ‘The Striders’ (1966) and ‘Relations’ (1971) has been included in this anthology. The poems included in this anthology are:

From ‘The Striders‘:

From ‘Relations‘:

• Looking for a Cousin on a Swing

A. K. Ramanujan’s ‘Looking for a Cousin on a Swing’ describes the speaker’s first romantic feelings and her experience of climbing tree during childhood. At the time when she was approximately four or five years old, she used to sit on a village swing and her slightly elder cousin sat against her. During this time, she had an immature sexual encounter with her cousin. As a child it was an unforgettable moment in her life and it still remains the same years after even when they are grown up.

This poem was published in the collection titled “The Striders’ (1966). It captures the intensity of first love or sexual awakening, innocence, longing for love and affection and so on. This poem consists of 23 lines with no specific rhyme scheme.

• A River by A. K. Ramanujan

A. K. Ramanujan’s poem “A River” makes a comparison between ancient poets and modern poets, and criticises the tendency of new poets to plagiarise the old poets and their negligence towards the naked truth the lives of human beings and their pains.

The river described in this poem “A River” is the river ‘Vaigai’ that runs through Madurai, Tamil Nadu. This city is known for the popular temples like “Meenakshi Temple” and popular poets from the ancient times.

At the beginning, A. K. Ramanujan talks about the river ‘Vaigai’ and then he draws comparison between the old and news poets and criticises their biased attitude and negligence towards the common people and their sufferings.

Ramanujan received “Padma Shri” in 1976 and “Sahitya Akademi” Award in 1999 for his contribution to Indian literature. This poem was published in ‘The Striders’ in 1966.

• Of Mothers, Among Other Things

‘Of Mothers Among Other Things’ by A. K. Ramanujan is a poem about the speaker’s mother and she has moved from youth to old age, and numerous hurdles and hardships she has had to face in her journey of life.

‘Of Mothers Among Other Things’ is a vibrant description of the motherhood and the sacrifices of a mother. The speaker compares her mother’s hands to eagle’s feet “her hands are a wet eagle’s two black-pink crinkled feet“, a poignant description of mother where we can understand the hardships she has faced in her life with confidence and boldness.

This poem was published in Ramanujan’s collection named ‘Relations’ in 1971. The lines of the poem follow no specific rhyme scheme and many lines run into the next line forming enjambment. The images to describe the mother in this poem are non-traditional and the author uses poignant and strong images to convey the sufferings of a typical Indian mother and her sacrifices for her children.

• Love Poem for a Wife 1

‘Love Poem for a Wife 1’ is an non-traditional love poem dedicated to the poet’s wife. He reminisces their long-lasting quarrel in the past when they were few thousands miles away in a foreign land and how he has become to love his wife in the present as he feels they are merged into one.

The structure of the poem is untraditional that follows no specific rhyme scheme, the lines lengths differ, and the readers would find it confusing about the stanza-breaks. Like most other poems of Ramanujan, this poem also employs the technique ‘enjambment’. ‘Love Poem for a Wife 1’ was published in Ramanujan’s collection ‘Relations'(1971).

• Small-scale Reflections on a Great House

‘Small-scale Reflections on a Great House’ speaks about the poet’s family history, the memories of his house, and the unforgettable moments in it. Free verse is the technique that Ramanujan uses in most of his poems and this poem is not an exception.

This poem was published in ‘Relations’ (1971), Ramanujan’s popular collection. The poet starts the by informing the readers that nothing goes out that ever comes into his house. The list includes the cow, books, photographs, and the women who come into the house as wives.

• Obituary

‘Obituary’ by Ramanujan is on the death of his father. Obituary means a notice of a death in a newspaper that will include a short biography of the deceased person. This poem is included in the collection ‘Relations’ (1971).

In this poem the poet describes his reaction towards his father’s death. Generally, an elegy will be a poignant poem that will describe the speaker’s love and affection towards the deceased person or thing and the pain and suffering that come along with such a loss. But, this poem is a different type of elegy in which the poet reveals somewhat contempt attitude towards his father’s death.