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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Conversation with a bug - legendary Sujatha

Conversation with a bug

To me his  “Sorgatheevu” was one of the finest fictions ever written in Tamil. It simply was not a story but almost a reality. It is all about an obscure kingdom where a group control not only the Government but all the subjects. Everything is mechanised and rationed. The citizens would stand before a machine and the pin prick pre set by the rulers would determine what they should do. With their minds bleached, the subjects live as slaves whilst those in the higher echelons enjoy all comforts including womanising. A group rebel silently and some of them get killed ruthlessly. Iyengar, a genius computer engineer is abducted from Chennai to this land, to correct some malfunctioning in programming of their master computer. Though he gets all comforts during his stay, it is obvious that he is under house arrest and not allowed to meet any other citizens. A small group of rebels are somehow able to establish contacts with this outside man – a couple of attempts to change the system promptly fail. The day comes when he has to return apparently not able to help the freedom cause though he otherwise wants to do so.

The story ends with the last para where he upon returning states of a small change done to the programme which would make the machine administer only water drops for a few more days.

You may want to think twice before vacuuming up any pesky cobwebs you find around your home — these messy spider lairs may contain valuable information.  Spiders are naturally not the liked ones.  A spider's sticky web contains traces of the critter's DNA, as well as the DNA of whatever prey that was unlucky enough to get stuck in the web, according to a new study, which found that these tiny samples of DNA can be amplified and sequenced in a lab. In other words, an empty spider web isn't a mystery; it's a clue that can tell scientists what kind of spider built the web and what prey it snagged in its trap.

Spiders are air-breathing arthropods that have eight legs, chelicerae with fangs able to inject venom[citation needed], and spinnerets that extrude silk. They are the largest order of arachnids and rank seventh in total species diversity among all orders of organisms. Spiders are found worldwide on every continent except for Antarctica, and have become established in nearly every habitat with the exceptions of air and sea colonization.

I have seen the genius on a couple of occasions but never had the courage to get closer – once I saw him at Central Station and the closest I could remember was an annual function of ‘Geethacharyan’ Srivaishnava sampradhaya magazine at PSBB T Nagar.  He appeared frail and weak at that time – I was with him as he got into an auto for returning back home !

There were more fictions like " Moondru nimisham Ganesh, En Iniya Iyandira" and "Meendum Jeeno" which vividly captured my imagination in my formative years. His skillful mix of crime and science is unrivalled by any of the contemporary (or past) tamil writers. Sujatha wrote over 100 novels, 200 short stories, essays, stage plays, and popular articles on science. His fictional character of Gansh / Vasanth (lawyers) were extremely popular.  At home, due to Covid-19 lockdown, read ‘Olaipattasu – Short stories and mini-short stories’ collection of Sujatha.  Today being his birth day (3.5.1935) – following social media rule that every fan of his must write something on him !

·         Playboy is an American men's lifestyle and entertainment magazine,  founded in Chicago in 1953, by Hugh Hefner and his associates, and funded in part by a $1,000 loan from Hefner's mother. Notable for its centerfolds of nude and semi-nude models (Playmates), Playboy played an important role in the sexual revolution and remains one of the world's best-known brands.  The magazine has a long history of publishing short stories by novelists.   With a regular display of full-page color cartoons, it became a showcase for notable cartoonists too.   After a year-long removal of most nude photos in Playboy magazine, the March–April 2017 issue brought back nudity.

·         Spider-Man's second honeymoon was a ghost story with a difference. Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson finally tied the knot in 1987, a full 21 years years after they first met in Amazing Spider-Man #42.

·          Jack Sharkey (John Michael Sharkey) (1931 – 1992) was an American writer known for science fiction and stage plays.  From 1955 he served in US Army, for a while he was an editorial assistant of Playboy.  His first science fiction ‘With the Captain of his soul’ in Fantastic magazine. 

·         Henry was disturbed by the shrill voice of insect – some bug – crying – please save me !, please save me ! – he had just returned seeing a ghost movie and mind had some floating fear.  In the dim light first could not notice anything – after climbing on a stool could see an insect cowering in a spider web   

·         Slowly he gets into a conversation and asks – ‘what would you give, if I were to save you’.  It claims itself to be a cursed genie got entangled in the web. It claims to have magical power and could give one grant – slowly the man bargains for three, but the genie is adamant on one.   

·         He thinks of seeking wealth, then beauty, then fame – and minutes were running out in the poor life of the insect !  -

·          Henry could decide at last – what he would seek and how it would change his fortunes – takes out a small hammer and .. .. reaches near the web – hitting dead the spider – for the rest of his life – he rues his decision, could not live in that house – and leaves the town .. .. guess the ending !

Most Spider species are carnivorous, either trapping flies and other insects in their webs, or hunting them down. They can’t swallow their food as is, though—spiders inject their prey with digestive fluids, then suck out the liquefied remains.  Wasps in the family Pompilidae are commonly called spider wasps, spider-hunting wasps, or pompilid wasps.  Nearly all species are solitary and most capture and paralyze prey. In South America, species may be referred to colloquially as marabunta or marimbondo, though these names can be generally applied to any very large stinging wasps. Furthermore, in some parts of Venezuela and Colombia, it is called matacaballos, or "horse killers", while in Brazil some particular bigger and brighter species of the general marimbondo.     A tarantula hawk is a spider wasp (Pompilidae) that preys on tarantulas.

·         the insect that was talking to him was not the wasp. In fact was never in trouble – it was the spider and it was a wasp that was about to kill the spider.  All along it was the spider that was talking to Henry – but Henry thought it was the small insect that was seeking help to be saved from the Spider !  killed the genie that would have granted him fortune  – touch of a genius

·         ~ and though this 3 paged story appeared in Kumudam Special Mar 1994 – this was a story  ‘Conversation with a bug’ – written by Jack Sharkey

·         This story reportedly appeared in ‘Playboy 1961’ issue – Sujatha writes – there would be some nice stories too in Playboy and I am not in the habit of seeing its pictures !

Legendary writer Sujatha (genius who was named Srirangam Rangarajan) – my favourite writer passed away in 2008.  An engineer by profession, he  played a prominent role in the development of the electronic voting machine. The most learned man who was at ease with Science & technology had the knack of reaching out to masses with his simple lines, and taking them to higher echelons.  He made his readers understand and read more Science.  The photo here t is the house in South Tank Square Street, Triplicane, where he lived. 

Sujatha is no more – even building associated with him was demolished – his memories would remain etched forever!

With regards to the master writer – S. Sampathkumar

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