Hephzibah Jesudasan (1925 – 2012) is a native of Pulippunam, Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu. She spent her early years in Burma, where her father worked. After the outbreak of the Second World War, her family had to leave Burma and rebuild their life in Pulipunam, which became the wellspring of her creative energy. A gentle and unassuming figure, Hephzibah Jesudasan straddled the world of Tamil and English Literature with ease. After completing her BA (Hounours) in English from Maharaja’s University College, Trivandrum, she went on to work as a professor of English. An accomplished translator, essayist, novelist, poet and writer of children’s books, she took to writing in Tamil encouraged by her husband Jesudasan, who was a renowned professor of Tamil himself. Her works are memorable for her artless prose and earnest portrayal of the Palmyra climbers of her region. Her first novel Putham Veedu (1964) is celebrated as an important forerunner of the realistic novel in Tamil. Ma Ni, Anathai and Dr Chellappan are three of her other novels. Her book The Tamils Down the Ages through their Literature is considered to have made significant contributions in tracing the history of Tamil writing.

PUTHAM HOUSE (Putham Veedu)

Number of pages: 176

Putham House is about a young girld trapped in the suffocating confines of rigid social mores and prejudices.

As change sweeps over her small village surrounded by majestic Palmyra trees, Lizzy barely clings to the hope that her life too will change for the better while the indolent and overbearing menfolk of her family wallow in their former eminence and do nothing to redeem the sinking fortunes of their once prosperous household. Torn between filial duty and her love for an earnest young man from the Palmyra climbing community, Lizzy’s plight is symptomatic of many a thwarted life caught in the cruel grip of prejudice. Her efforts to make do with what little joys she can draw from her straitened circumstances, her largeness of spirit and her resilience are truly unforgettable.

Hephzibah Jesudasan’s scrupulous and sensitive portrayal of the Palmyra climbers, whose lives are as precarious as their perch on the tall swaying palms, makes this book a modern classic.

Published in English (Rupa Publications)
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