EXCERPTS AND PICTURES FROM CHITHRA BHARATHI
Standing in front of the house is Bharathi's maternal uncle and playmate Sambasiva Iyer.
Subramanian (pet name Subbiah) did not have a horoscope because the details of the exact time of his birth were not noted down, it was believed. However, here's one with the caption which explains it.
In the latter part of the 19th Century, Ettayapuram jamIn was flourishing in the arts. Though it had scant interest in politics and for the freedom of India, there was great regard and love for thamizh in the jamIn at that time. The JamIndAr and his uncle Venkatesura Ettappan were equally zealous about the language and wanted Ettayapuram to be next only to Madurai in promoting thamizh.
Their patronage drew thamizh poets, scholars and gems among musicians to Ettayapuram.
KounDanUr (aka kouNDapuram) was where it all happened. While outsiders knew them as jamindars, to the locals, Ramasami Kounder was maharaja! In Bharathis' autobiographical work Chinna Sankaran kadai, the life at KounDanUr, the raja's coterie of poets and scholars, the appearance of chinna Sankaran (himself) among them, their jealousies and intrigues are described. He also relates the corrupt ways of the jamIn: commanding food to be supplied by every household, cock fights, appreciating erotic works like kULappa NAickan kAdal, taking whimsical decisions on matters concerning people who lived there, were all part of it.
Nevertheless, in the palace, from dawn to ten at night, thamizh, telugu and sanskrit scholars and musicians were engaged in discourses and fierce discussions--and in keeping their arts alive.
Knowing that it was a center for scholars, Chinnasami (sundararaja) Iyer--Bharathi's father who was from SevalapaTTi, decided to settle there. He was well-versed in English, though he was not a college graduate. He was an expert in Mathematics, Logic and Modern Mechanics. He had the ability to take apart any machine and put it together in no time and make it work. To such a man, Ettayapuram jamIndAr offered a prime spot in the jamIn.
Around 1880, Chinnasami Iyer was able to establish a cotton mill there!
CHITHRA BHANU, KARTHIKAI, MULAM
In the year Chithra BhAnu, on the 27th in the month of kArthikai, in mUla nakshathrA, a male child was born to Chinnasami and Lakshmi. It was on the 11th of December in 1882.
Subbiah spent most of his infancy in his maternal grandfather Ramasami Iyer's house and was barely seen in his own house. He was adored by his aunts and was admired by all for his charm and gift of the gab. When he lost his mother at five, they loved him even more. Subbiah was surrounded by affection and attention.
Yet, even as a youth, he was known to be emotionally stirred when someone called out 'ammA'. Was it why he chose parAsakthi to be his most favored form of worship?
When his father remarried, Subbiah was lucky that Valliammal looked after him with loving care. He felt more free with her, asking for favors from her rather than from his father.
Sambasivam, his maternal uncle and close companion in his childhood days, recalls this scary incident:
Subbiah and I used to frequent the cotton mill on our wanderings. His father was very happy about this because he hoped that it would encourage his son to study mechanics by being around machines.
One evening, when the mill was closed, we jumped over the compound wall and went in. My brother-in-law's desk was unlocked. We rummaged it to see if we could find any change in it and came upon a shiny tube. I was fiddling with this new found thing and pressed the lever. It made clicks. Then, bang, what I later came to know as a revolver exploded, and a bullet flew out of it, missing Subbiah's head by a hair breadth!
When his father hoped for higher education and a good station in life for his son, Subbiah struggled with the idea and with his father's being particularly strict about studies and home work. He reveled in day dreaming and in making up verses. He loved to be surrounded by Nature. As a result, he often forgot to take his books and slate and pencils to school, and when the teacher punished him by asking him to stand up all through the lessons, he did so happily, making up verses which rhymed with the scoldings of the teacher!