Bahuleyan Jeyamohan (born 22 April 1962) is an Indian Tamil and Malayalam language writer and literary critic from Nagercoil in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
His best-known and most critically acclaimed work is Vishnupuram, a fantasy set as a quest through various schools of Indian philosophy and mythology. In 2014, he started his most ambitious work Venmurasu, a modern renarration of the epic Mahabharata.
His other well-known novels include Rubber, Pin Thodarum Nizhalin Kural, Kanyakumari, Kaadu, Pani Manidhan, Eazhaam Ulagam and Kotravai. The early major influences in his life have been the humanitarian thinkers Leo Tolstoy and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. Drawing on the strength of his life experiences and extensive travel around India, Jeyamohan is able to re-examine and interpret the essence of India's rich literary and classical traditions.
Born into a Malayali Nair family in the Kanyakumari district that straddles Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Jeyamohan is equally adept in Tamil and Malayalam. However, the bulk of his work has been in Tamil. Jeyamohan's output includes nine novels, ten volumes of short-stories/plays, thirteen literary criticisms, five biographies of writers, six introductions to Indian and Western literature, three volumes on Hindu and Christian philosophy and numerous other translations and collections. He has also written scripts for Malayalam and Tamil movies.
Jeyamohan was born on 22 April 1962 in Thiruvarambu of Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu, to S.Bahuleyan Pillai and B.Visalakshi Amma. Bahuleyan Pillai was an accounts clerk in the Arumanai registrar's office. Visalakshi Amma hailed from a family of trade-unionists. Jeyamohan's siblings were an elder brother and a younger sister. Bahuleyan's family followed him around on his work-related transfers to Thiruvattar and Arumanai towns in the Kanyakumari district.
Very early on, Jeyamohan was inspired by his mother to take up writing. Jeyamohan's first publication during schooldays was in Ratnabala, a children's magazine, followed by a host of publications in popular weeklies. After high school, Jeyamohan was pressured by his father to take up commerce and accountancy in college. The suicide of a close friend drove him to drop out of college and constantly travel the country in search of physical and spiritual experience. He supported himself by taking up odd jobs and writing in pulp magazines all the while reading voraciously. He took up a temporary job at the Telephones department in Kasargode where he became close to the Leftist trade union circles. He received many of his formative ideas on historiography and literary narrative during that period.
Visalakshi and Bahuleyan committed suicide within a month of each other in 1984, and this drove Jeyamohan further into an itinerant lifestyle. He met writer Sundara Ramasamy in 1985 who took on the role of a mentor and encouraged him to take up writing seriously. Jeyamohan also got another mentor in the form of Aattoor Ravi Varma who sensitized him to the delicate balance between art and life. In parallel, Jeyamohan was an avid reader of Indian classics and philosophical texts like the Bhagavad Gita.
Fiction & literary criticism
In 1987, the journal Kollippaavai published his poem Kaidhi (The Prisoner). In the same year, Nadhi (The River) was published in Kanaiyazhi with a critical mention from writer Ashoka Mitran. The journal Nigazh published Bodhi, followed by Padugai ('The Riverbed'). Critics heaped praise on Padugai for its evocative narrative that wove together myths and contemporary visuals. Jeyamohan wrote his first full-fledged novel Rubber in 1988 and then re-edited and published it in 1990.
The novel won the Akilan Memorial prize for its path-breaking portrayal of the ecological and sociological impact of rubber cultivation in the South Indian states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Jeyamohan's speech at the awards function was well received, and he further developed those ideas in Novel (1990), an exploration of the art form and its ideologies, and Naveena Thamizhilakkiya Arimugam, a comprehensive introduction to modernist Tamil literature.
In 1993, Jeyamohan met Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati which proved to be a turning point in his spiritual journey. The dialogues with the Guru opened new views into the body of Indian thought, which culminated in his acclaimed work Vishnupuram in 1997. Jeyamohan travelled and witnessed first-hand regional issues, droughts and political problems that underlay issues like Naxalism in tribal areas. His experiences convinced him of the continuing relevance of Gandhian idealism and non-violence as the sensible alternative to naked capitalism and militant socialism. The leftist in him had been saddened by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and a decade long introspection on the nature of power and self-righteousness found expression in Pin Thodarum Nizhalin Kural in 1999.
Post-2000, Jeyamohan broke new ground with Kaadu (2003), an exploration of the forest landscape as a metaphor for lust and the vigour of life. Kotravai (2005), the renarration of the Kannagi epic, was deemed by the writer and critics as his best yet in terms of structure and depth.
From 1998 to 2004, Jeyamohan and his friends edited a literary journal named Solputhithu. In 2009, his readership circle created the 'Vishnupuram Ilakkiya Vattam' to broaden the readership for serious literature in Tamil Nadu and to reward under-recognized pioneers of Tamil literature.
When he turned 50, Jeyamohan wrote a set of short-stories, titled 'Aram', that explored the values and idealism that is possible in man. In 2014, Jeyamohan began writing Venmurasu, a re-narration of the Indian epic Mahabharata.
In parallel, Jeyamohan has produced a prolific output as one of the foremost Literary critics and theorists of modern Indian literature with focus on Tamil. His 30 volumes on criticism and anthologies have earned him a respectable place among critics like Vedasagayakumar.
In 2013, he was considered as Tamil Author of the year by National Library, Singapore. In 2016, he worked as Writer in residence for 2 months at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, organized by National Arts Council (Singapore) and National Institute of Education.
Jeyamohan had been an active participant in Tamil internet discussion groups like Mayyam, Forumhub and Thinnai.com during the early years of the medium in India. As part of the debates, Jeyamohan produced some of his best essays on literary standards and criticism during this period. Recognizing the possibility of losing some of these important works, Jeyamohan's friend and writer Cyril Alex created the author's website for consolidating the author's works. Over the decade, the website has become an important repository of the author's essays running into thousands.
The author follows an innovative publishing model in which he serialises all new content on the website and allows free access, while simultaneously offering hardbacks and paperbacks through publishers. More significantly, the website allows the author to freely engage in discussions with thousands of readers on the axioms that govern his works and thought. In early 2011, the Vishnupuram Ilakkiya Vattam has created an online moderated discussion group for discussing literature, criticism, art and related topics.
Gandhian movements & Anna Hazare
Jeyamohan gravitated towards Gandhian philosophy and political principles through debates with many intellectuals of the era. His considerable writing resulted in the corpus of essays published in 2009 as Indraya Gandhi, a collection that examined the continuing relevance of Gandhi's methods and ideals in modern India. Indraya Gandhi explored new dimensions on Gandhi's life including his relationship with Nehru, Ambedkar and Dalit politics and the topic of Lust. Jeyamohan has continued to highlight many Gandhians who represent the philosophy.
As a part of the series, he sought to explain how the next generation of Gandhian leaders like Anna Hazare were continuing to inspire the nation towards achieving true democracy and equality. Jeyamohan had been one of the first Indian ideologues to write about Anna Hazare many years before Anna Hazare's popular anti-graft movement. Jeyamohan had personally visited Ralegaon Siddhi to see Hazare's social movements in action, and he also wrote about Hazare's tireless struggle to get the Right to Information Act passed in the Indian parliament.
Throughout 2011, Jeyamohan continued to write about and support Anna Hazare's anti-corruption movement and the Jan Lokpal bill. Rather than focus on the minutiae of the bill itself, Jeyamohan focused readers' attention on the ideology behind Hazare's actions – how he appealed directly to the sense of justice in the common man, his symbolism, and the Gandhian method of achieving the ultimate goal through civil non-violent mass movement without letting up any opportunity to discuss and negotiate with political opponents. Amidst widespread scepticism and slander flamed up by the national and regional media across the political spectrum, Jeyamohan remained rock solid in support of Anna Hazare's movement. By the end of the summer of 2011, Jeyamohan had written close to 60 essays on the topic, many of them in answer to readers who had written in expressing their own doubts and questions. In 2016, on the occasion of state elections in Tamil Nadu, Jeyamohan wrote a series of essays on Democracy in the newspaper Dinamalar which was published as a book.
Jeyamohan's works like 'Kaadu' and 'Mathagam' feature elephants in central roles, while his biographical and travel essays capture the centrality of nature, ecology and conservation to the Indian way of life. One such true-life story on the conservationist Dr.V. Krishnamurthy (veterinarian) ('Dr K, the Elephant Doctor') sparked huge interest and discussion among readers on the impact of humans on forest life. Told in semi-fictional form as through the eyes of a forest ranger, the story follows Dr K as, despite having a giant reputation in the naturalist circles, he eschews human accolades and seeks a much more rewarding life in the company of animals in the Indian Forest Department's elephant camps. 'The Elephant Doctor' has been included in the Tamil textbook published by the Department of School Education, Tamil Nadu as part of the revised syllabus for the year 2018.
Jeyamohan has found himself at the centre of many controversies:
In early 2008, Jeyamohan published a satire on Tamil movie icons M G Ramachandran and Sivaji Ganesan. A popular print weekly, Ananda Vikatan, picked up on this and it resulted in a huge slander and threat campaign against the author.
Jeyamohan firmly rejects any notion of offering serious literary status to the works of M Karunanidhi, who he classifies under romantic/historical fiction writers. This raised the ire of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party members.
In 2014, Jeyamohan criticized the undue attention that some women writers were garnering without having produced any literary work of merit. This generated a controversy as some activists sought to portray his remarks as misogynist. Jeyamohan responded with his own statements criticizing the intentional slander.
Jeyamohan was introduced to Arunmozhi Nangai as a reader and married her in 1991. Their son Ajithan was born in 1993 and daughter Chaitanya in 1997.
Akilan Memorial Prize (1990)
Katha Samman (1992)
Sanskriti Sammaan (1994)
Paavalar Virudhu from Isaignani Ilayaraja Ilakkiya Peravai (2008)
Mugam award for 'Aram' collection
Fiction award for 'Kotravai' from The Tamil Literary Garden (2009)
Kerala Film Critics Association award for Best Scriptwriter for Ozhimuri (2012)
T A Shahid Memorial award (2012) for Best Scriptwriter for Ozhimur
Kannadhasan award from Kovai Kannadasan Kazhagam (2014)
Iyal award from The Tamil Literary Garden for 2014 (presented 2015)
Refused to accept the Padmashri award from Government of India (2016) on the grounds preserving his integrity
A translation of his short story (Periyamma's words) was awarded 2017 Close Approximations Fiction Prize from critically acclaimed Asymptote
Lifetime achievement award, Codissia Book Festival (Coimbatore) – 2017
Saatchi Mozhi (2008), discourses on politics
Indraya Gandhi (2009), treatise on the continuing relevance of Gandhi and Gandhian principles
Anna Hazare (2011), (Collection of essays describing Anna Hazare's Gandhian philosophy and fight against corruption)
Forbes India - The Tamil Film Industry's New Storyline
Writer Jeyamohan Working On The Longest Novel Series| Mathrubhumi News
January 25, 2018
Writer. B Jeyamohan, TEDx SRM, 2012
June 10, 2012