P. Singaram

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Singaram P
Born (1920-08-12)12 August 1920
Singampunari, Sivaganga Dt, Tamil Nadu
Died December 30, 1997(1997-12-30) (aged 77)
Occupation Novelist, Editor, Garment businessman
Language Tamil, Malay, Bahasa
Nationality Indian
Period 1920–1997
Genre Fiction
Subject Travel, War

Pa.Singaram (Tamil: ப சிங்காரம்) was an important Tamil writer from Sivagangai district who lived most of his adult life is South east Asia - mainly Indonesia and Malaysia.

P Singaram is considered to be one of the greatest Tamil novelist of the modern era despite having authored only two novels. His Puyalile Oru Thoni is considered by many Tamil literary giants to be one of the very important Tamil fiction of all time.

Early life[edit]

Singaram was born on 12 August 1920 to Ku.Pazhanivel Nadar and Unnamalai Ammal in a village called Singampunari in Sivagangai district in Tamil Nadu. He was third of brothers Subramanian and Bhaskaran and his family was involved in clothes business along with his grand father Kumarasamy Nadar.

He had his primary education at Singampunari Primary school and further education at St.Mary's higher secondary school Madurai. He went to Medan, Indonesia when he was 18 years old to work there with S K Sinnamuthu Pillai.

He got married there but his wife and the baby died in pregnancy when he was 25. He came back to India after World War II and lived in Madurai

Formative years and influences[edit]

He moved to Medan when he was 18 - when the world slowly came together the second time for a great World War. The waters become treacherous and Singaram didn't get his share of Tamil-language magazines through ships. Penang library provided him solace and introduced Hemingway, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Chekhov and Dostoyevsky to him.

His influence of Hemingway was very evident in both his works and he considered A Farewell to Arms his favorite and masterpiece of Hemingway. He believed A Farewell to Arms an important milestone in American literature and rated Anna Karenina more than War and Peace.


Singaram has written only 2 novels and he was so frustrated by the difficulties he faced in publishing his novels that he never wrote anything after that. He said he was not encouraged when he wanted to write and he lost motivation after publishing the 2 novels he wrote. He has more than once spoke of Ernest Hemingway's influence [1] in his works and lists him as his favourite writer.

His knowledge on Tamil literature was limited to short stories of Pudhumaipithan and Mouni he read before travelling to Indonesia. In his later years when asked whether he is aware of the present Tamil writers and their works he commented it lacked depth and he couldn't read past two pages of Sujatha and Sivasankari

Kadalukku Appal[edit]

P Singaram wrote this novel in 1950 immediately after he returned to India. Though he sent the novel to many publishers the novel kept returning without getting published. A friend sent this novel to Kalaimagal publications for a novel contest. The novel won first prize in that novel contest. Finally, he was able to publish Kadalukku Appal in 1959 through Kalaimagal publications.

Puyalile Oru Thoni[edit]

This novel [2] was written in 1962 and it didn't find any publishers -after continuous efforts by a friend, Puyalile Oru Thoni was published in 1972 by Kalaignan publications. Many modern Tamil writers consider this as an important literary work published in Tamil in this century. The story happens in Sumatra in the background of Second World War.

Several notable film-makers have expressed their desire [3] to make this epic novel into a movie but conceding it's an impossible task to do justice to this book.

Later years and death[edit]

Singaram returned to India in 1946 and had plans to go back to Indonesia. It was never materialized and in Madurai he joined Dinathandhi newspaper and worked there till he took voluntary retirement in 1987. He did not maintain close relationships with anybody and lived alone for 50 years in YMCA hostel in Madurai

Writers Ramakrishnan, Konangi and many others have met Singaram in his last years of life and told him in person how much they were moved by his works. They repeatedly told Singaram's his stronghold in Tamil literature but Singaram was stoic as ever. He refused to accept his place and no more wrote.

In 1997, he gave away his earnings to Social welfare trusts. In the same year his health condition deteriorated and on 30 December 1997, he died in ambulance while being taken to hospital. He had told not to inform about his death to anyone.