I hail from Tamil Nadu, the southernmost state of India, whose inhabitants speak Tamil, one of the longest surviving classical languages with a rich literary history and cultural tradition. I grew up reading Tamil classical texts (mandatory in middle and high school) and modern Tamil literature while watching the state’s ancient art forms performed. This tropical state boasts of three seasons namely hot, hotter and hottest and offers some of the country’s spiciest and most delicious food. I’d like to believe that I am one of those handfuls of people who choose to pursue this solitary affair called the Literary Journey in a state where everybody is crazy about cricket, politics, and movie stars.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
I’ll have to use a plural for this one because I’ve called quite a few places home over the past 20 years. For more than 10 years, I lived on a tiny island in the Maldives, teaching Mathematics to island kids and learning life lessons from them. It still feels like home when I think of the island’s turquoise blue beaches, the king coconut trees, my love-hate relationship with the omnipresent Tuna (that was before I turned into a vegetarian), and the ever smiling Maldivian people. The tranquil island provided me with the solitude I needed for my literary and spiritual musings. Thanks to this island called Hithadhoo, I was on a writing spree for a few years straight.
I currently live in Walterboro, SC, a small town in the low country notorious for the recently concluded Murdaugh trial and famous for being a shooting location for Forrest Gump. I teach Mathematics at a high school and live with my wife Anusha, who is a spiritual seeker like me and a patient listener to my literary ramblings. I’ve been calling this little town my home for the past nine years and plan to stay here for the foreseeable future. Living in this location allowed me to direct my focus on my English writing and translation, which I was able to do well and has grown in confidence since.
What turns you on creatively?
Questions! It always starts with a nagging question about the human condition and an insatiable desire to investigate the possibilities that will hopefully lead to an ultimate solution (but you only get questions back!). I just follow my characters’ trail and try to meticulously record their progress, or lack thereof, once I put them in pursuit of their burning desire.
The language! I always find it exhilarating to journey through words, phrases, idioms, allegories, endlessly unfurling sentences that build worlds in their crystal clarity (I hope to one day match Llosa on this one), sharp, crisp sentences that punch you in the gut…
Image! Sometimes an image bothers you and you want to put it in writing. It can take the form of a poem and remain a blister pregnant with painful pus, or it can take the form of a short fiction and breathe life into several characters who jump and dance to its whims and fancies.
Inferiority complex! Can you ever match the genius of Tolstoy, Papa Hemingway, Cormac McCarthy, Garcia-Marquez, or Ashokamitran? The urge to rid myself of this complex truly turns me on creatively and causes me to type mediocre sentences on a google doc.
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
My students notice that I frequently use the words “wonderful!” and “Excellent!” in my speech. When writing creatively, I tend to use words more frequently that have captured my imagination while reading great writers. “Hurriedly” comes to my mind. I use this word so frequently in my writing that I have to remove or replace it in several places during my second or third draft. (I just observed that I’ve used the word “frequently” 3 times).
Forget everything I said in the preceding paragraph. Flesh is my favorite word (only the word). The following is a sentence taken from my upcoming short story.
Her thighs, which had once been as warm and cozy as a mama hen’s abdomen, had since lost their flesh, and her legs had become like split kindling.
What is your pet peeve?
It irritates me, especially in writing, when people only preach and do not practice. I take great care not to inflate my ego through my writing. Writing should be used to self-explore, not to paint large-scale fake depictions of your ugly self. When I find living writers who claim to be messiahs caught red handed in their dishonorable act, I cringe. I constantly check myself to see if I am able to reflect my true self in what I write or if I am attempting to elevate myself simply because I am endowed with the ability to mindlessly type innumerable letters on the keyboard. I guess it’s the falsehood that irritates me.
What defines Jegadeesh Kumar?
My ideal character should be based on honesty, compassion, and perseverance. I am a spiritual seeker on a quest to find answers to life’s most pressing questions. I’m not afraid to admit to myself my flaws and darker side, which I’m working hard to overcome. I recently realized that extra fat accumulates around your belly over time, and it would take the same amount of time, if not longer, to dissolve every ounce of it, and only through consistent, calculated efforts. Spending a lifetime learning about life’s complexities excites me, and I have no qualms about being a lifelong learner.
Jegadeesh Kumar is a student of eastern philosophy, Mathematics teacher, writer, and translator, raised in Southern India, now living in South Carolina, USA. He lived on the southernmost island of the Republic of Maldives for ten years, teaching Mathematics to high school children. On his blog, he writes, both in English and Tamil, short stories, poems, and on eastern philosophy. He is currently working on a dystopian novel set in an imaginary Vedic land. His stories have appeared on Prometheus Dreaming and Indian Periodical. One of his short stories will be published in the Academy of the heart and mind.