S Ramakrishnan, who published the Cre-A Tamil dictionary, dies at 75

The veteran publisher was known for creating a Tamil dictionary and translating works of world-famous authors directly to Tamil.
Crea A S Ramakrishnan
Crea A S Ramakrishnan
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Veteran Tamil publisher and founder of Cre-A Publications S Ramakrishnan passed away on Tuesday at Omandurar Government Estate Hospital in Chennai after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. 75-year-old Ramakrishnan, known for creating a Tamil dictionary and translating works of world-famous authors directly to Tamil, published the third revised edition of the Cre-A dictionary a few days ago, even as he was being treated at the hospital.

Ramakrishnan started his career in RK Swamy advertising agency. Though it was a stable, well-paying job, he felt that his calling was elsewhere. He soon quit the job and started a magazine with his friends called Ka Sa Da Tha Pa Ra. Through the publication, he hoped to provide space for young writers to share their work. 

In 1974, he started Cre-A Publishing company, amid a severe fund crunch and other hardships. Through his interest towards improving the publishing industry, he also came to realise the value of words. He went ahead and curated a dictionary, with little outside help and no workforce. He successfully published his dictionary, Cre-A’s Tharkala Thamizh Agarathai, in 1992. Ramakrishnan worked to ensure that the dictionary was widely available to households of Tamil-learning children around the world. 

“According to me, a dictionary is not just a tool for language. It is a key for democracy. We use words like globalisation, feminism and inflation, but until we know the complete meanins, aren't these just words? Only when we know the meaning of the words, we learn the politics behind it,” he said during an interview for a Tamil newspaper in 2017.

One of his close associates told TNM, “He is the first Tamil publisher to bring a dictionary equivalent of the Oxford dictionary in English. He has revised the dictionary three times, adding new words even on his deathbed. This is the highest number of revisions for a dictionary in a South Asian language.”

Ramakrishnan has also published the books of important Tamil writers such as Sundara Ramasamy, Poomani, Imayam, Ambai and Dilip Kumar. “He used wordplay well and his language knowledge also helped him encourage direct Tamil translations from French and German languages,” the associate recalled.

Ramakrishnan also contributed to the formation of Koothupattarai, a devoted theater company, Roja Muthaiah Library and Mozhi Trust for language research. “Ramakrishnan did not receive funds from the government and the government libraries did not buy his books. Now many people are sharing their condolences, but there was no one to celebrate the man when he was alive. His last wish was to publish a student dictionary, which is not possible anymore,” his friend said.

Many including Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K PAlaniswami condoled his demise. 

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