Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Honouring a Son of the Sea

With Sahitya Akademy Award winning writer Joe D' Cruz during the interview for The New Indian Express

If you go through writer Joe D' Cruz's 1174 page Tamil novel Korkai, which has documented the lives of the fishing inhabitants of the ancient harbor town Korkai, you would be amazed to know that the writer has thrown light only on about a hundred year period of their social life in his voluminous novel. But, the fishing tribes, who are referred as Parathavars in ancient Sangam Literature, have a very long history dating back many hundred years.
I penned this novel to make my people aware of their rich tradition and culture” said Joe D' Cruz, who is also hailing from a Parathavar family at Uvari in Tirunelveli district.
The author was delivering his acceptance speech in the meeting organized by Vijaya Pathipagam in the city on Sunday to felicitate him on his bagging of the Sahitya Akademy Award for his novel Korkai.
However, Joe noted that the value of the award is only in the novel's wide readership by members of fishermen communities, about whose ancestors his literary work is. The writer said that he had taken about five years to complete the book and informed that his work was an outcome of the urge in him to register the social life of Parathavars.
Expressing pride over his writing of the novel in the natural backdrop of Neithal ( Maritime tract), which is one of the five landscapes mentioned in the ancient Tamil grammar work Tholkappiyam, Joe said:
The majestic sea, its rolling waves and the vast carpet of white sands on the shore always fascinated me when I was a boy in my village Uvari. And my lore about the sea and voyages is something handed down from my ancestors, who were a seafaring people”
Pointing out the elements of realism in the novel Korkai, Velayutham, proprietor of Vijaya Pathipagam averred:
I felt as if I was indeed traveling into the ancient harbor town Korkai while reading Joe's novel”
Writer Nanjil Nadan, who was also a recipient of Sahitya Akademy Award and a well-read scholar in Sangam literature, pointed out in his presidential address:
The word Parathavar takes its root from the term Paravai which means 'Sea' in Tamil”
Nanjil Nadan noted that Parathavar is the appropriate word to mean the fishing tribe in common and the term finds its usage in various ancient Tamil literatures including Sangam poetry.
Joe lists out the names of around one hundred varieties of fish even in his previous novel Aazhi Sool Ulagu. The names, which are inextricably linked with the dialect of Parathavars can be hardly found in Tamil lexicons “ averred Nanjil Nadan commending the author's marine lore.
Poet Puviarasu, writers Su. Venugopal, C.R. Ravindran and Ka. Vai. Palainsamy were among those present in the meeting. 

Link to my report in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2420788

A Writer first and Film Maker Next

Popular Tamil film director, who is known for his unforgettable creations Azhagi, Pallikoodam and Ammavin Kaipesi, is also a noted Tamil fiction writer with a number of books to his credit. What’s more, he always prefers to be called as a writer rather than a film make

“Many just ask me what film I am planning to make in future. But it is paining that there are hardly anyone, who want to know what book I am going to write next” rued Thangar Bachan in his address at a meeting on Sunday organized by Naaivaal Thiraipada Iyakkam, a city-based movement for good cinemas.

Before becoming a popular cinematographer, film director and actor, Thangar Bachan was an author of a number of books Vellai Maadu, Kudi Munthiri and Isaikaatha Isaithattu, which are his short story collections. He has also written the novels Onbathu Roobai Nottu and Ammavin Kaipesi, based on which he made two films on the same titles.

“The popularity of cheap commercial Tamil movies in the state is all due to the people that have little sense and taste for good cinema” rued Thangar.

Though the world of Tamil cinema has completed 100 years now, the film maker worried that people’s taste for films has not been changed.

“We are still enjoying the same commercial movies, which are deliberate entertainers with their songs and dances on the silver screen” he said.

An ardent reader of books by well-known novelists Ki. Rajanarayanan and Nanjil Nadan, Thangar said that people, who have little sense for literature, cannot develop a taste for good cinema.

Introducing the film director’s latest book ‘Thangar Bachan Kathaikal’ at the function, Tirupur –based novelist Subrabarathimanian said:

“Thangar Bachan, being a writer, has inspired a great number of viewers to by his gripping scene portrayals in his films Azhagi, Pallikoodam and Onbathu Roobai Nottu

Introducing the history of Tamil fiction literature from the Manikodi movement, named after the Tamil literary magazine Manikodi in the early 1930s to the contemporary period, writer and literary critic Gowthama Siddharthan pointed out:

“Thangar Bachan’s love for visuals can be felt in his writings, as he employs his cinematographic techniques there too by viewing different events in different angles. His short story Vellai Maadu can be listed as one of the best short stories in the world” he averred.

Estimating the film maker’s short stories, writer, publisher and Tamil Nadu state vice-president of People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Gana Kurinji, said:

“Almost all the short stories in the book Thangar Bachan Kathaikal imply death as a messenger to liberate the ailing souls from the pangs of earthly life. They remind me the famous poem ‘Because I could not stop for death’ by the American poetess Emily Dickinson”

Well known writer and columnist Pamaran said:

“Like his films, Thangar’s writings too reflect the lives of people from the marginal section very naturally”

Sahitya Akademy award winning writer Nanjil Nadan, based on whose novel Thalaikeezh Vikithangal, Thangar Bachan made his film Solla Marantha Kathai, pointed out:

“ The vocabulary used by Thangar Bachan in his short stories and novels, cannot be found even in Tamil lexicons and thesauruses, as they are from the real lives of his  characters” 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2385635





Friday, 7 February 2014

When Students Celebrated Kovai’s Folk Festival

In the modern age, where most college goers have a blind love for alien culture, the students of Rathinam Arts and Science College proved their passion for traditional Kongu folk dances like Oyilattam, Karakattam, Kolattam, Kummi and many more by  performing them to the rousing approval of hundreds of spectators at their celebration of Kovai Gramiya Vizha ( Coimbatore’s Folk Festival), a part of Coimbatore Vizha -2014  in their campus on Friday( today).    

The tradition-rich colorful fest began with hundreds of students clad in white dhotis and silk sarees taking a rally up to Sundarapuram and dancing to the thunderous drum beats of the musical instrument Thudumbu, which is popularly called as Jamab in Coimbatore. The rally ended at the college campus, but to begin a chain of other colourful events like Karakattam, Oyilattam, Kummy and so on.

Applause rented the air in the first event, in which a boy playing the role of a rural Tamil  girl’s maternal uncle attempting to present her a silk saree, which she declines with a smile blended with coyness, a natural feminine quality of a traditional Tamil girl even finds mention in the Tamil grammar work Irayanaar Agaporul.

When Priya and her team showcased their stunning dance performance for the lyric Intha Mannu Manakkura Malliga Poo from the Tamil film Subramaniyapuram, even the students standing in groups here and there were seen dancing to quench their thirst for folk music.

The dance performances of the students also included for the folk numbers Otha Roobayum Thaaren from the Tamil film Naattupurapaattu and Ullukulle… Ullukulle Kulunguthadi, a popular Tamil folk song.

Margaret Bastin, Principal, Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts, Trichy, who was the chief guest on the occasion, pointed out that music finds an important place in the culture of Tamils as read from the ancient Tamil grammar work Tholkappiyam.

Jone, Head, Department of Visual Communication, who was clad in his traditional white dhoti, said:

“Besides, encouraging our students to celebrate the Kovai Grammiya Vizha, we have also roped in teams of traditional folk artistes from villages including Puravipalayam, Malumichampatti and Kinathukadavu from the Kongu region. By doing so, we have created a platform for them to display their talents in traditional folk arts, which are gradually disappearing in modern age”

Parameshwari, Professor of Tamil at Rathnam Arts and Science, College, averred:

“For the first time in the city, we have attempted to preserve the disappearing folk dances of Kongunadu by introducing them to our students and making them perform in the Kovai Gramiya Vizha

Shapna and Sudha, students from II year B.Sc Mathematics, who were performers in the Karakaattam, said:

“We were practicing the dance for the last one week to perform in the Kovai Gramiya Vizha. Our goal behind choosing Karakattam is to take the glories of the folk dance to the present day students”

Link to my article in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2345080      




Recalling Pykara’s ‘Power Connection’ to Kovai

People of the present day generation hardly come across a bus stop by name ‘Pykara bus stop’ and an office called ‘Pykara Office’ in Coimbatore.  But the names, which once stood for a bus stop at Tatabadh and the present day TNEB office or ‘Power House’ respectively, were in use in the early 1930s when houses in the city had no electricity connection. Coimbatoreans used these names, since the TNEB Office was the main load centre for the Pykara Hydro Project that facilitated the industrial developments in the city.
River Pykara 
Throwing light on this and various other aspects on the role of  Pykara Hydro Project in the development of Coimbatore, A.D. Thirumurthy, a retired Superintendent Engineer from Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, said

“Koniamman may be the sentinel Deity of Coimbatore. But River Pykara is the ‘Deity’ of Kovai’s development, without which, the city could not have been praised as the Manchester of South”

Dr. T. Elangovan
Thirumurthy was speaking on the role of Pykara Hydro Project to the development of Coimbatore on Thursday evening in a symposium organized as part of the ongoing Coimbatore Vizha – 2014.

Pointing out the heavy increase in the rate of electricity consumption these days in Tamil Nadu, he informed:

“The Pykara Hydro Project was launched to generate just 7 Megawatts of electricity in the early 1930s, while the state now requires 12000 Megawatts of power”

Tracing the major cause for the damage in the ozone layer as carbon emission, Thirumurthy noted that the maximum emission of carbon is from thermal power stations, from which much of the power is generated today. 

“When the consumption of electricity is economic at homes, a total of 50 % power shortage can be solved. He also added that the excessive power consumption at homes is due to having powerful LED TV sets and air conditioning of rooms” he noted.

Advising the audience to make use of solar energy for power, he cited examples of how the alternate methods of power generation are being used in largely populated countries like China.

The symposium also included speeches by Prof. T.  Elangovan, Retired Head, Department of History, Government Arts College, Coimbatore, on the origins of the Indian Armed Forces in Coimbatore.

Elangovan, who was an NCC Officer for many years in his service as a professor of the college, said:

“Coimbatore, with its salubrious climate, is a suitable place for academic studies in Defence. Hence, the Air force Administrative College was set up here in 1957. It has, so far, produced around 1 lakh administrative officers in the Air wing”

Historian C.R. Elangovan, who spoke on the efforts taken by the yesteryear personalities of Coimbatore in bringing the Siruvani water to the city, said:

“The idea of bringing Siruvani water to Coimbatore was first mooted by S.P. Narasimhalu Naidu, a writer, journalist and social worker. He went to the thick forests of Siruvani on a bullock cart and trekked about eight miles on the rough terrains of the mountains in 1889 to reach the Muthikulam spring, where the sweet Siruvani water originates”

Link to my report in The New Indian Express : http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2343342






Wednesday, 5 February 2014

A Trip down Memory Lane into Old Coimbatore

It was a trip down memory lane for the ones, who took part in the Old Coimbatore Heritage Walk, an event organized by the Vanavarayar Foundation as part of the ongoing Coimbatore Vizha – 2014 on Tuesday evening to recall the interesting histories behind the antique buildings and streets of the city.

With the participation of around 30 history enthusiasts, the walk was flagged off  from the clock tower, which the Coimbatoreans call ‘Manikoondu’ and went through Vysyal Street, Karuppa Gounder Street and Raja Street finally ending at the Clock Tower.

“In front of the Clock Tower, once stood the statue of A.T. Thiruvenkatasamy Mudhaliar, who worked for the development of Coimbatore by constructing a free hospital for the first time in the city. However, his statue was later removed due to traffic congestion” said Jegadhisan, noted archeologist and epigraphist, who organized the event.

Recalling the history behind the Victoria Town Hall, Jegadhisan listed the contributions made by  S.P. Narasimalu Naidu, a writer, researcher, social worker and journalist, who mooted the idea of bringing the sweet Siruvani water to the city.

“S.P. Narasimhalu Naidu, along with many other philanthropists, built the Victoria Town Hall at a cost of Rs 10,000 in 1892 commemorating Queen Victoria’s fiftieth reigning year” he said.
Pointing at the Athar Jamath, which the Coimbatoreans call as ‘Periya Pallivasal’ Jegadhisan averred that Coimbatore was once a symbol for religious harmony, as Hindu parents would rush their ailing children to Dargas, where the Muslim priest would tie a talisman and chant incantations to ward off the evil.  

Taking the participants to the Kovai Tamizh Sangam on Vysyal Street, Jegadhisan recalled the contributions made by Sivakavimani C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar to Tamil:

“Though C.K Subramania Mudhaliar was a lawyer by profession, he was the pioneer to write commentaries on the Tamil Bhakthi literature Periyapuranam 

Explaining to the participants on how the Raja Street got its name, he reasoned:

“Once there was a palace on this street by name Madhe Raja Mahal, in which Madhe Raja, a representative of Tipu Sultan stayed and administered Coimbatore, when the city was under the Mysore rule. The street, which was once called Madhe Raja Street, later got shortened to ‘Raja Street’
Somu, a postgraduate student in history from the Government Arts College, who was a participant in the Old Coimbatore Heritage Walk, said:

“Though many students study national and international histories in their academics, it is useless, if they know little about the history of their hometown”

Another participant Sowmya, an undergraduate student of history from the same college, noted:

“Though I am a native of Coimbatore, I was not aware of the city’s history before taking part in this event”

Link to my report in The New Indian Express: http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2328236






Monday, 3 February 2014

Bringing Rekla Race back to Coimbatore City

For thousands of Coimbatoreans, Sunday was a day of great entertainment, as they thronged both sides of the Codissia Road to watch the Rekla race (Bullock cart race), which was organized as the part of the Coimbatore Vizha 2014

The traditional sport of Tamils, which is held in different villages of the Kongu region at least once in 15 days, was organized by The Vanavarayar Foundation in the city after about three decades.

“The objective behind conducting the Rekla race is to preserve the rural culture of the Kongu society. With many participants in the race being graduates in engineering and information technology, I am sure the traditional sport is not disappeared” averred Shankar Vanavarayar, President of The Vanavarayar Foundation.

He also informed that the participants spend around Rs 20,000 per month to feed their bulls with nutritious food and get them ready for the race.

“ Known to me, one of the participants in the Rekla race was not willing to sell his strong bull, when a buyer was ready to purchase it from him even at a price of Rs 7 lakh” added Shankar.  

With around 3000 spectators watching the race, the pace of the bullock carts on the Codissia Road left them awe-struck. Applause rented the air, when the swift cart of Senthil Kumar of Velayuthampalayam in Pollachi came first in the 200 metre category, completing the distance in 15.66 seconds. Similarly, Appadurai of Dharapuram received a rousing approval by coming first in the 300 metre category by completing the distance in 23.42 seconds.

Following Senthil Kumar, Suresh of Kinathukadavu and Gnanavel of Manupatti in Tirupur district bagged the second and third prizes respectively in the 200 metre category. Similarly, with Santhakumar of Kinathukadavu bagging the second prize in the 300 metre category, Shankar Vanavarayar, the president of the Vanavarayar Foundation, who too was a participant in the race, came in the third place.

Vellingiri, the Coordinator of Vanavarayar Foundation, who organized the event said:

“Before conducting the event in the city, we organized the semi-finals of the Rekla race at Samathur in Pollachi, from which we selected 40 participants from around 250 bullock carts”

Sukumar, a 33 year old software professional, who came to Coimbatore to watch the Rekla race, said:

“It was the first time in my life I have seen the Rekla race. Having seen the large crowd of spectators at the event today, I feel the concern of the Kongu people in preserving their traditional sport to posterity”

Noted archeologist and epigraphist Jegadhisan said that the tradition of using bullock carts in the Tamil society dates back to centuries before the Christian era, as from the mentions found in Tamil Sangam literature, which say that the salt merchants, who were called ‘Umanars’ carried salt in bullock carts.

“The conducting of  Rekla Race in Coimbatore shows the Kongu people’s love for  cattle, which they considered as their wealth when read from their social history” added Jegadhisan. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2320391





Saturday, 1 February 2014

Penning the ‘Struggle’ of a Salaried Man

The great Tamil poet Udumalai Narayanakavi

In an age, when the monthly salary of a sole bread winner is hardly enough to make both ends meet, the lyrics penned by the popular Tamil poet Udumalai Narayanakavi echo the consumer culture of the present day, though he wrote them for various Tamil films in the early 1950’s.   

Born to the couple Krishnasamy and Muthammal at the village Poolavadi of Udumalpet in the then Coimbatore district, Udumalai Narayanakavi, whose real name was Narayanasamy, lost his parents when he was a boy and could not pursue education beyond class IV. After the demise of his parents, poverty forced him to sell match boxes in the villages around Poolavadi to eke out a living with his earning of 25 paise per day. However, he developed a taste for art and literature, as he observed the performances of the Kongu folk art forms including Puraviyattam, Udukkayadi Paattu and Oyil Kummi in his village.
The poet, who later carved out a niche for himself as a popular lyricist in the Tamil filmdom, learned the nuances of composing lyrics and staging plays from eminent playwright and Tamil scholar Udumalai Sarabam Muthusamy Kavirayar. Working with him from the age of 12, Narayanasamy accompanied his teacher to the places, wherever he staged plays and wrote scripts, lyrics and even acted in his dramas for about 13 years.
And returning to his native village at the age of 25, he started a business of his own by founding a shop to sell Khadhar cloth in his village. However, experiencing a great loss in the venture, he set out for Madurai with just Rs 100 in his pocket. After meeting ‘The Father of Tamil Theatre’ Sankaradas Swamigal in Madurai, Narayanasamy worked in his dramas and learned the depths of Tamil prosody from him. Later, he got the friendship of Dravidian movement stalwarts including Periyar E.V.Ramasamy, C.N. Annadurai and Kalaingar M.Karunanidhi through Kalaivanar N.S.Krishnan, which opened him the gates of Tamil filmdom.  
At a time, when the world of Tamil cinema was dominated by themes from religious literatures, Udumalai Narayanakavi’s entry into Tamil cinema as a lyricist brought new changes on the silver screen. His innovative lyrics with strong themes of rationalism and atheism infused new blood to the cinema industry, as he wrote the unforgettable numbers Kaa.. Kaa.. Kaa.. and Thesam Gnanam Kalvi Eesan Poosai Ellam Kaasu Mun Sellathadi in the Karunanidhi scripted box office hit Parasakthi.
His popular lyric Onnulayirunthu Irupathuvaraikkum Kondaattam Kondaattam in the 1955 film Mudhal Thethi is still to be enjoyed for its lines, which humourously portrays the financial struggle of a family once its sole bread winner’s monthly salary is run out. A line in the lyric reads that the salaried man usually repays his debts on the first day of every month soon after drawing his salary.  

Interestingly, Udumalai Narayanakavi too had huge debts in his life and took a vow that he would never enter his village before repaying them. Standing by the word, he repaid all his debts through the money, which he earned by working in the plays earlier.

Sources: Kongu Kalanjiyam – Volume I, Miscellaneous articles on Udumalai Narayanakavi. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:http://epaper.newindianexpress.com/c/2312979