Saturday, 25 October 2014

The Education of a ‘Crack’ Called C.K

C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar

C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar, an eminent Tamil scholar, who lived in Coimbatore between 1878 and 1961  and pioneered the Herculean task of writing commentary for Periyapuranam, a Shaivaite Bhakthi literature consisting of 4286 songs, was also a lover of English. He never changed his initials ‘C.K’ into Tamil as Ko. Ka.  to mean his native town Koyamputhur (Coimbatore) and his father Kandhasamy Mudhaliar respectively. Interestingly, the scholar, who was also a Vice chairman of Coimbatore Municipality once, did not worry about his friends calling him shortly as ‘C.K’ to mean him for fun as ‘madman’, since his initials C.K also stood for ‘Crack’ a colloquial expression to call an insane person.   

Beginning the first chapter in his book Piththan Oruvanin Suyasaritham ( A mad man’s autobiography), C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar writes that though his friends called him so, he is only glad about that.

An ardent admirer of Shaivaite philosophy, he writes:

“I am happy to be called as ‘Crack’ through my initials C.K. Because, Lord Shiva himself liked to be addressed as Piththan( a mad man), when his apostle, Sundramurthy Nayanar called Him so. And, how fortunate I am to get my God’s name!”   

As a boy, C.K was much reluctant in attending lessons under Vaithyalingam Pillai, a lifelong bachelor from Jaffna, who ran a Thinnai Pallikoodam ( Pyol school) in Coimbatore. His house being large in the city, used to be called as ‘Vaathiyaar Veedu’, accommodated as many as twenty students, whom the Ubaathiyaayar (teacher) hardly allowed home except for taking bath and having food! In spite of the teacher’s prescription of strict rules and regulations, C.K had high regards for him, as he says that the teacher spent much of his income on the development of his pupils.

Recalling his student days in Coimbatore College, which, later, became the Government Arts College, C.K writes in his autobiography that the alma mater was then located near the Koniamman Temple. Pursuing F.A (Fellow of Arts), a two-year course after passing Matriculation examination there, C.K reminisces that his teachers in the college had great concern for students. He avers that Krishna Iyer, the vice principal of the college, was popularly called ‘B.A’ Krishna Iyer since he was the first man to obtain B.A degree in Coimbatore!  Listing the names of his other inspiring teachers including Kumbakonam Sabapathy Pillai, who handled Tamil for him, C.K informs that the principal of the college was an Englishman by name Hunter.    

While pursuing education at a college out of town, residing in a mansion or hostel and consuming food at a mess hall or a hotel is usual in modern era. But, it is surprising that C.K, while doing B.A in the Presidency College, Madras, was taken care of by his mother, as they both lived in a rented house at Triplicane. What’s more, C.K even got married while he was a student there by the end of the 19th century!

Source: Pithan Oruvanin Suyasaritham - Sivakavimani C.K. Subramania Mudhaliar. 

Link to my article in The New Indian Express:

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