Incidentally, no other Tamil district town, as far as I know, has such a well-built cultural and literary meeting place and in this Salem stands out as a unique society of much literary merit.
There was one more literary meet in Salem.This time it was the invitation of a leading figure in the Salem literary and social circles, Mr. Ezhugnayiru, (a retired Tahsildar) a devoted writer and poet and now widely known, as a patron and promoter of young talents in diver fields. A rare person he must be and Mr. Ezhugnayiru is such a rare personality.
He runs a literary trust that in a unique sort of way, concentrates spotting talents in diverse fields, young men and women who have excelled in some special skills or public service and also older people, couples who have done honest work in their lives. What impressed me was his self-effacing nature.
He had been a writer for long. He had produced some books. The latest is his brief autobiography. It is a brief 150 page book, written in simple, translucent prose style, very much the style reflects his own personality. Born in a village on the outskirts of Salem town, into a humble family, the book tells the story of how a very small village household managed to live a honourable life, his father cultivated a small plot of loaned, his mother toiled all day for making the family live frugally, the boy, the author of the book, was the first to travel to Salem town to study in a high school. Againh he is the first to get a government job, that too in the revenue department, in those days revenue department was the most prestigious one and the story unfolds in each of the brief 27 pages that, if written by any other professionally competent hand must have filled ten times the size of the book. Such is the breath of the topics and ideas covered in this tiny volume.
I read the whole book not in one sitting but in many! The reason is that the author had done some audacious thi9ngs,he married off his three children, two sons and one daughter into intercaste marriages. He is an ardent follower of the Dravidian leader, EVR and thus the book becomes a test case study of how the minds of the followers of the Dravidian patriarch went about their lives.
The subject of the rise of the Dravidian movement and what it achieved in the political and social sphere can be told from several angles. This book doesn’t go into the larger issues nor it tries to cover the whole gamut of the atheism the movement is supposed to uphold.
I don’t hope to add anything more than what I know about the whole history of atheism. EVR, while being a great revolutionary, in the sense he attacked superstitions all his life cant be said to have realised even a minum of his ideals. For, perhaps he himself didn’t know or didn’t care to know the whole rise and growth of Western philosophy and sciences and the question of atheism is only one aspect of the rise of sciences and scientific beliefs. Perhaps the most famous is Voltaire who tried to ridicule the religious authority of his day. But he attacked religious and philosophical dogma and yet the problem of evil and suffering in the world was not explained by reason alone. Voltaire famously said: “Human beings would be driven to “invet’ God! Voltaire was in favour of positive social action and this is the message we all have to propagate. By word and deed!
I was impressed by Ezhugnayiru for the simple reason here I saw a man who was drawn towards me, knowing well we strode different worlds. The world of Tamil scholars today is one dominated by the narrow politics of the day. Either they are with this dominant politician or they are afraid of the ruling political regime.
In this environment no writer can hope to escape from the influence of cultivating the various allegiances. There are so many literary factions today, so many divisive forces, each writer, once he produced one or two books or achieved some success either in some jobs or some ventures starts off as a faction leader.
Thus, we don’t have today any literary figure who is known outside the Tamil borders or any writer whose translations reads well. This is a strong contrast with the neighbouring languages, Kannada or Malayalam. The writers in these languages, more so in Malayalam, are so readable in translations or the Knnada writers, so many already Gnanpeeth awardees.
I count him as one among my friends. So, when I received a letter asking for a copy of my book of poems, a review of the same appeared in the same newspaper, I was only too delighted to oblige him. So, when I actually came face to face with him one day I was really touched by the gracious face, full of charm and politeness and one could not suspect the iron will that drives the man. He is lucky to have lived in Salem for the society here is unique and provides a congenial environment for pursuing literary and social services of all kinds. Here are businessmen, medical doctors, government servants, school teachers and the general public who make up a liberal and open-minded society. They take time off to devote to the pursuit of the muses and if I can say so to the lost causes!
It is this little autobiography whose release saw me a participant in the literary meet he arranged recently. I agreed readily to attend and receive the first copy in a gathering of the local dignitaries and the learned audience that assembled at the Salem Tamil Sangam auditorium. May I take this occasion to request my friend to devote the rest of his life for taking up more and more literary causes, promoting pursuing more and more serious literary pursuits. English language is growing so furiously that we have to modernise the Tamil language with suitable borrowing and also using the language to express more serious and fundamental thoughts, in diverse fields, in sciences and philosophy. Unless we also write in Tamil on the lines in which creative prose and poems are written we would fall by the wayside. The world will pass us by.
Tamil language as it is becoming, in my opinion, weaker, day by day by the pursuit of aggressive language chauvinism, more Tamil Puritanism without recognising the world outside is suicidal. The speaking and writing of Tamil language, be it scholarly Tamil or journalistic Tamil have to be promoted in keeping with the trends worldwide.