(V. Isvarmurti (Vadamalai Media P.Ltd., Pichanur, Coimbatore 641 105. – 2004) Page 310 Rs. 200)
Readers exposed to the political pulpit of Tamil
Nadu in the last century might drop Kavithaigal into the Dravidian slot with electrical ease, once they open the volume and read the epigraph!
Tamil : My Askesis
Tamil is my god
Tamil is my askesis
Tamil is my dharma
Tamil is my culture
Kural : My Beginning and My End.
Kural is my life!
Kural is my skin!
Kural is my beginning!
Kural is my end!
For the two words have been sprinkled into our psyche with a vengeance in all seasons, making the voter a blind goat led to slaugher, with water sprinkled on its face to obtain a “consent”! Actually, the volume is full of surprises. V. Isvaramurti is beyond all isms and movements. He is a movement by himself, as we realize this when we go through the blocks of poetic prose lashing out at the littleness in man, his generosity when it comes to accepting the glory and the good in humanistic ideals. There lies the poerty, for the writings are from the pen of a man who has suffered for holding on to his ideals and who has come up the hard way after reaching the nadir to exclaim: “No worse, there is none”! Isvaramurti has been sculpted by pain and so his words carry the sting of honesty and the illumination of truth.
Above everything else, there is no pretension in any of the poems.Born in an affluent family and educated at Shantiniketan and Oxford with an early exposure to the intellectuals of the West, Isvaramurti tried to practice his idealism by opening an international school in his native village, Pichanur. The adventure was thorny and came to an end before long. But idealism in him has continued to live and has survived the harsh light of day to enter the world of poerty with a bang after forty years of silence! Two essays give a special stamp to Kavithaigal. ‘Tamil Literature in the New Century?’ is written in English (Isvaramurti is a naturelle in handling this language) and pleads for a vibrant approach by the Tamil poets if they wish to conquer the world and win the coveted Nobel. The Tamil poetry of today is so superficial!
“Where is the elite culture, the sophisticated culture, the high culture in Tamilnadu? I feel the elite society is the critical force in the evolution of culture. The tabloidisation of modern Tamil writing is running wide today. People and writers don’t know the difference between tabloids and quality literary journals.”
The other essay in Tamil, `Enathu Kavithaigal: Oru Arimugam” is focused sharply on the separatist tendencies that have been allowed a free run in Tamilnadu. In the course of half a century serious magazines have vanished from the literary scenario. What more need by said when politicians preen themselves as scholarly writers and sell their books in millions? The rejection of other languages has certainly turned Tamil writers into froge croaking in a well of their own making. Isvaramurti feels that mastery of the English language is indispensable for the growth of Tamil. He firmly believes that his poems nurtured in the liberal, enlightened world of his youth would bring the liberal spirit to the Tamilians and transform the Tamil scene.
In any case, the furious intensity one finds in his poems is a welcome entry to the Tamil world. Going through them one has an uncanny feeling that, these do form an autobiographical – critical work like Wordsworth’s Prelude, as they have a rare spontaneity of expression. However, unlike Wordsworth, here it is all fire and brimstone, righteous indignation and shrapnel advice:
“Literature alone helps a language grow;
That way Tamil would become a world language.
Tamil cannot be fostered by politics.
Our recent fall in standards is witness to this truth.
My view: Our writing does not have a national outlook.
No language triumphs by hating another.
No literature can wax in such an atmosphere………
Used to begging for quotas, we have no idea of world literature!”
With wholesomely progressive thoughts enconced at various power-points, the poems come under the headings of philosophy, autobiography, the state of Tamilians, literature and culture, worldly wisdom, politics, society, education, economics, history, religion, impermanence, science, humanism, domestic life, meditations and resolutions. Throughout the reading one sights an inspired rationality which refuses to sign on the dotted line.
Naturally a few sizzlers are flung about, but the heat is not exactly scorching. Isvaramurti underestimated the thick skin of the contemporary Indian (Tamilian in particular) who has learn to live with contradictions, self-aggrandisement and vengeful chicanery.
Not, that Isvaramurti has any illusions. He published a volume of poems as early as 1959, Pichanur Kavirayar Kavithaigal which did not set any river on fire. He speaks of this adventure with wry humour, and I was reminded of Oliver Wendell Holmes: “It is a most unenviable distinction to have published a thin volume of verse, which nobody wanted, nobody buys, nobody reads, nobody cares for except the author, who cries over its pathos, poor fellow, and revels in its beauties, which he has all to himself.”
For several decades the poet in Isvaramurti hibernated while he worked hard in the fields of education, business and politics. He published essays, reports and surveys with clock-like regularity and has also been the editor of two highly respected magazines, Agriculture & Industry Survey, School Journal of Education. As far as writing is concerned, he has certainly proved the Dutch proverb that “he who is unemployed becomes unemployable”!
The constant relationship with verbalizing thoughts has now suddenly erupted as Kavithaigal. Not poetry in the conventional sense, for he has no patience to sculpt his poems as prosodical end-products. It does not matter though. Isvaramurti is interested in projecting certain social truths. Some may be bitter, a few could prove to be confusing and one or two poems may invite the criticism of being exhibitionistic. But the poet is free, and his seed-time was in the groves of Shantiniketan!
“Where is freedom in our univerisities?
Shivering in the presence of politicians!
Is it knowledge that is found in universities,
Schools and colleges? No! It is just fear.
Vice-chancellors are afraid of Chief Ministers!
Departmental Heads are frightened of VCs.
Fear, fear, everywhere an emasculation!
Where is the place for my educational views
In this atmosphere? Should I be silent
Because ignoramuses have become politicians?
These times are for new knowledge-spread, science.
How has man evolved in planes higher and higher
From Darwin to Fraud! Today, man has to learn
All about genetics. We have to come face to face
With Spirituality and Science!”
Turn where you will, it is the same story of intellectual and moral degradation. Look at the pomp and show of our pinchbeck potentates ruling as ministers of a democratic nation!
“Why the pomp with money sucked in by corruption?
Many were caught by the silver screen and lost their image.
Those who were ignorant of educational ideals
Have become education ministers! Little men
With no idea of economic thoughts are finance ministers!
Those who have nothing good in them have put on masks
To become Chief Ministers and made us into fools!”
Plain, strong speech! The poet rightly feels that the time has come for a non-political secularism which could extend the parameters of Hinduism by taking up a variety of inclusions. Shankara’s Advaita would be of invaluable help in this matter. Altogether, Kavithaigal provides wholesome food to the younger generation with a hunger for ideas that can usher in a welcome transformation for the Tamil people.