They meet once a week outdoors and share their love for Tamil poetry and prose. A bunch of literature lovers tell that it keeps them young at heart

Every Sunday, as dusk falls in Race Course, a group of men clad in spotless white veshtis and shirts gather under a tree, to discuss their great love, Tamil literature. They have been meeting up near CSI Church for the last 12 years.

The group, consisting of mostly men in their sixties and seventies, who describe themselves as “young at heart”, often read from ancient texts such as the Thirukkural and Silappathikaram. Ramaswamy, the founder of the group, says the main objective to start such a forum was to promote Tamil.

“It is one of the oldest languages and the mother of many others. Moreover, we wanted to initiate the youth into Tamil literature. They are not aware of these ancient forms of literature. ”

Each session begins with the rendition of one new Kural. Radhakrishnan, a scholar in Thirukkural who has written several essays and jokes that he will do his PHD only if Thiruvalluvar was his guide, says how the text is applicable to each aspect of our day-to-day lives.

Celebrating Thiruvalluvar

“That was why Thiruvalluvar was seen not as an ordinary poet, even in his times. He used to be called the divine poet.” Radhakrishnan interprets the 631st kural that talks about good governance, duties of an ideal king and the values of loyal ministers. He says, “The politicians and ministers of our country should read this to stop them from corrupt activities.”

Natarajan, a retired government official joined them four years ago because of his love for Tamil literature, especially Silappathikaram. He reads out an extract from it.

Not just literature and poetry, there is music too. Retired school teacher and poet, Pattanam Palani Swami, comes centre stage and declares, “I present before you a song that I wrote about the Thirukkural.” He gives a spirited performance.

Poems about love, relationships and contemporary politics follow. Ramakrishnan, who works in the railways, presents his own poem that compares the burning of Rome to the Sri Lankan crisis.

A young Marimuthu reads out his poem about the increasing alcoholism in Tamil Nadu.

Eager audience

Tea and biscuits are passed around as the speakers grow thirsty. Tired joggers sit down to listen to the poems. Salahudeen, a lawyer, says he is a fan.

“I come here to work out. But then I spend some time, listening to them, everyday. It is thought provoking.”

Even though Tamil literature is the focus and political talks are strictly censored, the forum encourages speeches on current issues.

Socially relevant

Ponnuswamy, a senior lawyer, with a booming voice, speaks about the Sri Lankan issue. The Secretary of the group, Rajendran, a writer, narrates a story that speaks of how bad intentions have a habit of backfiring.

The literature lovers have their special names. For instance, Ramaswamy, is also known as “Kovai Koolavanigar”, as he is a rice merchant by profession.

Ayyar Sami, the Tamil grammar scholar, who is quick to spot a Sanskrit or English word in presentations, is addressed as “Tamizh Amudam”.

Radhakrishnan is “Kuraladiyar”, for his indepth knowledge of the Thirukkural.

Balu, Marimuthu and Rajendran are the younger poets in the group. Balu says that they like to come here on Sundays. “We can never think of missing a session, unless it is an emergency .”

The group has read altogether 631 kurals and there are nearly 700 more.

Rajendran says that they will continue with the forum at least till all the kurals are read. “Low turnout or bad weather will not affect us. Even when it rained heavily, we have held umbrellas and read poetry.”