Poet Vairamuthu talks what prompted him to write the Ilakkiya Sinthanai Award-winning Moondraam Ulaga Por

Razor-sharp metaphors and stinging similes mark his writings on social maladies. Moondraam Ulaga Por, his latest novel, exemplifies it further. Taking time off from his work as a film lyricist and poet, Vairamuthu travels into the heartland of agony and angst aggravated by the apathy of our leaders — the abysmal life of our country’s farmers. From the day of its release in June last, till date, the book brought out by Surya Literature, has seen nine editions, each of which had 5,000 copies! In recognition of Moondraam… a heart-rending and informative record of reality, Vairamuthu will be honoured with the Ilakkiya Sinthanai Award, on April 12.

In the past 43 years, the Ilakkiya Sinthanai Forum has honoured outstanding litterateurs including Thi. Janakiraman, Jayakanthan, Asokamitran and Rajam Krishnan. Now, Vairamuthu joins the illustrious league.

Talking to Vairamuthu is like taking a walk down literary lane — his categorical observations and typical poetic nuances set you thinking. “Farmers unable to bear the onus of mounting debts and failing monsoon are taking the extreme step. What happened in Vidarbha, Mandya and Anantapur has now spread to Thanjavur. My heart bleeds for them,” the poet turns pensive for a moment. ‘To farmers — a cursed lot,’ says the tag line in the book. “Yes, I’ve dedicated it to them. The anathema is real,” Vairamuthu is disconcerted and it shows.

His empathy rises out of being a part of them. “I’m still a farmer. I’ve worked in the fields till the age of 17 and I know their plight first hand. We are an agricultural country, but where is respect for agriculture? The man in the city doesn’t pause to think of the suffering farmer who toils to give him rice and pulses, while he sleeps hungry. The emotions in the book aren’t imaginary,” words pour out in torrents. With mounting anguish he adds, “Agriculture warrants the same amount of importance that’s being given to the education sector. This book is an SOS to those in power and an earnest appeal to the rest.” Moondraam Ulaga Por begins with suicide and ends with filicide.

His earlier novels — Kallikattu Ithikasam and Karuvachi Kaviyam — had a wide reach too. “They dealt with the past. Moondraam… is about the present and future,” explains Vairamuthu. The novel isn’t just about farmers — it showcases life-threatening issues such as global warming and carbon emissions and also draws attention to the jeopardy of globalisation. What follows when three characters — Ishimora from Japan, Emily from Atlanta and our desi youngster Chinnapaandi — meet, forms the crux of Moondraam … “I’ve devoted an entire chapter to the disaster of global warming, as seen through the eyes of Emily,” says Vairamuthu.

Three years of extensive research has gone into the making of Moondraam … “and 10 months to write it. The effort has been worthwhile.” On the day of the award ceremony Vairamuthu will donate Rs.1 lakh each (the proceeds from the novel) to the families of 12 farmers from Thanjavur, who were driven to death by drought. “The original idea was to visit them and hand over the amount in person. But now that the book is being celebrated I plan to bring them to Chennai on the occasion.”

Vairamuthu’s book doesn’t stop with highlighting problems. He offers solutions too. “Give them electricity and water. Then they will need neither the gods nor the governments to save them,” is his stand.

Moondraam warns us that we are in danger zone. “Redressal measures have to be fast. The warning bell is ringing loud and clear. And as a responsible citizen I’m making it toll louder,” he concludes.