In a way, life came full circle for Avainayagan during the launch of his “Kaadurai Ulagam”, a book of poems, at Divyodaya. It was at this very same venue that his college literary society, ‘Ilamai Ilakiya Kazhagam', that shaped his thinking, was launched. So was his debut book, “Sooriya Chedhilgal”.

Thanks to Avainayagan's many linkages to the venue, and the friends he made there, this book launch was rather informal. Guests and well-wishers turned nostalgic even as they discussed the nuances of his writing.

Avainayagan's interest in wildlife and Nature is by now well known. And, his book focusses on the forest and its flora and fauna.

Fittingly, it has been released in 2011, the International Year of Forests. Each of the poems, some quite Zen-like, others matter-of-fact, and some gut-wrenching, have one thing in common — a holistic description of the jungle, experienced by all five senses.

This was one of the points touched upon by poet Indiran during the course of his speech on the book.

Launching the collection, renowned litterateur and Sahitya Akademi winner Sirpi wondered what poetry really was — was it the poems or the evocative images accompanying them? He recited some verses from the book. “You almost feel you are in the hills. That's the power of his verse, but it also tempts you to revisit the forest,” he said. “There's beauty in Avainayagan's writing, there's awareness, but there's also angst at the current situation,” he added.

Getting lyrical

True, for while some verses lyrically describe the attributes of forest dwellers, others speak about man-made horrors unleashed upon them — concrete roads that tear their way into the heart of the jungle, and an eagle circling past a tree that once was; in search of its nest.

Friends of Osai and the author — Babu, Meenakshi Sundaram and Pon Sudha — also spoke. Soon, it was Marabin Maindhan Muthiah's turn. He took the time to set right some myths — for instance, our misinterpretation of wildlife in seminal works such as the Thirukural (there's no species as kavari maan; in this particular kural, ma collectively refers to hirsute animals in hilly areas) — and made a fervent appeal to understand things in their right context. He then spoke about verses from the book that touched a chord in his heart. V. Jeevanandham, president, Tamil Nadu Green Movement, a friend of Osai, also spoke about the need for a book of this nature.

Guarding the future

Sahitya Akademi winner Nanjil Nadan felt the book was an ideal gift for children. For, only if we get them interested, will past knowledge march forward into the future, he said.

“We don't know half the names of our native species of plants. We need to relearn — know the difference between native species and exotic ones, know their real names,” he said. “That's our duty to the next generation, and their successors.”

Poet Indiran echoed a similar view. “In his book, Avainayagan has stuck to the old names of trees and fauna {for instance, the mynah is referred to by its original name naganavaai}. That is so refreshing. We must work to ensure these trees, animals and birds are correctly identified,” he said.

Speaking earlier, Osai president K. Kalidasan spoke about the long-drawn process of bringing the book to life. “All thanks to the people who encouraged us in this effort. And, to the photographers who gave us life-like images that added value to the poems,” he said. Kalidasan says more books are in the pipeline. And, why not? As he says: “Every time we go in, the jungle teaches us something new and different.”