Moondraam Ulagappor (Third World War), lyricist Vairamuthu’s latest work, is an ambitious attempt to weave an epic around the travails of rural India.

Attanampatti is a microcosm of rural India, where agriculture is in dire straits and farmers suicides have become the order of the day. The scene of a poignant portrayal of rural life trapped in the vicious cycle of crop failure, poor return from agricultural produce and dependence on money lenders, the story of the village is a warning that the primary sector in the country faces a strident attack from the twin evils of globalisation and global warming.

Attanampatti is the setting for Moondraam Ulagappor (Third World War), lyricist Vairamuthu’s latest work, and his most ambitious attempt to weave an epic around the travails of rural India.

“We are depending far too much on the service sector, leaving agriculture in the lurch. It is not just a problem in India. All third world countries have become victims of the trend, in which agricultural lands are up for sale,” Mr Vairamuthu told The Hindu a couple of days before the launch of his book on Friday.

“There will be more and more slums as agricultural lands are used for other purposes, forcing small farmers to migrate to cities for survival. A day may come when there will be no small farmers in the country. I am not against development, but it should have a human face. I fear that our great culture and rural life may soon become history and available for posterity only in literary works,” warns the poet and writer. He said he drew upon several documents and articles, including the writings of P. Sainath in The Hindu as background material.

Though close to politicians, Mr Vairamuthu minces no words in criticising the government for running liquor shops in the State and distributing freebies and doles aimed at garnering votes.

“Freebies are meant only for orphans, the physically challenged and the aged who cannot work. As rice is available for one rupee, the masses are gathering before liquor shops,” he says in the book. [Rice is now available free in PDS outlets since the book was written]. He also criticises political parties for mobilising crowds for their meetings by offering liquor and biryani, while agriculturists struggle for want of farm labourers.

Serialised in Tamil weekly ‘Ananda Vikatan’, Moondram Ulagappor can variously be described as a novel, a well-researched series on the Indian agricultural scenario, global warming and globalisation, a serious piece of journalism with a human face and a strong indictment of India’s policy towards agriculture and its destruction. But taken together, the forty chapters, linked by elegant narration in the authentic dialect of the Theni and Dindigul districts, broadly falls under the genre of fiction.

“It is a literary form in which the human intellect rides on emotions,” said Mr Vairamuthu when asked how he would describe his latest work. “I rewrote every chapter eight or nine times before sending it to print. For me, it was chiselling the language,” he added.

Though he has portrayed rural life in his earlier works, what makes Muntram Ulagappor different from the others is the theme, absorbing characters, the author’s vast knowledge of agricultural practices and command over the language and dialect.

There is Karuthamayee, the farmer who seeks to protect his land, steadfastly rejecting the lure of money, his unscrupulous elder son Muthupandi, a broker for a mill owner who buys farmlands, his youngest son Chinnapandi, who spurns the calls of fortune coming in the form of higher education in US to follow in his father’s footsteps.

The story ends with Chinnapandi picking up his father’s farm tools after Karuthamayee is sent to jail for hacking to death his son Muthupandi.

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