PERSONALITY It is with missionary zeal that Iniyavan has been promoting Tamil literature. Charukesi

Ilakkiya Veedhi and Iniyavan are inseparable. If there is one institution that has indulged in a wide range of activities to promote modern Tamil literature, it is undoubtedly Ilakkiya Veedhi and the man behind it is its founder, Iniyavan.

At his recent 70th birthday celebration, poet Erode Tamizhanban lauded Ilakkiya Veedhi Iniyavan’s contributions as a writer, orator and organiser. R.M. Veerappan, Avvai Natarajan, Silamboli Chellappan, S.P. Muthuraman and a host of other literary personalities were on hand to pay tribute to him.

Hailing from a farmer’s family near Madurantakam, Iniyavan’s inspiration was ‘Aarvi’ the editor of the children’s fortnightly Kannan .

“Although I began writing in Maanavan Kural at the beginning, it was ‘Aarvi’ who encouraged me, besides promoting other talented youngsters, to write for Kannan . While I wrote many short stories, I won the first prize for ‘Ponmanam,’ my maiden novel in the magazine’s competition. In a way, it was ‘Aarvi’ who shaped me as a writer,” says Iniyavan.

He switched over to writing for adults later and won the first prize for his novel, ‘Vidhiyin Kai,’ from Kalki . When Ananda Vikatan started bringing out specials on the districts of Tamil Nadu, his short story based on rural Chingleput won the award.

Many of Iniyavan’s stories have appeared in almost all Tamil periodicals. So far he has written over 250 short stories, 17 novellas, 15 novels and two travelogues - ‘Vedanthangal,’ the bird sanctuary close to his home, and ‘Uthiramerur Ula.’ Many of his stories have been translated into Telugu, Kannada and Hindi. His participation in AIR and Doordarshan programmes were always lively, whether it was a talk show, feature or interview with personalities.

Iniyavan has served as a judge in various awards committees constituted by magazines and literary bodies. The awards and accolades that he has received from various institutions in India and abroad, during his 50 years of uninterrupted service to Tamil literature, are numerous.

An engaging conversationalist, Iniyavan’s oratory is pleasing. For one whose mother tongue is Telugu, his language and style are impeccable and captivating. The reason why he was chosen as the secretary of Kamban Kazhagam, a few years ago, was perhaps his oratorical skill.

“It is due to the confidence reposed in me by the president of Kamban Kazhagam, RMV Ayya, that I am able to carry on the functions as its secretary!” says Iniyavan in humility. Even when Iniyavan had a stroke a couple of years ago, paralysing his faculties, he recovered fast enough to resume duties so that the organisation did not suffer.

On Ilakkiya Veedhi

About Ilakkiya Veedhi’s contribution, Iniyavan claims that for the past 35 years since its inception on July 10, 1977, it has never ceased to conduct literary meets. Iniyavan has drawn plans to celebrate its 36th year in the second week of July. “We have published seven short story collections, 15 poetry compilations, four collections of articles, two novels, three plays and miscellaneous writings totalling another 25. Madras, Madurai and Annamalai Universities, besides New College and Vaishnav College have prescribed many of our books for studies. Even for M. Phil and Ph.D. researches, these books have been source materials. We have introduced 112 short story writers, 127 poets, five artists and 73 literary reviewers.” This is no small achievement for an institution, which has only close friends to help it run. The monthly literary review meetings held earlier in Madurantakam were highly successful and there is no noted writer who has not visited the venue either to take part or to preside over the event, which also included the centenaries of Bharati, Bharatidasan and Namakkal Kavignar.

Iniyavan considers Na. Parthasarathy as one who revolutionised the names of characters in the novels. “There was a time when every home had an Aravindan and Poorani. His historical novel, ‘Manipallavam,’ was an outstanding work and one cannot forget ‘Kurinji Malar’ his masterpiece!” he adds.

Ilakkiya Veedhi is a unique Tamil literary forum, the kind of which, one may not find anywhere else. “We have honoured, among others, Tirukkural Dasaavatani Ramaiah, and ‘Gavanakar’ Ira. Kanakasubburathnam, who performs 16 things at the same time, Purisai Kannappa Thambiran for his contribution to Therukoothu, Muthukoothan and Kalaivanan for their Bommalattam, Subbu Arumugam for his Villlupaatu, Kollangudi Karuppaayi and Pushpavanam Kuppusami for their folk music.”

After watching a couple of Natyarangam’s thematic presentations, Iniyavan came forward to suggest ‘Andal’ and ‘Krishna Anubhavam’ for the marriage receptions of his close friends.

“Ilakkiya Veedhi has conducted meetings in Delhi and other States such as Pondicherry and Karnataka. We have organised functions in Andaman Islands, besides Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka. We have been associated with Madras University in conducting the national seminar on Tamizhanban’s poems. We have released a book of critical analysis on Kulothungan’s (V.C. Kulandaisami) poetry. We have also jointly hosted competitions with magazines such as Kalaimagal , Amudhasurabi and Manjari , on various issues of topical interest.”

Iniyavan disclosed that he is planning a seminar on poet Tarabharathi, whose works have been nationalised, in association with Sahitya Akademi. Poet Malarmagan lends a helping hand in all the activities of Iniyavan.

Although Iniyavan has settled down in Chennai with his daughter Vasuki, leaving his Vinayakanallur home near Vedanthangal, he has not forgotten his roots. He encouraged Vasuki to write the biography of the 103-year old successful farmer, Muthu Malla’s multi-farming in his village. “I used to mull over the meetings of Ilakkiya Veedhi that have taken place in my ancestral home, especially the seminar on Children’s Writing under the guidance of Azha. Valliappa. Friends and relatives call me regularly from there and I keep up the relationship,” says Iniyavan with a smile.

The latest development, according to Iniyavan, is that the Chennai Vaaraahi Vazhipattu Sangam, which is building a hospice near his home, wants to utilise his house for a Veda Patasala. Iniyavan hopes that a small Rama temple close by will also get a face-lift if that happens.

‘It was ‘Aarvi’ who shaped me as a writer.’