In the normal course, 20 years of service makes a constable in Tamil Nadu police a head constable. But, the untiring efforts of P. Arumugam, who joined Madurai city police as constable in 1993, has made him an Assistant Professor.
When he graduated in B.A. Tamil, abject poverty in his agrarian family forced him to take up a job. Born with seven siblings, Dr. Arumugam had little choice in 1993. “I was not keen to become a constable. I took the constabulary recruitment very lightly. But my physical fitness, me being an athlete, made it easier and I became a constable,” recalls Dr. Arumugam. Subsequently, he did his B.Ed. and later cleared his postgraduate course in Tamil.
Having read lot of literature on Thenur where his family lived and its association with the ritual of Lord Kallazhagar entering Vaigai river till 1653, he was compelled to trace its historical importance. “I wondered why Thenur and not such a big city like Madurai was historically associated with such a famous religious event. This made me pursue my Master of Philosophy on “Ilakkiyangal Pesum Thenur” (Literature that speaks of Thenur),” he says.
He further proceeded with his doctorate on “Thenurum Azhagar Vizha Kattamaippum” (Thenur and the basis of Azhagar festival). And finally in 2008, he was awarded the Ph.D.
“My profession as a policeman has helped me run my family and also pursue my passion. We were taught in police training that no culprit will escape from a scene of crime without leaving any evidence. This was my guiding principle to unrelentingly go in search of stone inscriptions in temples, hills and secluded places. Besides, I learnt punctuality, reports compilation and fit and energetic through my police profession,” he says.
Five years of police duty at Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple also helped him learn the complexity in deciphering the stone inscriptions.
However, life did not become that easy on completion of his doctorate. “At every conference of Tamil scholars, people looked down upon me as I was a policeman. They looked at my profession and not my research,” he rues.
Probably, this attitude of people resulted in him not getting placement — on 13 occasion — as a faculty member in colleges and universities. But his was a fairy-tale ending, as few days back he became a teacher in his alma mater itself — the Senthamil College. “This college is a rich source of rare Tamil literature. At least, 80 per cent of my research materials were from this college library,” he says with pride.
At last, the lathi-wielding hand has taken the chalk piece.
“At every conference of Tamil scholars, people looked down upon me as I was a policeman”