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Strings of couplets

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Abiding interest: S. Nanda Kumar at work with the Tirukkural boards on Whites Road.
Abiding interest: S. Nanda Kumar at work with the Tirukkural boards on Whites Road.

Liffy Thomas

Nanda Kumar has already completed writing the Tirukkural eight times

Chennai: The next time when you walk along White’s Road, just outside the Karur Vysya Bank to be precise, make sure you spare a few minutes to catch this cobbler at work. Not to see him mend shoes diligently, but to read a few couplets from the Tirukkural, displayed both in English and Tamil.

A plank resting on the junction box, another on the iron grills of the fence and yet another made to lean at an angle among his belongings. Each of these boards reads couplets taken from Thiruvalluvar’s Tirukkural, written by S. Nanda Kumar in blue or black ink.

“Thiruvallurar’s teachings and the works at Vallur Kottam have always impressed me and I started writing them since 1974, hoping other passers-by could learn a lesson or two from the couplets,” says Nanda Kumar.

One might wonder who takes note of these couplets and their meanings, but Nanda Kumar says that he has many curious on-lookers stopping by to read and question him on his effort.

“Youngsters even click pictures with their mobile phones,” says the 58-year-old cobbler who has been in the same spot since he started his profession.

While he changes the charts with new couplets every 10 days, the white erasable board has couplets changed every day.

“In fact, the white board was gifted by employees of Blue Dart asking me to keep up my hobby,” he says.

Nanda Kumar has already completed writing the Tirukkural eight times and claims to be proficient enough to pen his own lines on philosophy and life. He is sustaining his interest in this Tamil classic since his school days, though he has only studied till Class VIII in a Juvenile School. The English couplets are written from a book, he adds.

Nanda Kumar earns around Rs.120 a day, and even if it means allotting a small budget to keep his hobby going, he is not going to give up.

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