Keezhvenmani massacre, flash point of Red flag in delta

Recalling the tragic Keezhvenmani massacre that saw the gruesome murder of about 44 Dalit agriculture labours including women and children burnt alive for protesting against their landlord seeking higher wages, floral tributes and raised fists by communist cadres marked the 47 th anniversary of Venmani Martyrs day at Keezhvenmani village in Nagapattinam district on Friday (December 25). Unlike the previous years where thousands of communist cadres across the State would throng the memorial located here at about 25 km from the district headquarters as procession and rally in vehicles, this year, cadres numbering only in hundreds gathered on Friday. Recent heavy rainfall across the State and subsequent damages were cited by the senior communist leaders as major reason for transforming the commemoration a low-key event.

Annually as December 25 has been observed by communist cadres as Venmani martyrs day for remembering the sacrifice of 44 dalit labours including 20 women and 19 children who laid down their lives protesting for fair wages against their landlord on the same day in 1968 at 
Keezhvenmani village here, hundreds of cadres including senior leaders from both the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist) participated in the homage on Friday.

A Soundararajan, CPM MLA from Perambur constituency said, “Even now agriculture labours and working class are struggling to get their fair share in wages proportional to their hard work. As Cauvery delta districts are renowned for paddy cultivation, it is a bitter truth that agriculture labours here citing various reasons have been migrating to other districts and States seeking greener pastures

”Earlier as the Chidambaram MLA K Balakrishnan hoisted the red flag in the memorial, the other senior Marxist leaders including Kizhvelur MLA Nagai Mali, and CPM district secretary AV Murugaiyan paid floral tributes at the monolithic granite memorial carved with the names of all 44 
Keezhvenmani victims.

Recalling the Keezhvenmani massacre, a senior communist cadre P Chellamuthu from Kizhvelur said, “It was a flash point for the rejuvenation of communism across the State particularly in the erstwhile Thanjavur district. After the murder of 44 villagers, the cause of admonishing casteism was taken up by many youths of our times.” Meanwhile, speaking with one voice about the recent floods that battered the State, the communist cadres sought the State government to revise the announced crop compensation `13,500 per hectare for paddy fields and also urged the agriculture department to do fresh survey for ascertaining the exact crop damages. The aftermath of Chennai and Cuddalore floods were evidently seen among the weak crowd on Venmani Martyrs day as the majority of visitors annually arriving here from Chennai and Cuddalore districts were found absent.  

It may be recalled that Keezhvenmani massacre was an incident that took place by the night of December 25, 1968 at the remotely placedKeezhvenmani village in the erstwhile Thanjavur district where as many as 44 Dalit agriculture labors batted for higher wages were forcibly locked into a hut and torched to death by the dons sent by landlord of Dalit workers. Earlier, at an estimated cost of `3 crores collected from the public including working class people across the State, new 'Venmani Martyrs' built by CPM cadres for the 44 Dalit workers was inaugurated by Prakash Karat on March 9, 2014. However, about 20 percent of the construction works is in pending reportedly due to fund crunch.

Banker with passion in epigraphy

Abandoning passions to pursue a well paying profession for the sake of supporting family members have always been an untold perhaps least shared tale of many the professionals. But one 53-year-old banker has a different story to share, one does not need to sacrifice his or her passion for professional life instead utilise the available hours to follow your heart, it is the  message. The banker apart from aiding the dreams of his customers by providing loans has also been supporting the archaeological dreams of hundreds of epigraphy enthusiasts by imparting them epigraphy skills to read centuries old scripts found in stone tablets.

V Narayanamoorthy, a native of holy town Palani in Dindigul district began his professional career as a cashier with Indian Bank branch in Nellikuppam, Cuddalore. Since the coastal town Cuddalore has been considered among archaeologists as treasure trove to learn epigraphy, the B.Sc graduate was said to have knocked the doors of many noted epigraphists to teach him the skills of reading ancient scripts found in stone tablets that even dates back to a period prior to the estimated birth of Jesus Christ. “Since my childhood, I developed a devotion towards Tamil language. To know its origin, I started following the stone tablets and inscriptions found in temple but those scripts need specific skills to read and comprehend. Though I approached many archaeologists to teach me the reading skills, I was shown door all the times.” Narayanamoorthy told during a visit to Tiruchy for conducting free workshop on epigraphy.

After being turned down by many stalwarts in the field of archaeology, determined Narayanamoorthy with the help of scholarly articles found in libraries across Chennai, Cuddalore and Chidambaram, started amateur reading of ancient Tamil inscriptions between 1986 and 1991. “I would visit the temples in Cuddalore district and caves in Madurai during my weekends for nurturing my epigraphy skills. Such voluntary efforts paid off as desired since I mastered the skill of reading Tamili (Tamil Brahmi), Vatteluthu, and Pallava Grantha scripts over the years by practice. In five years, by correcting my mistakes I have managed to read 20-25 stone tablets in 30 minutes.” Narayanamoorthy adds with smile. After working dawn to dusk in his office desk of the bank, the Assistant manager now did not stop with mastering the epigraphy skills but went on to impart the same at free of cost for interested students by conducting workshops during weekends. 

According to the noted epigraphist, skills should be equated to bank loans as both offered on appropriate time would help people to leap a level further. “In my early days I was denied an opportunity to learn epigraphy. But now, I would like to pass the skills to younger generations at free of cost through workshops.” said, Narayanamoorthy. As his family members are disappointed with this banker for spending most of his holidays with stone tablets and enthusiastic students, Narayanamoorthy has started allotting a Sunday every month for hanging out with his 16-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son. Sharing his future plans, the 53-year-old banker said that he would be spending his post retirement life by conducting routine classes and workshops on epigraphy and archaeology for the students approaching him from various parts of the State. 

Mayavaram Krishnamurthy Thyagaraja Bhagavathar

Mayavaram Krishnamurthy Thyagaraja Bhagavathar fondly called as MKT, one of the earliest superstars of Tamil cinema still dwells in the hearts of his fans here though aplenty of them are senior citizens who are not accustomed to the infamous habit of erecting flex banners and pouring milk packets over their heroes treated as demigod. On his 58th death anniversary, fans of the veteran actor known for his typical hairstyle and voice gathered along to pay floral tributes at his memorial established at Sangliyandapuram in the city. During the commemoration, fans of the yesteryear's film celebrity lamented that the Tamil film industry has failed to shed light on significant pre independence actor by establishing a memorial at his resting place, thus acknowledging his contribution to cine field.

Born at Mayavaram (present day Mayiladuthurai, Nagapattinam district) on November 1, 1910, M K Thyagaraja Bhagavathar developed close association with Tiruchy, the city that nurtured his acting, singing skills since his childhood. Having acted in about 14 films for 15 years span between 1934 and 1959, several movies of the actor including Haridas (1944), first Tamil film to run for three years in a single theatre at Madras, the earliest known superstar of Tamil cinema after prolonged illness was said to have breathed his last at General Hospital in Chennai on November 1, 1959. “Ashok Kumar, movie released in the year 1941 saw former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister starring along MKT, the latter was protagonist of the movie. Even MGR himself acknowledged that he was noticed in film industry only after having acted with MKT. I have seen all the movies of Bhagavathar, and well versed in 80 of his film songs.” Srirangam N Natarajan (70), Bhagavathar’s fan for past 53 years told.

After Bhagavathar’s death in 1959, his mortal remain was carried in a car to Tiruchy from Madras, as per the request of actor’s family, it is said that his remains were laid to rest at Sangliyandapuram here alongside his father M Krishnamurthy Achariyar and mother K Manikathammal. Since then, it is said that Viswakarma Mahajana Sabha here has been taking care of the maintenance of memorial of the actor situated in Sangliyandapuram. “All his 14 films including the movie Sivagami (1960), that was released after his death should be protected and digitized. Decades have passed yet myself and several other fans for past five decades have been visiting his memorial to sing his much adored songs.” Srirangam N Natarajan, a scrap dealer by profession added.

N Kumarappan, president of Viswakarma Mahajana Sabha said,“Tamil film industry including the Nadigar Sangam has ignored the importance of Tamil film industry's first known superstar. We have requested the State government to build a memorial commemorating his contribution to film industry.” Though neither any streets nor any buildings were named after the actor, as lamented by his fans, common public including drama actors belonging to Tiruchy and adjacent districts paid their floral tributes to MKT at his 58th death anniversary on Tuesday.

Valari, Tamil Nadu's Boomerang

Boomerang has always fancied our eyes, the way wooden tool manoeuvre in air and returns to thrower is no easy task to replicate which was in practice historically among the Australian Aboriginals. However, the lesser known fact is much ahead to the times of Boomerangs of Asutralian Aboriginals, ancient Tamil hunters had Valari or Valai Thadi (Throwing Stick) not only for the purpose of hunting but also in warfare. One such centuries old Valari was kept for display to the students and public here as a part of three day long antique exhibition held at the government museum in Town Hall.

Surviving antiques and artifacts of have always been catalysts to induce the interest among students and youths to learn the civilisation that once flourished but now lost to the sands of time, on the heels of such beliefs, in the exhibition featuring antiques as old from Sangam age, Medieval age, and Modern age at government museum here was displayed with a metal made Valari, believed to be used in Sivagangai district of the State. Unlike Boomerang, Valari were not meant to be returned to the thrower but can cause both lethal and non-lethal injuries in warfare. "Famous rulers of Sivagangagi, Periya Marudu Servai, Chinna Marudu Servai, and Thondaiman kings of Pudukkottai were experts in the art of throwing Valari. Not many are aware that Tamil people used a boomerang like weapons as well." Sharmalan Thevar, historical blogger said.

Antique collectors who displayed wooden and metal made Valari said that documentation about Valari and its usage all through the history was not properly maintained, thus limiting the familiarity of ancient hunting as well as warfare tool even among the indigenous people. Researchers said that Valari is a crescent shaped tool with one end being heavier than other, also with the outer edge being sharpened used for hunting in Southern Tamil Nadu. However, experts who have researched the origin of Valari said that the lethal tool had played considerable part in Polygar (Palayakkarar) wars. “There was a period in Sivagangai district during which families of bridegroom would marry off their girls to men who know to throw Valari in proper manner. But now, these ancient warfare tools should be sleeping in the store room of descendants. If not for the antique collectors, Valari would have remained much unknown.” V Raju, an epigraphist from Karur said. Large number of school students particularly the fans of Jungle Book cartoon were seen making enquiries with the antique collectors about the Valari displayed for public in the exhibition.

Trichy's Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation

At least once in routine work schedule, most of us might have experienced the lull feeling of Monday blues by seeing vast workload queued up for an entire week ahead particularly immediately after a well cherished weekend. But for a group of 15 social workers associated with service organisations, Mondays were never less enthusiastic in past eight years as they have been engaged in the free service of guiding common public to approach the authorities during the weekly grievance meeting held at the district collectorate here. The social workers for the past eight years have altogether helped people to properly lodge more than two lakh petitions of which many petitions have been addressed.

Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation, a group of residents welfare associations, NGOs working for city development has mooted the idea by January 2009 for guiding grieved people with petitions approaching the district administration during weekly grievance meet organised by district administration. Subsequently, with the consent from the then district administration headed by district collector T Soundaiya, members of the federation during the every weekly grievance meeting held on Mondays have been directing people about whom and where to approach in district collectorate for fetching solution to their grievances. “Several touts had been financially exploiting the desperate people in distress through false promises but since the moment we launched our service, we have managed to curb such incidents. Rural people without awareness would approach us just with their raw complaints, we would draft their complaints in written and systematic format which upon provided to district collector would be directed to department concerned for solution.” said, M Sekaran, president of the Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation.

Of the total 32 districts in the State, Tiruchy district is the only proud district administration to have such mechanism through social workers for properly guiding the common public to lodge their complaints. “Through our work for past eight years, we have eased the burden of district administration as we segregate the complaints before it reached the authority. We as well help the district administration by sorting out fake and ineligible petitions at the very early stage which could save the valuable time of government officials during Monday grievance meets.” R A Thomas, member of the federation

The federation comprise of members from various walks of life including businessmen who have been making themselves available during every Monday mornings for past eight years. Of course with friendly chiding from their family members for not spending ample time with family during the occasions of extended weekend plan. Recently through the efforts of the Federation of Consumer and Service Organisation, one nonagenarian woman has managed to avail the Old Age Pension (OAP) benefits that she has been fighting for years, the case was just one of the myriad solutions provided by the social workers in past years, said the members. Even as the district saw district collectors being transferred on routine in past eight years, the service continue to serve the grieved public.

Trichy Carnatic Musicians

For centuries, the banks of Cauvery have served and have been serving as cradle of Carnatic music, a significant place where traditional music instruments such as Thavil and Nathaswaram took massive avatars. Even now the Carnatic music continuous to resonate its rhythm in Cauvery banks, and also in social media, thanks to a dedicated Facebook group, a confluence of cub musicians and seasoned artists in the same field helping people staying away but having their roots in Cauvery delta to learn Carnatic music skills online. Though the platform has changed, learning and sharing the Carnatic music considered as a medium that bridge humans and divinity through the Facebook group is gaining ground in social networking sites.

Trichy Carnatic Musicians’ (TCM) group was started in the most popular social networking site Facebook with an objective to link the accomplished and grooming Carnatic musicians in the rhythmic Cauvery delta and also to serve as an interactive forum. Since its inception on January 20, 2011 with handful members, the group has now grown with around 500 members in six years considering the group being choosy on adding people exclusive based at Cauvery delta districts. Trichy Carnatic Musicians group comprises members of all ages irrespective of their achievements in the arena of Carnatic Music. With a wider perspective, the budding artists with the help of seniors organised an annual meet consecutively for the fifth year which was attended by the Carnatic enthusiasts of Trichy and nearby areas to further up the ladder of TCM.  

"Started by youths, TCM has now transcended age and experience. Today the group has become a platform for learning and sharing the divine music that leads to eternity. Healthy discussions on Carnatic music make the group discussion fascinating and sharing the schedules of the music concerts in Cauvery delta helps the enthusiasts to know the happenings in and around Tiruchy at ease.” R Kashyapmahesh, group member and Carnatic vocalist. The congregation of group members was recently held here with its venue ironically at Ponni Delta (Ponni, other name for Cauvery) close to the Cauvery banks where hundreds of group members and Carnatic music enthusiasts discussed the progress of Facebook group in promoting the arts. During the meeting, Sangeet Natak Akademi Awardee ‘Sangita Kalanidhi’ Dr Trichy Sankaran (Veteran Mridangam Exponent) received the TCM Lifetime Achievement Award for the year 2017.

Return of Koozh!

Not only the songs and movies that are being remixed and remade nowadays with toppings to attract the young audience. Be it retro clothing trends involving flaring colours donned by previous generations or lets say the size of smart phones we have in our hands now but almost nearing the size of cordless phone of those days, history repeats itself. Following the suit, the sultry weather though usual in the months of April and May has left the people go berserk to lament, complain and blame the weather even to strangers. As there is a good in every bad, the soaring mercury levels have revived the millet porridge which is being highly preferred by the city residents to themselves hydrated.

By the time as crop failure both due to drought and deluge has become growing concern, the indigenous climate change complaint crops of Tamil Nadu is making a silent come back. As the heat waves have been frying the cities like Tiruchy for past few weeks since April, people mostly in urban cities prefer millet porridge over munching Idly and Dosa as breakfast to beat the heat. As the scenes and pictures of train carrying water to drought hit Latur in Maharshtra is frequently flashed on televisions and newspapers, awareness has been wrapping thecity folks particularly the health conscious people.

Seen as inferiour and routine food of agriculture labours, the inferiour tag draped over consuming porridge (Koozh) colloquially segregated as Kambu Koozh (pearl millet porridge) and Keppai Koozh (finger millet porridge) for breakfast has been detached since it was the urbanized people who go for millet porridge across outlets mushrooming in the city nowadays. Being a climate change compliant crop requiring very limited water for cultivation and growth, millet breeds have been acclaimed for encompassing higher protein, fibre, iron, minerals, and calcium contents than rice. Medical professionals have suggested the public particularly the women working in kitchens and professions whose job nature involve frequent travel during the noon time to consume edible fluids to keep themselves active and hydrated. “Decades back, Idli and Dosa were rarely cooked in our houses but millet would be a routine intake. Nowadays kids have gone past Idli and Dosa to much pizza and burgers which are not our own local foods. Its good to see the millet porridge receiving rousing response. Local foods should be consumed locally” K Suresh Kanna, deputy director of Kudumbam, organisation promoting millet cultivation recorded.

As the hot summer is associated with fatigue and tired feel for people, medical professionals said that it was electrolyte loss causing tiredness to people exposed to sun light. “Water loss and electrolyte loss can be replenished by consuming fluids like millet porridge and butter milks. Since electrolytes are essential for normal functioning of neural and muscular mechanisms, electrolyte loss results in tiredness and irritation at times. Importantly, women engaged in cooking at hot ambiance of kitchens should consume liquid foods and should also take steamed foods as they have comparatively higher water content.” Dr A Akshar, general physician said.

Mentioning that the climate change involving in soaring mercury levels have spread four fold increase in awareness among the city residents, non governmental organisations, and groups associated with revival of millet have said that they are pursuing attractive methods for taking the merits of millet to people. “We have prepared a booklet comprising dozens of recipes using millet. Right from millet noodles to millet idiyappams, we are hosting food festivals frequently to revive the usage of millet in cooking particularly to kids as our traditional foods are highly nutritious.” J Pangayavalli, dry land agriculture specialist.

As various environmental watchdogs predicting abnormal weather conditions to continue due to global warming and other factors, organic farming experts said that millet will be the future food and also the days are not so far for the traditional food to over take rice as the milletcrops can grow even under drought conditions, sustaining hot regimes.

Six major
 millet varieties 
1) Pearl millet (Kambu)
2) Finger millet (Keppai)
3) Foxtail millet (Thinai)
4) Barnyard millet (Kuthiraivali)
5) Kodo millet (Varahu)
6) Little millet (Samai)