Prof. A. Ayyasamy
In his primary class teacher Asiriyar K. Veeramani also got a mentor who shaped him into what he would be in his entire life. He introduced him to Periyarism even at his childhood, which the protege seems to have avidly devoured because in his later life rationalism became the predominant part of his personality. So much of interest, and confidence, did the teacher have in him that he took the liberty to change his name as ‘Veermani’ before putting him on the platform.
Veeramani got on the platform and was made to stand on a table thereon, for the sake of visibility, on 27 June 1943, at Cuddalore. The child prodigy
was sure of himself and went on without faltering, tearing all the existing traditions and scriptures to shreds. Thus was launched his public life and he has had no occasion to look back.
Exactly after a year he was a speaker at the South Arcot District Conference of Dravidar Kazhagam, an occasion when many speakers would covet to make use of. Asiriyar got to the opportunity to meet Periyar and Arignar Anna on that occasion. While Periyar gave him an affectionate pat on the back, Anna was so amazed at the performance of the child that he cited the Tiruganasambandar myth and explained that the child had been fed on Periyar’s rationalist milk.
They have been children who once put on the perform with memorized stuff would disappear from the scene after a handful of performances. But this child was made of solid stuff. He developed his knowledge and abilities through reading books on Self-Respect ideology which were published in dozens at that time.
He participated in the training camps conducted at Erode in 1944 and 1945 and got the rare opportunity of being trained by none other than Periyar. On one of the days, after the day’s training was over, when Periyar was about to a leave for a public meeting, he asked Veeramani if he would accompany him. The boy jumped at it! He was elated that among all the trainees Periyar must have singled him out for conferring this privilege. And, from then on Asiriyar started accompanying Periyar for almost all the meetings as long he was alive.
His teacher Dravidamani used to take him to a number of meetings. He participated in a Self-Respect wedding as a boy of eleven and even presided over a meeting and conducted it, delivering the presidential address as well as concluding remarks, and batting the volley of questions, many of them hostile, which was customary in those days.
Periyar believed more in platform orations than in writing, not only because most of the people were illiterate but also because it gave him an opportunity to meet the people face to face and adopt the strategy most suited for bringing about the required change of mind. Asiriyar Veeramani feels the same way about public meetings. He has monthly tour programmes just as Periyar used to have. He meets the public in most of the meetings. There are meetings which are meant for the functionaries of the Movement. He addresses all party meetings. He addresses University students. He himself organizes meetings on special topics, some of which call for more than one of them and serial meetings on the same topic are the result.
He has been meeting different types of audiences in various forums touching a number of points and discussing a lot of issues concerning political and social reforms. In the past seventy five years there has not been a single instance of his failing to impress his audience. In fact they have eagerly listened to him, happy to be enlightened.
The main reason that has been responsible for this tremendous success of his is the thoroughness of knowledge. It looks as if he is familiar with everything under the sun. He is not only extremely thorough with his subject matter, but has arrived at his own conclusions through analytical reasoning which he has imbibed form Periyar.
When he speaks on religious matters, he comes out with instances from the Vedas, the Bhagavat Gita, mythological lore in Sanskrit and Tamil, itihaas (epics), Manusmriti and opinions of authorities on them. While discussing cultural matters, he displays, in addition, his knowledge of Tirukkural and other Tamil writers. His knowledge of history of the world, the history of India, the history of Tamil Nadu and the history of different political parties is unsurpassed. He is extremely familiar with Western philosophy including Marxism.
His knowledge of the writings of Ambedkar and Gandhi is amazing. He is familiar with the Indian Constitution and its intricacies. He has followed judgements delivered by the Supreme Court and the High Courts on matters of social and political importance and can lay his hands on them whenever he wants to. His brain is a computer which can supply him with the right material at an instant’s notice. He is never vague about his information. He always supplies the apt quotation and also gives the title of the book, the author, the publishing house, the chapter and the page number. If he quotes in English, he follows it up with the Tamil version of it in full. He is so meticulous with his quotes and citations to assure his audience of the truthfulness of his statements. Perhaps it may also be in order to protect himself from being vague or foggy.
Anyone who listens to his speeches will be aware the thoroughness of his preparation. He easily moves from one topic to the other, always making sure that he is taking the audience with him. He takes pain to expose his points with clarity. His Tamil, though not literary, is forceful. He uses familiar language to drive home his point just as Periyar used to. His sentences are well balanced. Often he goes on adding participle after participle to keep the audience attentive. He resorts to paradoxes to produce the same effect. One can find many occasions when he effectively uses rhetorical questions, sometimes piling one over the other until he reaches climax.
Often he attempts more at clarity than at chastity of language. He uses colloquialism without any restriction. He does not eschew the use of borrowed Sanskrit, English or Urdu words which have become part of the spoken Tamil.
Being in the Self-Respect Movement, he has had many occasions when he had to contradict his opponents, who have their own standing and following. On all those occasions, he takes pains to emphasize his respect to his opponent and makes clear that it is only his statement which is unacceptable. He quotes unassailable authorities, or exact dates of the happenings, to prove without an iota of doubt that the opponent’s statement is not based on facts or does not tally with other facts. He has never failed to put his opponent in the docks. Sometimes he takes a statement, from a religious text for example, breaks it into fragments and shows how the parts contradict each other.
He is emotionally involved with every point he makes on the platform. His rhetoric bears it out. Often he raises his tone to the level of a clarion call to warn the opponent – often they are the enemies of the Tamil society – of the impending doom that awaits him unless he changes his ways. On those occasions his resolve and determination are infections and audience shows its agreement with thunderous claps.
There is no dearth of humour in his speeches. He puts his detractor to ridicule by exposing the self contradictory nature of a statement of his, or the sheer impossibility of the existence of such a thing. There have been occasions when his very tone and inton ation have induced laughter in the audience.
In fine, Dr. K. Veeramani is an accomplished orator, with a noble mission and a dedication to his chosen cause. It is a treat to listen to him
SAFFRON RULE, MAKING ‘DAVA BASHA’ COMPULSORY!
Is Rajasthan trying to set a record for following retrograde policies? If we were to list out all that is happening there, it might fill a book. One more point on one particular matter!
According to the education minister of the state, his department is working on a plan to make Sanskrit compulsory in all the schools. Well, we do not deny that there are Sanskrit lovers spread in clusters all over the country. But that can in no way justify making the language – which is not spoken anywhere during the past and at present – compulsory for all students is an unwise step, to say the least.
Education must best be used for spreading the message of humanism, justice and rationalism, which will assure the progress of the society. But to make all students learn Sanskrit will prove to be a colossal waste of time and energy not to speak of the skewed thinking it will lead to..