Thamizhachi Thangapandian

Thamizhachi Thangapandian
“It is what you do during the journey that matters; Not what you accumulate and carry to the end”
                                                                             - Ramani .VB & NCM
 Thamizhachi ThangapandianFor the young ladies in her village, she is the still the girl with double braided hair they played happily on the dusty streets decades ago.  For the old ladies, she is still the ‘Teacher Ponnu’ (Teacher’s daughter) they have seen tagging along with her mother on her way to teach in the local school;  For the young children in the village who clamber upon her, she is the  ‘Chinna Athai’ they love.
For the village men who come seeking assistance, funds, recommendations etc, she is the advisor, consultant and facilitator. For her political party leaders in Chennai, she is the rising star having excellent rapport and sync with the people at grass roots of the society.  For the party workers, she is the great orator they travel miles in hordes to hear attentively. 
For organizations striving for the upliftment of the rural poor and womenfolk, she is the great champion who powerfully lobbies for their causes with Government and in other forums. In the corridors of colleges, she is the English lecturer whose can keep the class spell-bound with works of great English dramatists.  
For the Tamil intelligentia, she is an acclaimed Tamil poet with a string of books, awards and accolades to her credit.  In the world of film and arts, she is a well known person with her talent in dance, drama, poetry and literature. 
For the paper and electronic media, she is a person with deep social commitment, modern outlook, well-grounded ideology, excellent conversational skills and pleasant personality. For the organizers of various cultural and literary functions, she is the right chief guest to take the centre place in the dias. 
For the photographers covering social events, she is the popular VIP celebrity to be foucssed upon in all her glitter.  In her family, she is just the dear wife and mother.  ‘Multi-faceted’ seems to be a totally an inadequate word to describe Thamizhachi Thangapandian, fondly referred to by her village folks as ‘Sumathy’ or with a local accent added as ‘Semathy’ much to her liking.
She has visited Kuwait on the invitation of Nandavanam association.
In a way, it would be right to say that Semathy, born in Mallanginaru village in Viruthunagar dist, Tamil Nadu, was blessed with excellent parents!!!  Her father Thangapandian was a Teacher turned politician with M.A and B.ED qualifications; Her mother was a teacher in the Panchayat Union School and well respected in the village.  With such a parentage, it is no wonder that Sumathy became an erudite scholar, teacher, orator and poet. 
The big shelves full of books that make her house look like a library is a standing testimony to the great heights to which even a village girl can rise.
After completing 3rd standard in the local school, Sumathi joined the –Kshathria Girls Higher Secondary School at Virudhunagar for her studies. The 100 year old Heritage school was started under Kamarajar’s ‘Pidi Arisi Thittam’ (Fistful of Rice from every Family Plan). 
Each family in that small town contributed at least a handful of rice to raise the funds needed to build the school.  Having been a beneficiary and a witness to what collective social action can achieve, Sumathy is always ready to step in, co-ordinate and lead from the front any plans or actions for bringing about betterment in the lives of her own rural people.
Sumathi completed her B.A from Meenakshi College, Madurai and M.A from Thiyagarajar College, Madurai.  She was brought up with a deep sense of love of Tamil Language and had mastered her oratorical skills in Tamil at a young age.  Her mother strongly believed that education is incomplete without a proper grounding in Tamil culture and development of strong ethics and values.  Her agrarian background nurtured with in is the root of all her Literary Expressions.
She encouraged her daughter to train in Classical Dance and fostered an altruistic outlook on her.   Sumathy, in her college days, enacted “Sivagamiyin Sabatham’, a popular Tamil novel as a stage drama while she was in Thiyagarajar College for her MA. With all her high proficiency and mastery over Tamil language, she surprised everyone by opting to study English Literature for her M.Phil!!!    
“English is needed and should be learnt; English certainly  has its place in the education of every one; but it cannot and should not be allowed to replace Tamil.  I Love English But I worship Tamil”, says Sumathi, who has changed her name to Thamizhachi to express her love for Tamilian culture and language.
She always welcomes others in Tamil with a warm, endearing and affectionate ‘Vanakkam’.   “It is a pity that we have reached a stage where we almost need to issue an edict to encourage people to speak Tamil at their home” rues Thamizhachi.
She started teaching at Valliammal College, Chennai and later at Namakkal PGP Arts College.  From 1996 to 2009, she worked as English Lecturer (Senior Grade) at Queen Mary’s college, Chennai.
Thamizhachi came to Chennai with trepidation in her heart as she had enjoyed everything the village life had offered – The greenery of the fields, the simplicity of village folks, the closeness of the family members, the warm neighbourly relations with others in the village.
The deep rooted love Thamizhachi has for the rustic rural life continues to be her breath and soul even today.  If she can grab a few days of vacation, she does not think of going abroad or to some remote hill station in India, but heads straight to her village - to be among her friends and relatives. Even if there is no electricity for some times in the village, it is still her ‘heaven’.
Her life at Chennai had made Thamizhachi to have a clear focus and understanding of the problems faced by her kith & kin village in improving their standard of living.  “In cities, girls can come out and work to realize their ambitions and dreams; They can access the mass media effectively;  But in Villages, girls do not get such Avenues; They are restrained in the name of various cultural and religious & caste factors by their own families”.  
Tamil Poet Mahakavi Bharathyar decades ago wrote about men who wanted to keep the womenfolk within the confines of their home. (“Veetukkullay pennaip pooti vaippoam endra vindai manithargal”). She totally frowns upon the way society has still chained the roles of the village women to a narrow and restricted circle.
“Even village girls can reach great heights if they could get the knowledge that comes from good education,  beauty that comes from good health and confidence that comes from good support of others” , affirms Thamizhachi.  After all, she herself is a living example of this.
Thamizhachi started using her literary talents to portray in detail the  life of the women amidst the heat, aridness and the scanty rainfall in the villages.   Her Tamil poems / articles  have been published as various books  –  Enjottu Penn, Vanapechi,  Pechcharavam Kettiliyo, Manjanathi, Sol thodum dhooram, Kaalamum Kavithaiym, Arukan, Island to Island (English);  Each one of her literary eforts have been well received.
Thamizhachi fills her poems with the essence of her keen concern for the human kind struggling selfishly for survival. “My poems expose my anguish and helplessness over the growing disparity and heartlessness of the society that is losing its innate humaneness, the great quality that distinguishes us from others”, says Thamizhachi. These poems certainly leave deep impression in the mind of the readers and make them to introspect about their attitude towards others in the society – especially those rural people.
Theatre is another passion for her and she has a captivating stage presence. She has performed in many plays, in  India – “Kurinji Paattu”, “InnoruEtho”, “Bharathiar Kavithaigal”, to name a few.  “While lot of individuals and Corporate Sectors are ready to sponsor an English play,  it is a pity that Tamil Theatre  does not receive similar support and sponsorship from them”, complains Thamizhachi justifiably.
Her book Island to Island in English is about Ernest Thalayasingham Macintyre, an English Playwright of Srilankan Tamil origin settled in Australia.  It reflects her own insight and knowledge about the power of Theatre as a medium of communication to spread an awareness about the Genocide in SriLanka.  Incidentally, issues of Tamil Eelam, Anti-nuclear Movement and abolition of Capital Punishment too have received attention in her literary and artistic efforts and expressions.
Over the years, awards flowed in recognition of her literary and artistic talents from all corners – “Sirpi Literary Prize”, “Mahakavi Bharathiar Award”, “Kalaignar Thirunal Virudhu”, “Young Achiever Trophy in Theatre” and  the prestigious “Pavendhar Bharathidasan Virudhu” from Tamil Nadu State Government in 2009.
Modestly shrugging  off these awards, Thamizhachi says, “The real award for me is when the rural women folks, instead of just talking or  listening about women empowerment,  learns to reach out and actually take control of their lives and destiny now held in the hands of others”.
Thamizhachi is happily married to Mr.Chandrasekar IPS and attributes her achievements to the support she has received from him.  The couple is blessed with two daughters.  The elder one Sarayu Chandrasekar doing her M.S in Engineering Management at Washington D.C likes her poems much; The younger one Nithila Chandrasekar doing medicine is interested in Classical Dance.
The fame, power, position, wealth, social recognition rests lightly on her shoulders. She is happy and at ease, sitting in the veranda of her house in her village sans make up-just as Semathy.  Talking about life, “It is what you do during the journey that matters; Not what you accumulate and carry to the end”, says Thamizhachi.  
While she does not hanker after additional things for herself, she however passionately desires a few things for improving the lifestyle the village people. “Tamil Theatre is an effective and powerful medium for communication with masses in Tamil Nadu; A large number of Theatre Workshops should be setup in rural areas to revive our traditional Tamil Theatre forms like Koothu, Folk Dances and Oral Culture”.
Acutely conscious of the plight of working women with young children in the villages, Thamizhachi wants crèche in the villages to take care of the children when their mother goes out to toil in the fields.
Interaction with the mutli-faceted personality of Sumathy alias Thamizhachi forces everyone to re-evaluate their values and standards and set them on the right path to bear their social responsibility.
Thamizhachi is full of intelligence, kindness and concern for others; She is simple and accessible to all, especially to the underprivileged people (from where she belongs) in rural areas; She has a bold outlook and ready to take on the establishment while championing the causes of others.   
Tamil Poet Bharathi wrote about ‘Pudhumai Penn’ as having “Upright heart and steadfast look; moral strength to challenge the world; Confidence stemming from well-grounded knowledge”.  May be he had a vision of Thamizhachi ‘Semathy’!!!
IFL  - Kuwait 2023 India Republice Day Special