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To be distinct in any sphere of activity is everyone’s dream. But that goal requires a lifelong commitment with the stamp of originality and individuality. For that, constant training and perseverance hold the key.  Of a multitude of people striving towards the goal, only a few scale the peak.

Chinnasamy Parasuraman of Chennai is certainly one such exceptional person, who has made pristine spoken Tamil his raison d’être. A well-known figure at the Alandur Regional Transport Office, a meeting with Parasuraman is an unforgettable experience. Dressed majestically in the north Indian style, he welcomes visitors warmly. The ways he carries himself and talks sweetly in a Tamil that trips down from his tongue spontaneously, has endeared him to many. 

Born into a family of modest means in Vizhathuvur village near Madurantakam in Chengalpattu district, Mr. Parasuraman studied only upto Class 8, dropping out of school after his father’s death. But the few years of schooling instilled in him a love of Tamil, inspired by teachers who spoke not only fluently but also impeccably.

As I evinced keen interest in the Dravidian movement which focused on Tamil, I read periodicals and books of Annadurai.  As I delved deep into his rich alliterative vocabulary, his dazzling diction rubbed off on me  

His interest in the Dravidian movement led him to read the journals and books of one of the foremost leaders of the movement, C.N. Annadurai. This exposure helped him hone his skills in the language, of speaking pure Tamil without interpolating words from other languages. His practice was also in harmony with the ‘Separate Tamil Movement’ of the time.

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And that love of the language in its purest form has remained his driving force for over a half-century — to some it borders on the fanatic. Parasuraman is also extremely hospitable. In turn, charmed by his mellifluous speech, he is often invited to events and gatherings to welcome guests and propose a vote of thanks. 

C Parasuraman

Asked about his near obsession, he says, “The only language I know is Tamil. It’s my mother tongue too.  I feel extremely delighted, pronouncing each and every Tamil word.  So, my everyday talk assumes natural sweetness.”

Excerpts from an interview with  inmathi.com.

Where and when did your primary education start?
Parasuraman:  I had my schooling in the government school in my village Vizhathuvur.  But I studied upto 8th standard only. Thanks to my Tamil teachers’ influence, I became interested in learning Tamil. Particularly, my Tamil teacher Ambalavanan, who used to bring me home-made lunch.

How did you develop your special skill in speaking Tamil?
It was again my Tamil teacher Ambalavanan who fed me with food (literally) and love of Tamil. With his influence on me, I cultivated the habit of speaking a pure Tamil, free from the influences of other languages. But unfortunately, I dropped out of school after my father’s death.

Parasuraman is equally good at hospitality. The people who warm up to his hospitality in public invite him to their family functions where they assign him the job of extending a heart-felt welcome to guests.

When did you begin speaking in pure Tamil?
This habit began when I was in the secondary school.  As I evinced keen interest in the Dravidian movement which focused on Tamil, I read periodicals and books of Annadurai.  As I delved deep into his rich alliterative vocabulary, his dazzling diction rubbed off on me. So, I ensured the use of pure Tamil words in my conversations. During my reading whenever I stumbled upon unknown words, I looked up the lexicon and enlightened myself.  I made it a point to use even such strange and unknown words in my conversations. I still read books in Tamil.

But the catch is spoken Tamil has several regional dialects.  How do you cope with this?
Of course. Spoken Tamil has some aesthetic charm in regions such as Tirunelveli, Kanyakumari, Madurai, Kongu region, Dharmapuri, Vellore, Cuddalore and so on.  In fact, I am quite fascinated with the dialects. To get a feel of the regional flavours of the language, I often visit Koyambedu [intra-state bus hub] terminus and Egmore railway station where people from all regions converge. I overhear the words used by the floating population very keenly and internalize them into my own linguistic repertoire.

What exactly is the driving force behind your passionate love of spoken Tamil?
My father was illiterate. I have studied only upto the secondary level.  My children have had higher education. I know and use only Tamil for communication and information purposes. I always try to use my language without fault.  That is what I view as a service to Tamil. Indeed as I speak in Tamil, pronouncing words exactly and accurately, I feel extremely happy and inspired. The people who interact with me see this trait of mine as something out-of-the-box. They praise me and take photographs with me.  On an average, about 15 persons give me this kind of exhilarating experience. I feel flattered. But the entire credit goes to Tamil, the sweetest of languages in the world.


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