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Former Chief Correspondent of Tamil daily Dinamani V N Swami at age 92 has written a 720-page book in Tamil titled ‘Viduthalai Poril Pathirikkaiyaalargal’ (Journalists in Independence Struggle). The book talks about 130 journalists’ contributions to the freedom struggle.
Both journalists who participated in the freedom struggle at the national level and a large number of them from Tamil Nadu feature in the book, including G Subramania Iyer, Singaravelar, Rajaji, Periyar, VVS Iyer, Bharathiar, Thiruvika, Varadarajulu Naidu, Manikodi Srinivasan, VaRaa, T S Chockalingam, A N Sivaraman, Kalki S, Sadanand, Mo Pi Si, Jeevanandam, P Ramamoorthy, M Kalyanasundaram and so on.
He has written the book based on a sea of data and documents he collated from various sources, braving the vicissitudes of his old age.
The book is a testament to Swami’s two-year-long hard work. He himself took care of most of the work ranging from writing articles and piecing them together into the book to editing and proof-reading.
“Many friends and organisations have helped in the publication of this book. We are planning a book launch in Chennai.” says Swami.
Born in Manambuchavadi in Thanjavur district in 1931, Vandu NagaSwami Samayya was his original full name (Vandu is the family name, NagaSwami his father’s name and Swamiayya his name). Since the name Swamiayya was wrongly registered in the school, he kept the name ‘Saamy’. Among journalists, especially among seniors, he is popularly known as V N Swami.
“At age 19, I became Periyar’s assistant. I had to travel with Periyar, write down what he spoke at meetings and give the texts to Periyar who, in turn, would read them and make corrections if necessary. The articles were published in his journal Viduthalai.”
Swami studied up to SSLC at Veeraraghava High School in Thanjavur and learnt Tamil typewriting and shorthand.
Once, VSP Yaqub of Tiruvarur, who used to make arrangements for Periyar’s meetings in Thanjavur, was impressed with the way Swami had written in longhand from the shorthand notes he himself had jotted down from Periyar’s speech at a meeting. So, Yaqub recommended to N R Samiappa Mudaliar that Swami be introduced to Periyar.
“At age 19, I became Periyar’s assistant. I had to travel with Periyar, write down what he spoke at meetings and give the texts to Periyar who, in turn, would read them and make corrections if necessary,” Swami said. “The texts would be published in his journal Viduthalai.”
He said he had been fixed at a monthly salary of Rs 15. “But Periyar gave me Rs 50 quarterly, telling me to send the money home without spending it. Till 1951, I was Periyar’s understudy,” Swami added.
Later, Periyar recommended him for a job at an insurance company as a manager’s PA at a salary of Rs 80 a month. “But as I was interested in journalism, I did not join the job,” he said.
After that, he got the assignment of typing property documents at Dharmapuram Adheenam for over six months. “Karumuthu Sundaram Chettiar who came there got me a reporter’s job at the newly launched ‘Tamil Nadu’ newspaper in Madurai where I got a monthly pay of Rs 100 with Rs 15 as travel allowance,” he said.
“As the Wage Board for Journalists had announced a statutory pay structure for journalists, Manickam Chettiar who was in the management of ‘Tamil Nadu’ daily changed my designation to a typist. I got the order, mentioning ‘under protest’ on the advice of L Meenakshi Sundaram, who was then the secretary of the Chennai Journalists’ Association. When I asked for a week’s leave for my marriage, the company gave me leave for only two days. But ignoring it, I took my own leave. So, later they suspended me. When arrangements were made to form a press club in Madurai as well, I was dismissed from the newspaper,” he recalled.
In 1968, he joined Dinamani as a reporter and retired in 1989 as chief correspondent. However, in the newspaper he continued to write articles on political events on Mondays under the title ‘Celebrities’ and also wrote about rare court judgments in the Tughlaq periodical
Later, Swami worked as a reporter at the newspapers Engal Naadu and Dina Seithi run by A Krishnaswami who had run Swadesamitran and Liberator dailies.
In 1968, he joined Dinamani as a reporter and retired in 1989 as chief correspondent. However, in the newspaper he continued to write articles on political events on Mondays under the title ‘Celebrities’ and also wrote about rare court judgments in the Tughlaq periodical.
The veteran journalist has written a number of books, including those on the roles of Muslims, revolutionary women, tribal people, Saurashtrians and foreign women in the freedom struggle.
One of his well-known books, ‘Pugalpettra Kadarporgal’ (Famous seawars), which carries a preface by former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University V C Kulandaiswami, got awards from the Thanjavur Tamil University and the Seethakaathi Foundation (2019). The Tamil Nadu government honoured the book with the Thiruvika Award in 2020.
Swami, who has also written books on the role of Islamic scholars and Maulanas in the freedom struggle, is now busy writing a detailed history of the Indian independence movement.
Even though it has been more than 30 years since he retired from journalism, age has not withered Swami’s passion and his flair for writing.
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