What does the name Thiruvalluvar bring to your mind? Sepia-tinted images of a long-bearded poet scrutinising an array of scrolls, or that deadly Tamil exam that made you slog hard to recollect his finest literary work. Well, if you picked the latter option, you can take inspiration from R Elappan.
Not only does he know all 1330 of the verses of the Thirukural, but also it took him barely six months to master them. Meet the Tamil-buff, who can reel off the verses that date back to the centuries-old Sangam period, anywhere, anytime. What’s more he turned his interest into a career.
Finding his voice
The life-long passion started in 2002 when he began coaching his school-going son. “I got a couple of books to help him. Soon I got interested and grasped all the verses. Initially I just timed myself to recite each stanza within two minutes and get the diction right. But I didn’t want to stop with just that, so I practised to recall them in different ways, based on say the number, the first word or even the last word in the couplet,” says the 48-year-old, who even has the celebrated Thirukurral, Agara Mudara Ezhuthellam as his caller tune.
Connecting with schools
In a bid to spread awareness on the insightful thoughts that are woven into the two-lines of each couplet, Elappan began conducting programmes in schools in and around Tamil Nadu in late 2002 in a small way. Before he knew it, the success of the initiative among students and teachers in suburban schools witnessed him reach out to nearly 400 schools over the span of 10 years.
“I teach them 30 ways to remember the Thirukural along with their importance in our day to day lives. It helps students grasp the ability to pronounce difficult words and speak the language fluently,” he notes.
Practice makes perfect
Ellappan believes that Thirukurals can be a morale booster in the face of everyday dilemmas. While students initially struggle to register the jumble, it would be a cake-walk if they took time to appreciate the in-depth meaning, he says.
“It also gives a lot of self-confidence. You will learn to believe in yourself. “And his life is a testimony to that.
“I passed Class 12 exams with an overall 50 per cent. I never knew I had a passion for Tamil till I discovered it by accident. It just goes to show that practice makes perfect,” he adds.
Elappan has an interest in coining mnemonics, memory games and scouring through the centuries old works of scholars. He has had 94 stage shows on the literary merits of the Thirukkural to his credit. For details contact 9842652545.