COIMBATORE: At the Gandhipuram government exhibition ground in Coimbatore, the hubbub of laughter and chinwag suddenly wanes as V Cholamannan, the 49-year-old forest guard, starts singing. ‘Ennavendru sollvadhamma, yaanaiyin perazhagai?’ (What should I tell you about the beauty of the elephants?)
Cholamannan, who is entrusted to be the guardian of the Anaikatti forest checkpost along the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border under the Coimbatore division, is now on a mission: to protect the elephants. He is educating the masses about the significance of elephants and has penned lyrics to the tune of a song from the Tamil movie Rajakumaran (1994) to make his job easier.
“Elephants are lovable deities, and we will protect the animal at any cost. Protecting elephants is equivalent to shielding forest,” his song reads. The video of Cholamannan singing went viral on social media. He is already popular for singing ‘Enna Satham Intha neram’ from Punnagai Mannan while trekking along with some trainee forest range officers.
But what amuses his listeners most is that this forest guard-turned-singer never had a formal education in music. His adoration for music never happened overnight. During school days, he used to pay heed to the rehearsals of music performances by students of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) while returning home. This experience planted the seeds of music in his heart.
Later, while studying in Class 7 at Corporation Boys Higher Secondary School in RS Puram, in Coimbatore, his Tamil teacher Muthusamy identified his talent and asked him to take part in a school-level singing competition. He bagged the second prize. During college days, his friends enjoyed his singing sessions.
“I never missed orchestras of popular singers in Coimbatore, and when I was 22, I had even gone to Salem to hear SPB and Yesudas singing. My first stage performance was at the age of 25, with one of my friend’s orchestras in Coimbatore. Post marriage, I also participated in a singing competition organised by a satellite channel,” Cholamannan reminisces.
After joining the forest department as a forest guard in 2010, his senior officials stood as a great supporting pillar for him to continue his voyage in music. Since 2011, he has been hosting the orchestra during the Tamil Nadu state forest department staff sports meet for the last decade. Cholamannan had also sung Covid-19 awareness songs to urge the public to wear masks and sanitise their hands frequently to keep the Covid -19 at bay.
Now, with the same support from his seniors and colleagues, he continues to sing in his wonderful voice at the forest department’s stall in the government exhibition.‘Ennavendru sollvadhamma, yaanaiyin perazhagai.’