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He calls a spade a spade


Literary, social, spiritual… Suki Sivam mesmerises with his tongue and pen.

Photo: M. Karunakaran

WELL-VERSED: Suki Sivam.

His voice says it all. Assertive but not aggressive. Outspoken, he hits the nail on its head when he dwells on socially relevant matters. Much against commercialisation of religion, through his lectures and columns he wants to make people understa nd what it truly means. Much sought after by corporate houses and educational institutions for guest lectures, several of his books and discs covering a gamut of subjects are best sellers. A talk with Suki Sivam needs the mind to be alert and agile to keep in step. Excerpts from an interview:

The prefix ‘Suki,’ to your name…

My father Subramanian was an avid fan of ‘Kalki’ Krishnamurthy. Combining the first letter (Tamil) of his name and the first letter ‘Ki’ (in Tamil) of Krishnamurthy he assumed ‘Suki’ as the prefix to his name. He worked in AIR and many of his serial plays such as ‘Kappu Katti Chathiram,’ ‘Dubash Veedu’ and ‘Janatha Nagar Colony’ were big hits. Such was his thirst for literature that he would buy books whose cost exceeded his monthly pay. I inherited his penchant for good literature and as a tribute to him took ‘Suki’ as prefix to my name.

What brought you into this field…

I showed a flair for oratory even as a student (Santhome High School, Vivekananda College and Madras Law College) winning a number of prizes in debates and competitions. I didn’t miss any of the patti manram or symposiums. I did consider entering politics but thought the better of it. Same was the case with practising Law. I was naturally drawn to religious discourses and literary talks.

Persons who helped in the process…

Ki.Va.Ja., Avvai Natarajan and Kundrakudi Adigalar were all legends. Constant interaction with them helped me develop my knowledge. Each had a different approach and that was fascinating. Being the juniormost in the literary circle the seniors were very affectionate and always willing to share their knowledge with me. There were paradoxes and disagreements but all healthy and I drew a lot from these discussions.

Source of information apart from books…

I have never missed Variyar’s lectures and even today I attend those of Jayarama Sharma and Krishna Premi whenever I am free. I started giving lectures on Kamba Ramayanam, Kanda Puranam and Peria Puranam every Tuesday at Kandasamy Koil, Kanda Kottam. After shifting to Coimbatore my discourses were held at various temples there. Sundara Swamigal, a reservoir of knowledge on Peria Puranam gave invaluable inputs. My 15-day discourse was an annual feature at Ayyapan Pooja Sangam during December. Presenting a new topic in Ramayanam, Mahabharatam and Abirami Andhadhi every year was a challenge.

Your most favourite subject…

Abirami Bhattar’s Abirami Andhadhi is closest to my heart. It is a treasure house. There are many treatises on this. While Ki.Va.Ja’s is outstanding from a literary point of view, Dindigul Shanmukhanathan has looked at it as a Sri Vidya Upasagar. My aim is to interpret Abirami Andhadhi, integrating various aspects such as Sri Vidya Rahasyam, poetic beauty and the historical references.

Influence of Bharati

I make it a point to participate in the annual event held at his house in Triplicane. He was a person who thought in all dimensions. More than a poet, he was a born leader and I would rate his prose as a great vehicle of his ideals. His poetry however became a more powerful tool. I love Bharati’s words, ‘All religions are true but not fully true.’ He had a lot of concern for society. I am not here to preach. I am just a breeze helping each person to blossom on his own. Religion is actually a tool to crush ego but today that is not the case.

Audience around the world…

I gauge them in the first five minutes of my discourse. For instance, Chennaiites love it with jokes interspersed. I would rate the Singapore audience the best for they sit through my lectures, unruffled, irrespective of the style I choose. By and large it has always been a receptive audience keen to understand philosophies wherever I go.

Quoting the orator

Economic independence is a great advantage that helps me to be forthright in my views.

To remain contemporary there is a great need to reinvent the approach to discourses.

Tamil is yet to get a proper status in temples. One of the Azhwars had done the Balalayam and Pranapradishtai in just four lines of his pasuram. The secret of the power in Tyagaraja kritis lies in the fact that he composed them in his mother tongue.

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