Coffee With Vijay – Founder, Poetry in Stone
I am back from vacation and the search for India’s role model continues..
This time, it is Mr. Vijay kumar, who is holding on to his roots in India even after he has moved to Singapore! Vijay hails from chennai and has moved to singapore 5 years ago. He works in the shipping industry where he manages projects for a global shipping line. Sculpture is his passion and got into this by reading the one of the greatest tamil novels – Ponniyin Selvan.
Poetry in Stone, Vijay’s brain child is a small bilingual blogsite on sculpture and art appreciation, targeting early audiences to introduce them to understanding the nuances of our temple art. The site has been running for over two years now with over 210 bilingual posts. Though Vijay has no formal training or education in this, he is actively building an expertise by reading published works and interacting with scholars – and documenting his learning process in the blog, so that others can benefit. The effort is purely non commercial and supported by volunteers. To know more visit – http://www.poetryinstone.in
Me: Sundar Rajan G S
VJ: Vijay Kumar
Me: Hi Vijay, Welcome to the show on CWS! Can you plz intoduce yourself, your background, your childhood life, your main occupation etc..
VJ: Hi Sundar, Thanks for having me on CWS and taking time to go through my works thoroughly instead of just doing the standard Q&A sessions. Really appreciate that.
I hail from a small village near Tirukoilur called T Kolathur from a family of hereditary Village head men, but the family moved to Chennai during the early 1950′s. Mom and Dad joined banks and that gave me an opportunity to grow up in a Quarters – among 3 dozen raving mad kids and we grew up playing anything and everything under the Sun. Dad set up a small school inside the Quarters as head of the employee association and did a good job at putting in a decent library. We used to go down to book shops where he would let us pick our choice of books and hence we were exposed to a wide range of authors – but it was mostly Amar Chitra Katha during those early days.
Meandered through School n College vaguely remembering something called academics but living life to the fullest with each day filled with friends and sport. Finally landed up with a job in logistics and that was the start of a life long career in International Transport. The thrill and adventure in this profession is second to none as you ride the market forces compete with economics to make or break giants. In between found my soul mate from coimbatore thanks to mom and dad (arranged marriage) and a darling rascal among as who is gonna be 8 years soon. After almost 15 years decided to move to Singapore to get a larger picture of the maze and have been there for the last 5 years, overseeing the South East Asia Projects for a leading Container Shipping Giant.
Me: When did you start Poetry in Stone.. What was the motivation.. How big is the team behind the website.. Were you interested in sculpture before starting the website?
VJ: Poetry in stone as in the site happened 3 years ago but the work behind it is almost 4-5 years in the making. The motivation was and is Kalki’s writing. The master story teller has this magic of transporting you with him inside the tale and then the connection happens. As with most people, have always felt a special draw to Mallai and Big Temple, but after Ponniyn Selvan the connect with the Peruvudayar and the Emperor strengthened the bond. We have a forum in Yahoo groups that discussed everything even remotely connected with him and during the course of which we would do Heritage Trails. It spawned a whole host of pursuits among friends, some turned authors of historic fiction, while i ventured to showcase the beauty of our unknown artists.
We do not have any formal degrees in art, though many of our team are currently pursuing their doctoral works in history, there is a lack of content in terms of art appreciation curriculum especially dedicated to the Pallava, Chola periods. Though we have a large reader base and we encourage and receive contributions from many of our visitors, the core team behind the site is about 7-8 strong. We are constantly looking for talented photographers, amaterur historians and artists to join our team. We also need help to proof read posts ( tamil !!).
While we all like art, its is partly an imbibed taste. Why i say partly is that a beautiful piece of art will immediately appeal to your senses, but as you spend some more time in front of it, the art starts communicating with you and then you tend to appreciate how and why each curve, each bend is there. The story and legends start materialising in front of you and then you are in total sync with the sculpture, which is the ultimate tribute you can pay to the master sculptor. Once this bug bites you, you are hooked on for life. Our objective is just that, to get early readers to be drawn to spending more time looking at these beauties, so that they are drawn towards them on their next visits.
Me:I know you were a very passionate follower of Ponniyin Selvan book.. What was the role of that book?
VJ: Ponniyin Selvan is like a life changer to many. On numerous occasions, when we talk of the work, any talk among PS ethusiasts is always passionate – the universal feeling is one of been there as someone who lived along while the tale happened and a sense of belong to the Emperor Sri Raja Raja. He lives on amidst us.
Me: Poetry in Stone is a very interesting name.. How did you come up with the name..
VJ: I had collected many sculpture photos overtime and once my good friend and Well wisher Sri Dhivakar, himself a renowned author of Historic fiction, asked me to write about it in a forum. It was a tamil forum and i started posting about sculptural features of temples in TN. However, when some members objected that the posts with their photo attachments were getting too large, thought of putting it up as blogsite. The first and foremost name that came to our mind was “Kallile kalai vannam kandaen” with the legendary vengala voice of Sirgazhi. However, we did not want it to be a purely tamil site, since we wanted the reach to be more widespread. So we lined some possible names – poetry in stone was one of the first and it kept coming up again and again when we lined up possible names. Guess it was destiny.
Readers, hope you enjoyed this interview with Vijay! Stay tuned for some really exciting anecdotes in the subsequent parts! Dont forget to check out the previous interview with Charulatha Mani – Carnatic Singer