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Computer expert


Viswanathan, also known as Vishy, never dreamt in his life that he would become a popular instructor of Tamil, not only to Indians but to people who wish to learn Tamil all over the world through the computer. Most of the Tamil families who have migrated to foreign lands are keen on following Tamil tradition and expect their children to learn their mother tongue.

To them, Viswanathan's research has come as a boon. His talent is known to the outer world, but his sufferings are known only to his family. It is unimaginable; and no one should suffer like him in life.

Viswanathan belongs to Kandamangalam, a village in Thanjavur district. He was studious, getting very good marks in school and college. He was very friendly with his classmates and relatives and wherever he was, the whole group had a nice time.

He completed his engineering course successfully in the Regional Engineering College, Calicut, getting second rank, and got first rank in the PG diploma course on Operation Research from Anna University in Chennai. Within the short period of his career, he established himself in Bajaj Auto Ltd and then Tata Consultancy Services.

He was sent abroad for a short while. His original thinking and involvement attracted everyone. He solved even very difficult problems. Suddenly, he felt unwell. Something unusual and unexpected happened to him in 1989. There was continuous discharge of blood through his anus along with human refuse.

Everyone at home was shocked to see his condition and the cruel nature of the disease which has ruined his health. He was taken to specialists and was diagnosed as a patient suffering from an incurable illness called Colitis. It is inflammation of the lining of the colon which constitutes the major portion of the large intestine. It results in the bleeding of the organ and he could not bear the suffering. One in a lakh in India is affected by this disease. The cause for the illness is yet to be known even to the medical world.

Viswanathan could not eat anything during the attack and lives on drips only. Sometimes he is given steriods orally. He makes a recovery after an attack only after three or four weeks. The frequency of passing motion will increase 8 to 20 times during the attacks. Unable to bear the pain, he would cry like a baby.

Though everyone around would try to soothe him, his plight continues to be pitiable. He is hospitalised during the attack. He even feels like committing suicide during such attacks. But he leads a normal life between the attacks which he gets at least twice in four months. He cannot prepare for the attack as he does not know when he will get it. He often becomes skin and bones overnight. Viswanathan loses 10 kg during an attack and the pain is excruciating. As there is no cure for this disease, he has learnt to live with it.

During the initial stages of the illness, he had to live on bland diet during the attacks. Slowly, he resorted to a semi-bland diet. But after 1997, he switched over to complete bland diet. He has been avoiding outside food and milk and milk products since 1994. He once loved ice cream, coffee and tea, but he has to totally avoid his favourite items because of his perennial illness.

He was forbidden to have tamarind from 1996 and hardly takes any sweets. He takes fruits and food with salt. He has frequent problems of sore throat and running nose which adds to his bad health. His sufferings seem endless. The last resort was surgery which would result in the removal of large intestine and making alternative arrangements to carry on the functions of the organ.

Due to lack of attendance and ill-health Viswanathan was forced to resign his job in 1997. He is 36 years old.

In 1999, he could not bear the pain and his doctor advised surgery but Viswanathan chose to fight the disease than have the complicated surgery. For the past two years the severity of the attacks has reduced. There is no need for hospitalisation and he maintains a steady weight of 66 kg.

Though he has problem with his motion, it is not so acute now. It is reduced to five to six times only per day. Viswanathan feels much relieved. He takes a semi-bland diet and goes around occasionally. He does not take outside food as far as possible to avoid infection.

He continues regular medical check-ups so that his health does not get worse. He expresses his indebtedness to Dr Azhaganandam and Dr Gopal for the great care shown to him. They have been very kind and understanding and given effective treatment to Viswanathan.

Viswanathan was very ambitious and wanted to achieve something in life. But his incurable disease tortured him and he could not think of doing anything with the computer. But his brother-in-law, who was very confident of Viswanathan's talents, bought him a computer and told him to get out of his bed and do something which would change his lifestyle.

The creative software engineer in Viswanathan was reborn. That was the time A R Rehman released his album 'Vande Mataram', the most popular song of the time. He developed a new software in Tamil and recorded the song in his computer. He was happy about his finding and tried to improve it, and succeeded. It was not only a difficult task, but expensive too. Without any income, Viswanathan found it very difficult to spend much on his treatment, computer and day-to-day life.

A new life was infused in him in the form of his partner. He is blessed with a wonderful wife, Meera, a software engineer and a compatible person. She is quite understanding and shows great patience and concern for her suffering husband. She is his friend, guide, servant, wife, mother, nurse - all in one.

To show his love for his wife, who has been doing everything for him, and honour her, Viswanathan has named his new software 'Azhagi'. Meera may not look very beautiful outwardly, but her inner beauty is unexplainable. 'Azhagi', the first of its kind Tamil transliteration software, was created by Viswanathan in the year 2000. He developed it from his home single-handedly, using basic computer facilities amidst his serious ailment and innumerable sufferings. He resolved to do something unique and he has done it. He is creative, well-focused and result-oriented and has set high standards for himself.

'Azhagi' is the most transparent Tamil translaterator working in Windows. It is a simple dual screen application, where one can type Tamil words in English script on one screen. Simultaneously and synchronously the Tamil word appears in Tamil script on the lower screen. This software challenges all existing Tamil transliteration software for speed, innovation and ease of work.

In this device, one need not connect to Internet to create Tamil documents of mails; there is no need for a Tamil key board and knowledge of Tamil typing. If we type in English, we get it in Tamil. When one edits the English text, the Tamil transliteration gets auomatically edited. The English text one types is always visible and available for editing, copying or saving.

To receive the Tamil text, recipients do not require 'Azhagi' software. A particular font alone is needed. Using additional features available in the software's commercial version, one can directly type English text in MS-Word, Excel, Outlook Express, Yahoo Messenger, Hotmail, etc., and create documents in Tamil, E-mail in Tamil and chat in Tamil, with ease. This innovative finding of Viswanathan is a boon to English-knowing Tamil people. He has devised a children key pad so that they could learn Tamil easily.

Viswanathan talks of the overwhelming support he has received from the Tamils abroad, especially the Sri Lankan Tamils who love their language. Tamils other than Sri Lankan Tamils in foreign countries come to their home country when they can, and even put their children in Indian schools and they have a chance to learn Tamil. Many Tamil journals, magazines and newspapers are also available in Tamil.

But as the chances of returning to their mother country is remote for the Sri Lankan Tamils, they want their children to learn it. In the absence of Tamil schools in the foreign lands, the only hope of learning Tamil is through computer software and 'Azhagi No 1' is ideal for them.

Viswanathan is at present involved in teaching Tamil with pronounciation through 'Azhagi No 1'. As his throat has been affected by his disease, he finds it difficult to speak. But he is confident that he would be able to do this project successfully. He needs funds also for the project. If the government or any other agency comes forward, one more new device to learn Tamil, as one learns from a teacher in a school, will be available to all.

He has been inverviewed in 'The Hindu', 'Kalki', 'Ananda Vikadan', 'Jaya TV' and 'Sun TV'. But he values his exposure in 'Arattai Arangam' conducted by Visu on August 15, 2003, on Sun TV. The Independence Day programme at Neyveli revealed not only his sickness but greatness also to the public.

Viswanathan is really an action hero. He is thankful to his parents who bore with him and his wife who is a constant companion and caretaker, his innocent son who encourages him without knowing the seriousness of his father's disease, his brother-in-law Pushpanathan who got him a computer and made him have his re-entry into the computer world, his Tamil-learning friends all over the world and above all, the well-wishers and media. He has resolved to do as much as he can as long as he can.

He is always on the lookout for the use of his knowledge and experience in computer technology for inventing devices so that the community as a whole would benefit. Though he had lost his regular job as a software engineer because of his severe illness, God has willed him as a unique person in the Tamil software world.

He remembers with gratitude Viswanathan of Canada, P S Ranganathan, also known as 'Kadugu', a humour writer, for creating Tamil fonts for 'Azhagi No 1', Venkatamani, a 23 year old youth who has created a key module for 'Azhagi' and many others who have helped him in making 'Azhagi' a successful and useful software for Tamil-loving people all over the world. His love and respect for director Visu cannot be expressed in words and Viswanathan feels that he is like God on earth for him.

He is very much devoted to Sai Baba and his mother, and so he has named the core Tamil font as Sai Indira, after his mother. Viswanathan is fortunate to reach the peak in spite of his perennial suffering. There is no doubt he would climb higher and higher with his will power, hard work, innovative mind, loving and caring wife and son, the blessings of Sai Baba and his beloved mother Indira and the good wishes of the millions of people who benefit by his invention.

S Shanmugam
(Extracted from the book 'Hope is Life')
Website: www.azhagi.com
E-mail: jana@azhagi.com

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Published on 21st July, 2004

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