The visitor’s register at the Umaru Pulavar Memorial in Ettayapuram says it all. The first few pages are missing, the rest are half-torn or in a shabby condition with yellowing scribbles made by visitors to the grave of one of the greatest Tamil poets of the mediaeval times. The poetic works of Umaru Pulavar (1642-1703), who wrote an epic in Tamil on the life and message of the Prophet, represent a rare syncretic literary tradition that combined the beauty of Tamil and the intellectual heritage of Islam.

The memorial, an imposing two-storied building, was inaugurated with much fanfare in October 2007. The then DMK government under M Karunanidhi promised that the memorial would be turned into a research centre and house a public library with a collection of 5,000 books, including the works of the great poet. Five years later, the place is deserted, the huge hall empty.

Residents on Umaru Pulavar Street, where the memorial is located, don’t know if a library is planned here. “It is the dargha of Umaru Pulavar and we are not aware that a library will be set up inside,” said one of the residents.

The memorial built at a cost of Rs 22.5 lakh is maintained by the information and public relations department of the state government. The first floor of the building, where the library was supposed to come up, has gathered dust over the years and not even a single book has been collected so far. Apart from the well-maintained grave, the building doesn’t have any furniture or facilities for the visitors. “Till date no funds has been allotted for the library and not a single book has been collected by the government,” said R Baskaran, information and public relation officer, Tuticorin district.

Interestingly, the building is just two streets away from the house of Subramania Bharati, who hails from the same place. The house where the great modern Tamil poet lived has been turned into a museum with rare photographs and manuscripts.

It was after a huge public demand to honour Umaru Pulavar that the then chief minister MGR laid the foundation stone for a memorial in 1981. “It took 32 years to get a building and we do not know how many years we have to wait for the library to come up,” said U Khaja Moideen, president of Umaru Pulavar Sangham in Ettayapuram.

While the poet faces neglect at his birth place, in far away Singapore, fans of the poet have set up a world-class library as a tribute to his contribution to the Tamil literature.

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