தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 


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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'

Chapter 10

I must have caused a few eye brows to flash when I ended chapter 8 thus, ‘my stint as tractor expert that took me to every nook and corner of Ceylon next.’ There are unsung contributions by thousands of our people to our people. As an instructor demonstrator of tractors, I gained a level of proficiency that helped me apply fully in the field. I have completely knocked down tractors and reassembled them to the Ferguson specifications.

I had as trainees supervisors from the Department of Agriculture, Agriculture students from the University, Farm Schools, and almost every mechanic and salesmen of that time associated with Massey Ferguson Tractors through Brown and Co. network of distributors has gone through the School of Instruction. Education and training were a priority for dealers as a sales tool and after sales service was very closely monitored by the Principals. I had a promising career with Browns, but I gave that up to serve our people through the Northern Province Dealer, namely, Arnco Agricultural Industries, Paranthan. A dream that almost ruined my career, but my expertise in tractors rescued me. My services were usable by the competitor, Ford Tractors.

My association with Massey Ferguson, Ford, British Leyland, Rampaks, and the Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation naturally involved traveling to farming areas. The fifties, sixties and seventies were years of economic ups and downs but agricultural pursuits were intensely followed with remarkable success. It was I would say a period of greater prosperity for the farming community particularly in ‘tamiz’ areas.

Unfortunately, in my many moves I have lost a valuable piece of statistics given to me by my friend Ananda Sangari, when he was the TULF Member of Parliament for Killinochi, when he came to Zambia for the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Conference. Ananda Sangari, may be, in deference to my wish did not attend a reception organized by the Sri Lanka Zambia Association supported by a few ‘quasi’ Tamils. A counter-move to the Zambia Tamil Sangam, we started and I wrote the constitution a copy I still carry with me. He spent a few months with me and helped me in the 7-Eleven stores. He had to go back at the insistence of his leader the late Amirthalingam, to contest in the general election. I tried to persuade him to stay behind, but once a politician always a politician I suppose and another shot at power? I cannot understand what power they can wield in a Sinhala Sri Lanka? We are still the friends we were and keep in touch through his daughter Rajana, my daughter Siva’s good friend.

You realize as I do, I am jumping all over, but this in not a page from a history book. I am sure none will be called upon to give reference to context to a statement, etc. The piece of statistics I have misplaced, gave details of the share in the agricultural production and export to Sinhala areas. 70 % of Sri Lanka’s Rice came from Tamil areas and a good percentage of other cash crops such as onions, chilies, tobacco, vegetables, etc. I recall my last visit to Sri Lanka, and on our several journeys from Colombo to Jaffna and back, I could see a change among the farmers. In few of the Rest Houses we stopped we could see people park their tractors and flaunt one hundred Rupees notes for paying for their beer and ‘tastes.’ That, I thought was a crude yardstick of the signs of prosperity.

My friend Ravi, has made it a little convenient for me to write about places. He has sent me the draft copy as he could not locate the edited copy posted in the SLnet of his son Suresh’s, ‘reflection on this troubled Taprobane is due respect for its ancestors and its lost serenity.’ I hope Suresh has no objection, as I am posting my side of the story unedited and errors in spelling, grammar and details are liable to occur. The fax cover page carries this comment.

"Shan: This was on circle/SLnet three years back. Some of them from ages 6 to 10 & he never revisited those areas."

I thought that reproducing the memories of a young man at that impressionable age will be interesting to our younger people. So let me tell about Trincomalee in Suresh’s words.

"First stop: Thirukkonomalai

It was long time ago. In the late 70’s. I must have been 7 or 8 years old then. I went with my parents and my little sister. My father had grown up there with his father till his university time. So, for few days we stayed at my grandfather’s place. It had a’koya maram’ and a ‘mambalam (mango) tree. I remember.

The neighborhood was all Tamil and full of people. But I wasn’t too interested in the neighborhood. It was my grandmother’s food and the sights in Thirukkonamalai that stole my attention. One of my uncles being a scuba diver, took me to the beaches. It was a beautiful white sand beach with gentle waves rushing at you. I didn’t have much luck in finding nice sea shells. Closer by, I visited the Kinniya hot springs. Didn’t fascinate me much. But, they are supposed to be famous (and good for tourists with $). Some religious significance is attached to those springs, I learned later. Trinco harbor is much wanted by many for its natural protection and depth of water. I remember those sandy-dune like hills surrounding the harbor. They are now occupied by Air Force, Navy and the Army bases. Its like a bird perched in a nest high up. But, these are not the things that I remember Thiruconamalai for.

It is the Thirukoneswaran Kovil. Built on top of the hill adjoining the sea, it’s a sight that will take you by awe. On the sea level, the temple couldn’t be seen, It was built during the Cola conquest like the one in Mannar (ThirukKatheswaram Kovil). To get to the temple, we had to walk up this hill on a meandering tar-road. The road covered by big and small tree canopies. We came across an army jeep on the road. I heard an army camp was there too. Tired long walk. We finally reached the granite/stone step that lead to the temple. Once you climb these rectangular long steps, you’re on the temple grounds. What a magnificent view of the sight below and that of the temple. The temple with a large ‘kopuram’ was quite imposing with long columns surrounding itt. The sight and sound inside the temple kept me distracted. Ceremonies were rich, indeed. Part of the temple built on the lower ground outside the existing grounds had gone under the sea. I still remember looking over the metal rail at the turbulent sea and the shear granite cliffs embracing those impatient waves. I was a little afraid of falling. So, I went back to my parents.

I didn’t get sea shells, but it was a pleasant trip. Now, I don’t believe its a pleasant city for anyone to visit. My grandparents died long before this city fell victim to ‘organized’ communal violence in the late 80’s. Their death excused them from not having to see the carnage visited upon this simple and pleasant city where they lived all their lives."

Suresh has actually lived the time he writes this piece, and I could sense the fear of innocence showing up. He does not want to sound ungenerous when he said that, Kinniya hot springs did not fascinate him. That was the true feeling of a child of 8. What is wrong with that? The grown up young man opens to the corruption of a commercial world comes out of him and tries to give the place some reason for its existence and popularity.

I will try to follow Suresh to Trincomalee next.


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