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'
R.Shanmugalingam

Chapter 12

I did say that having chosen to immigrate to countries where ‘tamiz’ is not a language of the region, it may be useful but not vital for the new generation to know their roots and language. Long before the mass exodus of ‘tamizar’ it was observed, when a group of women in saris meets in foreign lands, they immediately start their conversation in their native tongue. If you see a group talking in English one could safely bet his beer money that they were ‘tamizar.’ The merits and demerits are debatable. I have been asked as to how quickly and easily could one learn ‘tamiz’ to appreciate ‘tamiz’ treasure. I found the article I mentioned in chapter 11 and reproduce below.

The Treasure  by H.P.

"Watching three-hour long movies with the same plot, communicating with a friend in the Virgin Islands in the beautiful Tamil language, exploring ancient literature with no Western influence, listening to music with unfamiliar, mellifluous instruments- all are results of learning and discovering the ancient, thriving foreign culture and language Tamil.

The story of my discovery of this great treasure, my Tamil heritage and background, began about four years ago when I spoke only English and my obscure Indian mother tongue, Sourashtra. One day, I decided that I would take it as a challenge to learn how to read and write the Tamil language. Growing up, I had been exposed to Tamil a great deal. Since my parents are from Tamilnadu, they and many of our family friends speak, read, and write fluently in Tamil. At that time, I had picked up a few words and could understand the language well.

That day, I went to my parents’ bedroom and found some first grade Tamil books that my mother had purchased on our recent trip to Singapore. Then for the next two weeks I went through the three-book set and at lightning speed and could read as rapidly and proficiently as a first grade graduate. Coincidentally, a few months earlier our family had started our Indian compact disc/video business. This business played an integral role in my search for the treasure,; it provided me with the necessary items to learn the Tamil language and culture: popular films and music. As I watched and listened, I not only began to develop my vocabulary and conversational ability but I actually began enjoying this seemingly peculiar entertainment.

Then, a few key incidents instigated the next leg of my journey-developing affinity and appreciation of the Tamil culture. Firstly Dr. George Hart, a professor in the Department of South Asian Studies at Berkeley in California, visited us and he inspired me in various ways.

He disclosed the richness and beauty in Tamil Literature, and because he was a white American speaking, reading and writing Tamil, I affirmed that I could attempt to attain a certain level of mastery. My next great revelation came when our family went to India, Singapore and Malaysia in the summer of 1993. On my vacation, I lived within the Tamil culture and saw how Tamilians lived their lives in all three places. Even though my mother tongue is different, I felt I was part of the society and that I knew the people.

I can recall one particular incident at my uncle’s home in the city of Madurai when my mother asked me to pick up some clothes from the tailor across the street. As I approached the meager shop, the unshaven owner exposed a large grin and began speaking about his childhood and how he had known my mother’s family for all his life. We conversed in Tamil for about forty-five minutes about everything from tailor service prices to the education system in the United States and this conversation made me realize what a valuable tool I had attained.

I now had the ability to exchange feelings and ideas with a lonely tailor of a totally different culture in a city in Southern India. Lastly, after returning from India, I became conscious of how the second generation Tamilians in North America were unaware of and apathetic towards their grand Tamil heritage. Often, their parents had not taught them the value and importance of their unique identity and I felt that I should share my experiences and feelings with youth whose mother tongue is Tamil.

Hence, I have been communicating to this nation’s Tamil youth. My message has been simple: "Do not throw away this valuable treasure that you have been given. Your Tamil culture will only enlighten and assist you; it will in no way detract from your present way of life. Learn your language and gain your identity.’

After discovering the treasure, I truly became more illuminated. I have an extensive collection of music from Thiruda Thiruda to Maharajapuram Santhanam to Gustav Mahler. I have met many new friends in the past four years and I feel that I have another entirely new aspect to my identity.

However, I have not halted my search by any means; for instance, I am now conducting an extensive survey of Tamil literature from the third century BC to present day. Studying ancient Tamil literature intrigues me greatly; for example, I have been able to compare some of the characteristics of the Kings in Puram Tamil war poetry to those of Odysseus or Oedipus. Also, I have been able to compare the society of ancient Tamilians to the present-day Tamil world: the Tamilians today have lost the individualism and pride that they had possessed in the second century BC In addition to the language and literature, I have studied the hardships and questions the first-generation Tamil Parents and second generation children face when living in a somewhat disparate environment. As a result, I have developed a better concept of my own value systems and ideas regarding marriage, family ties and ambitions. As the Tamil creed reads, ‘Yathum oore yavarum kelir.’ In conclusion, my discovery of the invaluable treasure of the Tamil culture has made me extremely wealthy-culturally, intellectually, and personally."

The Treasure sends me on a hunt for the abode of determination and Late Capt. Vanathy gave me the answer in ‘uRutijin uRyvidattil."

ungkaL kAlkaL tEdija ellyjy adyjumvary
ungkaL karangkaL Entija tuppAkki pArtta kuRijy NOkki
ungkaL itajam cumaNta iladcija tAkattyc cumaNtu
ungkaL utadukaL collat tuditta tEcija kItatty colvataRkAj
nIngkaL cuvAcikka Ninytta cutaNtirak kARRyt tEdik konhdu
ungkaL kanhkaL kanhda kanavukaLy NanavAkka
ungkaL kAtukaL kEdda atE atE kaddaLyjin kIz
NAngkaLum ungkaLy NOkkittAn! ungkaL AtmA cANtikkAj
NangkaL camarppikkat tudippatu vIra vanhakkangkaLy maddumalla
tamizIzattin vidutalyjyjum cErttuttAn.

The Colombo Batti train has come and let us continue our journey to Batticaloa next

continued

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