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 24

Before second world war, a few chinese peddlers, Afghan money-lenders, Parsi and Mid-East ‘middAj’ wallas and cloth merchants were common trying to sell their products from house to house. I very well remember a particular Chinaman who sold Chinese silk mostly used to say, "Good things no cheap cheap things no good."

We used to have a little fun with him. When we asked for his name he would say "I don’t know English." When we ask him, what are you speaking now? he would still say "I don’t know English." At that age it was hard to read between the lines or in this case words. I liked his simple proverbial like pronouncement. I make it a point to use it as warranted. Here is another occasion to use it.

Suntharam’s letter to Prof. Singer has touched a few hearts. Not only for the truth but the incisive perspicacity of his style and analysis is very rare in what we come across within our circle, pun unintended. I have already posted in the circle his strong argument for a neutral based platform such as the one ATI is trying to come out of the cocoon.

Man has for centuries made vows of penance, gift, abstinence and many other ways of propitiating the deities. I had opportunities of meeting with such people over the years. One was an Indian , who vowed to hang in mid air at Kathirkamam, if he was not hanged for a murder he did not do. We met him at Kathirkamam in the early forties. He was acquited and fulfilled his vow. A contraption on wheels called ‘cakady’ is common in temples to take deities in ceremonial processions drawn by devotees. A long pole was tied to the ‘cakady’ acted as a boom that bounced up and down.

The devotee was connected to the boom by ropes attached to steel hooks pierced through the muscles in the back, legs so as to render him a swimming posture. As the ‘cakady’ was in motion he will bounce up and down all the time he was hanging on the boom. A full round of the ‘kOvil vIti’ and a few more hours for the spectators and to give him the chance to repay for sparing his life by prolonging the suffering, if there was any suffering in the way we know suffering. I think he did for some seven years. Later I have seen a few ‘paRavyk kAvadi’ performed by local people in Jaffna.

I do not remember whether I said about my wife, who by force of habit spends a few minutes in front of the ‘cuvAmip padangkaL.’ everyday. She was telling some visitors the other day that all these years she never prayed for anything in particular, but now her prayer is for the safety of ‘tamizar’ especially the young highly motivated youth who could contribute a lot to mankind. Their lives are cut short by a ruthless government. Not long ago I had to listen to some recorded recitals in Sanskrit which I did not understand, neither did she. She has stopped playing that tape and plays ‘pittukkuLi murukatAcar’ tapes. This reminds me of an incident at the Sugar plantations in Kantalai.

It was the practice and almost a tradition that all the ills in the plantation were blamed on transport, both personnel and goods. and on equipment for not meeting planting and harvesting targets of cane. At staff meetings the man in charge before my time and for a short time when I was only an observer, he used to get blasted by everybody and he will just say that he needed new vehicles and equipment.

The Board was helpless because the government did not have money to buy requirements. At the end of the day everybody meets in the club and the man was reasonably compensated for taking the blame and saving others’ necks. I started taking more responsibility and introduced some order in the department. Except in the case of permanent allocations, others had to give their requrement of equipment a day in advance except in an emergency. Naturally, they could not pass the buck, and I became the bug in the otherwise freewheeling set up.

Haphazard instructions to drivers were stopped and only specified officers could authorize trips within the plantations. Outside trips had to be approved by the GM or the head of the department and so on. The security section had control of the Ambulance vehicles. The vehicle log book was cheked on a regular basis. The Sinhala Bauddha flag waving patriots tthey were they could nott run with me in running their departments. How to bring back the old freewheeling days, get rid of the bug. It was going to be easy, he is a Federal Party man. RP was there to do the needful. It was a joke that everytime RP the ‘Ra Matttiya’ visited the factory and that was far too often the club had to make additional trips to Trinco to buy more arrack. It was in such an atmosphere tthat I lived from Board meetting to Board meeting. One visit was that, there were more acres ready for planting but not planted. The furrows were drying. They could not say they had no transport. They complained that the furrows were not deep enough. Of course there was a change at Board level to do away with the practtice of cutting trenches 18’ to 24’ deep, with Cat. machines, a legacy of the Indian experts who were on loan under the Colombo plan. They did not plan for mechanized cane growing. Things changed and we were getting more and more mechanized up to harvesting and loading. The fields naturally had to be tilled and managed to allow machines to move easily in and out of the field. Deep trenches later covered to support the cane and prevent them lodging- falling down at heavy blowing, into ridges were not suited for easy farm machinery movement. They complained of the furrows being not deep enough. There was no person at the factory level to make a decision. Every thing had to come from the Board. That is the way the Board liked to operate and people who could run the plantation were either ‘tamizar’ or non Buddhists.

Sugar cane was perhaps allergic to these two non-patriots. The Chairman was taken around and he wanted to know where the furrow was shallow. I was also interested because I make it a point to visit the fields where our machinerues worked at least once a day or once in two days. There were plantation officers who did not know where the machines were working in their areas. I had a gadget made to measure the depth and I was ready to meet the accusation. It was a dry season and the chairman Mr. C.R. karunaratna was alittle worried and he said so.

One of the officials who was trying to pass the bug had a chance to inform the chairman what a good Sinhala Buddhist patriot he was and told the Chairman is prayer was forns. The Chairman promptly told this patriot to go and plant the cane instead of wasting his working hours praying. They could not show one furrow thatt was shallow. TTHis praying smarty showed a furrow where the walls have collapsed as the ground was getting very dry.

I do not believe that one has to be trained in that field where he is wanted. One could always learn it on the job, if one is interested. We learn the unknown from the known, we learn to ride a bicycle by riding the bicycle. A teacher with over twenty-five years applied for a job that needed the basic qualification and experience the teacher thought he had. When he went for the interview, they were satisfied with his paper qualifications. When it came to the question of experience, he was told that he had one experience repeated twenty-five timeas and was not selected. We have had enough on the job training but we do not seem to have the necessry experience to deal with our community problem. First nof all most of us do not even know what. Understanding the problem is half solution to the problem. I wrote aletter to the late Mr. Amirthalingam and like to share it with you.

Boston USA.

Dear Mr. Amirthalingam,

I am writing this letter to you, as elected leader of Tamils in Ceylon, you shouldbe apprised of actions affecting the Tamils. I believe that no one has the right to jeopardize lives of people, no matter how patriotic or well meaning he/she may be. It is nattural for people to disagree on issues, where values are in conflict. The value or object of desire of Tamils at this point in time is creation of Thamil Eelam, or more symbolically THAMILAM, and it’s major values. Tthe conflict, if any, appears to be in the area of determining the best way to achieve them. THAMILAm has to be created. We cannot and should not expect Sinhala government or it’s people to hand over THAMILAM on a platter.

Some of us may be fortunate to be away from front-line action, even persecution, nevertheless not fortunate enough to enjoy the bliss of home and day to day cultural, language, and aesthetic values, higher earnings withstanding.Yet a few of us have turned around negative factors for affirmative actions. A generous and favourable climate exists in U>S>A> for pursuit of our ethnic and cultural values, even demonstrate our dissatisfaction against violation of our basic and fundermenttal rights by powers that be back home. Lack of such conditions for you have earned you our sympathies. Whattever action you take for survival has our full support. There is no sense in sacrificing the present for the future or vice-versa. Persecution fear situation is inevitable so long as we remain subservient to Sinhalese. Tis we do not want, we want to live with honour and diginity as our spirut and flesh dictate. Live as a free people,irrespective of what it costs.

A small group of people decided on a course of action, to transform dreams to realities. The group thinks of end as creating THAMILAm, and means as actions that can be taken to achive the end. This action oriented group, ACTION, (Action for Creting THAMILAM.) will make clamims on other organized and unorganized groups, for the establishment and maintenance of a viable system to advance the common interest for THAmilAm creation.

The main function of ACTION will be to combine demands,convert them into authoritative policy outputs, and thus moderate conflict, and integrate and preserve Tamil society. Until a general consensus is developed, no interface with the public will originate from ACTION. During it’s formative period, ACTION will not do fund development. Initially organizational costs will be met from private resources. Competitive participation within an accepted framework is another of ACTION’s important characteristics. It may also be groups. However, ACTION is born to fill the need to moblize the total support of all interested groups outside Ceylon. ACTION will interact with other groups and monitor the rate of progress during creation of THAMILAM, and setup necessary safeguards and back-up to thwart retaliation from hostile forces.

Interaction for general consensus development will open up at a meeting planned for during the course of the year. Colleagues who have shown concern initiative and concur with action objectives will be invited to the meeting. While there is need for secrecy, no obstacle is placed in the use of this material for advancing Thamilam cause among wellwishers of our objectives.

With kindest regards and best wishes.

Sincerely yours.

R. Shanmugalingam April 15, 1981.

continued

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