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 4

My father nurtured a dream that all his children should at least study for a Degree. It fell first on my elder brother Mahendralingam, he is 'perija tampi' to all relatives and close boyhood friends. The four brothers, Mahandralingam ('perijatampi,') Shanmugalingam (kicci,') Suntharalingam (kuzaNty,') and Ganehalingam (kanhEcu,') attended Jaffna College, and my only sister Thenumani, ('tangkacci,') attended Pandaththeruppu Girls School, and my youngest brother Panchalingam ('pagncan,') who is 15 years younger to me was still a baby.

We go to school in the pool car. As is customary, the car is sardine packed and it was a good meeting place for any calf love to blossom. My brother Mahendralingam, did not lose the opportunity, and his calf love affair was blossoming into the next stage but not 'bull love' yet. Until he was attacked by this love bug he was a brilliant student. Poor fellow, the bug changed his goal from paying attention to his books, instead paid more attention to her looks. He got a referred in Chemistry or one of the compulsory subjects. Mr. Sountharam Williams our chemistry teacher e happened to be our teacher and he was also from Kopay. It appears Mahendran and Williams did not see eye to eye on many matters.

Although I have heard it said about others too, Mahendran for his earlier out-standing academic performance that he did not maintain, Williams almost invariably made him 'over-standing' on the bench. Once it is said that Williams has told my brother, either my brother should get out of the class or he should get out of the class, and my brother is supposed to have told him that he preferred the latter. We used to help our grocer-Vaithilingam in the market during 'typ pongkal' season , manning or is it 'boyying' the crackers stall-'vedik kady' and the nick-name 'vedi' stuck to him and through him to us.

His life took a turning, he was packed away to Colombo to complete his SSC, from St. Johns College Nugegoda, which he did. His purpose in life was left behind in Chankanai and he decided to move back to Chankanai with a promise to follow the Varsity entrance course from Skanthavarodaya College. Varsity was a far city for him. In the meantime my mother's eldest sister's son Thurairajah, whom we address as 'perijanhnhy' since he lived with us through out his student days as he lost his father when very young.

Furthermore, a lot of our relatives lived with us in Manipay as it was convenient to attend school and to have my father as a local guardian. 'perijanhnhy' was approached by his wife's uncle to broach the subject of a marriage proposal for one of his daughters to my brother . This proposal accompanied by an incentive to send my brother to England at their expense. My father was no exception to most Jaffna man's dream to educate their children in the London Metropolis the doyen of cities for higher learning. This proposal disturbed the proverbial hornet's nest. He threatened, he cajoled with no success. He even begged him to go to India and earn a Degree to set an example to us the lesser mortals. My father always knew when to stop to avoid any precipitation of issues. By now I took pity on both my father and brother, after having begged my parents to send me to India, for a different reason but for the same purpose of continuing education.

Finally brother got selected as an apprentice with the Department of Electrical undertakings, at the Ceylon Technical College. Attendance there was poor, and the story is he slapped one of the lecturers there and had to leave the Technical College. He got the job of Foreman at the Valigamam West Bus Co. which was very convenient for his staying close to his sweetheart. His life became more subdued until bus companies were nationalized, by which time, although parental blessings were given for the marriage, because of the delay in the ceremonial wedding, the couple eloped to 'celvac cannati' and got married there. There was no opposition from either party as a grand engagement (Registration) was arranged and attended by all relatives. My sister in law is our second cousin, her maternal grandfather and our maternal grandmother were brother and sister.

My brother and wife migrated to India, where my mother joined him in the hope of seeing me after 17 years. This hope from both sides was dashed when my mother fell down the stairs and died without recovering from the coma as a result of the fall, at the age of 82, in 1988. I could not attend to her last rites as I did not have a valid passport, since I did not renew my Sri Lankan passport for obvious reasons since 1980. The older two sons have migrated to Germany, the daughter is married and she lives in Canada now and the youngest son is working in Saudi Arabia.

My younger brother Suntharalingam is employed by the People's Bank, Married and has four children. The two older girls studied medicine at the Jaffna campus and the eldest one Vasuki is on a scholarship at Leeds University U.K. The third girl was also following a course in medicine, but the whereabouts of the son, mother and the two girls are sketchy.

My fourth brother the victim of a confused educational system, that changed from 'tamiz' to English and then back to 'tamiz' and lack of a goal on his part, pushed him into a long period of struggle. His persistence paid when he gained proficiency on the job, as an Engineer in the cement manufacture. He worked in Saudi Arabia but during one of his home leaves, he could not go back in time to meet the contractual obligations and he is in Jaffna with his family. One son is in Switzerland, and the elder daughter joined the freedom fighters.

My contact with my family was suspended since 1982, when I was declared a persona non grata for my part in the unilateral declaration of independence at the UN Headquarters in New York on January 14, 1982, and I was the first signatory. The SL government threatened to confiscate my property , which did not bother me, but I did not want to jeopardize the safety of my family and decided maintain as little contact with them as possible.

My 'thangkacci' my only sister, was married to a teacher, someone to take after my father's noble profession. I have been visiting lecturer at the University of Zambia and at the Hardy Institute of Technology, Amparai, that's all for my part as a teacher. One son is a working for a private company in Colombo as a computer programmer, and the second son was at the Jaffna medical school and the latest information is he has joined his brother in Colombo?

There are interesting anecdotes about each one of my family and they will appear from time to time in this series. Her two children were born through 'C' section as the medicos say. My brother in law refused to leave the country. He was considered to be one of the best science teachers in the late fifties, but gradually he lost grip on himself and is virtually a non entity. This was one area where I could have helped my sister's family. Again, come to think of it, as the air lines demonstrate before take off,  put your mask first and then your child or whatever. I had a duty by the family I helped to create. I am not complaining but in this so called advanced times of the human race, there still are some thoughts and actions of the cave man.

Last but not the least is my youngest brother, who is in San Diego California. He first went to England for the usual education, and through the influence of his wife, my cousin's daughter, whose brothers are in California, they moved to the US. He completed his education and is in business for himself. He came here at a young age with no responsibility, as that family has developed a philosophy of their own, slanting more towards 'me' first. Do not want children, ''eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die and that is our policy and don't ask us why?" A good friend of my vintage told me last time when I met him in San Diego, that Panchan is now a Republican and no wonder I did not recognize my little brother. In fairness to him, I must admit he takes care of our family, but values have changed.

For some family anecdotes next.

continued

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