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 6

My love for ‘tamiz’ is due to a combination of several factors. ‘avvyp pAddi’ implored ‘pillyjAr’ to give her proficiency in the triple ’cangkat tamiz.’ There is no dispute that every language has the three merits of literature, music and drama. Living is also a connotation for ‘tamiz’ since the 12 vowels in ‘tamiz’ are called life letters, (‘ujir ezuttukkaL’) the 18 consonants body letters, (‘mej ezuttukkaL’) and , sometimes referred to as the velar fricative.

The 12 vowels and the 18 consonants are the basic letters in ‘tamiz.’ Combination of a consonant followed by a vowel derives the other 216 letters called (body with life= living-’ujir mej ezuttukkaL) making a total of 247 letters in ‘tamiz’ Alphabet Tables. It is based on this basic ‘tamiz’ grammar that I have developed a ‘tamiz’ software. In collaboration with a software engineering firm, Character Phonetic Dependencies Yarzhan Thamizh Editor uses only the 26 English alphabet keys to produce the 247 ‘tamiz’ letters. This unique software is available for sale and details will appear elsewhere soon.

‘aRignar anhnhA’ harnessed the rough meandering river of ‘tamiz’ speech into a canal of controlled, grade, width, clarity, and the gentle sound of running water. My good friend Suntharalingam of BBC Tamil Service Madras India, sends me audio cassettes mostly on debates and music. In one of them Dr. Avvai Natarajan was the Judge at a debate-’paddi manRam’- where the subject was, which ‘tamiz’ stands out, ‘ijal, isai, or NAdakam?’ Dr. Avvai gives a beautiful interpretation to the capacity for mothers to stop the baby from crying. He said, from the time the baby is conceived in the mother’s womb it listens to the rhythm of the mother’s heart beat. The baby is so dependent on the mother’s heart beat for its survival. Without the umbilical connection the baby cannot survive, in its absence the baby is not living on its own, it is a mere thing. The child stops crying, when the mother takes the child to her bosom in times of pain and fear at the sound of the mother’s heartbeat the music of life.

A mother who is not there to sing that irreplaceable music to the ears at times of need especially when they are so tender frail and helpless, no amount of wealth amassed justifies that neglect. They are better off adding RU 486 to their innumerable number of medication required to soothe their self inflicted nerve knots. I recall a news item in a Sri Lankan paper some 30  years ago. A working young couple had a child and engaged an ‘AjA’ baby-sitter to take care of the infant. One day, the father happened to notice the baby wailing and tried to console it with no success. The baby-sitter took the baby away the crying stopped and the baby was fast asleep. The father was a little surprised and went up to the baby. He got a strong odor of kerosene from the baby’s mouth. To cut a long story short, it seems that the baby-sitter used to entertain her boy friend. These things happen in those underdeveloped countries too- and if the baby’s cries disturbed the love birds, it was given the kerosene trick recommended by the boy friend.

It was during the second world war and I must have been 9 or 10 years old. Those days you cannot transport essential commodities from one place to another over a prescribed amount. Pilgrimage to Kathirgamam was no exception, in a remote place as Kathirkamam one had to pay an arm and a leg to buy such items if they were available. We had to apply for special permits to take with us essential food items. First part of the journey was by train, having taken a ride by horse carriage to the Jaffna rail station, up to Matara. Through out the journey we were well looked after by all types of people both inside the train and at almost every station they were giving food parcels, fruits, coffee, soda and young coconut. From Matara we had to go by bus to Tissamaharama and from Tissa, we had to walk the 14 odd miles.

Since we were too young and we had too much of luggage, we engaged the services of a bullock cart. I joined my father and other pilgrims in the walk. At one stage my brother Ganesh wanted to ease himself. There was no service area as we find here along highways and free ways. It was all jungle except for the cart track. I was last in Kathirgamam in 1972, when there was a macadamized road not only to Kathirgamam but also to Sellakkathirgamam over ‘mAnhikka kangky.’ Ganesh was directed behind a bush by the roadside. A huge elephant was standing a few feet from Ganesh. Whether as a mark of respect to Ganesh the Elephant God or to scare the mortal Ganesh the elephant let out an ear splitting trumpet. That was not jazz, may be the thing is sometimes called ‘electronic music.’ This was followed by a human thunder of ‘arOkarA’ the mantra. It may be the power of the mantra or the high decibels of a simultaneous thousand ‘arOkarA’ that scared the elephant to high tail into the forest.

A story that defies medical opinion of at least two doctors. It was in 1963, our son Dhayalan was just over two years, and our daughter Suthamathy, a.k.a. Cuckoo, that was a name given by me was only a few months old. For the first six months I do not remember a day my spouse would have slept continuously for more than two hours at a time. We had no choice but to accept her crying as the song of a cuckoo bird. My brother telephoned me and said that he had bought a Singer Gazelle car. He is bringing his family and my parents along en-route to Kathirgamam to invoke the blessings of Kanthan. He wanted us to join them from Kurunegala.

When we approached Colombo Dhayalan was uncomfortable and showed signs of higher temperature. We took him to the nearest doctor in Wellawatte. The doctor was indecisive and we thought of getting a second opinion and went to a friend in Mt. Lavinia. He did not find anything seriously wrong but suggested to postpone the trip. Either way a road travel was inevitable and my father took Dhayalan wrapped him in a blanket and kept him on his lap. With the usual attention given to the children we reached the banks of the Manikka River. Lo and behold Dhayalan was his usual self with his jumping and dancing.

Continuing with our first trip to Kathirkamam, on reaching the temple we got a room at the Valliammmal ‘madam.’ We all went to the river for our ritual bath before going for worship. I was attracted by a group that was singing and dancing and without even drying myself after the dip in the river, I followed the group of singing devotees. We did the customary three rounds of the ‘kOvil vIti.’ The music stopped and I realized that I had no idea where the ‘madam’ was not even its name. I approached some volunteers and told them my predicament. A couple of them took me to the various places but I could not recognize the vague picture of the ‘madam’ front I formed during my arrival. Finally after a few more rounds the volunteers decided to explore the insides and we hit the jack pot. The comedy of an otherwise scary situation is nobody missed me as they were all engaged in more divine duties as to worry about a precocious prankster.

The journey back home started we had to wait for the next bus to Matara from Tissa. My father was carrying my sister on his shoulders and leading Ganesh by his hand. I was close to my mother and brothers Mahendran and Sunthar were in the care of my mother's cousin and our guide Seevaratnam ‘anhnhy’ to ‘ammA’ and hence ‘anhnhy’ to us all. We were separated from father and the two little ones. The human public address system went into operation. There were shouts of Ramalingam master of Chankanai where are you?

This was going on for sometime and for me it may have been eternity. Mother sat down to rest and I was behind her holding on to her shoulders. It was my nervous fingers or a loose lock, that caused mother’s ‘tAlik kodi’ slip down into her dress. I pointed this to mother, she retrieved the ‘kodi’ and she touched her eyes in an act of reverence or affection. As I was watching her I could see a couple tear drops and her customary reverence act brought the superstition into my mind.

In Hindu weddings the finale is the groom tying the ‘tAli’ on the bride to the accompaniment of shells, ‘tavil and Natacuvaram’ high notes. I had also a childish idea, that children are born to husbands and wives only if they had the ’tAli.' How wonderful and in another way chaotic if it was true. This takes me to another parody about women’s equal rights.

A delegation of members of a women’s group went to god and complained that it was wrong in giving the burden of carrying the baby during pregnancy to women. Adding insult to injury women had to suffer labor pains as well. This was unforgivable and required immediate redress. God in his infinite wisdom asked the women as to what he should do to appease their anger. Women in their finite wisdom, agreed to carry the babies during pregnancy but the labor pains should go to the father of the baby. Ask God and it shall be given, they say.

So when the women asked God granted their wish. They awaited the trial child birth of the Secretary. Everybody was watching the Secretary’s husband, but of course he did not know of the divine gift to the world. He was his usual chain smoking, carpet wasting self pacing the room anxiously awaiting the first cry of his first born. Signs of the baby coming out of the womb were there and still that husband showed no sign of any pain. The President (of the women's group)  knew labor pain and she cursed God for cheating them. At that time her son came running and told the mother that his father wanted her back immediately as he was suffering from an acute pain. The President understood the danger in the fulfillment of their wish. They decided to withdraw the application to God. Retraction of the wish saved men from the pains of childbirth and women from the true identity of the father or fathers of their children. Father’s return to us   saved us from the agony of separation.

Next, how Panchan went to England.

continued

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