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 7

(I wish I had the discipline, training, and the proficiency of an author. A young friend told me that my attempt at this exercise gives the impression of a ‘big man.’ I told him that if it did then it was good, so long as I am not accused as a show-off. A few friends who know me well have been asking me to publish a book of all the letters and articles about ‘tamiz Izam.’ I told him that I will bequeath to him the right to publish such a compilation on condition that it will be after my death. The purpose in writing the Journey is not cheap publicity but a sincere effort to direct the attention of ‘tamiz’ Diaspora towards ‘tamiz Izam.’ At my age memory, when not challenged constantly, can fail at crucial moments as a mental block, leaving a lot unsaid. Therefore, my narration is dictated by the flow of events as I sit in front of my computer, keeping in perspective the objective and a reasonable openness without treading on too many toes.)

My kid brother Panchan and I developed a bondage from the time he was born. According to mother, both of us were born under the same star by our horoscopes. She was not surprised therefore, at the care and concern I had for him. He was born when my father was over fifty years of age and until his death we did not know he had an insurance policy taken for Pnchan’s higher education. He was pestering me for a sponsor letter to go to UK I had some reservations about his ability to manage on his own. He was an ‘ammA’s’ boy. Either my sister or mother had to serve him his meals. During this period in one of my ‘tamiz’ services eagerness, I started a contractual Tractor and Rotovator company-RamPaks Agricultural Services-.

I believed that the customary seed bed preparation for most crops was expensive. Because the same operation had to be repeated two or three times to get a condition farmer required. With Rotovators a one time pass will produce better tilth than the conventional methods. Furthermore a lighter tractor had the advantage of less soil compaction, etc. and worked better in puddling the field for wet paddy cultivation.

My youngest brother in law Pathmanathan was trained in tractor operation, maintenance, and sales. He was put in charge and Panchan was given the chance for a hand-on job training. I had a finance payment to meet every month. The understanding was they will be paid a retainer and on completion of the finance payments the assets of RamPaks will be divided into three equal shares among the two and my wife.

I was at that time Manager of the tractor Division of Collettes. My office was in the showroom and Woodlands, Dudley Senanayake, a former Prime Minister of Ceylon, lived there. We used to joke about the Prime Minister in front of me and the Cabinet behind me-the steel filing cabinet. A simple 25 horse power tractor without complicated sophistry was more than sufficient for the average farmer. For commercial farming one needed bigger machines. RamPaks was a proving ground for the 25 H.P. tractor. I had company blessings to run a sort of subsidiary tractor contracting business.

I used to visit the unit almost every week end most of the time with the family. We used to drive on a Friday evening from Colombo to wherever the unit was stationed and return to Colombo to be at work and in school on the Monday morning. The children enjoyed the drive in the Humber Hawk and the outdoor living in tents.

We worked on an advanced payment basis. There was a good demand for RamPaks services and people paid a month or two before the tractors even moved to the area. Cultivation time moved in such a way we could choose the more job available areas and stay for almost till the end of the season for that tract. Move on to the next and so on. We had work for almost the whole year. During one of my earlier visits, Panchan was complaining that he had no milk for his night cap and the food was terrible. I sent them our help Ariyadasa who was with is for sometime. I wanted to reward him by finding a job as an apprentice in a workshop. Since he could cook, and learn tractor operation, Panchan was also happy about the arrangement. Ariyadasa learnt tractors, and got his lorry license and last I heard was he were driving a lorry in Vavuniya and had married a ‘tamiz’ girl.

A very important agricultural, and fishery districts in ‘tamiz Izam’ is Mullaitivu. Thanniuttu, and Mulliyavalai come to my mind. RamPaks was stationed there for a season. I was shocked at the indifference of the Sinhala government’ s neglect of a well planned and made irrigation canals and channels. I do not have the exact details but I will develop on this in a later chapter. In our regular week end visits we enjoyed bathing in the chest deep cool water flowing in one of the canals. The children spend hours in the cool water and whenever they get a chance they join the fishers in drawing the net to shore. I made it a point to join them at least once and listen to their folksinging while drawing the net. Some of them are songs full of literary gems and some are of adult themes. One such song comes to mind:

‘ciRu Nanhdu manhal mItu padamonRu kIRum
cila vELy ity vaNtu kadal konhdu pOkum
kaRi cORu poti konhdu varukinRa pOtum
kadal mItu ivaL konhda pajam angku kAnhum
ElyjA tattE elyjA-----’

It is the fisher's creed that whoever joins in the actual fishing gets a share of the haul. We normally get fish from the market and Ariyadasa took care of it. But one morning I decided to go to the beach for fish. I told the ‘mutalALi’ I wanted ‘cIla’ or the like and joined in the fun of singing and pulling the net. We were lucky, as there was a grown up ‘cIlA’ fish in the net. The ‘mutalALi’ wanted me to pay whatever I felt like. I did not want to take the risk of insulting such hard working down to earth honest people. I insisted on his naming the price as otherwise I did not want the fish. He asked me whether Rs. 5.00 was too much? Man oh man! That very same fish in Colombo would have been available the next day or even later having traveled to Colombo by lorry in ice for not less than Rs. 25.00 and this was 1970.

While we were negotiating I saw two boys loading our car trunk with two of those special fisherfolk’s rattan baskets full of an assortment of freshly caught fish a luxury for us then and a dream now . That week end we had fish for breakfast, fishes for morning snack, fish ‘kUz’ for lunch, fish for afternoon snack and fish dinner. It is not a fishy story, people who know me well will have no problem in believing me. My father sometimes refers to us as his ‘adukkalY vIrar.’ If you see me in person you will believe that because I am practically a big man as I weigh around two hundred pounds.

Next how ‘tamiz’ man made the barren land blossom with, grapes, mangos, cashew, even ‘Basmati’ rice.


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