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 8

Industries of significance in ‘tamiz Izam’ seem to have escaped the attention of Sinhala planners. An environment destroying, cement factory at Kankesanturai and a Chemical factory at Paranthan was the government investments in ‘tamiz Izam.’ Later the paper factory at Valaichenai.

Several attempts by successful ‘tamiz’ industrialists to open up branches in ‘tamiz Izam’ were stifled on flimsy excuses. ‘tamizar’ had to concentrate on agriculture inland and the maritime population on fishing. Dr. N. M. Perera who championed the cause of ‘tamizar’ from the opposition benches with the parity of status propaganda reneged when he became the minister of finance in the MEP government. He called the UNP industrial policy as the ‘seeni bolai’ industries policy. Even the ‘seeni bolai’ industry was not available to ‘tamizar.’

In the sixties with the assistance of foreign organizations such as NORAD, small fishing boats were made in Kayts and a cement boat project was started by a private firm at China Bay. The sugar factory that was planned for Akkarayan in the Mankulam district was diverted to Kantalai on the orders of Philip Gunawardene, another champion for ‘tamiz’ cause when he was in the opposition. The Gal oya development program was a well-planned scheme to forcibly colonize ‘tamiz’ Amparai with Sinhala colonists. I have worked for the Sri Lanka Sugar Corporation both at Hingurana and Kantalai and helped with the initial land development work at Uda Walawe. Potential for sugar production at fair cost is there in all three places. Unfortunately, instead of growing cane, these projects became the dumping ground for Sinhala political drop outs. It is to be hoped that a ‘tamiz Izam’ government could revive the two factories and plantations in ‘tamiz Izam.’

There were a few small industries and the Chankanai Ceramics industry which was known as the foremost cottage industry project in the country received some government recognition. Other than that, the Cooperative textile factory, a glass factory was doing well. A mango juice factory was doing well, but the owners immigrated to the USA and its progress is not known. Well, today, it is a story of rags, wrecks, and ruins!

During the second world war, my father encouraged us to take to home gardening. Unlike later times, garden machinery such as the Land Master, Kubota, etc., was not known then. Even water pump was a luxury. We were virtually ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water.’ Soil preparation had to be done with the help of ‘manhveddi’-hoe, ‘pikkAn’-pick ax, and in certain cases, ‘alavAngku’-crow bar. Inter-cultivation was done and weeding with hand tool such as ‘kyvAri’-hand shovel, or a contraption as ‘kuttUci’-a 1-2 ft., needle made of iron or timber from palmyra, areccanut, etc. Weeding was an important crop maintenance function as the number of each variety of crop-vegetable was limited to one at the most two rows of 2 ft. X 12-18 ft. There were no slow killing pesticides, artificial fertilizers, and insecticides, and any insect attack was thwarted by spraying the plants with cow dung in water.

We used to cut trenches in parts of the land behind the house. There was hardly any vacant place, as it was filled with all types of trees, shrubs and herbs. We grew coconut, mangos, oranges, lime, pomegranate, guava, nelli and ‘kIz kAj nelli’ drumstick, jack fruit, areccanuts, margosa, bread fruit. This tree was a prolific producer and without exaggeration, produced the largest sized fruits for the best tasting curry, a produce in very good demand, and bananas, mostly the ‘itary’ and ‘cAmpal moNtan’ varieties.

The land was a low lying area as this was a pit after the stones was extracted for building our house. The area surrounding the house was filled with the red loam, from ‘cempAdu’-this term applies to most red loam areas as Kokuvil, Kondavil, Inuvil Chunnakam, Mallakam, Maviddapuram, Kankesanturai, Valalai, and some p[arts of Tirunelveli, Kopay, Neerveli, Atchuveli, Putur and many areas of Thenmaradchi. The backyard was filled in stages with trees and the cut trenches filled with organic debris. It is almost sixty years and I do not think the whole land is in level. This was done purposely because, in the early days our open well was a high yielder.

It was impossible to drain the well dry. Before we moved into the new house, attempts were made to drain it dry with two well sweeps, and a couple of pulleys to draw the solids. The spring filling was faster than the rate of draining. Finally it was decided to block a couple of springs with, wooden logs and our mortar as there was no time to look for the correct size log. The so called spring water we buy is no match to that cool spring water taste.

My father did not fill the pit in the back yard.and water used to stagnate for months. It took me my Agricultural Engineering training to fully understand the reason behind the pit. It is to keep the ground water level as high as possible so that the salts below do not mix with the drinking water through capillary action. The last time I tasted the water was in 1975 and it was different. Mainly due perhaps several wells have appeared around the area when one well commanded about four or five families, whereas one family commands one well now. This has led to the depletion of underground aquifers and lowering the ground water table resulting in the almost brackish water.

Our land was fragmented into plots fenced off with ‘muL murukku’- I think the botanical name is Erythrina indica. This was an excellent fodder for the goat that gave ‘ammA’ the resistance to an otherwise threatened asthma attack- goat milk. One such plot will be left fallow, while another one was planted with such exotic vegetables in rows as, several varieties of gourds, cabbage, radish, carrots, beet, maize, potatoes, Manioc, garlic, brinjal, chilly, beans including soy bean, and the long bean ‘kurangku vAl pajattang kAj’’ lady's finger-’venhdi’(okra) melons of different varieties including ‘vattakyp pazam’ the enlarged version of cucumber and the fruit when ripe cracks open and you get a powdery flesh. Eaten with a piece of ‘panam kaddi’ it is an Epicurean excursion. Most of the seeds were from Poona India.

Irrigation was the my favorite task in the whole gardening gamut. Father had a ‘paddai’ a bucket as contraption woven with palmyra tender leaves dried and sort of julienne into almost quarter inch strips and woven together into an inverted cone as the base and a hexagonal upper structure open at the top. A 1/2" -1’ strong wooden is tied across the top firmly taking into account the vertical balance with a rope spun out of palmyra tender leaves-’cArvOly.’

This ‘paddy’ is attached to the rope hanging from the front end of the well sweep, whose length is determined by the depth of the well, and the fulcrum is controlled by the center of gravity of the sweep which in turn determines the height required to support the sweep so that the sweep will raise and lower with the least shifting of weight across the front and aft of the fulcrum. The weight shift was made during the empty down and full up run by one or two men virtually sliding up and down a sea sawing well sweep perched about 12 ft., above the ground.

Next how I was one of the monkeys sliding up and down the well sweep.

continued

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