Of all things I write—I always hesitate to write about my language, my mother tongue…Tamizh; for my inherent chauvinism might show. But today, as the World Tamizh conference commenced, as I watched hordes of scholars (and of course…inevitably, politicians—it’s inescapable, how politics always exploits people’s emotional attachments to language. And Tamizh Nadu is the epitome of examples to elaborate on that phenomenon. But let me refrain from getting into that tangle, for I intend to write about my language here.), I could not help, but feel a surge of intimate fervor towards my language. Not momentary, this feeling, every time I hold a copy of Tamizh literature in my hand, ardor passes through me. Be it Nattrinai, Agananooru, Silapadhikaram or Panchali Sabadham…I am overwhelmed by the grandeur of this ancient language.
Tamizh, a Dravidian language, with close similarities to the ancient Harappan script, as they have the same roots, substantiates the egalitarian nature of the Tamizh people… Surviving through long periods of turmoil in history, for it’s an elaborate language, intricate in meaning, every word astounds linguists. One could love a language for it’s their mother tongue, but Tamizhians have many reasons to cherish their words. (I can see my friend Kimde Marak smirking, and saying, “Sindhu, you are such a Tamil chauvinist!”…) My Tamizh is one of those few languages in the world where secular literature flourished since time immemorial. While many languages smack of religion, my language speaks of humanism (in the Tirukkural—“Inna seitharai…”---“If someone does you harm, do good unto them.”), of liberalism, of natyam, of art, of culture. Tamizh teaches goodwill, love, integrity…and to coexist. It’s astonishing, how a martial race has ideals of forgiveness and humanness entrenched in its literature; and when one reads words written in agaval metre ten centuries ago, relevant to today’s predicaments…the philosophical nature of Tamizh astounds and enraptures.
The egalitarian nature of the language, in the past, when in the Tamizh land castes did not exist, prejudice was based on scholarly merit (…although classes did exist, poverty did reign; but why do I allow myself to think of this now?!), and women were respected, Tamizh sought to signify change---the survival of this language is ascribed to its ability to consume modernity. The multitude of women in scholarly pursuit, in Tamizh history, surely surpasses any other ancient language. Bundling so much thought into every Tamizh word I utter…I feel proud!
And I repent, that I do not possess the cherished talent to write poetry in Tamizh, that I cannot produce lines of philosophical portent in Tamizh…and this handicap I have to live with. But the pleasure of reading Tamizh, I possess. The multifarious thoughts of great human beings, spanning two thousand years…!
Long live Tamizh!