Monday, February 23, 2009

Ellam Pugazhum Iraivanukkuh!

எல்லாம் புகழும் இறைவனுக்கு!
To God be all the Glory/Praise!

He said it! Yes, HE DID! An in one split second he created Oscar History, at least for people like me, he did! AR Rehman, my god when it comes to music, lived up to my expectations and did me proud by speaking in Achchuh Tamizh, when he received his Oscar late last night. It might seem trivial to most, especially when you think I am excited about three words that he might have just decided to say, but what you don’t seem to understand is that he did justice to the one million Tamizh brethren all across the globe, hoping he would do something like that.
Tamizhars have always fought for their due. With a language that is well, personally, one of the most evolved, and a civilization that is on par with any of the great olds – we as a people have always been underplayed when it comes to fair representation. Tamizh’s around the world have however, since time immemorial, taken it upon themselves to propagate their way of life and everything it represents, so people would know they exist and partake of what they have to offer and believe me, they have a lot!
We’ve been the first to speak in our own native tongue at the parliament in India, where Hindi was the only other option to English for a long long time. We were the first to start anti-Hindi movements when it was undemocratically made the national language of India (many have now emulated the concept and India is soon on its way to become truly democratic, at least linguistically!), and we’re the second language from India to have received an International Classical Language status, seconding only Sanskrit. Tamizh is also the only Asian language other than Chinese to be recognised as an official language in more than two countries in the world. In India, it is the official language of the state of Tamil Nadu, in Srilanka it is the second national language and in Malaysia and Singapore, it is recognised as an official language that can be used for quite a few legal proceedings too.
But why am I so proud?

Why am I so Tamizh? And why do I associate myself so much with all that this culture and language stands for? I have never felt the need to explain myself, but I shall try to do so…
Tamizh is a part of me. It flows in my blood and has influenced me from a very young age. I may have been born in a small mountainous village in Churachandpur District in Manipur, but ever since I can remember anything, I have been Tamizh.
I grew up in Kotagiri, the hometown of many Kota families who together make up the larger Kota tribe native to the Nilgiris. I was however brought up by an Ilangai Tamizh nanny (Sri Lankan Tamil) who spoke to me in her beautiful accent in all those formative years. It’s not like my mother ignored me, she was always there when I needed her, but she was a headmistress and had lots of other work. So I grew up learning this language that would later shape my life and every decision I took.
The first song that I clearly remember falling in love with was “Chinnuh Chinnuh Vannuh Kuyil” from Mouna Raagam. That song also introduced Revathy into my life – a she has been a motivation and an adonai ever since.
I grew up eventually, again surrounded by everything Tamizh, but my awakenings as a Tamizhar occurred only when I was around 10 years old. A beautiful Iyengaaruh Tamizh fanatic walked into my life then, in the form of a teacher. Her name was Janaki and she was as immaculate to me as the Madurai Meenaatchi. Interestingly she was also from Madurai and spoke Tamizh in an accent that I found truly divine. There was nothing she didn’t know, no Kural she couldn’t recite, no Paadal she couldn’t sing and no history about the Tamizh’s that she couldn’t give me an accurate narrative about. I was a fan. She taught me to love the language, respect its finesse, glorify its prose, romanticize its poetry and more importantly to give my life to understanding, worshipping and conquering it, as ironically places as those words might be.
There has been no turning back. I moved to Manipur where again I encountered another face of Tamizh. It’s connection to the Meitei language. The more ready acceptance of Tamizh over Hindi and the un-ignorable cultural connects. The more recently developing Political connects and the fact that a lot of Meitei revolutionaries respect Tamizhars for their constant fight to preserve their culture and identity. Tamizh has thus evolved into an ideology. An example that people can learn from! So what, if your home country treats you like you aren’t worth it! You can always prove your worth in other ways.
Tamizh’s have not yet asked for the independence of the Tamizh state and that’s a surprise. If I were a leader, Tamil Nadu would have been an independent country over 30 years ago, but our leaders seem to have more sense and I do not mean our political leaders here. We all still believe in India. We believe that she can be a motherland to many and yet be fair. We believe that unity can be achieved in diversity and that mutual respect and co-operation can take this country forward. We still believe in the Indian dream, something that our founding fathers and mothers saw more than 60 years ago and we still have hope.
So Rehman accepting his award and then speaking in Tamizh is a part of this struggle. Yes, he did speak in Hindi too, as it is our national language and maybe he likes the language too! But to be proud of who he is and where he comes from and to so openly speak in his native tongue on stage – is something we will always respect him for. Tamizh has finally conquered the Oscars too, what’s next?

From Gudaloor to Dhanushkodi…
From Pulicat to Kaniyakumari…
Udal Mannukkuh…
Uyir Tamizhukkuh!

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