Tamil: Three Anecdotes from the 1960s
TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2006 (ID. 2006-07-03)
AIADMK - All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
DMK - Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam
When the late M. G. Ramachandran was the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, he issued an order that all state government officials should sign documents in Tamil. However many officials continued signing their names in English. Two decades later, in 2004, Minister Chemmozhi told the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly that action would be taken against officers who do not sign their names in Tamil. [Ramachandran and Chemmozhi belonged to the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), an offshoot of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK)]
These events remind me of a few incidences back in the late 1960s.
A newly elected Panchayat member (village council member) did not know any English. Instead of signing his name in Tamil, he learned how to sign his name in English and used it. All he knew was how to write his name in English, he did not know the complete English alphabet. Such attitudes of inferiority complex about Tamil exist even today.
I completed my bachelor's degree in chemistry and applied for post-graduate studies. I got admission and I received a registered letter in the mail. I was talking to a few villagers when the mail came. I signed for the registered letter in Tamil. The postman and those villagers were surprised that I signed in Tamil. They could not believe that someone who had "all this education" would sign the name in Tamil. They were so surprised that they spread it around and much of the village knew that I signed in Tamil. Some people asked me if I was DMK. (It was in the 1960s when DMK was identified with Tamil and most leaders and members were then, unlike now, committed to Tamil.) By the way, I was never a member of DMK but had sympathies for it in those days.
My brother was a middle level state government officer in 1968. DMK came to power in the state just a year before and everyone was thinking that Tamil would be used in all government offices (almost four decades later that is yet to happen fully). One day my brother had a meeting with the district collector. He greeted the collector by saying "vanakkam" (greetings in Tamil). The collector, a non-Tamil from another state, was surprised and asked my brother, "Are you DMK?" My brother said, "no sir". Even today, four decades later, most government officials greet each other with "Good Morning" and not "vanakkam".
NOTE: The purpose of this article is not to say that we should not learn English. All those who complete high school should be proficient in English and all those who complete college should be very proficient in English, because English has become the language of international communication, science and technology. But Tamil should be the primarily language of business in Tamilnadu.
1. "My Son does not Speak Tamil" (by T. Krishnamurthy), TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2005 (10 KB)
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