My Tamil Journey
most ethnic Indians in Malaysia, and yet, I didn’t think it was cool enough, not as cool as speaking English.
You see, when you are brought up in a multi ethnic society, every sentence you spurt out would inevitably
contain words of two or three different languages. We Malaysians take pride in this, especially when it
comes to ordering or describing food (that’s another blog post all together). What we say on a daily basis is
an amalgamation of English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Having said that, Tamil had the least appeal to me
growing up. I didn’t have anyone to speak to, as my family conversed in English. My exposure was limited
to the Sunday afternoon screening of Tamil movies on the television, which I enjoyed. It wasn’t too
surprising that I couldn’t string a sentence in my mother tongue, I never even attempted.
the Tamil movies I was getting addicted to. Dad and I would go on our dates to catch the latest Rajinikanth
flick in the cinema. I had also made more Tamil speaking friends at this juncture. I decided to learn to read
Tamil. Our study at home archived books which we had inherited from my late grandfather. There, I found a
book entitled ‘Learn Tamil through English in 30 days‘. Surely, this title brings back memories to many
reading this. Within a matter of weeks, I could read in my mother tongue, albeit slowly. I had to sound out
each letter, and then figure out what the word meant, but still. I had done it, and my parents proudly
announced this self-acquired achievement to our relatives. Why they didn’t speak to me in Tamil, they
never revealed, of course.
ridiculed. I was told not to mutilate the language that is my mother tongue by speaking it. This didn’t bother me,
of course. As long as I understood what was being said, I was fine. Plus, I was a self-taught Tamil literate,
how many of my friends could say that about themselves? None.
Tamil capital of the world, the city that is bursting at its seams with people, culture and tradition. To say that
I was overwhelmed by the madness of the city would be an understatement. The organized chaos took
some time to get used to. I was expecting Chennai to be like in the movies, miles of beach, students
dressed in crop tops going to university, and roads so clear you could walk on the pavement and have your
own Tamil song playing in the background. Boy, was I mistaken. The beach was, well miles of silly (and
risky) fun fair activities, dotted with couples under umbrellas, patrolled by adolescents who couldn’t care
less if they went to school or not. The only crop tops worn were saree blouses, and those were covered in
6 yards of cloth. As for the pavements, you had to choose between being assaulted by the stench of urine
or cleverly avoiding puddles and potholes which somehow appear when you least expect it. And yet, I
stayed on, completed my degree, and acquired a whole new lease on life.
best now. My friends still gawk at me when I speak Tamil in front of them, and I covertly rejoice at this, kind
of like an ‘in your face’ moment for them. My Tamil movie dates with dad have now included my entire
family, and are not just limited to Rajinikanth. Both of which I am so thankful for.
charming, with words so beautifully threaded together, it engulfs the reader. Currently, I am working my
way through the Thirukkural. I picked up the English transliteration a couple of years ago in Chennai, but
the Tamil version is simply brilliant.
lesson, a slow one, but a lesson nonetheless. There is plenty left to learn, my Tamil vocabulary has so
much room for improvement. And yet, I am enjoying the motions of this lesson. Tamil is a delight to read. It
is poetry in its own right, without even trying. Reading fills my heart with bliss, and as I flip the pages of my
life, I am grateful to be bestowed this beautiful language as my mother tongue. Steeped in a culture so rich,
Tamil will always hold a special place in my heart, no matter how uncool it seems.