Tamizh and I became friends because my parents told me I had to . My mom was adamant about her children learning to read and write their mother tongue. My brother escaped this by being absolutely terrible at Tamizh,like failing level terrible. Me, I was not not so lucky, at least that’s what I thought back then. I always managed to scrape through and be average. But we had a very strained relationship,me and tamizh. First somehow the hindi and sanskrit kids assumed an air of self importance. What was up with that? And then the tamizh scores would always bring my total down. This friendship was not working

It drove me mad. No matter how hard I tried, my scores did not improve.I tried very hard, I would write down every answer , practice writing essays , pour over grammar , try to understand the difference between பெயர்ச்சொல் and வினைச்சொல். My dad had a standing joke about questions on grammar. “Mark all your grammar questions as ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம்” he would say .“Because there will atleast be two that are those.So you are guaranteed 2 marks atleast”. It was funny when he said cause he was not writing the exams. It wasnt funny to me. So you can imagine my surprise when in my 10th public examinations , I was slapped with a 91% in Tamil. I thought it was a joke. For almost a month after that I was expecting a mail saying there was an error in my language marks and that I had managed a 74%. The mail never came.

My high school refused to let me choose Sanskrit as second language.There was nothing more I wanted than to take up sanskrit as second language cause first, initiation in to cool club which regardless to say was number one priority in high school and second more total score cause you know colleges and all. High school tamizh is the nail in your coffin if you were the type that was harboring ambitions of Bits, Pilani etc. ( Yes, you can laugh here). You can kiss a 90% in language goodbye if you take tamizh unless you are a direct bloodline of mahakavi bharathiyaar or kannadasan. My parents obviously did not help me here.

As I expected, my performance in Tamizh was not great in my board examinations mostly because it is incredibly hard to score above 85% in Tamil board. Atleast average students dont. I was incredbily proud of my 85% in Tamil in boards because that is equivalent to a 99% in sanskrit. I have made up this stat and I am not backing down. But this time I did not blame Tamizh. The two years of high school Tamizh made me fall in love with that language like never before.

I stopped studying Tamizh and started learning and appreciating it. The sangam poetry, verses from agananoonru, puranaanooru, kalithogai, kalingathuparani, silapathigaram, manimegalai stole my heart. The beauty of the language dawned on me in these two years. It was this time that my mom initiated me in to Bharathiyar big time. Apart from curriculum where we learned quite a bit of Bharathi (Paanchali Sabatham being one of my favorite), my mother wrote most of my tamil speeches that were part of our school assembly and she would always, always quote bharathiyaar.There was a bharathi poem for every topic. Bharathiyaar was a huge inspiration for my mom and she transferred that to me. So much that when I left for US, among many things she gave me was a book of “Bharathiyar Kavithaigal”.

When I look back, I am delighted that Tamizh did not let me go and gave me another chance to learn and appreciate her . It is because of those two years that I was able to read numerous tamizh literary works. It was my mother’s maniacal insistence on learning one’s mother tongue and the school’s stupid policy of rejecting my application to take sanskrit that I have to thank and I will thank them forever.

Today is Bharathiyaar’s birthday , and Bharathiyaar to me in many ways is synonymous to my love for the language. He made me appreciate that poetry doesnt have to be sophisticated or embellished with big complicated words. Its the simplicity of his verses that captured my interest. The poem below is one of my favorite and probably one of the best motivational quotes ever. This was also the poem my mom helped me with for one of my first ever high school essays, it has stayed with me ever since.

அக்கினி குஞ்சொன்று கண்டேன் — அதை
அங்கொரு காட்டிலொர் பொந்திடை வைத்தேன்!
வெந்து தணிந்தது காடு
தழல் வீரத்தில் குஞ்சென்றும் மூப்பென்றும் உண்டோ?

Happy Bharathiyar day you all! வாழ்க தமிழ் !

Note: The irony of this post in english has not escaped me. However it is easier to write in a language that all my friends can read under 5 minutes. Plus I still need spell check on my Tamizh
பெயர்ச்சொல்,வினைச்சொல் and ஈறு கெட்ட எதிர்மறை பெயரெச்சம் : Tamil Grammar terms