Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Puthuvai: another Thamil speaking state in India
K. S. Sivakumaran in Paandichery (Puthuvai)

While Chennai (five million people living in the main city and another three million people live in the outskirts and suburbs of the metropolis) is the capital of the south Indian state of India - Thamilnadu, there is another tiny state south of Chennai that has a population of Thamilians.

Its name was earlier Paandicheri, but the French who had this place as one of their protectorates called it Pondichery. But the Thamilians who are in a majority called their State Puthucheri. The shortened form of this State's name now is Puthuvai.

Before I go more into Puthuvai, I must let you know something more about the modes of transportation in Chennai. There are trains, electric trains, buses, private luxury buses, air service and the like to all parts of India.

If you wish to travel by bus, there is a place called Koiambedu in Chennai where you have three big separate bus stations to travel within the 102 zones in the city, to travel to other states in India and another for private luxury buses to travel to other parts of Thamilnadu and also to other states.

If you find that you can't catch a bus in time, then you can get into what they call share auto and pay 20 rupees for a ride to your destination. You share your travel with others.

There are taxis, paid cabs, auto rickshaws readily available for your travel. The towns are very far from each other. Adayaar, Thiruvanmyoor, Thiyagarajah Nagar(T Nagar), Anna Nagar West, East are some of the locations where the rich and the middle class people live.

The poor and the wretched of the earth (the Dalits) live in almost all parts of the city.

That much for the present on Chennai.

Kaanchipuram famous for silk clothes and handloom garments is also well known for the citadel of a Hindu High Priest (sage). I spent a day with my old friend Vembakkam Subramanian and his family. He was earlier working for the Library of Congress in New Delhi.

He used to procure books by Lankan writers. His contact in Lanka was Wilfred Gunasekera. Two Lankan diplomats were working with him in New Dilli (Delhi).

In a day you can go to Kanchpuram (a historical and religious place) and return to Chennai. On my way I witnessed the suburban rural scene travelling with people who may not be sophisticated.

Getting back to Puthuvai - I went to meet Prof Arvunambi, Head of the Department of Thamil at the University of Puthuvai.

He came down to Colombo last month to address a lecture on Silapadikaram at a festival organised by the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam.

He promised to procure books written by me in Thamil for is university. There is a course on Emigrates Studies including Lankan Tamil Literature in this University.

I also met a Reader in English Department Dr. Kalpana who was in Colombo a few years ago to attend a seminar in Kandy, courtesy Prof. Ashley Halpe.

In Chennai, there is a publishing house called Manimekalai Prasuram which publishes books in Thamil. Lankan writers in Thamil had benefited by the enterprising Director of this concern, Ravi Tamilvanan as he has a wide distribution system to take Thamil books available worldwide.

He has published four of my books and two are in print. He is a gentleman and a friend who is misunderstood by many writers in Thamil in Lanka.

Ravi and his brother Lena were kind to me on my visit to Chennai. Their father Tamilvanan edited a wonderful juvenile journal for the young.

I was one of his many admirers when I was a teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

I stayed with my relatives in Anna Nagar West during my 11 days stay in Chennai.


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