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Selected Writings by Sachi Sri Kantha
"What's in a name? - That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet" wrote Shakespeare, in his play Romeo and Juliet. But that play was written almost 400 years ago by the Bard. Now, even the Bard will agree that "there's a lot in a name", especially if it happens to be a Tamil name in Britain (or anywhere else other than perhaps Tamilnadu or Eelam). To explain my point, I will transcribe some portions of a thought-provoking piece which appeared in the British Medical Journal of Feb. 17, 1990. It was written by Bashir Qureshi, a general practitioner.
... I mailed my comments to the British Medical Journal on March 1, 1990 to correct this misrepresentation. I wrote,
Though the British Medical Journal did not publish my correspondence (presumably because it was not of great medical interest to its readers), one of the editors wrote a courteous letter thanking me for taking the time to clarify the matter and he assured that my comments would be passed on to the Dr. Bashir Qureshi, who wrote the original piece.
In this regard, it is relevant to reproduce a portion of another letter which appeared in the reputed British science journal Nature of Feb. 17, 1983, under the caption, "South Indian names". It was written by one M.V. Ramaoa, He noted,
This is correct. The Tamilians (whether they live in Tamilnadu, Eelam, Singapore or Malaysia) traditionally do not carry a constant family name. But now, with computerisation of so many documents including the vital ones such as passport, the necessity to create a family name has to be satisfied. Every individual living in the diaspora is free to create (or chose) his or her family name.
I would suggest that rather than having one initial (standing for the father's name), Eelam Tamils need to add another one, which would ideally be a place name (of birth or long-term residence). Traditionally, Tamils in Tamil Nadu do have this practice. Examples are as follows:
Here, the place name appears as the first initial in the name of the person. To make a distinction, Eelam Tamils can put the place name as the middle name (or the second initial). For example,
By this means, Tamils living in the diaspora can honour their place of birth or long term residence in Eelam, and they will create an identity which will help the future generations of Tamil progeny to trace their roots.
In the past three decades or so, family names have been found to be useful in a variety of genetic and demographic studies. I will list some of the titles of recent research papers which illustrate this trend.
One of America's leading geneticists, James Crow, who authored the now classic paper entitled, "Measurement of inbreeding from the frequency of marriages between persons of the same surname" in 1965, had proposed the use of surname analysis as a tool in the investigation of population genetics.
Why the Tamils of Tamil Nadu and Eelam have not adopted the surname system, like the western countries, is a worthy question to ponder. .... for humans, to quote Prof. Judith Bula Jacobs,