Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Selected Writings -  Fr. Chandiravarman Sinnathurai

Wounded Memories: A looking back
(and on அறம் - Aaram and மறம் Maram)

2 April 2006

Dedicated to to all my dear friends and acquaintances who lost their life in this struggle for emancipation and especially Pirithiviraj who sat alongside me to learn at the feet of Mathaiyasigham master, and later as a teenager, during his struggle for sanity, killed himself by jumping off Kallady Bridge, Mattakalappu into the deep waters� With tears I remember each of them and silently bow my head in honour of their memory.

�...To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget.� Arundhati Roy

Childhood memories are always very precious unless one has gone through traumatic abuse and fractured relationships. I vividly remember learning to write Tamil alphabets on the floor of a �Thinnai Palli Koodam� � a �primitive� pre-school. Sea-sand is spread on the cement floor, and the Master would pronounce each alphabet and you almost lip-read, listen and then pronounce. The so-called �modern� phonetic teaching! After that exercise the master will make you write on the sand. One feels so close to nature.

After that session all the children gather under the Mango tree and Mathayasingham sir would tell stories. He had the power to unlock the doors of imagination in our little innocent minds. The master was a Sinhala person turned into a Tamil. His name was Mathaiyasingho. We called him Mathaiyasingham Master. He was a terror. He was a very strict disciplinarian. I remember writing for the first time �mAana� and Master would say

�Aana: Aaram saiya virumbu.�  - அ: அறம் செய்ய விரும்பு

All the other memories have now faded away. These words ring deep within my spirit and Mathaiyasingham master�s voice charges in with nostalgic memory! Of course this simple yet profound phrase has shaped my spirituality at a subconscious level.

I had the incorrigible habit of breaking my slate on my way back from school by dashing it on the parapet wall. My mother must have wondered how come her son�s slate got broken every day! She would crack a joke with these words: �Thamby paddithu killikira vegathilai slate udanjupoguthu.� [The speed in which my son is studying the slate gets broken] That was termed as my �vernacular education�. Now come to think of it, Mother must have understood who the culprit behind the daily breakage was � don�t you think? Mathayasigham master�s words of Aaram had not sunk in yet � perhaps!

As for English lessons I was �home schooled� [it wasn�t called that!] by my mother. One can still smell the bright colour chalks, the black board, Crayons and story books (especially Kipling�s �The poem If�, Dickens, rhymes and Bible stories). I went into the �School room� in our house complete with a snack box and drink bottle and a napkin. The story telling and poetry readings by Amma would transport me to another world - a strange and marvellous world that was completely foreign to my native environment yet slowly it grew on me in terms of familiarity. This experience helps one to have a fertile imagination.

These two worlds, native and foreign did not collide; instead it merged and produced a marvellous synthesis. This helped me go �native� in both worlds because both these worlds sounded, smelt and �felt� deeply familiar.

Recently I was invited to speak at a Churches Together Lenten Group which consisted of diverse denominational clergy and lay workers. The reflection was on memory and how it shapes �our world out look�. As I shared these reflections two words keep popping up.

1)அறம் - Aram  = Righteousness 2) மறம் - Maram = Valour.
There cannot be one without the other. Yet they are distinct in its character and strength.

While having tea after the Reflection, a professor who supervised my study on Tamil National question, some years ago asked me �How are things now?� I said without any effort, "Not good at all John". Munching a cup cake, he commented on my current academic work. What he remarked finally got me thinking a fresh. Not that I had not heard it before. However, this time round it came with that vocal resonance of Mathaiyasingham Master. He said:

"You see! We humans fight against oppressive Monsters. By doing so, very often we too run the risk of becoming like the one that we are fighting to slay. We should be mindful of that risk shouldn�t we?�

My response to this elderly gentleman was silence.Then the professor whispered:

�It does not mean we should cease to struggle. We should keep our eyes peeled, shouldn�t we, watching for the risk of becoming the monster we detest.�

I have lost many friends and acquaintances in this struggle. Such wound of knowledge grieves me immensely. Each time I read arguments, counter-arguments, vicious personal attacks against the Eelam Tamils in the media, some thing within me dies. One wonders what is it that makes the world fail to make the connection between the suffering and struggle of a people against the tyranny of majoritarian State terror.

People only talk of Tiger suicide bombers, child recruitments and anything that they can find to throw at that would hurt and stick as stigma. I think the West in particular have gone naive and childish and have lot to answer for!

I remember hearing the story of Samson as a �hero� in the Bible. I have lately begun to interpret Samson to be the proto-type human bomb. The Hebrew scripture records: �And Samson said, �Let me die with the Philistines!�

The priestly scribe of the book of Judges thus makes his commentary:

�So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. And about 3,000 men and women were killed.� Judges Ch.16:23ff (emphasis mine) {I hasten to add the Bible does NOT promote such acts of violence and speak of any reward in paradise). None can claim monopoly on terror and equally none are without sin in order to pelt the first stone!

அறம் - Aram and மறம் Maram: The latter without the under girding of the first can blind us. There is equal strength in both.  Arundhati Roy quite rightly puts it in to perspective: Respect strength, never power.


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