The title is the most approximate transcription into English, the state of Tamil Nadu, as pronounced in Thamizh.
I don’t know if we are becoming intolerant or assertive or cussed enough to make anyone who has to use Thamizh language to learn the sounds of Thamizh. There is now no margin for the disabilities imposed by the sounds found in their mother tongues. It is plain – learn the sounds of my language and if you don’t, we will accuse you of inaccuracies in pronunciation.
Well these are not new techniques which are being adopted, in the guise that we are merely transcribing into English the way places were being traditionally pronounced in Thamizh, whereas it has many wilful collateral functions.
Most National Schemes, financed by the 11% of the resources obtained through taxes from the state of Tamil Nadu, have been named in Hindi sounds which are difficult for a native Thamizhan to pronounce. If a Thamizhan is asked to pronounce ‘Jan Dhan’ bank account, it would be a shibboleth of the highest order for him because a Thamizhan is not familiar with the aspirated and glottalised sounds of Hindi. But yet if he wants to avail of the facility of the bank account, with all his cultural disability of not having been familiar with such glottalised aspirated sounds, he better make efforts to approximate to it.
The two official languages formula is no more in practice. ‘Jan Dhan’ is no more translated into English and given a decent English name, instead, the Hindi names are transcribed into the English alphabet.
A sort of UNIFICATION is in place.
Secondly, the sounds do not allow DIFFERENTIATION- a well heeled person cannot walk into the bank and spout his requirements using the English language, instead he has to ‘climb down’ to the sounds of the local language – call it official language of the Union or regional languages of the states.
In the Bible, there is a twin tribe called Ephraim & Manasseh but within the tribe were people from the hills of Gilead. The Gileadites got the aspirated glottal sounds integrated into their language and could pronounce SHIBBOLETH with a ‘sha’ whereas the Ephraimites couldn’t get the sound and would call it ‘sa’. Once during the initial days of a Judge of Israel called Jephthah, there arose a skirmish between these two tribes and the ‘runaway’ Gileadites. However the fortunes of the Gileadites had been on an upswing with their victory over Ammonites. In fact the Ephraimites were furious with the Gileadites that the Gileadites had not invited the Ephraimites for the battle against their common enemy, the Ammonites. The Gileadites under the leadership of Jephthah had squarely won the battle on his own, and of course with the help of Jehovah. But the ‘entitled’ elder brother Ephraim was not able to digest the fact that their marginalised brethren did not share the victory with their elder brother Ephraim by at least inviting them for the chase after the gory part of the battle was over.
Similar thing happened when Gideon, a Manassehite, defeated the Midianites leaving out the more powerful bother tribe of Ephraim. But Gideon was a diplomat, so in victory he was humble and said something which is worth the quote: “Is not the gleaning of the grapes of Ephraim better than the vintage of Abiezer?”
This statement of Gideon means that even the wine made out of the gleaning (the deliberate left over grapes after harvesting, which are meant for the indigent who follow the harvesters & reapers) of the grapes of Ephraim were better than the best wine made out of the best quality of grapes from Abiezer, a place within the tribe of Manasseh and probably the best vintage of Manasseh came from there!
Gideon, had earlier sent for the tribe of Ephraim, while the chase of the Midianites were on and ensured that the Ephraimites also got some of the boasting Rights.
But our hero Jephthah was not raised in the way Gideon was. Gideon had the unstinted support of his father Joash, even when Gideon indulged in a few reckless action. But Jephthah’s siblings had disowned Jephthah citing that his mother was a harlot. So there is no comparison in their upbringing and consequently their attitudes.
Jephthah, took control of a fiord near Jordan, which probably was the pass through which the Ephraimites had to pass to reach their territory. There he put all the people to test: PRONOUNCE SHIBBOLETH, and the Ephraimites could pronounce it only as SIBBOLETH- thereby revealing that they were Ephraimites. So Jephthah ordered such Ephraimites to be put to death and in one day over 42,000 Ephraimites had been killed.
Come to think of it the distinguishing feature was merely a set of sounds. And that also between close half brothers!
Therefore when mindlessly, everyone started enforcing his entitlement – I wouldn’t consult with my Southern brethren before naming some of the Bank schemes – predominantly contributed by a set of states with less population – the Regional satraps also stoke similar entitlements within their competence.
Naming a place within a state is entirely in the domain of the State’s powers. Therefore the following Gazette Notification had been issued by the Government of Tamilnadu. Thankfully, the State legislature has not proposed to transcribe Tamilnadu as Thamizh Naadu! That would more or less transcribe the Thamizh sounds accurately. But changing the name of a State would not be within the legislative competence of the State itself.
As is stated in the Notification, the object of this Order is to transcribe faithfully the sounds of the Thamizh names into the English alphabet. Is it so? Let us examine that.
Here is a set of examples as excerpted by a Thamizh media house:
One error apparent is that while transcribing the letter த, when ‘த’ appears in the middle of the word, the sound becomes ‘dha’ instead of ‘tha’. For example, in the second entry above, instead of Vetharanyam the transcription should have been Vedharanyam; likewise Mathurai at entry number 4, should have been transcribed as Madhurai. Therefore, the stated objective doesn’t seem to have been achieved by such transcription.
But what has been achieved?
Many effects, not stated as Objectives, have been achieved.
Firstly, there would be no two names to the same locality. Egmore would not be Egmore in English and Ezhumboor in Thamizh. In English as well as in any other language the place has to be signified as Ezhumboor only. So in due course the word Egmore would stand eliminated and no pretence of English spouting populace would have a style advantage.
Secondly, the places have been purged of English and Sanskritised sounds. There are no glottal aspirates in Thamizh language, therefore those borrowed letters in vogue and kept alive by a minuscule, would fall into disuse. Those letters would be available only in the Tamil translations of the Bible and some other religious hymns. Bye bye to these letters which had been borrowed but had never been taught in the schools in Thamizh:
ஸ, ஷ, ஜ, ஹ, க்ஷ and ஶ்ரீ.
There were places called Srirangam, Srivilliputhur, Srivaikundam etc where the last letter was used. This was thamizhaised into ‘Thiru’ and these places became Thirurangam, Thiriviliputhur and Thiruvaikundam. So in the ongoing process of purging the Thamizh language of its anglicised and sanskritised elements, the latest changes should be seen as the next goal achieved.
There have been a lot of talk as to why Tamil Nadu alone should take these steps? The answer is simple, the erstwhile Madras State which was renamed Tamil Nadu, is a RESIDUAL STATE and not a state which was formed on the basis of an avowed linguistic ideology. The Malayalam speaking areas of the Malabar was ceded to Kerala; Andhra was carved out and places like Bangalore was ceded to the then Mysore state, whereas Tamil Nadu consisted of those areas of the Madras state with no linguistic foundation as a State. Thus this Residual state became the home of those Malayalees, Telugu speaking people and Kanadigas who did not get back to those states formed on linguistic basis.
However, of late politicians like Seeman and his cohorts have been insisting that the state of Tamil Nadu has to be ruled only by a Thamizhan and no non Thamizhan should be allowed to rule Tamil Nadu. As a measure to take the wind out of the sails of people like Seeman, these measures are steps by the present party in power.
But academically speaking, why does the Thamizh cognoscenti want purity of Thamizh? The answer to my mind is that there is a great feeling by a large section of my countrymen, who are ignorant of two important Lists within Schedule VII of the Constitution of India, where the List 2 enumerates the areas/subject wise competence of the States Legislatures to make laws and implementation of the same. These are exclusive subjects for the States. When India was made a Republic, it had 66 entries which have been whittled down to 61. Which means the States’ legislative and executive competence have been reduced to that extent. Whether it is moved to List 1 or List 3 the effect is the same and the Parliament gains primacy in making laws on that subject, whereby the weightage of determination of an issue gets reduced to 39/543 MPs instead of 233 out of 234 MLAsin respect of Tamil Nadu. So when it would be advantageous for a clump of other states, whether from the North, or South or East or West, such States could gang up and get a legislation passed in the Parliament to the detriment of a State like Tamil Nadu. Therefore, the state leaders of the Social Justice Party or DMK
party, focussed and ensured that the areas of interest of Tamil Nadu are protected. This mentality of protectionism is not altogether bad, as statistics shows that the contribution of Tamil Nadu to the national revenues under the Central Taxes are twice that of the population percentage and the central allocation is less than the percentage of the population of the state of Tamil Nadu. This is an eyesore to many. Further, Tamil Nadu is high on social equality, which no state has achieved.
The main source of such thoughts is the language.
And this language Thamizh, is no dead language in the grips of some ‘erudite’ grammarians, it is linked to the life, living and the livelihood of people who speak Thamizh. A vibrant language, precise and well calibrated to accommodate mathematical precision into it.
This purging is a continual process, some were carried out by genuine ideologues like C N Annadurai, or M Karunanidhi; and some carried out by leaders like MGR or Jayalalitha because of the popular sentiment primarily set off by those idealogues.
But in the context of the Union of States, Thamizh stands out as a self thinking, productive and a self monitoring cultural software which drives Tamil Nadu.