all towns are
one, all men our kin.
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Journey Down Memory Lane To Reach 'tamiz Izam'
I am glad that Professor Peter Schalk posted the article, "Haughtiness of Power." I had the good fortune of meeting him and discussing some of our problems. I am also studying some of his writings and works he is associated with. My circle 659 posting was from the book he co-edited, and I thank him on behalf of you all for giving me permission to reproduce same. It is an article that splashes water into the closed eyes of our scholars, particularly those mentioned in his article. Academic assertions are necessary to educate an unsuspecting international academia to the relevancy of historical, and mythical back-ground of tamizar. Who in turn will pass it down in their own words the same facts.
Because we are harassed, cajoled, curtailed, castigated in the name of Buddhism. The variety of Buddhism exhibited in Sri Lanka, (true Buddhism is not practiced in Sri Lanka) is the result of a bad translation, and based on the Mahavamsa - the brain-child of Buddhist monks. Unfortunately for tamizar, the Sinhalas are aggressive, strident and tend to ratchet up their side. Our intellectuals could do very well by being assertive and articulate to tone down the Sinhala posture.
It is not important why and how we are what we are, but where we are is important. It is from here and now we could do our thing. Some of us have had the chance to manage organizations, and developed some degree of human resource and material management. Some have experience in the field of Research and Development. Some in molding and guiding minds. Some in service to the needy. There is no need to out-exhort the Sinhalas in exposing tamiz deficiencies, that, there are many, but we still consider ourselves as proud humans. The vilification of tamizar is vigorously done by the Sinhalas with the help of quasi-tamizar in some cases from their side and in some cases from our side.
Attitudes and ambitions in life are formed early in life, I think. During the British Raj, getting into the Ceylon Government Clerical Service was the aspirations of the average tamizan. This, I think was more an economic decision than a lack of higher ambition. Our agricultural base was getting smaller and smaller to sustain larger families. Naturally, outside income was needed to augment the family farm income. I do not want to merit us with paying primary importance to education, but as time passed, that seemed to be the only way out for us. Fortunately, the foreign missionaries found there was need for schools and established several English media schools.
I remember the number of students who had only two pairs of short trousers and two shirts to wear to school. They had to alternatively wash and wear. I knew students who do not carry a lunch packet, as there was nothing at home to take to school. Some students walked miles to go to a school where there was some stipend to meet at least part of the school fees. Many of us could not go to English schools and were forced to go to tamiz schools.
How many of us could not attend any school at all. These are not peculiar to tamizar alone. However, there was a greater need for us to be educated as far as was possible. Some of us are have done extremely well under those circumstances. My generation was perhaps the last one that was restricted to limited opportunity to go to English schools. Free Education came as a Bonanza, and many of us who are in positions of prestige and purse, owe it to the land that gave us this opportunity.
Professional education was at a premium and until the University College opened, higher education in the arts and sciences were continued as external students for most universities in India and England. There were two streams in most of the Government positions. Direct recruits and Rankers. It was so in the Police service, and the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. To be a member of the Civil Service was the ultimate in the "Chicken Run" race. It was not enough to be Brilliant and excellence in education, one should have the right family connection for direct recruitment as a Civil Service Cadet. They are the breed who executed the policy of the masters. This Civil (there was nothing civil about it,) it was more a military type, where this cream of society had to first comply and then complain, if they had the guts. Servants later became Heads of Departments, Permanent Secretaries without any permanency. The tradition still continues and I am positive that if not for this cream, (or are they now the whey of tamiz society?) We would now have tamiz Izam Passports. Some of them rose from the ranks of Civil Servant from the bottom as Clerical Servants.
In the army, there was no need for education and the ranks of Officer and Gentleman was open only to the rich and the dud. So were Plantation jobs as cinnatturai. Life was a bag of tricks and connections. I therefore decided not to become a clerical servant. My father wanted us to continue with our studies as long as he was alive. I used to spend our school vacation with my uncle-my mothers brother- who was a Public Works Department,(PWD) overseer. I have seen young Engineers who will go site inspection with the Overseer. Now if he wore white short pants and half sleeve shirts with white stockings and shoes, then he had to be an Assistant Engineer. The overseer is a little cocky with him. Probably he rides a motorcycle.
Then comes the Engineer, he will get out of the car and cock his leg up on the bumper of his car and spread the blue print on the hood (Bonnet to us then) and point to the overseer some culvert or damaged road and look around for the object of his inspection. Sometimes the blue print may be the wrong one or he was in a different overseer area. He will also have a pipe in his mouth to give an air of burrowed superiority from his English masters, and perhaps he brought it from England where he was sent on a scholarship.
Any way he will sometimes brooch the subject that he was expecting some important visitors and would the overseer RyRRar yjA for the labor gang, like to meet the visitors and he had better be early. That was the cue for the overseer to pay his share of the overseers kimpaLam this is the unofficial campaLam due to the Engineer. The Assistant Engineer will be seated in the car or, he would have been sent to count the number of roadside rock piles, to be away from hearing this private conversation. If the young assistant is likable the overseer will make his life comfortable, and he will make the necessary back ground check, as the overseer has decided on one of his future sons in law. In fairness to my uncle and family I must admit that so long as he lived he was a lavish entertainer and helped a lot of his poor relations. The children lost both their parents very early in their lives and never had the chance to marry engineers or doctors, the standard marriage arrangements for overseers children. Because money spoke. In the hill country in particular, roads were an important part of a prosperous Tea industry. A day delay in getting the freshly plucked tea leaves to the factory is costly. Hence cost of road maintenance was less important than the timeliness of repair. Overseers were the beneficiaries of a free market without competition. They had their regular, check roll labor, that was paid by the government. For emergencies, the overseer could use additional casual labor. This is where most of the overseers Mercedes Benz money and the kimpalam to Engineers, the Executive Engineers staff and the local Police chief and others come from.
The RyRRar yjA had a good control of his labor force. One single tamiz man in a remote Sinhala village could command so much of respect is not imaginable. It was again his fatherly care of his workers, where all their family problems are solved by the overseer. Sometime a little force is used with the help of the police. The Executive Engineer was not difficult to identify, he will not get off his car and he will be driving a Benz or a Lancaster or an Austin 16 and sometimes an American Limo. It was a close knit family of extra earners. The system was changed in the name of national economic prosperity. I do not condone some of the actions of this Public Works Department partnership. But the government got results and it was no conflict of interest for the overseer to be contractor, contractee and supervisor, a convenient arrangement for the government.
I, therefore decided against a 9-5 job. I wanted a field job, where I had to do only limited pen-pushing, but plenty of open air work. I am glad I turned out to be an Agricultural Engineer. Not that there was no opportunity for extra earnings, but I could be useful in actually soiling my hand to help others do a better job. I had the training and experience to command a certain amount of unquestioned loyalty, that is hard to come by in a technical management job. It is different with academic management and I always made it a point to conduct refresher courses with my people, to give an opportunity for my associates to gauge my capability and experience.
Each branch of learning has its advantages and disadvantages. Some have got in by necessity, some by chance and some have worked their guts out to get what they wanted. It will be Utopia if all we desire is easy to come by. A little help from the right quarters will make it a little easy.
We tamizar are at a dangerous edge of a precipice in our living memory. I do not believe in some of the niceties of modern living in the name of development or progress. I am concerned about the exposure of our children, from conception to cremation. More so with, from birth to at least up to high school. I am proud to associate with freedom and the like. Butt freedom without responsibility is irresponsibly dumb. On the one hand we talk about gaining experience to accept positions of responsibility, but how does one get experience without trying it. Easy, under guidance.
We learn to ride a bicycle by riding a bicycle under guidance. Why dont we do the same with children until they are old enough to know the rice from the chaff, or good from bad, or virtual reality from real virtuality, ( Virtual reality is what we see in the TV etc. where Stallone is able to single handed conquer a race or group. Real virtuality will be that we tell them "Darling it does not matter if you do not want to wear school uniform, no one will know that you are a student." When the child is playing truant and seen in out of bounds for children, no body notices that is a school going child of say 12, 13, 14, but looks like a 19, 20 years old. The looks are enhanced by the make up (if any) the baggy buffoon or clown dress permitted by parents and society for children. I know, if one threatens or does not give in to the potential victim of social pranks, the child threatens with all sorts of inconvenience and even weaning of the children.
This is a bigger problem, and not within the limits of my journey. Mother used to say, ygncil vaLyjAtatu ympatil vaLyjAtu. Molding the child into later good citizens is very important. We are splitting hairs about child psychology and talk about emotional and intellectual neglect. No one seems to talk about character molding neglect. I am a father of three, and I am telling you, even long before I had time to read about bringing up children, I had to use a small twig only once when my son was only 21/2 or three years old. That was not as to hurt him but to make him understand that, life was not always petting and pampering. There are times when he had to taste or experience pain of body, pain of mind, may be not of his seeking. I am glad to say that he has grown to be a useful unit of society.
The adage, adijyppOly anhnhan tampi utavAr. is an anachronism as far as children are concerned. They must be taught their limits of freedom. I give them all the freedom for their play, fun, pranks, possession, but when I found some were beyond their need or our capacity, then they had to stop clamoring for same. If used prudently, this will not dampen their enthusiasm. I know of cases when children were thrashed for anything and every thing and some of them have not done so good. My father used to say, "Go to Timbuktu, but be back before lighting time.: Did we follow this to the word?
I would like to excerpt here from Prof. Schalks article for serious consideration for the concerted effort not only by Academics but by every full blooded tamizan.
"Unfortunately, they could not form a united front of Ilattu intellectuals in Yalppanam because they are split up, retired, dead, silenced, distracted, dispersed, in exile...This disunity is one of the greatest tragedies of Ilattu critical historical scholarship, one of the greatest victories of Lankan nationalists and one of the greatest chances for historical pseudo-scientific subcultures to grow among both Lankans and Ilavar. A united intellectual front of these persons could withstand any attack by Lankan politicised historiography and could domesticate over-reacting Ilattu historical nationalism."