Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Tamizh Pope

No, George Uglow never had the words "Habemus Papam" said in reference to him. He was Pope only in surname, though he was indeed a Christian missionary. He came to India before he turned twenty - and like many others, stayed on, fascinated by the country and its traditions. He had a flair for languages and very soon, he was fluent in Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamizh. In return, he taught Latin, Hebrew and English at various schools, mainly around Tuticorin, which was where he was based.

He translated several ancient Tamizh texts into English, including the Naladiyar and the Thirukkural, but ever a punctilious scholar, many of his works were published when he was well into his 60s, after he was sure that he was a master of the language. And he continued publishing his translations, lexicons and guide books of Tamizh until he turned 80; it is said that he finished his translation of Thiruvachagam on his 80th birthday and with it, considered his "life's literary work" closed. He kept his word and there were no more major writings from him in for the last eight years of his life, though he continued to be an active leader of the church almost until his death in 1908.

That's why you find this statue of Rev. G.U.Pope standing on the Marina, unveiled along with many others in January 1968, to mark the World Tamil Congress in Madras.


Paul Mathew said...

Thank you for these fascinating insights into the soul of Chennai. I am still amazed at the time and commitment that goes into maintaining this invaluable blog !! If you compile all these into a book, I have no doubts it would be best-seller !!

Shantaram said...

@Paul: Thank you for keeping the faith! Keep thinking about the book.... but that will be too much work! :)

Paul Mathew said...

Not really, Shantaram. Just compile the posts and pictures that you have. The snippets as well as the pictures are delightfully fascinating as they are, and anyone who loves the city, or happens to live here will enjoy them. It would also make a great gift to visitors from outside who come to Chennai. It is ideally readable exactly as they are, informal and spontaneous.

I think if you send a link to your blog to Penguin or any good publisher, they may get interested. The only possible downside could be that you may have some restrictions on the blogging. That would be a loss!