Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Anyone remember this old lady?

Tamizh is a language that claims a history going back to over two millenia. In the course of those years, it has obviously morphed several times, to keep pace with changing tastes and times. The last such major change implemented on the script was sometime in the late 1970s - I seem to remember it as being necessitated by a redesign of the keys on a Tamizh typewriter. To an extent, it is understandable that the script I studied in primary school is not the same that kids these days study.

There is something else which is not that easily understandable. In fact, accepting it as understandable is equivalent of smashing a much loved and very necessary monument. One of the earliest Tamizh lessons in kindergarten was a kind of sing-song way of memorising the alphabet. Called aathichuvadi, its first part not only taught kids the Tamizh vowels, but also had each of the 12 vowels fashioned into a one-line homily about how to lead a virtuous life. This aathichuvadi was written by a lady named Avvaiyar; the statue indicates she lived in the 1st century CE, while some folks claim there were more than one lady poet named Avvaiyar and the most recent one lived in the 13the century CE. Even taking the most recent date, the aathichuvadi has been a part of Tamizh teaching over the last 700 years.

But sometime over the last 30-odd years, the aathichuvadi seems to have slipped out of the Tamizh text book and thus out of the minds of young people - that's the power of change, to be able to obliterate 700 years of constancy within a generation-and-a-half!


2 comments:

Ravindran said...

Thanks for reminding our Athichudi Aramcheyya virumbu, AAruvathu sinam, Iyalvadhu karavel and so on.It was recited with a musical tone.

Shantaram said...

>> Ravindran>> And the sing-song made sure it sticks with you for quite a while!