Ochappan is the pseudonym of Henk, from Belgium. An ace photographer - not interested in taking snapshots of our temples or our celebrations. Instead he likes to capture the dynamic lives of people on the roads and at their homes. He is an avid visitor of Madurai for the past two decades. Comes during our winter months, roams around the rural Madurai photo-capturing lively and lovely colour-filled scenes of our lives. Scanning his photographs will tell more than a book could tell on our culture. He likes Madurai and its people so much that he chose the Dravidian name, Ochappan, whom he befriended in his first visit. All his photos are known in this name rather than in his own name! The name Ochappan has been immortalised by him on a very high artistic pedestal through his photographs in the internet.
Last week we had a chit chat. Talked about our countries and he projected the major difference between our two cultures. He detailed how they were more linguistic than us and protected their personal lingual entity and showed their love for their mother tongue. On the contrast we have been keeping Tamil in a high ivory pedestal with lovely adulations … as கன்னித் தமிழ் .. தெய்வத் தமிழ் ... தமிழன்னை .. etc .. etc. But he questions whether we do the right thing to our mother tongue.
Following are the questions raised by Henk / Ochappan to everyTamilian:
The Sint-Lievens College was founded in 1930 for the insight and the deployment of Lieven Gevaert (Afga-Gevaert), an industrialist with an eye for social and Flemish needs for Dutch school education. The pride of your own mother-tongue, Dutch was the key for the revival of the Flemish culture, dominated for years by French invasions and domination, which chased away very famous Dutch writers from Antwerp (Belgium) to the Netherlands. Nowadays Flanders grew out to a strong region at the top of world technology, proud leaving behind the French hegemony.
Remarkable reverse evolution happens in Tamil Nadu, people are dominated by the foreign language, English. It is considered English-speaking ones are the elite of Tamil society. Many such are not able anymore to read or write their own mother-tongue Tamil, making them foreigners in their own land, alienated from their own culture, looking down on their origin and the common Tamilians as lower caste, copying the English, and exploiting other non-English-speaking Tamils in a worse way. They can't be called proud Tamilians anymore as they chose to reject all Tamil values and its tradition and culture, not aware that they lost their personal-identity. They may praise themselves lucky for the tolerance of the majority Tamils.
Only the Tamil government can preserve their culture by making Tamil a compulsory medium of education. Tamil is one of the oldest languages and still remains as a spoken classical language, with its great Tamil culture, traditions and great jewels of Tamil literature. The more languages you know the more cultures you understand. But you have an identity only when you master your own mother-tongue. A proud Tamil should know his language and his culture.