One of the reasons I started blogging was because I used to love reading others blogs and wanted to start writing like them. Over the course of years and many, many blog posts I started developing a voice of my own, what I hope is a unique style (or is it just my ego talking?). Curiously even after six years of blogging in English I have never faced the kind of unique situation I have been facing for my very recent experimentation in writing blog posts in the vernacular language Tamil.
After crossing a personal milestone of over 300 posts on my blog I felt kind of stale and realized I had somehow lost the, shall we say the “oomph” for blogging and was less and less inclined to sit down and pen my thoughts as a long post instead of putting up the shortened version as a tweet or a facebook status. Consequently I thought about whether I could branch out in a completely different sphere in blogging- something beyond just a new genre in English and hence decided the time was ripe to start blogging in Tamil. I downloaded the software which installed Tamil fonts on my word processor and then I just waited for weeks at end to start writing- waiting forlornly for the inspiration to strike and kick start my Tamil blogging.
Now for those not in the know- Tamil is not my mother tongue – that singular honor goes to Telugu- the language Poet Subramanya Bharathi called “Sundara Telugu” and the glue which failed to hold together the warring Telengana and Seemandhra regions of Andhra Pradesh- an abject lesson in the utter stupidity of elevating language as a linchpin for cultural exclusivity – but that is for another post. Anyway to return to my language skills- as a student in Chennai I had to perforce learn to read and write the local language Tamil and as I have passed all my school level Tamil exams successfully- you have to agree with me that I have a working knowledge of Tamil- enough to get by without pretending to linguistic excellence.
And so when I made the recent decision to explore blogging in the context of the vernacular language Tamil, in the process hopefully getting into touch with Tamil writing which I had long lost contact with- I did not really expect the kind of reactions I am now getting for my Tamil blogs, which is just 3 posts old – a satire post on the local auto rickshaw drivers, an incident from a trip to Kerala and a film review. To confess the truth I did have a couple of my earlier English posts (written long ago, long, long ago) attract vicious real-life attention from those I had written about on the blog post. But it was just a passing phase and didn’t do much damage -except to my ego.
Which is why it is such a different (an unlooked for) experience to be trolled continuously for what is just/after-all a mere few hundred words on a personal blog. I am astonished to the extent to which Tamil language lovers have taken the pains to write to me about the deficiencies in my knowledge of Tamil. Comments have ranged the entire spectrum of abuse -from the disgrace I bring to the purity of Tamil language in misspelling words to the insult and indignity I inflict on the ancient Tamil language by my anglicized Tamil writing. Such vitriolic commenting on posts which don’t even cross a hundred page views means that they consider me a public menace and can’t eat or sleep before writing to me. I have saved the choicest of the comments and feedbacks as a separate folder which I am sure will offer me great moments of mirth whenever I am feeling low in future.
Anyhow the point I am trying to make is that one writer- no matter how atrocious his writing is – is not going to damage a language with a two thousand year old history. Why are the language aficionados so hell-bent on stopping me from learning Tamil by writing it? Do you have to be an expert before you even start writing? Is that practical? I just fail to understand what the overall message is- should those who can’t write well stop writing? Is that the way to preserve the glory of Tamil? Or should we get a certificate in Tamil proficiency from these self appointed guardians before we pick up the courage to start writing in Tamil?
A point to be noted here is that I am not dissing constructive criticism pointing out my deficiencies- of which I am myself well aware and will hopefully get rid off in the near future. But I am merely objecting to pointless abuse which is not helpful in any sense- except may be to give a sense of pride to the commenter on having saved Tamil from someone like me. My Tamil writing is not yet a public menace of such gigantic proportions to deserve so much attention from the guardians of Tamil pride and purity. And instead of demanding that I stop writing in Tamil I hope that those with “real Tamil pride” take a boat to Jaffna to save Tamil pride from even more dangerous enemies to Tamil than yours truly.
The reason I chose to write this reply to the trolls in English rather than in Tamil is not because I agree with them but only because this problem is universal and applies worldwide to every language everywhere. Every single language, including English, has such self-appointed guardians and Grammar Nazis who make it their life mission to prevent anyone else from learning the language by trial and error method. If you listen to them then only those with perfect diction can even speak the language- which is a position to the far side of idiocy.
Language, whatever its other merits is just a tool for communication and hence has to keep evolving with time and use. An ossified language with undisturbed purity is just a dead language- ask Sanskrit -which failed to keep up with times despite its much touted perfect grammar. The reason English thrives worldwide is because it is so accommodating of modern usage despite its Grammar Nazis who are merely fleas on a dogs back. Language cannot be a binder or glue to greatness not even past greatness and to argue otherwise is to close our eyes to reality. Let’s give language it’s just due- as a tool adapted for human use- rather than place it on a pedestal and worship it. Let’s welcome with open hands those who wish to learn it and use it despite their shortcomings in speaking it. And let’s not forget that it’s not just native language speakers who are important for bringing pride to a language- for example- the Italian Veeramamunivar was a stalwart contributor to the growth of Tamil language wasn’t he?
And finally a personal reply to all those trolls who want me to stop writing henceforth in Tamil. Sorry to reject your advice but my mind is made up to continue my learning of Tamil. I may muddle my way through atrocious Tamil writing but hopefully one day I will pick up enough Tamil skills to impress even you. Till then- I hope you wait and show some patience. Be seeing you around. And oh – keep those comments coming; I could do with a good laugh now and then.