It would indeed be a surprise to be greeted with a traditional vanakkam by an Uzbek, in a far place like Tashkent.

No! It wasn’t a carefully memorised single syllable greeting, but it turned out that Kamola Ergasheva, the young woman, who greeted the members of Indian delegation is an ardent fan of Tamil, who is doing research on Tamil grammar.

Ms. Kamola majored in Tamil grammar in her post-graduation after spending three years to learn the language in Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies. And she is not alone, Lola Maktuba, is another student of the institute who is doing her research on novels of Chinnappa Bharati. She had even translated one of his novels into Uzbek.

What drove them to spend years in learning Tamil in Tashkent? Ms. Kamola recalls how she nurtured interest by merely looking at 500-odd Tamil books including dictionaries, in the institute’s library. “There was no going back. It took three years for me to learn Tamil. Then I did my under-graduation and post-graduation in Tamil,” Kamola narrated, as a visibly impressed Dr. E.M. Sudarshana Natchiappan, Rajya Sabha MP from Tamil Nadu broke into a wide grin.

Dr. Natchiappan is one of the four MPs accompanying Vice-President Hamid Ansari on a four-day visit to Uzbekistan.

The Tamil-speaking Uzbeks and their two teachers were the special invitees at the reception on Tuesday, hosted by Indian Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Gitesh Sharma in honour of Mr. Ansari.

Ms. Lola also sprang another surprise on the Indian delegation by speaking chaste Hindi. It was her teacher who noticed her capability to learn other languages fast and encouraged her to learn Hindi and then Tamil. She then began teaching Tamil to other students and Ms. Kamola was her first student.

Azad N. Shamatov of the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies, another polyglot says there are nearly 80 Uzbek students learning Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali and Punjabi in the institute. Uzbekistan had always encouraged its students to learn foreign languages. Sirajuddin Nurmatov, HoD, South Asian languages department says his efforts are to encourage more Uzbek students to learn Tamil and Hindi.

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