The joy of learning Tamil and discovering a new culture has brought a group of Russians to the city. S. R. ASHOK KUMAR meets up with them"Pandya", "Kapaleeshwar", "Tirukkural", "Silappadikaram"... Wow! They got them right. These are not answers to a quiz, but Tamil names and titles reeled off by a bunch of Russian students from the University of Moscow. Unlike some of our college kids who feel it isn't cool to speak in Tamil, these students have a fascination for this "classical" language and have travelled miles from their homeland to experience the joy of communicating within a totally different culture.Excited to be in the city, Natsya, a second year student of Tamil in Moscow University, says, "I'm simply thrilled to be here, since Chennai is the capital of Tamil Nadu. I like the city and its people." When asked about her Tamil education, the sprightly student replies: "The course is for four years. If I want, I can study for an additional two years. I've read the `Silappadikaram' and some great poetry. Our reading is not superficial. We get deep into the meaning and the meter."
Studying historyHer friend Julia, a student of Tamil History, chips in. "There's so much to Tamil and Tamil History. There are so many deities and there are so many kings who have ruled the place. I've read about the Chera, Chola and the Pandya empires. I bought a big book on the Cholas from the University of Madras. It's kindled my interest further."Julia's fascination for Tamil Nadu doesn't stop there. She's also taken a liking for spicy food, unlike Natsya, who can't take too much kaaram. Says Julia, "I like the food. What's even nicer is the fact that the people of Chennai always greet you with a smile and are ever ready to help. When I get back, I'm going to tell my friends that Chennai is a beautiful place to enjoy and explore."When it's the turn of the bubbly Sveta (who also lives and studies in Moscow) to speak, she says, "I study South Indian History in general and Tamil History in particular. I'm simply impressed by the place."When asked what she likes most about the place, Sveta replies in one word, "Everything". She has seen the colourful Republic Day parade and watched films too. As for the weather, she's just enjoying it. "It feels so good," she smiles.
Words of wisdomThe musically inclined Aniya, who plays the guitar and the piano, studies Tamil Literature and Indian Culture. She developed a fascination for the language after reading the `Tirukkural'. "Can't believe that so much wisdom is packed into each kural. My mother is a doctor, and father, an engineer. They were surprised when I told them I wanted to study Tamil Literature. I've no regrets. I have visited many temples in the State and was spellbound by the sculptures. I am simply floored by the Kapaleeshwarar Temple in Mylapore."Says professor Alexander M. Dubianskiy, who has done his Ph. D. in Tamil Language and Literature, "It's really nice to teach these students Tamil. Keen on experiencing the language in its ethnic surroundings, they have funded their own trip to Tamil Nadu." Whether it's spaciba or nandri, the students speak easy. For them, Tamil has opened the door to another linguistic and cultural experience. It's going to enrich their understanding of life, they say, and they are keen to visit Chennai often. True language is at the heart of the human experience. Tamil Nadu ho!