John L. Paul
They have been here for more than two centuries
KOCHI: Trade dating back to over two centuries brought thousands of Tamils to settle down in Ernakulam district and a whole lot of other cities and towns in Kerala.
The most visible presence of Tamils is at prominent junctions in the city. While colourfully-dressed women sell flowers, both men and women converge here early in the morning in search of jobs. Not to be left out are the numerous vegetarian hotels run by Tamils. Lorries which transport vegetables and other commodities from Tamil Nadu dominate the highways and marketplaces.
While the early settlers were into cattle trade or ran textile and provision shops, the new-generation of Tamils can be found in every area of activity in the city, be it banking, medicine, engineering, railways, teaching, government services, judiciary, defence and the scientist community.
No wonder then that the president of the Tamil Aikya Sangham in Kochi, L. Chapanimuthu put the approximate number of Tamils in the whole of the district at six lakhs and that across Kerala at around 50 lakhs.
Tamils have settled down mainly in places like Thripunithura, Elamakkara, Vaduthala, Vathuruthy, Palluruthy and also Kappalandimukku in Mattancherry.
One among the problems facing them is the inadequate number of schools where Tamil can be chosen as one among the languages for study.
Aimed at overcoming this problem, the Sangham is on the lookout for land where a school can be established. “Knowing the pride of place that education is given in Kerala, we would like to ensure that our children and grandchildren know how to read and write Tamil,” says 65-year-old Mr. Chapanimuthu, whose three sons and a daughter are doing business in Kochi. Having been into the milk business for decades, he is now mostly at home.
The Sangham which has a membership of 3,000 families was established 31 years ago. The primary aim is to reach out to community members who are in distress or are financially backward.
It also distributes Tamil Nadu Government textbooks to children and played an important role in increasing bus connectivity from Kochi to places in Tamil Nadu.
The Sangham organises special get-togethers during festivals like Pongal. A few other organisations also provide a meeting ground for Tamils settled or working in Kochi. The Sangham can be contacted at 2392432 or 92497 25387.