Á ‘chair’ to give Tamil pride of place

Two doctors are raising funds to set up Sangam professorship at Harvard

Updated - October 18, 2016 01:10 pm IST

Published - June 23, 2016 12:00 am IST - CHENNAI

The love for Tamil, their mother tongue, has driven a US-based cardiologist and his oncologist friend to collect money to establish the first Sangam Professorship in Tamil Studies at Harvard University. They have both contributed close to Rs. 3.50 crore each as seed money for the project that will cost Rs. 40 crore including a recruitment fee and a running fee.

Cardiologist Dr. Vijay Janakiraman is in Chennai now and has approached the Tamil Nadu government seeking funds for the project that will go on till Harvard exists. “The Chief Minister had in her election manifesto announced that she will extend help to this project. We know she is very benevolent and will help us in this regard. This is a matter of pride for Tamils everywhere in the world,” said the doctor, who hails from a family of Tamil scholars and traditional Siddha practitioners.

“I had stood fifth in the State in my SSLC and was offered a scholarship to study Tamil. But my uncle said I should rather become a doctor and earn money and then spend to support the language, which is what I am doing now,” he explained.

The two doctors have moved their retirement by two more years so that they can earn more to fund this project. “Among all the classical languages, only Tamil does not have an endowment chair at Harvard, which means research will not happen if there are no students,” said Dr. Vijay Janakiraman, who hails from Vadakandam, Thiruvarur and has his practice in Pennsylvania. He has been in the US since 1975. His collaborator S. T. Sambandam, who hails from Thirukudanthai, Thanjavur, is an oncologist residing in Cranston, Rhode Island and a professor at Brown Medical Centre. Dr. Vijay has roped in friends including M. Arumugam, managing director, Broadline Technologies, and S. Ramalingam, national president, Energy and Fuel Users' Association of India, to help get funds. “We want in-depth research in Tamil language, literature and history. There is so much of science in our texts. Did you know Avvaiyar speaks about Boyle’s Law,” said Mr. Arumugam.

To collect funds, the two doctors have founded Tamil Chair Inc and have arranged for tax exemption for residents of the US and Canada. As a fund-raising initiative, on Saturday evening, a DVD featuring a song sung by Seerkazhi Siva Chidambaram and Nithyasree Mahadevan will be launched at an event at Sir Pitty Theagaraya Hall, T. Nagar.

Those willing to contribute for this effort can do so atwww.harvardtamilchair.com. Further details can be had during working days by calling 044-26411766 or 044-28333083 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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