Books on learning to speak, read and write Tamil are the hottest selling books at an exhibition being held at the Banaras Hindu University (BHU), which is the venue for the one-month long Kashi Tamil Sangamam.
The book stall has been set up by the Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL) under the Ministry of Education, which includes self-learning books in 11 languages under its “Bhasha Jyoti” initiative.
These books contain translations from Hindi into Tamil, and are available in two parts. The first part includes simple Hindi sentences used in daily conversations that are translated into Tamil, and are also accompanied by Tamil written in Devanagari script. The second part contains passage comprehension. Both books also have worksheets. There is also a third book for advanced learners. All the three books train in listening, speaking, reading and writing Tamil.
“Our books on learning Tamil as a second language are by far the most popular ones. We didn’t expect this kind of response. Other books that are popular are proficiency tests in Tamil that can be used by teachers for evaluating their students,” said Professor Shailendra Mohan, Director of CIIL.
“We run out of our stock of books on Tamil every two days, and have to bring more books from our centre in Mysuru. We have sold nearly 500 Tamil learning books since the exhibition opened on November 19. There is a lot of interest from Hindi-speaking customers, as well as from Tamil-origin residents who know how to speak the language, but can’t write in it,” said Dr. Pankaj Dwivedi, Junior Research Fellow at CIIL, who is overseeing the book stall.
While purchasing Tamil books, Varun Mishra, 29, resident of Banaras said, “as students from the Hindi heartland, or States like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, we often have to travel to southern parts of the country in search of jobs, but we face language-centric conflicts at every turn.” Mr. Mishra works at a private bank in Bengaluru.
He said while he could still learn Kannada while earning a livelihood in the IT city, he was particularly curious about Tamil since it is the world’s most ancient language.
“We shouldn’t have extremism around languages, after all people like me who originate from Bihar too have left behind Bhojpuri and Maghai and embraced Hindi and are also open to embracing other Indian languages.”
“Our purpose is to take Tamil to different parts of the country. At the exhibition in BHU we have made an effort to have Tamil learning books, Tamil classical literature as well as modern books translated in Tamil. The Prime Minister during the inauguration ceremony called Tamil the oldest language of the world and a great repository of knowledge and said that it was our duty to preserve it. He has also appealed to people to learn more languages, which includes Tamil,” said Chamu Krishna Shastri, the Chairperson of Bharatiya Bhasha Samiti constituted by the Ministry of Education for promotion of Indian languages.
He added, “Kashi-Tamil Sangamam is not just about bringing a group of people from Tamil Nadu. It is a confluence of culture, literature, heritage and cuisine, which is reflected in the various stalls we have hosted such as heritage, handlooms, handicraft, apart from cultural programmes for which we have brought more than 700 artistes from Tami Nadu.”