There is nothing fancy about fishing hamlet Uyyalikuppam’s street name boards, they are just made of cement and painted yellow like in many small villages. However, what stands out is that the streets are named after eminent persons who have contributed to the community and have since been forgotten.
According to Naveen, a youth who works as a supervisor in a nearby factory, the village panchayat of Uyyalikuppam in Chengalpattu district had passed a resolution urging the local body to name the 28 streets after fishing community leaders.
“When M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen Association approached the elders with the idea, some were sceptical since the names were unknown and even difficult to pronounce. However, he managed to convince us and now it is a matter of pride for us. We have planned to share further information about these legendary figures with all the residents so that they will once again become part of our lore,” he said.
Councillor Ranganathan, who placed the name boards, said that it was a nice feeling to see streets named after community leaders. “We just had one street name, Mettu Street. Now that has changed. Even though people want the streets to be named after politicians, we stuck to our original idea. The only non-fisherman personality whose name we chose was that of former President Abdul Kalam,” he said.
Among the street names are those of Adhibhaktha Nayanar, who was a devotee of Lord Shiva and one of the 63 Nayanmar saints, Pandiadevi of Thoothukudi who fought a war, the Communist Singaravelar, who got eight hour shifts for workers, Kannagi who has been referred to as the sister of a fisherman in the Silapathikaram, Varunakulakaathaan, a king of Nagapattinam and Palvel Maththi, a local chieftain who lived 2,000 years ago.
Mr. Dayalan said that he belonged to Uyyalikuppam and since not everyone knew the history of the fishing community, naming of streets was one way to keep their memories alive. “Even though schools teach history, history of the fishing community or those living on the Neithal land forms does not find any mention in books. So, we thought we should take the initiative to teach our children. We will be placing small boards explaining the story behind each of these personalities in the village,” he said.