By S. Sivathasan –
In Praise of Tamil
In the eye of a Tamil poet how does Tamil Nadu appear? To Prof. Sundarampillai scholar and poet; “The sea girt globe is a damsel draped in blue. Bharat is her face ever beaming with beauty. Therein shining in all radiance is her crescent like forehead, the Dravidian State. As central attraction is the tilakam that is Tamil Nadu and Tamil is the fragrance emanating therefrom. Perched in this setting is the Tamil Maiden full of perennial charm, spreading mirth all around with glory effusing in every direction”.
Change and Renewal
This is Tamil Nadu, the land of Tamil and of the Tamils into whose serenity modernity is entering at an incredible yet welcome pace. A blend of the old and the new has made for a harmonious balance at all times and in many spheres. Literary evidence accessible to all who inquire makes it clear that continuity is a hallmark in the history of the Tamils. They have displayed a resilience to retain the valued of the past while absorbing the best of the modern. A line from an ancient grammatical treatise conveys succinctly their attitude and approach: “There is no inconsistency in the exit of the old and the entry of the new. They are but an index of the time”. The ancient, the medieval and the modern thriving coterminously in Tamil Nadu show both telescoping and supersession. This induces the erroneous notion among some that if Tamils change perpetually, they cannot remain the same. Herein lies their uniqueness in retention, absorption, adaptation and transformation.
In the vibrancy of the language and in exquisite literature is portrayed the genius of the people. Two millennia of assimilation, growth and continuity have made Tamil both classical and modern, conferring the prestige of the oldest living language. The land, her people their language and literature have seen many a vicissitude. Sangam Age – circa 1 to 3 AD – and Chola Period – 9 to 12 AD, were golden times. The third, wished for with independence is set to be reached in less than half a century. A composite range of attributes have now begun to seep into the people’s consciousness, their values, outlook, attitude and lifestyle. They have now begun to factor them into their present and for their future.
Features of Modernism
Transitioning from ante diluvian to the modern is perhaps the most conspicuous feature in Tamil Nadu since independence. The writer grew apace with this process, being inundated by an indiscriminate exposure to Hindu thought and much of negative Tamil writing. There were however Thiruvalluvar and other greats in Tamil to provide a mental ballast and to impart a balance. With his brilliance, Swami Vivekananda swept many off their feet. Nehru in contrast laid a secure foundation for modern India.
When Prof. K M Panikkar wrote “There is an idea that Indians are spiritually minded, but they are as materialistic as anybody in the world”, he tore off the cataract from my eyes. I have read and observed for more than 55 years with a keen eye, to find this to be absolutely true. Bharathy unveiled hypocrisy though in a different context “Chirping Siva Siva, while thoughts are on liquour”. So called spiritual values seem to be confined now only to religious discourses. Native intelligence together with education and an orientation on science is infusing rationality and sense in great measure.
Such developments are opening up several paths for modernism to become more dominant. In this clash, materialism and consumerism, whatever evils they may signify to a few are sure to lead the way in Tamil Nadu as in perhaps all the states of India and all the countries of the world. When the zeal remains unflagging and rightly so, there will be an unstoppable race for the preferred products. Tamil Nadu will in no way be different and towards this end much of the activity will be directed. We have seen it in a big way in the last few decades and will see it in massive proportions in the coming decades. Preparations are now on for this fruitful pursuit of wealth generation, leaving out no component in the process. Investment magnitudes themselves are transforming the economic and social order. Those who understand accept, others lament that the mythical or mystical order has changed.
With debris removed and decks cleared in both thought and on ground, what have been achieved in the present century in Tamil Nadu? Greenfield and brownfield airports in Madras, Madurai, Trichi and Coimbatore to make the state proud and ease travel for investments. Linking India and the world to the Southern hub apart, their very sight has transported people’s consciousness from ancient to modern.
A phenomenal improvement in road infrastructure together with major flyovers, viaducts, large and small bridges and six lane highways with service lanes in some of them have established good connectivity. Major Ring Roads, Inner and Outer are among them. Most of them link up the major cities of TN with the State capital and with Karnataka, Andhra and Kerala. Among them is Chennai – Bangalore highway built ten years back as part of the Golden Quadrilateral. It is being developed now as a 6-lane one. To the North and parallel to it, an ambitious highway project styled ‘Industrial Corridor’ is proposed. It will course through TN, Andhra and Karnataka. Feasibility studies which have now reached an advanced stage are being done by Japan. Japanese funding and central government contribution are envisaged. Industrial investments will come up on either side of this highway.
Continued development of the sea ports of Chennai, Ennore and Tuticorin for both bulk and containers serve TN, Andhra and Karnataka. Quite importantly the first two assist in the export of cars manufactured in TN.
A major greenfield port-cum ship building yard commissioned this year is at Kattupalli to the north of Chennai. It is a massive and impressive, ultra-modern, state of the art private sector facility built at Rs. 33.75 billion. It was built by Larsen & Turbrou, the biggest engineering & construction firm in India. It is the largest integrated marine complex of its kind in India, spread across 1,143 acres. It is equipped to manufacture among others commercial ships, customized vessels, warships and submarines. Quatar has placed the first order for 4 commercial ships for Rs 4.8 billion.
In recent years broad gauging of metre lines has proceeded at an accelerated pace. In 1995 Mass Rapid Transit System (MRTS) became operational as the first elevated line in India. By 2007 the lineextended to a distance of 19.3 km. It is an elevated system with 17 stations at ground, all of which are massive with high level investment. It’s a colossal financial failure which can turn around at the touch of a strong and competent management hand.
The costliest single project undertaken in Tamil Nadu, the metro has begun to change the countenance of Chennai. At a total cost of Rs. 145 billion, it has tripartite funding from the state, the centre and from JBIC. The metro is 45 km in length, 55% underground and the balance above with 31 stations. Project planning was excellent and forward planning has been meticulous. Progress monitored regularly from day one is placed on the web monthly with all details and images. Dr. E. Sreedharan the biggest name in the Indian railway world and reputed to have planned, executed and managed Delhi metro besides planning other metros, was the consultant for Chennai Metro. Top management is composed mostly of senior IAS officers at the level of Secretaries in the central government.
The metro will commence operations by mid-2014 and project completion by late 2015 is on schedule or a little ahead. Performance in construction is a tribute to everyone associated with the project including workers drawn from other states.
The account outlined about a segment of infrastructure in the state gives but a glimpse of the basics being in place for a big surge forward. Results have been seen more prominently in the last 13 years in a shift of emphasis to the services sector. Two more decades of such exceptional growth will demolish entrenched though unexamined attachment to agriculture on less productive lands. Extensive growth of technical education on account of about 440 Engineering Colleges and a few hundred Technical Institutes operating in Tamil Nadu,has changed the outlook of the young. They have already ignited a social revolution in TN, with economic change in tow.
In the services sector, Information Technology has made its mark. When assessed by the measure of software exports, Tamil Nadu ranks second in India while Karnataka has been consistently first. The latter had the advantage in the eighties of political leadership responsive to scientists. In TN film personalities held sway. In 2013 it is estimated that TN will reach Rs. 500 billion in SW exports while Karnataka will hit Rs.950 billion.
Tamil Nadu is venturing to gain at least a part of lost ground. Leaders in IT have assessed TN’s potential particularly in human resources and have made heavy investments. Narayanamurthy of Infosys established an IT park in Mahindra World City (An Industrial and Residential Park of 1500 acres) 15 mls from Chennai to engage 15,000 professionals, at a single location.
Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), the largest IT firm in India has its heaviest presence in Tamil Nadu. The image below shows 2 of the 12 blocks of the same size already operational at a 70 acre campus. It is situated at Siruseri, 25 mls from Chennai on the IT Corridor. The complex is designed to engage 25,000 employees.
Ramanujan City is a Rs. 35 billion project that is being developed as a Special Economic Zone Information Technology park with total floor space of 5.7 million square feet. The project is on 25 acres, There is mixed development with 4.5 million square feet of floor space being devoted to offices. The balance area will have a conference hall for 1,500, hospitality, luxury apartments, shopping arcade, health and the like. At full development the City will employ the largest number at a single location.
Thiruvalluvar said two millennia back, let all one’s thinking be high and noble. Tamil Nadu is measuring up to it, not stopping with the Great Temple of Tanjore, built a millennium ago. Even as the state grows, the face of Tamil Nadu becomes increasingly vivacious.