Tuesday, August 28, 2012

RIP Eyak

Nope. The title is not a typo of meaningless words.

January 21

A quick look at Wiki for this date reveals several interesting events associated with it. It looks like a date favoured by destiny, for events of historical magnitudes. From Royal beheadings to Nuke sub launches to natural disasters, its a date which can be called a complete package of disaster. (The more i read about it, the more i feel our doomsday date could've been a month preponed by mistake!! )

In the year 2008, this date took a more sinister avatar. For stock brokers of the world, it was nothing short of Apocalyptic showdown, as stock markets of the world, tumbled like Indian cricket team, put into bat first, on a green top. On that very date, which had the business communities scampering for cover, another earth shattering event, happened almost unnoticed. Being unnoticed, being the reason for that event couldnt be any more oxymoronic. It was the day when Maria Smith Jones breathed her last at an young age of 89 in Alaska.

Ennada nakkal panren paakreengala. Oru 90 vayasu paati mandaiya poatathula enna earth shattering? Nyayamaana kelvi. Well, that paati happened to be the last person...illa..LAST PERSON to ever speak her native Alaskan tongue called "Eyak". Guess the linguists of the world would've mourned that day, for another precious instance of an unique human heritage was lost to time. When a language dies, its more than the death of a spoken tongue. Its the loss of an entire culture. An entire civilisation comes to an end bringing to  close a whole new lot of ideas and thoughts and literature and what not. It brings to a grinding halt a whole cycle of events. Infact, its so unfathomable that the whole impact is something that cannot be measured. And this lady, Maria Smith, her struggles to revive the language and her efforts to single handedly raise the awareness among the world of the impending doom is nothing short of commendable. That being the last representative of her culture, being the last person on earth to hold the knowledge of something that which was going to grave along with her, must've been too much of a weight to carry. She did leave her footprints on history by creating opportunities and leaving a small sliver of hope. She took to the task of creating a dictionary for her language, which is nothing short of a herculean effort for a single person to create a dictionary for an entire language. I couldnt quiet imagine her pain to know that she couldnt see another living soul take her language in her lifetime.

Being from a country divided (formed) on the basis of language, guess we always tend to assign more than required importance to them. And one look at the Anglo-French rivalry and the spread of Spanish having threatening to add more participants to the same, we may not be alone in pursuing this fanaticism towards the spoken tongue, the sacredness of which is a given from the fact that its anointed with the honor of "mother" prefix. A person strong on his words and vocab can stir passions so strong that they could cause more damage than the strongest of weaponery ever made. Languages have far outgrown their original purpose of being a medium of communication and have long become a symbol of power. The more dominant a language is, so grows the clout of those who use it. The fact that the Germans, French, Japs and Chinese to some extent have held on to their own, amidst the onslaught of English is something which is commendable.

The news of that lady's demise and that of her language raised some headlines in tamil literary circles with each one quoting Bharathi's prophecy that Tamil too will die a slow death eventually. Ippo varaikkum, the only major literature that we quote are often Thirukkural and Kamba Ramayanam. Though many might argue that there are scores of others, these two happen to be the popular choices along with sample songs from Bharathiyar and Bharathidasan. Down few decades, it might drill down to only Thirukkural, for its the T20 of tamil literature "stretching" to a mere line and a half. In the age of populist culture, guess there are few takers for classic literature and that sows the root for obsolescence. The more disnterested we become with what we have, hardly there remains any inspiration to create new and that ultimately results in another Eyak like situation. Wish there are more publications, manuals, research papers, books and much more happen in tamil. I dont know many languages. But to me Tamil will always be the sweetest of the few i learnt. Hope, it survives into the next millenia. Can't imagine a world without it.


Asha said...

IF Eyak died there, Sanskrit has already died here except for a place called maddur in shimoga district. Here Sanskrit is the spoken language in daily life. I want this language to be revived, infact more than Hindi, i feel this language deserves to be the national language. But people are most interested in taking french, spanish etc.,

Coming to tamil, i am not a fanatic, but still it saddens me to see even tamil patti thatha's speaking to their grand children in english and not tamil. sadly living in a multicultural society, i find this happening in tamil families more than any other language famillies. Romba asaiya tamizh karal achaynnu tamizhla pesa pona. appo daan ava tamizh theriyada madiri tass bussnu peter vuduva.

Not that i am against any language, but it is very important to know our mother tongue whether we are raised in Us, Uk or oz. does not matter. Germans, french, chinese alavukku english kooda theriyuma kooda irukka koodadu.

BTW, silappadikarm, manimekhalai, tholkappiyam adhellam vituteengla.

Asha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Asha said...

I am not responsible for the dupllication of comments.

RS said...

Like Dr Shalini (psychitrist) mentioned in one show some time ago: "If an entire (if not large) clan of people feel so inferior about who they are, that clan is certainly plunging into a pit". I agree with her.

But there are both positive and negative sides to this. There are so many among us, who are tamil fanatics. Like George R wiley said in his welcome speech to MR at houston, "Your majesty, there is one thing you must know about the tamil people. To them, their language is their God" (watch his welcome speech at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnSSnQjp5pU if you haven't yet!)
Tamil ini mella saahum is a long way to go, Gils. The beauty and charm of the language are so irresistible and will save itself from dying.

Ramesh said...

I am less sentimental about languages - its just a means of communication; not an end in itself. Thirukkural's ideas are more important than the language itself I believe. I better stop here before RS bashes me on the head !

Vincy said...

It may take eons before Tamil dies as predicted by Bharathi, is my stong feeling. Like what Asha has pointed out there are many other languages in queue waiting for their death.

There is so much more awareness these days and the educational institutions are doing their best to sustain the life of the language.

Stella Maris College, for example, when I studied there had only offered basic Tamil for the first year students of science and arts those days (approximately quarter century back). Today their offerings in the language is quite impressive.

•Basic Tamil - I & II
•Advanced Tamil - I & II
•Medai Pechchu
•Pataipu Illakiyam
•Nattuppura Iyal

The last four are electives any student can select for earning their credits to complete graduation. (how many students take it is a different question altogether)

My point is as long as these initiatives are taken Tamil will go on. :-)