Date: December 1, 2007
Place: Trichy, Tamil Nadu
Life and literature of Tamils
As seen from the perspectives of Tamils living abroad and outside Tamil Nadu in India
I am highly grateful for all those who have thought of inviting me to give the keynote address to this assembly of Tamil scholars and all lovers of Tamil language and literature.
This is an exciting theme, happening at an exciting time. The historic situation of the world today, at the beginning of a new millennium, with globalisation and the rising terrorist violence and the rapid pace of life, a growing migration of people outside of their traditional homes and the consequent identity crisis have all created and given us, in particular, educators, creative writers, thinkers, poets and novelists a new challenge. The time is certainly here for us to think hard and come up with new ideas and new perspectives.
As I am new to this assembly of scholars and all those present here, I think it is only proper I give a very brief indication of what I think may be my credentials for the role assigned to me today.
Yes, I have some qualifications and credentials as I see it.
Apart from the fact that I went to some of the most universities, India’s most famous university, namely of Visva Bharati at Santiniketan founded by Rabindranath Tagore, I also had the privilege of going up to Oxford University in UK.I was lucky to study at these universities when there were giants of men who led these portals of learning. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself was the Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University when I was there for four years and I had the great good fortune to have come closer to him in my formative years. Of course, this impacted my personality and outlook.
At Oxford in the later Fifties and early Sixties there was an unprecedented intellectual ferment, in fact, a revolution in philosophy that almost changed the course of the modern twentieth century philosophy. Oxford was the hub of this philosophy. Bertrand Russell and his colleagues were very much alive then. At Oxford were all his successors, Prof.A.J.Ayer, Isaiah Berlin, John Plamenetz in philosophy and politics and Sir John Hicks and Sir Roy Harrod in philosophy, A.J.P.Taylor in history, Sir Maurice Bowra in classical and modern literature were all very much there and some of these great minds taught me. I am glad to say and it is worth mentioning, I think, that I was taught by those who won the Nobel Prizes (Sir Hicks for economics) and some of my friends also won the Nobel Prizes (Amartya Sen for economics), when I was there the youngest Indian to won a prestigious literature prize (the Hawthordon prize for poetry) was Dom Moraes, my close friend who won it at age 19! So, you can imagine the ferment in which my intellect was nurtured.
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