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Meeting a Writer in India - Essay Example

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The latest homework for my online course-the "Writer Write-Up"-reminded me about, and made me reflect more deeply on an unusual experience that I seemed to have relegated to the attic of my consciousness. …
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Meeting a Writer in India
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The latest homework for my online course-the "Writer Write-Up"-reminded me about, and made me reflect more deeply on an unusual experience that I seemed to have relegated to the attic of my consciousness. Some time ago, I got the opportunity to visit India for a short while. He advised me to visit the beautiful South Indian state of Kerala-and it was there that I had the rare experience of interacting with a writer who was a teacher of English, but who wrote in her mother tongue.Getting to Kerala-by train, bus, taxicab, 'autorickshaw' and Shankar's mare-was an experience in itself, and another story altogether. (By the way, Adi Shankara, who flourished in Kerala in the 8th century, is one of the best known of ancient Indian philosophers, hence my apologies for the irreverent pun in the previous line.) Kerala, which the local people call "God's own country" with some justification, is a land of lakes, rivers, beaches, mountains, elephants, and the largest proportion of literate people in India. They love to read newspapers and to debate things wherever they go, even when waiting outside the sanctum sanctorum of their beautiful temples. A confluence of many religions from the most ancient times, the spirit of tolerance is part of the atmosphere of Kerala, unlike in certain parts of the North.These are not things that every tourist would have the good sense to grasp or the good fortune to learn in the few hours or days that he spends in a foreign land. These and other nuggets of information were presented to me, on a beautiful leaf platter, so to speak, when I turned up at the YMCA Hall in Thiruvananthapuram (the capital city) to listen to a local writer, a seventy-five year old petite dame, B. Hrdayakumari(the name means 'the young girl with a [good] heart'). A poster outside the local British Library (which was housed in the YMCA buildings) took me thither.
The hall was small-it would have comfortably seated around eighty-but there were chairs and benches for at least twice that number. At 5 pm, when the meeting was to begin, the room was full, with people standing in the wings, some with infants in their arms. When the writer came in, the audience stood up and remained standing till she was seated. She folded her hand in a 'namaste,' smiled a sweet, almost girlish smile, and sat down, while a man welcomed her in a speech made in the local language. A person seated beside me, a student, gave me the gist of his remarks. Hrdayakumari was a distinguished teacher of English, who had retired twenty years ago from the local government college for women, and a well-known writer in Malayalam (the local language), the sister of a well-known poet, the daughter of a famous freedom fighter and philosopher. She had recently been awarded a literary honor in recognition of her achievements of a lifetime and the meeting was an occasion to felicitate her and interact with her.
I was seated in the front row and the student beside me, who knew her very well, introduced me to her. Before beginning her speech, she asked me a question or two. I told her that it was my first day in Kerala, and that I was interested in learning to write. She told the audience that she would speak only in English (for my benefit) and that, if she did use a Malayalam expression, she would be sure to explain its significance to me. The audience seemed to relish the idea, they cheered and applauded. She spoke about Kerala first, about Adi Shankara, about the Jews of Mattancherry, St Thomas who came to the shores of Kerala in 52AD, Vasco da Gama, the Moslems, Sri Narayana Guru-a saint of the 'backward' classes-and so many other interesting facts about people and places. The audience offered some remarks of their own, some in Malayalam, most of them in Read More
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