Konjam Tamil theriyum

I’ve had so many good days recently!  It seems that whenever I leave the house I meet interesting people or discover something surprising about Indian culture.  Actually just being at home can be entertaining.  Sometimes my bedroom door silently opens and a hand holding an incense stick pokes through.  The incense stick waves about it the air and then silently disappears behind the door again.  This is a form of Hindu worship which one of my housemates does every day to cleanse the house.

Having spent many days in Kannagi Nagar now, I have met some incredible people.  One man who I met this week has led a whole campaign to demand justice for resettled tsunami survivors in Kannagi Nagar.  When they were resettled they were told that their new houses in Kannagi Nagar would be free but for the first three years they were made to pay rent until this man, one of the resettled people, initiated a petition.  The petition led to negotiations but when this did not solve the matter, he led a protest outside the cricket stadium in the centre of Chennai.  This led to another meeting with state government officials who then sent him to a central government human rights meeting in Delhi where it was finally agreed that the tsunami survivors would not have to pay rent.  He is a really inspiring man who, from a very humble background, has led inventive and sophisticated campaigns to get justice for people in Kannagi Nagar.

Monday was Indian Independence Day so my interpreter had the day off.  I had to prepare my survey though so I went to Kannagi Nagar anyway to see how far my few Tamil words would get me.  Actually, although I really appreciate my interpreter, I was amazed by how much more I could interact with people when I was alone.  As I walked around the site lots of people wanted to talk to me and one elderly lady even gave me banana.  I was very touched and also very pleased (my tummy was rumbling) and I wished I could remember ‘thank you’ in Tamil but I think she understood.  One girl approached me who actually speaks very good English and so I talked to her for a while. She invited me to her house for lunch and so I spent a long time talking to her and her parents as they offered me more and more food.  Hopefully I can employ her as my interpreter when my own current interpreter can no longer help me.  Being on my own really revealed to me how just a few words of Tamil make all the difference and how eager people are to offer me food, water and help me with anything.  My few Tamil phrases are met with screams of laughter and applause (more due to the comedy value than my excellent Tamil accent I suspect).

Anyway, so as well as gathering ever more data, I feel really lucky to be discovering Indian culture and doing my fieldwork with such generous and friendly people.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jasmine Kang
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 03:03:18

    Hi Clare,

    Nice you read your blog, I am glad you are enjoying Chennai. I love the food from that part of India!! Your work sounds really interesting too!! I shall keep reading your blog!!


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