In an age when parents here are shying away from teaching Tamil to their children, a 25-year-old Chinese national Sunquing alias Ilakkiya is pursuing a diploma course in the language at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore. She has rechristened herself in Tamil as Ilakkiya.
“With its long tradition and history dating back thousands of years, Tamil is a classical language and with their rich culture, Tamils are the oldest ethnic group in India,” avers Ilakkiya. Even before coming to Coimbatore, Ilakkiya studied Tamil at the Communication University of China.
Ask her what prompted her to fall in love with the language and Ilakkiya responds in chaste Tamil, thus: “Thamizh Makkalin Neenda, Sezhumayaana Panpaattin Meethu Aaval Kondu, Naan Seenaavin Thakaval Thodarpu Palkalaikazhakaththil Thamizh Padippu Merkonden (I took interest in the long , rich tradition of the Tamil race and pursued my graduation in Tamil language at the Communication University of China).”
Ilakkiya is a news reader, translator and internet script editor at Chinese Tamil Radio International. Her parents do not know Tamil. “When I wanted to pursue Tamil in India, they were initially worried and also told me that there was no safety for girls in India. Both Tamil and Chinese are among the oldest languages. Though, we do not use classical Chinese in our speech and writing in modern days, I can feel the continuity of Tamil as a classical language from the usage of native speakers and writers today,” Ilakkiya said.
She feels that the Kongu Tamil dialect is the best of all dialects.
Ilakkiya rates short stories by DMK stalwart and former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu C N Annadurai, Naa Parthasarathy and Jayakanthan and poems of national poet Subramania Bharathi and Sirpi Balasubramaniam as her favourites.
She also loves Thirukural with its moral contents being identical with pieces of ancient Chinese literature. She signs off reciting the popular couplet from Thirukural: “Karka Kasadara Karpavai Kattrapin Nirka Adharkku Thaka (Lore worth learning. Learn flawlessly, Live by that learning thoroughly).”