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  • Shakuntala Tambimuttu

    Dear Mr. Coleman,

    I thoroughly enjoyed your entertaining article on my father Tambimuttu.

    If you don’t mind, I’d like to clear up a couple of misperceptions about him here.

    I’m not sure why it has suddenly come about that people think that my father didn’t speak his own language, but he did indeed speak Tamil. He spoke it fluently as I was a witness to in India in 1982 while conversing with a Tamil man on the street. The gentleman was somewhat awed that my father was speaking “Sweet Tamil”, a more old fashioned version than is now spoken in India. My father told me that as a schoolboy my father was fined for speaking his own Tamil language in the school he attended and threatened with a beating by his teacher for having a Ganesha idol, a gift from a Hindu cousin, in his school bag. The beating was averted by my father’s breaking the teacher’s ruler and leaving the school, never to return. My father also spent school holidays in his ancestral village of Atchuvely and could converse perfectly well with family, villagers and servants in Tamil there.

    Although he was raised as a Catholic, he rejected Catholicism at age 18 when my grandmother died giving birth to my uncle Chrysanthus. Despite doctors warnings after her last pregnancy, her priest had told her that it was her duty to have babies. My father heartily embraced Hinduism thereafter and even though he converted to Islam in order to marry my Godmother Safia, he never practiced the religion and did indeed consider himself a Hindu.

    Thanks again for such a fun and interesting article.


    Shakuntala Tambimuttu

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