On Pongal Day, Let’s Ask Ourselves: What Does It Mean To Be தமிழ் (Thamizh)?
Pongal is one of the longest surviving Thamizh festivals, but the way we celebrate Pongal is quite different from our ancestors. Why? Because we have adapted to the needs of today. So, in these modern times, what does it mean to be தமிழ் (Thamizh)?
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We try to answer this question through Amutha, a 6-year girl who is the star of a children’s book series. We hope that she can be the beacon of hope for all those that have felt excluded or made fun of for not being Thaimzh enough. Through her and her family, we invite everyone to be as Thamizh as they want to be and proudly say, “நானும் தமிழ் தான்” (Nanum Thamizh Thaan)!

Thamizhs live all over the world and come in many shades and sizes. Collectively we speak hundreds of other languages and have integrated into numerous societies. We now have other nationalities which we call our own, like Canadian, French, Australian, South African and Singaporean, just to name a few. Some of us have married within our community while others have discovered that love has no limits. As such, we are no longer a homogenous group of people who think and feel the same about everything.  That’s something to celebrate because diversity helps to keep us strong.

However, diversity also comes with new challenges. We need to find the courage to embrace new ways of thinking about unconscious bias, colourism, gender norms, anti-racism, equality, accessibility challenges, mental health and LGBTQ+ rights. We can no longer afford to put our heads in the sand and say that these issues don’t affect us. 

If you study history, you will know that தமிழ் (Thamizh) is one of the oldest surviving languages of the world. It’s survived for over 2000 years by changing and adapting to the needs of the people. The தமிழ் that was spoken in ancient times is not the தமிழ் we speak now. It’s the same for the way we wrote, the clothes we wore, the food we ate and the way we lived our lives. Our very survival then and now showcases our persistence in the face of adversity. It also forces us to evaluate whether we continue to cling to the past and the old ways of doing things or perhaps we look for opportunities to modernize our ways of thinking. 

Now, in the 21st century, we need to follow our ancestors’ path and champion new ideas and embrace modern ways of thinking. Being தமிழ் shouldn’t preclude us from being global citizens and it shouldn’t force us to make binary decisions. So let’s change that and make it an inclusive decision. Let’s be the culture that welcomes everyone regardless of whether we speak தமிழ், dress தமிழ் or have two parents that are தமிழ்.  Let’s invite people to be as தமிழ் as they want to be.  

This idea of inclusion and making தமிழ் accessible to all தமிழ் people is what inspired us to create Amutha. Our dream was to make her the beacon of hope for adults that may have felt excluded or made fun of for not being தமிழ் enough; especially those that may have been called terms such as “coconut” or white-washed.  She can inspire those that regret not learning தமிழ் in their youth to learn தமிழ் now.  For kids, she and her family can be role models to look up to and relate to, by seeing themselves represented in books.  She can be their guide to the world of தமிழ், past and present, and at the same time help them feel included in the future of தமிழ்.  This is why Amutha is not just a character, she’s a movement to make தமிழ் more accessible and inclusive.

However, we need your help in bringing Amutha to life! In order to print this book, we need to raise $25,000 CAD. We are kindly requesting the தமிழ் community to help us fund this much-needed book. We have created a 35-day Kickstarter campaign which ends on February 11, 2021, and are offering 13 different packages (worldwide shipping available). You can order the book on www.amuthalearns.com  or call 647-544-3654. Let’s keep தமிழ் moving!

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN LINK- Every Bit of your Support Counts!

So this January, as we celebrate Tamil Heritage Month, let’s all proudly say, “நானும் தமிழ் தான்” (Nanum Thamizh Thaan)!


Filmmaker: @skymistfilms

Illustrator: @rafflesiaillustration


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