The article takes issue with the following statement.
“In Northern Sri Lanka, the secessionist Tamil Tigers are feared and even respected, but seldom loved.” [Economist, London, Oct.7, 2000; pp.19-20]
But, it turns out, what the Economist doesn't realize is that Love is different for Tamils.
The author invokes the authority of Margaret Trawick's 'Notes on Love in a Tamil family' as follows-
for Tamils, anpu (as Tamils know ‘love’ in a broader sense) has the following nine properties.
1. containment (adakkam): Open expression of love is to be restrained, even if it is mother love. Tamils also do not express love among opposite sexes openly.
2. habit (pazhakkam): Attachment, or a sense of oneness with a person or thing or activity, grows slowly, by habituation.
3. harshness and cruelty (kadumai and kodumai): Physical affection for children is expressed not through caresses but roughly, in the form of painful pinches, slaps and tweaks. The movie song, ‘Adikkira kai thaan Anaikkum; Anaikkira kai thaan adikkum’ (Hitting hand will hold, and holding hand will hit) expresses this sentiment beautifully.
4. dirtiness (azhukku): ‘Defiance of rules or purity conveyed a message of union and equality and was a way of teaching children and onlookers where love was’, tells the author. This is exemplified by mother’s care of baby’s bodily excretions and the host’s cleaning of guest’s plate of food (echchil).
5. humility (panivu): Love is implicated in expressions of humility and patience (porumai, the strength to sustain and endure).
6. poverty and simplicity (ezhumai and elimai): Self renunciation of luxury (such as fancy clothes and jewellery) for the cause of a loved one, as expressed in sentiments like, ‘I don’t want new clothes…as long as you are sick’.
7. servitude (adimai): Illustrated as the servant of God, who receives the highest respect among the civilians. Elimination of the boastful ‘I’ (Naan) and substituting with the self deprecating ‘this slave’ (Adiyen), exemplified by Tamil saints of the past.
8. opposition and reversal (ethirttal and puratchi): Characterized by the use of very intimate suffix, -di (for girl) and –da (for boy) among family members and close pals. When these intimate forms of address are used by acquaintances or strangers, they become derogatory.
9. mingling and confusion (kalattal and mayakkam): Love erases distinction completely and mingle everyone, typified by the adage, ‘We are all one’ (Onrae kulam – Oruvane Thevan). In addition, love leads to dizziness, confusion, intoxication and delusion (mayakkam).
All these nine cultural markers of Tamil love are indicated in the love Tamils have shown for Pirabhakaran.
1. containment: One cannot ask a Tamil, like in Gallup-poll, to find out whether he or she loves Pirabhakaran or not. Prudent Tamils will not answer in the affirmative. It is a very private issue, like what the Americans consider the details of their individual paychecks.
2. habit: Remember that in the first 10 years of Tamil militancy (circa 1975-1985), there were many who competed for the leadership role with Pirabhakaran. Some who were even trained in the PLO camps and Israeli camps. They only turned out to be mercenaries (for the arms of Sri Lankan and Indian governments) and later metamorphosed into parliamentary seat-warmers. Tamils came to accept Pirabhakaran, only after he proved his mettle. Cynics may quip that Pirabhakaran physically eliminated his rivals to reach the pinnacle. But Eelam Tamils also came to be convinced that his rivals for leadership had self-destructed themselves by ill-judgments, and also by deviating from the path of ‘Eelam’ for which they had pledged to work. It is not an exaggeration to reiterate that among the 60 plus million Tamils living today, considering the impossibility of the aim of establishing an army, none had followed the Edison formula for success (constituting three simple elements: hard work, common sense and ‘stick-to-it’iveness spirit) diligently like Pirabhakaran for the past 25 years. Pirabhakaran also shares some of Edison’s peculiar background in that he was a ‘semi-literate’ in the fool’s world of literacy, boasting of prefixes ‘Oxford’, ‘Harvard’ and ‘Sorbonne’ linked by a hyphen to the word ‘educated’, or prefixes ‘Sandhurst’ and ‘West Point’ linked by a hyphen to the word ‘trained’.
3. harshness and cruelty: Loving Pirabhakaran was (and is) no bed of roses. The harshness and cruelty were absorbed as part of the package, for the pride his movement has delivered to the Tamils.
4. dirtiness: Of course, that Pirabhakaran was not from the dominant Hindu Vellala caste has been accepted by the Tamils. The ‘dirtiness’ in the Brahminical world view has been completely ignored.
5. humility: The pain of routine ridicule, delivered from the political pulpit and press desks in Colombo, Chennai, Washington DC and London, for loving Pirabhakaran is tolerated by Tamils with humility.
6. poverty and simplicity: With whatever scale one measures the quality of life in Eelam during the past two decades, an apparent economic poverty and simplicity is visible in the places where Pirabhakaran is loved. Still the Eelam Tamils endure this hardship for love of Pirabhakaran and his ideological goal.
7. servitude: His adversaries, like the operatives of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), may ridicule the decorating terms such as ‘Suriyathevan’ and other word-plays, but Tamils who love Pirabhakaran serve him in various fronts – in his army, and as support cast under much hardship. Servitude is a cultural marker in Tamil love, which cannot be understood by culture-challenged academics, journalists and paid report-writers.
8. opposition and reversal: This cultural marker doesn’t need explanation, since there was opposition to Pirabhakaran for his methods, especially among the older generation. The opposition was mainly due to generational conflict, who were familiar with the Gandhian path of non-violence and couldn’t grasp the post-Gandhian scenario that gun holders dictate terms in global politics.
9. mingling and confusion: This cultural marker for love among Tamils, towards Pirabhakaran, is self-explanatory if one observes the existing pattern in Tamil Nadu.
Difficile est saturam non scribere, I suppose, is the moral we must draw from our erudite author, which is not to say he hasn't brilliantly taxonomized the emotional source springs of Fuhrerprinzip.