December 14, 2019
What is the biggest cultural shock you have ever experienced?
Culture is a thousand things, a thousand times. It's living the core values when you hire; when you write an email; when you are working on a project; when you are walking in the hall.
It is said that "It's a pretty big shock to realize that the only people you can identify with are psychopathic killers." But even bigger shocks were waiting for me in the culture of Tamil Nadu.
Cultural shock is the feeling of uncertainty, confusion, or anxiety that people experience when visiting, doing business in, or living in a society that is different from their own. The same thing happened with me when I visited Tamil Nadu for the first time.
The first flabbergast was that Tamil is pronounced as Tamizh and not Tamil!! Yes, from childhood I was in the misconception that it is pronounced as Tamil. What a shock it was!!
During the same visit, I also found one shocking ceremony which Tamilians celebrate when a girl attains her puberty. My curiosity to understand drove me to find that the ceremony is called Poo Punidha Neeraatu Vizha (Puberty ceremony). A girl attaining puberty is a big event for Tamilians and there are celebrations and ceremonies associated with the occasion. This has two purposes one is to say that they have a girl ready for marriage in their home and the bridegrooms can approach. Another reason which is very practical in these days is that to say that the girl is no more a small girl. So please maintain proper dignity and behavior with her.
On observing further, I was shocked to find that most Tamilians have a “daily ritual” of drawing figures on the threshold of the house!! Yes, as per them, the inner and outer worlds are separated by these decorations which guard the household and welcome visitors as well. They call it “Kolam”. Also, upon enquiring I found that Kolam and rangoli are similar, except that rangoli is free-flowing art, whereas, in kolam, one begins with dots that have to be joined together with lines, loops, and gestures. Kolam is done only with dots. You join the dots with lines, loops, and gestures. It is an infinite process. You start with a dot. You can keep any number of dots and keep adding.
The biggest bolt from the blue was of the relationship of “Google” with the Tamil language!! Call it a coincidence or intentional, the name Google matches with its phonetic Tamil name KoogiL – this word can be broken into two parts koo and kiLL.
koo is koovu: one meaning is to call
kiLL is kiLLudhal which has meanings to pluck/search/analyse. So Google in Tamil phonetical word koogiL logically gives the same meaning call and search/pluck. And probably this is the reason why Tamil is recognized as the official language of 3 Countries!! Not only the official language of India, but Tamil is also the official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore!! To add to this one more shock was that, in Malaysia, 543 primary education government schools are available fully in Tamil medium!!
But the biggest thunderbolt I got was upon knowing that there is an entire epic written in Tamil that hails Ravana as the hero and casts Rama as the villain!! What a bombshell it was. Although upon investigating I found that now this view is not mainstream in Tamil Nadu and the book even got banned briefly in 1950.