Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Whose Blood?

Translation of writer Jeyamohan's speech in Bloomington Tamil Sangam on 22-Aug-2009

Dear friends,

There was this inspiring novel Barabbas by Pär Lagerkvist.  Many renowned writers worldwide were inspired by it  The story goes like this.

"Jesus is brought to Mount Golgotha to crucify.  The crowd teases and throws stones at Jesus.  Pilate is responsible for carrying out the punishment to Jesus. 

But Pilate knows that Jesus was righteous. He asks the crowd on why should a righteous man be killed.  He requests them to let go of Jesus.  But they insist on killing Jesus.

There were already three criminals waiting to be crucified.  Barabbas is one of them.  Pilate claims that he has the right to release one of the four.  He offers to free Jesus if the crowd agrees.  The people demand that Barabbas be freed instead of Jesus and Jesus be killed.  Barabbas gets released and surrenders Jesus to their will saying "I am innocent of this man's blood."

Freed Barabbas looks at the frail man responsible for his freedom and his sorrowful eyes.  He realizes that Jesus is sorry for the crowd.  He watches the Romans crucifying Jesus.

Later Barabbas returns to his ways of robbery and killing.  He feels guilty of the life got in return for the life of a righteous man.  He wanders, has a change of heart and becomes a Christian. He gets crucified for being a Christian.  Barabbas dies having paid the debt of his life."

Friends, when I was in school, I had a teacher by name Thangiaya Nadar.  He once said, 'My father knew ways to elongate and shrink time and narrated his childhood.  His father was a farmer.  Every day he used to go to the fields with his father and younger brother.  They would take turns to work on the patch.  The father would speed up the time, by going first.  He would do all he can before sending the kids for their turns.  But when he eats, he would slow down time.  He would be eating so slow that even the younger boy would have finished with his food.  The younger boy would have had four refills of gruel before the father eats one.  "He made us who we are now.  He worked for thirty hours a day.  Our growth was built on his sweat and blood.  We are indebted to our father for all that we have got", said Thangaiya Nadar with tears in his eyes.

Friends, have you ever wondered whose blood and sweat brought us here?  Have we thought about who gave their lives for us to live here?

For most of us, the first educated person in the family must have been our fathers.  Our grandfathers would have toiled in fields and starved.  We are here because of them.

During my childhood, I have seen a scarcity of food.  After the planting of the crops in June and July, people used to roam around to dig out tubers.  Rice, even gruel was a rarity then.    That was our nation - a nation that was swindled by foreigners and ravaged by great famines.  A nation no one wanted to invest in.

Our forefathers worked hard, saved every penny for the next generation.  They carried their next generations on their shoulders.

After coming here, I heard a few comments about the family system of our people.  They said that the family binds and constrains people and members of the family poke their noses in others' matters.  They compare the family structure of our country with the one here.  They said people are happy here without the burden of a family.  Maybe so.  This is the life that people here have created.  But the lives that we had created had helped us raise up after great falls.  It had saved us from multiple failures.

Our families have made us who we are. Often we see cases of entire families starving for one member's education.  The system believed in one-for-all and all-for-one.  And it is a time-tested system, tested over thousands of years.  If you are thinking of an alternate, I request you to look at our history.

I request you to see our values, see them in the right perspective.  See how these values have contributed to our history.  Think about how these values turn a starving nation to be an economic powerhouse in just 50 years.

These are the values that we must pass on to our children. If we don't, the losses are high.    They are there for us to see.  About three hundred years ago, our people - Tamils, Indians emigrated to other countries as refugees or slaves.  How are they?  They have lost their heritage and values.  In effect, they are scattered all over the world with no identity and are incapable of any achievement in any field.  They are the most significant warnings for us.

I see a number of our people, who are first-generation American Tamils, trying to bring up their children as Americans.  I saw a lot of Indian teens.  Their parents have managed to create an inferior picture of India to them.  Everyday conversations center around degrading India and Indians.  Isn't it true that children may look down upon their own parents as they do with India?

The child thinks himself as an American.  Does the nature change by just association?  Will he be an American? Blacks who are here for three hundred years are still Africans.  Jews living in the US for over hundred years are Jews.  Indians will always be Indians.  These children will learn it one day.  When they learn it, what happens to them without an identity?  How will they conquer their sense of inferiority?  What will they achieve if they spend every living moment to establish their non-Indianness?

Every society needs confidence in its structure, its values.  It may even brag about its greatness.  But rejecting itself would be suicidal.  Why is it so?

Do we give the best of Indianness to our children?  What opinion will the young mind create if we share the cheap cinema, TV programs and comedy show that we enjoy?  If we are ignorant of the greatness of Indian cultures and their success,  how can we give it to the next generation?

How can you create anything but a sense of inferiority with our poor taste of entertainment?  There are world-class writers and researchers in every language in India.  Most of you don't even know their names.  All that we see are cheap entertainers, speakers who lie and politicians.  What impression can we create with such a lot?

Let's first learn to be proud of ourselves.  Let us learn our heritage and its achievements.  Let us learn to preserve the best of our cultures.  Let us leave the best to our children.  Let us make them proud of themselves.

I would like to end with an event in the life of the Tamil writer Rangarajan (Sujatha).  He narrates how his father was responsible for his life.  The father was in death bed.  The frail old man was confidence personified when he was young.  The writer wonders if it was the man who tested his confidence by walking on the wall of Mettur dam.  The father never accepted anything from his son.  When the father realizes it, he asks his son to get him a shirt.

Ranga sat beside his father, held his hand and asked.  "What can I do to repay everything that you did for me?"  The father replied - "Do that to your son.  That would do.".


  1. Great writeup! The issue is some so called think that they are above every thing.

  2. Very good write up.

    However, I have different opinion on Indian's living abroad. I feel, first generation migrants are always Indians (they like it or not, they believe it or not, they curse India or not). Second generation is bit confused. This is because first generation (by they time they have kids) realises that their children need Indian touch. That generation really doesnt know which faith to follow, which country to believe in. However, third generation migrants are completely Americans / British (whichever country they goto). Because they have no connection to India. Most of them would have not even travelled to India, and would have heard only 'dirty India' stories from first two generations. Howsoever hard migrants try to be, they will always be Indians / people of Indian origin. Thats how rest will identify them. I recall Bobby Jindal specifically calling himself 'non-Indian' to be identified as one of Americans, may be for political reasons.

    Sometimes I feel, first or second generation Indians settled abroad try harder than us to preserve our culture, than us in India. However, that attempt is more in letter than spirit. Intention is good, but that lasts momentarily.