Tamil Nadu is one of the southernmost states of India and where Aravind is located. Many educated people in south India are multilingual, but one of my first goals during my fulbright fellowship in Madurai was to learn the language. On arrival my Tamil vocabulary consisted of “hello” and “thank you”, which are “Vanakkam” and “Nandri”, respectively. One formal Fulbrighter at Aravind had made a great manual for basic ophthalmology phrases for visiting physicians. Knowing some key phrases did come in handy for patient interactions and at the eye screening clinics, although for my daily work in the lab I could get by well with English. After eight months of informal practice I learned some basic Tamil phrases for daily use with my fellow researchers and friends at Aravind. Some of my favorites were “have you eaten?”, “how are you?”, and “you’re a big monkey!” The basics of this language was an uphill battle for someone with my maladroit linguistic ability, but with good friends it was fun anyway.
I did not attempt to learn more of the Tamil script than my name. It just was not of any practial use in my work. However, it did strike me as a beautifully written script. Here are some links to see what written Tamil looks like and some basic translations to English. The Tamil Script, Tamil to English
Tamil Nadu is probably best known by some as the part of India with many temples. The Meenakshi Temple is a focal point and religous center visited by many devotees and tourists. Check out this interesting article about the Temples of Tamil Nadu written I found in the New York Times Temples Where Gods Come to Life.
Take a look at the maps.goolgle.com satellite view of Madurai!
I learned some of how beautiful the Tamil language can be by listening to popular music during my 8 months in Madurai. Click on play on the video link below. Anbe Anbe was one of my my favorite Tamil songs while I was living in India! Its the feature song of the movie Dhamm Doom, a romantic thriller popular in 2008.