PM Modi Regrets Not Learning Tamil, The “World’s Oldest Language”


Mann Ki Baat: PM Modi in a traditional Tamil veshti at Mamallapuram in October 2019.

New Delhi:

Not learning the Tamil language was one of his long-standing regrets in a long political career, Prime Narendra Modi said again today, calling it the “world’s oldest language”. In his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio talk today, he also praised Tamil literature and poetry. His reference to the language comes weeks ahead of the southern state going to polls on April 6.

Addressing the show, PM Modi today said that in its run-up, one listener Aparna Reddy had asked him if there was something he missed out on during these long years as Chief Minister and Prime Minister.

“I thought about the question and felt that – it is a regret of sorts that I could not learn the world’s oldest language, Tamil. It is a beautiful language and popular across the world. Many people told me about the qualities of Tamil literature and the depths of Tamil poetry,” the Prime Minister said.

PM Modi has, in the recent past, used Tamil in his speeches and quoted Tamil verses in Parliament. 

In 2018, too, he had publicly regretted not being able to speak Tamil. In an address to the United Nations in 2019, he had quoted Tamil philosopher-poet Kaniyan Pungundranar to convey his message on India’s civilisational instinct to always look beyond its borders.

“Three thousand years ago, a great poet of India, Kaniyan Pungundranar, wrote in Tamil, the most ancient language of the world, ‘Yaadhum Oore Yaavarum Kelir’, which means, ‘We belong to all places and to everyone’. This sense of belonging beyond borders, is unique to India,” he had told the 74th UN General Assembly in New York.

During an informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, PM Modi was seen in a traditional Tamil veshti at the historic Mamallapuram shores in October 2019.

The state of Tamil Nadu goes to polls on April 6. PM Modi’s BJP is in alliance with the ruling AIADMK which is looking for a third straight term this time. The two parties have begun seat-sharing talks.

The leading two parties of the state, the AIADMK and the DMK, are products of its decades-old Tamil language-centric politics. It is in this context that the BJP, viewed as a north Indian outfit, is looking for a foothold in its mindscape.



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