Harsh Gupta
Discovering Thiruvalluvar
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

I was travelling via a cab in Singapore yesterday, and as usual started talking with the cab driver. He is a 3rd generation Tamil here.

During the discussion about religion and philosophy, he mentioned Thiruvalluvar. It took me the longest time to get the spelling of the name correct. And now I discover what a giant Thiruvalluvar was/is for Tamil philosophy, poetry, ethics, spirituality etc.

I consider myself a well-educated, relatively curious, widely read/travelled, politically active, philosophically interested Indian. Yet I know more about obscure Jewish, German, French, Russian,
American, even Arab personalities over the ages – than about giants back home.

Although I did my college abroad, but I did do my schooling in India -and I do not think Indian colleges in say Delhi University ever end up discussing Thiruvalluvar unless the discipline(s) is Tamil language etc itself/themselves.

I am very much deist/agnostic, and not much into religion – almost an atheist-hedonist who finds most religion to be much ado about nothing. But Thiruvalluvar is like Tamil Nadu’s and by extension India’s Confucius. This is so much more than religion.

We learn so little about India – or at least about parts of India from which we do not hail – and we are taught so little about our own heritage that it is absolutely criminal. I disagree with the Hindu right 9 out of 10 times when they shout “deracinated”, “anti-Hindu” etc, but for one moment yesterday I felt they were right.

There is a distinct lack of pride in being Indian, in being Hindu, in being Tamil/Bengali/Rajasthani/Haryanvi/whatever. To imagine that this is irrelevant and does not have very deep psychological consequences on a child growing up is to delude ourselves.

This was an email shared by the author with Centre Right India.