உண்மை சொன்னால் உண்மை பலிக்கும். நன்மை சொன்னால் நன்மை பலிக்கும்
Sourastras, Nadars, Vannars and Arunthathiyars in Madurai. How great these communities are?
Madurai Institute of Social Sciences shifted its focus from generic to specialization in MSW course in the year 1987. As a teacher of community Development, I was concerned about providing sufficient exposure to understand the complexities associated with understanding communities to my students. Even without knowing the meaning and methods of community studies, I encouraged my students to take up studies of their own communities (Castes). I naively believed that understanding one's own community may serve as a first step to understand communities in general. I earnestly thought that such attempts will provide knowledge and skills needed to work in the field of community Development. At that time I was more instinctive than intellectual. (Even now I have not changed ?)
Two of my students in the first batch of community development specialization, came forward to undertake studies of their own community - KLY Muralidhar (Sourastra) and Uthama Singh (Nadar). Mr. Muralidharan did a study on Sourastra Organizations in Madurai City and Uthama Singh did a case study on Nadar Mahajana Sangam in Madurai. They were not casteist in their thinking; Uthama Singh married a non nadar girl is a proof that my students were matured enough to make objective observation.
It was these students and their field work made me to realize the greatness of these communities. Both these communities with their rich institutional assets contributed for the development of the Madurai city. Even some three decades before, Muralidhar identified more than 50 sourastra organizations serving both sourastra and non sourastra communities in Madurai City. Nadar Uravin Murai is a source of support not only for Nadars but also for Non Nadars.The greatest mistake that we committed is, we refused to learn lessons and draw inspiration from our own brothers. There are several communities and factors that sustained the development of Madurai City and the contribution of these communities are worthy enough to mention thankfully.
Though I was not intellectually equipped then to understand and analyze the information brought by these two enthusiastic students, but I was matured enough to understand the contributions of these communities to the broader society. As a teacher of community Development, I feel ashamed of my self for my inability to develop conceptual clarity to understand various community situations from these studies.
Community development as an academic discipline is always in the forefront to celebrate diversity. If Muralidhar and Uthama Singh taught me the beauty of diversity, following their footsteps other students made me to realize the dignity of other marginalized communities. It was Mr. who made me to realize the beauty of Washerman Community and Mr. M. Suresh brought the beauty of Arunthathiar Community.
More than my students, I learned a lot from these studies. For the last 8-10 years computers helped to carefully preserve the observations we recorded. I wrote a post on Washerman in Madurai City. I was able to retrieve our observations on Arunthathiar Community recently. Reading it after a long interval, I felt, it needed a lot of editing and improvement...but I didn't want to hide myself in the name of editing. Why should we edit when it was intended to express one’s love & respect to a community… to the Arunthathiyars of Madurai. I am happy to upload the presentation of our observation in three parts