Mohammed Bahlani

 

Two weeks ago, a tall, young Omani guy came to the office. He was my colleague Hari’s friend and had come looking for a job. Hari  brought him to my desk and said, “Rekha, I’d like you to meet Mohammed Bahlani from Izki. He comes with a surprise.”

As with the customary greeting, I said, “Salaam-Aleiyukum” and he responded. Hari could not contain it any longer and said, “Speak to him in Tamil!” Inwardly I thought, “Hari was alright just a while ago, what happened to him and why was he asking me to speak to his young Omani in Tamil?”

I just smiled and kept quiet. Mohammed also smiled… and then said  ‘Vanakkam’ and then proceeded to speak with me in chaste and pure Tamizh (yes, it is not Tamil with a ‘l’. It is Tamizh… and it sure needs a lot of practice to get to the ‘zh’ unless you are Tam or Mallu!).

I simply stared at him,  not knowing what hit me. I didn’t know how to respond. Not that I don’t speak Tamil, but I was too flabbergasted by what I was hearing, something like the language from the Sangam ages. I kept gaping till another colleague who hails from Madras joined us. Mohammed continued speaking in Tamil while we just stood and stared and attempted to make some ‘sensible’ Tamizh conversation. And when Mohammed slipped into the verses of ‘Thirukkural’… I almost started crying. In my mind, I counted the barely ‘ten’ Arabic words I knew…. And naturally felt ashamed.

But I had to find out the reason for Mohammed’s Tamizhness. Where did the connect come from? Mohammed hails from Izki, a village in Oman’s interior and has been learning Tamil for the past five to six years.  According to Mohammed, he first heard the language from the many Tamil expatriates who lived in the village and worked as masons. He found it very sweet-sounding and decided that come what may, he had to learn it. And so in less than six years, he has learnt to read, write and speak Tamil fluently. His mastery over the language is incredible and to think that it has absolutely no connection with Arabic, his mother tongue! He also watches Tamil TV channels, especially Makkal TV to hone his skills!

But no, he hasn’t been to India yet. Though he waxes eloquent on the intricacies of Tamil politics and asks us which ‘katchi’ (party) we favour. He knows a lot about the state and wants to go there one day. Inshaallah (God willing!), he says with a huge grin on his face. We can’t help but engage him in more conversation, thrilled that an Arabic tongue has so very well embraced an Indian language (and a difficult one at that!) as its own.

Ultimately, Mohammed summed it up well. “Whatever language we speak, we are all one. We are all human beings!”

That the world is shrinking is not just a cliché. With people like Mohammed in it, the Sanskrit phrase, Vasudeiva Kutumbakam (the whole world is a family) resonates. And resonates well!

Tamizh Puthandu Nal Vazhthakkal… Happy Tamil New Year!

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19 thoughts on “Vanakkam from Izki, Oman

  1. Rekha finished it in one breath… wonderful… your words as well as Mohammed Bahlani from Izki, truly world is shrinking, let there be more Mohammed Bahlanis in this world, he rightly said, after all we are all humans.

      1. Hi Rekha, this is true.. he speaks Tamil well and knows lot about Tamil nadu and Kerala.. i had an opportunity to speak with him and im so proud to say that he is my brother’s friend..

  2. wow! I am truly impressed! to learn a completely foreign language is no mean feat…and that too tamil (am guilty of pronouncing it with an ‘l’ and not zh!! ) and rekha..happy tamil new year… 🙂

  3. Wow…I know the feeling! I used to be stunned when some Omanis spoke Malayalam. They worked with so many mallus, it came to them naturally. I think some people have a born flair for languages and if you are motivated enough, nothing to stop you.

  4. Justing catching up with your recent posts. Wasn’t in the best frame of mind for a month hence this delayed comment. Chase Tamil is something that I need to strain to understand and decipher. And talking about the shrinking world, I have seen and heard Russians, Italians and Iranians ( just to name a few nationalities) chant Rudram, Chamakam and Purushasuktam…. in Puttaparthi, where else!

    Narayanan

  5. thanks for your comment, narayanan! I’ve always strived to understand and speak what Amrit calls ‘real’ Tamizh, but lost it entirely after marriage into a pucca Palakkad family. My Tamizh is now drowned beyond recognition in a sea of Malayalam words. But I do slip into the ‘real’ mode with my Nagpur and Chennai cousins and must admit it does feel good. Yes, I too have been mesmerised by foriegners singing bhajans and chanting shlokas… heard them online though!

  6. Very beautiful .. This is a big achievement for young Omanis .
    Because the Tamil language one of the oldest languages ​​of the world..

  7. Dear Mohammed Al-Bahlani
    I am very impressed by your skills and wish more people will follow your example to take the efforts to learn a language of the humble people working in their villages since so many years.
    May Allah bless you and give you the motivation to keep learning.

    A friend from Switzerland

    1. I would like to thank Ms. Rekha on this interest . . I would like to thank everyone for wonderful comments. .

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