Subsistence through collection of forest produce is integral to the lives of many tribal communities. In Kerala, one tribal man is collecting something that is equally crucial to tribal life: language.
Kandamala Ramachandran (41) has spent a lot of time travelling in the tribal villages of Kerala, collecting the words of five tribal languages to compile them for a dictionary.
Forty-one-year-old Ramachandran who hails from the Kuruma community in Wayanad, has researched the oral languages of the Kuruma, Adiya, Paniya, Kattunayikka and Oorali tribal communities for the past 10 years.
Since 2008, Ramachandran, a farmer, has been working on compiling words of these languages into a dictionary so that younger generations of these communities know the languages. The language is likely to have about 5,000 words will be included in the dictionary.
“Tribals have a valuable culture and heritage. It is not easy to save everything from extinction, but would like to do what I can,” Ramachandran told The News Minute.
He needs two more months to complete the 2,000-page dictionary. “I have been working on it for the past 16 years. After it’s completed, it will need to be edited by scholars. Only then will I think about publishing it.”
Ramachandran, used to write poetry and tried his hand at other literature in his college. Sixteen years ago, film critic OK Johny inspired him to write something for his community. “Most of our traditional practices, food and dress customs have vanished. This is my humble effort to save some of our languages,” Ramachandran said.