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What’s up, UW?: A passage to India (part 1)

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In a pretty unusual episode of our „What’s up, UW?” cycle, we interviewed not a student, but a professor. Prof. Ramasamy Alagarsamy is an art and literature critic from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli. He was deputed to the University of Warsaw in October 2011.

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Tytus Ławnik: Professor, please tell our readers something about yourself.

Ramasamy Alagarsamy: I am from Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli, city in the southern area of India. As regards my vocational qualification I am a critic of art and literature. My first appointment was with Pondicherry University as a lecturer in the School of Performing Arts. With eight years of theater teaching experience, I shifted to the literature department in Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in 1997. During time spent in Pondicherry I had a chance to participate in various fields of dramatic production. I wrote more than ten plays and directed five.

I?ve taught literary criticism and modern Tamil literature at various education levels and supervised ten PhD students. According to the profile submitted by the academics of Indian universities, the Indian Council of Cultural Relations deputed me to the University of Warsaw as a Visiting Professor of Tamil. I had joined University October 2011.

As a critic and an academic I wrote more than 300 articles, which have been compiled in 18 books. My writings are mostly related with the organic structure of an art and literature and how it is giving readers a chance to enter into its parts. This is a modern way of approach in literary criticism. Through this method we can analize all form of arts ? literary, performing and celluloid mode of productions.

What about the beginnings? Why exactly did you want to work in Poland?

The phrase ?University of Warsaw? got registered in my mind in 1986. My research guide, prof. T. Natarajan was selected by ICCR as a Visiting Professor of Tamil to the University of Warsaw and he served here for four years. He moved to Warsaw when I was about to finish my research, so I tried to submit my thesis before he left. Then I joined Pondicherry University in 1989 as a lecturer of performing arts, headed by R. Parthasarathi (pen name: Indira Parthasarathi), a well known playwright. He was also a professor who returned from Warsaw. Thanks to him, I had a chance to get to know about the theater heritage in Poland. My guide used to write many letters including information about the experience and life in Warsaw. During the time he had lived in Warsaw, there was an significant period for Polish contemporary history. The struggle for the transition from a socialist structure to a present capitalist mode has been held at that time. Professor has personally seen the anger and agitation and wrote me with details. I can say that this has also influenced me to apply through ICCR when I got a chance.

Maybe you can tell us something about the cooperation programme between your government and our university?

The programme between the two countries was set up by our national government only. However, a new chances have emerged recently, with the recognition of the status of classical Tamil. Under the cultural exchange programme the Tamil students from the University of Warsaw have been given a chance to visit, stay and study in Tamil Nadu universities about Tamil languages and culture. I am planning to make a new programme for Tamil students at the University of Warsaw. I have already sent a proposal to the Central Institute of Classical Tamil.

Was it surprising that in an European country such as Poland someone wants to learn your language?

It didn?t surprise me, because when the Europeans entered India to rule us, they tried to understand my nation and its structure, they started learning Indian languages. They thought that they should know the regional language to understand the culture and mind of Indian people, so they started learning Sanskrit and Tamil. This idea is still being continuated. I know that the Europeans are knowledge seekers, they are always in search and try to convert others wealth and knowledge for their development. Even today a person in Europe wants to learn about Asian and African cultures and languages.

What have you known about Poland before your arrival?

Through my professor I?ve heard a little about the people, culture and the education system in Poland. I have read about the modern history of Poland and its contribution to the world theater and film. I learned and practice the Grotowski?s system of acting in Pondicherry School of Performing Arts. Grotowski is a well known theater director and theoretician in the field of theatre, especially in actors training. His concept of ?bio-mechanism? is a basic training method. As a critic of film, I have also seen some Polish films.

Exactly which movies have you seen?

Roman Polański?s movies ? ?The Pianist? and ?Knife in the water?.

What was your first impression when you saw our country?

When I landed in Warsaw I was very happy to hear a Tamil voice of dr Jacek Woźniak to welcome me and I felt happy that I might not have much trouble to teach my language. The people and the transport facilities in your country impressed me a lot. The climate was a little tough for me, since I am from the southern part of India.

Tell us something about the difference between living in Poland and in India. Our culture is completely different than yours. Do you find people’s behaviour any different?

I feel that people from Warsaw respect others and I?ve never had any bad experience during my stay in the capital. Polish people are hard working and I am impressed by the Polish women, they are ready to do any work and they are fast in all their actions. There are some cultural differences, but as a sociable personality I can accept and accommodate with any culture in the world. However, it was tough for me to learn Polish language, but still I managed to express my things towards the people I meet.

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Come back tomorrow for the second part of the interview with prof. Ramasamy Alagarsamy!

Autor: Tytus Ławnik

Student Orientalistyki, Katedra Azji Południowej (III rok rok studiów licencjackich)

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