Pen Drive column: Incredible Tamilnadu!

A talk with a friend who had just returned from a concert tour of Europe got me thinking about Tamilnadu’s place in the sun. Renowned violinist sisters M Lalitha and M Nandini said they had become more than ambassadors of Carnatic music: they had even become Tamilnadu tourism ambassadors for their ‘rasikas’ in Europe.

In many places, the audience was listening to Carnatic music for the first time, and we were glad to take it to unexplored areas, said Lalitha.

“Even among knowledgeable foreigners, most Indian music is Hindustani music. They are familiar only with the sitar and tabla. So, when we took the violin and Carnatic music to them, they found it – in their own words – touching, emotional and mesmerising. This was especially so when we delineated the raga before beginning the song,” explained Lalitha.

But more intriguing was that the sisters found most of the Europeans had not heard of their home State – Tamilnadu; or for that matter Chennai. Some, of course, had ventured into Kerala, apart from Delhi and Goa, but seemed clueless about the rich cultural and historical treasures of Tamilnadu.

The lands beyond the Vindhyas seem to be lost in a tourism black hole. So, the sisters took it upon themselves to be tourism ambassadors and kept telling anybody who would care to listen about the civilisational beauty of Tamilnadu and the long beaches of Chennai. “We would urge them to visit the temple towns of our State and told them about the beauty of Mahabalipuram, which is situated so close to Chennai,” says Lalitha.

More than discussing their tour that covered Germany, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Switzerland, the conversation with Lalitha swung to the lopsided way tourism is promoted in this country.

Tamilnadu has so much to offer geographically (adventure sports is the in-thing these days), historically and culturally to a foreigner that it is sad that we see so few foreigners in our lands.

It is a moot point if people in the north, east and west, even officials, can tell the difference between a Tamil, Keralite, Telugu and Kannadiga.

It would be a good idea for Union Tourism Minister Prahalad Singh Patel to not just hop onto the bandwagon of Prime Minister Modi on his frequent foreign tours and spread the word about southern India’s – especially Tamilnadu’s – tourism potential abroad, but also be a tourist himself of the southern States.

R Chitra