Kalaimagal, Poongothai and Nilani are a sensation in the Tamil internet world. Not because they have pure Tamil names, but for the love they profess for one of the oldest languages in the world, despite being born in China.
The trio not just bear true-blue Tamil names but have taken efforts to learn Tamil and speak flawlessly that could put even a native speaker to shame. And their rhythmic Tamil is popular in China as they present programmes on the China Radio International, now re-named as the China Media Group.
Videos of the trio speaking in Tamil and sharing their experiences on falling in love with the language, spoken in several countries across the globe, go viral as and when they are uploaded.
“Vanakkam. Eppadi Irukeenga” (Welcome. How are you?). That’s how Kalaimagal, whose real name is Zhao Jiang, greeted everyone at an event to raise a toast to India-China friendship on Thursday afternoon, barely 24 hours before the high-profile visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Kalaimagal, Poongothai and Nilani show much interest in reading Tamil literature and adore late Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi for his works on women empowerment and his love for the language. “Bharathi and other great Tamil scholars and poets wanted Tamil to spread across the world. Today we are here before you as ambassadors of the language,” Poongothai said.
Nilani, who spent six months at Bharathiar University in Coimbatore learning Tamil, says she was proud to have learnt Tamil as it is one of the few classical languages in the world that thrives till today.
“Tamil is the only language that I know other than Chinese. And I make a lot of preparations before I go on air on the radio. Tamil is a very beautiful language and I just feel proud to be visiting Chennai again,” Nilani said.
All the three have developed a special bonding with the Tamil cuisine and love the simple idli and dosa. “I love dosa. I just can't forget the taste of a dosa that we get here in Chennai,” Nilani said.
Tamil Nadu and ancient China have shared several historical and cultural links for the past 2,000 years. Sridharan Madhusudhanan, a career Indian diplomat hailing from Tamil Nadu, had recalled that he found several similarities between Tamil and Chinese.
The diplomat’s chance reading of Chinese literature that sounded similar to the Sangam literature of Tamil led him to adorn the hat of a writer – he was the first one to directly translate a Chinese language book into Tamil.