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Chapter 7 Laboring against Loss Yes! Yes! That’s very well put. . . . I rediscover precious things through [joyful] nostalgia. And in that way I feel that I never lose anything, that nothing is ever lost.1 223 DISENCHANTED DISMISSALS, DISCIPLINARY DISAVOWALS All this is to not say that these labors of loss over a vanished Lemuria are celebrated by one and all, even in Tamil-speaking India, where so many have written so passionately about Sclater’s disappeared world in the many variegated ways that I have documented here, where it is taught in schools and colleges and invoked in public speeches in as lofty a place as the state’s legislature , where some folks have even named themselves after it, and where a documentary Wlm Wnanced by the government has been produced. As would be evident from scattered comments in the preceding pages, and especially from my discussion in chapter 5 of historicism’s tendentious encounter with the antediluvian memories of ancient Tamil poetry and its commentaries, there have been those who have outright refused to participate in the pleasures of fantasizing about a prelapsarian world, preferring instead to take refuge in the rationalist disciplines of their day. The pressure to do so is acutely felt, particularly in colonial and postcolonial India, where one’s credentials as modern—and hence, as rational and as civilized—are established by adhering to the parameters and protocols of the new sciences and disenchanted knowledge-formations that have been ushered in from the metropole. The disavowal of Tamil labors of loss around Lemuria began very early indeed, in the opening years of the century that followed the Victorian birth of Sclater’s drowned place-world. In a scathing review of Suryanarayana Sastri’s Tamilmoliyin Varalaru (which, to recall, was the Wrst sustained effort to link the metropolitan paleo-scientist’s Lemuria with a submerged Tamil home-place called Kumarinatu), published shortly after the book appeared in 1903, the Reverend C. H. Monahan took the influential Tamil scholar- devotee to task for not abiding “by the principles of scientiWc philology.” Instead, he allows an amount of weight to mythological elements which renders his judgement on the antiquity of Tamil to my mind almost worthless. He practically accepts the story dear to some Tamilians that in ancient times land extended south of Cape Comorin for some 7,000 miles (!), which was divided into 49 Tamil countries. In this land were South Madura and other places where Tamil flourished. This country now submerged by the Indian Ocean was the cradle of the human race, and its language was Tamil(!). Haeckel is quoted as authority for this opinion. All this is a sore tax on one’s power of belief. But one fairly gasps when one reads the following . . . : “The Indian Ocean contains 25,000,000 square miles. From this it follows that it is somewhat less than 1,600,000 miles long and 1,600, 000 miles broad(!). Accordingly of this 1,600,000 miles length, 7,000 miles of land must have been swept away by the sea(!!!).” One would have supposed the numbers to be due to a mere slip of the pen but for the serious argument based upon them. Moreover, we are informed that the Early Tamil Academy lasted 4,440 years and the Middle Academy 3,700. These geographical and historical(?) marvels come of abandoning scientiWc research for mythology.2 The Reverend Monahan’s expression of sheer incredulity—on display here in his profuse deployment of exclamation marks!—on encountering the Tamil antediluvium is not surprising, given that this has been historicism’s response to whatever transgresses the range of mundane facts. But Monahan ’s critique is also revealing of the struggles undertaken by the emergent new discipline of history, as it was then practiced in Tamil India, to rationalize the received memories and reconstructed traditions of the Tamil past, which it disenchants or disavows for the sake of the historicist project of demonstrating what actually happened. Since Monahan’s time, others who have written against the reality of Kumarikkantam in the interest of what actually happened, fall into three camps. To recall, there are those who, caught between a disenchanted historicism and Tamil devotion’s enchanted pull, attempt to historicize katalkol, the shifting of the Pandyan capitals, the creation and loss of the three cañkams, and so on, by applying the scalpel of historical reason to cut the fancy out of fact in order to salvage some semblance of...


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