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Exploring Toronto’s Tamil Heritage

Students at UTSC will be able to learn much more about Tamil language and culture, thanks to a $2-million gift

Just a few kilometres away from the heart of Canada’s largest Tamil community, U of T Scarborough professor Bhavani Raman is hoping to create a vibrant centre for learning and discovery about a culture that has existed for millennia but may be unfamiliar to many Torontonians.

Raman, who teaches history, is the chair of Tamil Worlds Initiative, a tri-campus program that holds talks and discussions on Tamil history, culture, religion and politics. Themes range from postwar developments in Sri Lanka to environmental history, migration and feminism. The events are open to anyone, she says, noting that the program offers a place for students and members of the public, whether Tamil-speaking or not, “to understand urgent issues pertaining to our globalizing world, in ways that they can relate to in their own life.”

Through Tamil Worlds, Raman is also facilitating connections for students to do internships in Sri Lanka, a country to which many of Toronto’s Tamils trace their origins.

In the future, she’d like to offer language classes, so students can understand the scholarship, read novels or poetry and conduct research on histories of Tamil communities in eastern Toronto. She’d also like to invite more visiting Tamil scholars to U of T.

An expansion of the program is now being planned, thanks to Ravi Gukathasan (BSc 1982, PhD 1987), a Scarborough businessman who has given $2 million to support Tamil studies at UTSC. The gift is the largest ever from an alum to UTSC, and arrives just as Canada marks January as Tamil Heritage Month.

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