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Visit to alma mater, an emotional affair to Fernandes

MANGALORE, JAN. 11. The Defence Minister, George Fernandes, spent some moments of solitude at his alma mater, St. Aloysius College, here on Saturday.

Mr. Fernandes, who inaugurated the post-centenary silver jubilee celebrations of the college, sat through a cultural programme presented by the Dramatics Association of the institution. He was impressed by the dance drama, Tulunada Vaibhava, which depicted a host of activities indigenous to the Tulu-speaking people. He appreciated "kambala" and "bootharadhane" presented on the occasion.He told The Hindu that it was always a good feeling to come back to the college where he had studied, and each visit to it was an emotional affair. "One has a sense of gratitude (to the institution) and the memory of old friends, teachers, some of whom are no more, brought forth mixed feelings in a person during such visits," he said. He expressed happiness that the students had evinced interest in learning about their culture and depicting it on the stage when western culture was being spoon-fed to them. Noting that he had been away from his birthplace for many years now, Mr. Fernandes said only official work brought him back to his roots.

Asked what it meant to speak and hear Tulu, he said, "I love languages. Konkani is my mother tongue, Tulu is my native language, and Kannada is my State language. Latin, I learnt even before joining the seminary, Hindi on the pavements of Mumbai, Marathi at the Mumbai jail, Urdu at the Nagpur jail, I understand Gujarati, and English, I anyhow speak and converse in.'' However, a hint of regret at English, which he described as the "lingua franca of the business world'' gaining prominence over other languages came forth when he pointed out "no two Tuluvas speak to each other in Tulu when they meet elsewhere. They instead converse in English''. He said it was important to overcome this fastidious love for English. Noting he had nothing against English, Mr. Fernandes cited an instance where he had inaugurated a conference of Tulu in Mumbai. Despite being away from Mangalore for a long time, he spoke better Tulu at the meet than most of the Tuluvas there. This was mainly on account of their penchant for English rather than their own mother tongue, he said.

To a query by a journalism student of the college about his message to the youth to join the armed forces, Mr. Fernandes said, "India as a nation had never been historically worried about its external security. While a bunch of 500 horse riders came and enslaved India, another set of horse riders drove them out and continued the domination of the motherland.'' He said India had to learn a lot from contemporary and past history about its perceived weakness on this count. It was heartening that there were youth keen to take up a career in the armed forces, and advised the student "to line up in the queue next time when a recruitment rally was held in the town''. This was the best that one could do for the country, he added.

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