Nikita makes Tamil verse his­tory

Post - - Front Page - RAJENDRAN GOVENDER

NIKITA Her­mani Govender, an 8-year-old from Shall­cross, made his­tory by win­ning the prose cat­e­gory in the Re­gional Tamil Eisteddfod or­gan­ised by the KwaZulu-Na­tal Tamil Vedic So­ci­ety.

Can­di­dates in this cat­e­gory had no prior knowl­edge of the Tamil verses and had to select two verses from six on the day of the eisteddfod, read it and then give the mean­ing.

The dif­fer­ence with Nikita, and other par­tic­i­pants in her age group, is that she is blind.

For the first time in the his­tory of the eisteddfod move­ment this was achieved.

When first ap­proached by Nikita’s mother, Vani, for Nikita to par­tic­i­pate, the eisteddfod co-or­di­na­tors could not find a so­lu­tion.

The mother was de­ter­mined that her daugh­ter would par­tic­i­pate and sought as­sis­tance from ex­ter­nal sources.

She con­tacted Char­maine Goven­den, a Tamil scholar from Gaut­eng, who pre­pared Nikita to learn the verses tele­phon­i­cally over two days.

Nikita then pro­duced the Tamil verses in Braille, which was sub­mit­ted to the eisteddfod ad­min­is­tra­tors, and was used on the day of the eisteddfod in which she par­tic­i­pated and came first.

She has now pro­gressed to the pro­vin­cial fi­nals and pos­si­bly the na­tional fi­nals.

Ac­cord­ing to Nikita’s mom and dad, Ron­nie, their el­dest daugh­ter, Nerissa, was born with Retts Syn­drome, a rare and se­vere neu­ro­log­i­cal dis­or­der that mostly af­fects girls.

She is un­able to walk, talk or use her hands.

Com­ing from a strong cul­tural back­ground, their dream of their daugh­ter singing or danc­ing was dashed.

When Nikita was born a few years later, their hopes were re­newed.

How­ever, fate got the bet­ter of them as Nikita was born blind due to med­i­cal neg­li­gence.

They lost all hope of their daugh­ters pur­su­ing a ca­reer in Bharatha Natyam dance and car­natic mu­sic.

Ac­cord­ing to Vani, it is a sad re­al­ity that to­day’s youth are fast los­ing their cul­tural iden­tity.

They lack the drive and love for their language and cul­ture.

She hoped her chil­dren would be dif­fer­ent.

Nikita al­ways showed in­ter­est, from a young age, and wanted to at­tend weekly re­li­gious and cul­tural events.

How­ever, her mother Vani, who works six days a week, was un­able to sat­isfy Nikita’s cul­tural needs.

The only day she had left was a Sun­day, when she did house­hold chores and spent time with her daugh­ters, who needed spe­cial at­ten­tion.

Lo­gie Naidoo, a mem­ber of the Chatsworth Tamil Move­ment, who ob­served Nikita’s love for the Tamil language and cul­ture, en­cour­aged the young­ster’s par­ents to en­ter her in the Tamil eisteddfod. And the rest is his­tory. Lit­tle Nikita is a bub­bly young girl whose hob­bies in­clude lis­ten­ing to re­li­gious mu­sic, singing and play­ing the tabla. She also speaks con­ver­sa­tional isiZulu. Her dream is to be­come a singer and a lawyer be­cause, “I talk a lot”.

She is a Grade 2 pupil at the Open Air School in Glen­wood and her favourite food is potato curry and do­sai.

Nikita said she has many pets – two Labradors, a cat, a Pekinese pup, an In­dian Ring neck and a budgie.

Un­for­tu­nately, she had to give away her six rab­bits.

“Toys are bor­ing, while pets are fun as you can carry them or run around with them.”

Ron­nie said the Labradors pro­tect his daugh­ter. He was hop­ing to get a trained Labrador guide dog for her.

Nikita will par­tic­i­pate in the Tamil Eisteddfod pro­vin­cial fi­nal this week­end at the Parasak­thi Tem­ple Hall, in Mere­bank.

The na­tional fi­nals are from July 8 to July 9 at the Arena Park Re­gional Hall in Chatsworth.

PIC­TURES: RAJENDRAN GOVENDER

Nikita Her­mani Govender won the prose cat­e­gory in the Re­gional Tamil Eisteddfod. She says she loves her dogs and play­ing the tabla.

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