My native place, Pudukkottai, is a small town in Tamil Nadu. It is a poor part of the country, and might even be reckoned "backward" by some criteria. Nevertheless it is a town with a proud cultural past. The only princely state in the province, it was ruled by independent kings for four centuries, and was an important centre of music, temple architecture and silk weaving. A palm leaf record dating from 1813 mentions that there were 30 fully functional silk looms in Pudukkottai then and an 1855 Gazetteer records that the cloth produced here was considered "the best in the province" and the vegetable dye they used and the design they made were exclusive to this place.

I was born and brought up in a traditional society - worlds removed from the one in which I live now. However, one redeeming feature of the otherwise deeply orthodox community to which I belonged is an abiding faith in the value of education. This education, I should add quickly, many are denied in this country. Still, during my formative years, I was encouraged to indulge into my omnivorous tastes in matters intellectual and cultural.

Thus, early in life, I developed an interest in a very wide variety of subjects. Music and dance, sculpture, Indian philosophy, history of Indian languages, Indian scientific traditions, dynamics of society, ideation in the context of development of civilizations, and finally, even Western civilization - all of these have, from time to time, been absorbing passions for me. I do not, however, claim any expert proficiency in the above fields except, perhaps, in music -here my interest is somewhat more intense and my understanding is not too shallow. This may be because my family profession was music for nine generations.