In this paper I investigate the ways in which modernity in contemporary Tamil Nadu may be understood as something other than a purely exclusionary category. I enquire into the flow of language, imagery, music, resonant phrases and film dialogues that has allowed the values of the Self Respect movement in Tamil Nadu to move as a "Rain of Words" across social divisions of class, gender and caste. Egalitarian humanism and rationalism are here treated as part of a modern "tradition", allowing us, in the process, to redefine what "tradition" might mean. The central place and reverence accorded to intellectuals in Tamil modernity is explored in respect to political party workers, NGOs, parish priests, and social workers in rural areas. I bring together two aspects of Tamil politics normally treated as separate, or in tension with one another: The egalitarian rationalism of the Self Respect movement, and the cultivation of language for its affective and non-rational elements in the politics of language nationalism. Arguing that it is the latter that has allowed the former to circulate as effectively as it does, I focus on the fresh meanings given to these values by young Dalit girls from agricultural labouring communities, as well as girls in coastal fishing communities in Tamil Nadu.