Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Forum in "Challenges of Alli": a Reformulated Kooththu

Forum Theatre facilitated by the 'Parai Araivon' the traditional drummer in "Challenges of Alli" a Reformulated Kooththu performance of Seelamunai Art and Cultural Centre and Third Eye Local Knowledge and Skills Activists Group.

In tradition, the character of 'Parai Araivon' faces opposition from the caste of Paraiyar because of its negative portrayal in Kooththu.

The character was reformulated with the participation of Annaviyars and Parai Melam Players as a positive one and developed as a facilitator to run a forum theatre followed by the Kooththu performance.

For more detail,
Pl. read
Playing with Parai Araivon (Herald)in Kooththu (Traditional Theatre)of the Thamils of Sri Lanka: From tradition to Reformulation.
A Journey through Participatory Action Research


Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Mind blossoms and spreads it's
Intellect frragrance of freedom

The fiercely forced silence
Is not destined
The concurrence with occupation

Physical languish
And the mental anguish
Distribute not the prospects

But arrogant minds fail
To conceive and consume
Nothing but resistance

December 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Oh dear my child
You have to wait at least
The age of eighteen
Until have to take refuge
Under the trees or
Behind the tree trunks
Or at your usual resident
Where you bury yourself alive
The bunker you inherited
As the house of yours
In the age of e.world

And you can keep it
For the future
If you can or if you have
A future
In the humanitarian world
As the heritage
Of your living mode
If you and all
Are save and alive
Under the barrages of
Shells and bombs of
The almighty liberators
Of you and all
Under the dark sun

December 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Papa brings you
This time
Not a bag full of gift
But a bag of grief
Filled with full of
Field fresh body parts
Collected from the
Grounds of battle
And you
You will be failed
If you try and find
The race in the limps
That scattered
On the grounds
The hands
That nourished
The tender limps
With love and oil
Squeezes its hearts
In grief and pain
Papa will bring you
The grief and pain
Of the hands that
Nourished with love and oil
And field fresh body parts
Collected from the
Grounds of battle

S.JeyasankarDecember 2008



My dear friends
I wish to greet you all
But have words
Only to grief

My heart is filled full
With disfigured
And decomposed
Bodies and body parts
Of brothers and sisters
Scattered all around

And my mind
Is derailing with
The images of
Young disabled
With flying heart
And immobile body
In silent scream
With tears of blood

We all learnt
To call it
Differently able

But still not to learn
How to keep safe
The bold
And the enthusiastic

The children of
Hardly laboured mothers
From the inborn disease
Of warring man kind

My dear friends
I wish to greet you all
But have words
Only to grief

Where people
Do not know
How to live together
But to Kill each other

Only to thrust
A pole with a cloth
Call it as a flag

December 2008

Challenges of Alli: A Reformulated Kooththu

Kooththu photos which were captured in the performance held on 20th December 2008 at Institute of Swami Vipulananda Aesthetic studies for the festival on Swami Vipulananda memorial day.
The performances of the Kooththu, the traditional theatre of the Thamils of Sri Lanka was extended with a forum facilitated by the Parai Araivon, the traditional drummer.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Call of the coloures and lines of Vasan 2

Call of the Coloures and lines of Vasan


I laughed and laughed
And laughed again
When you register me
With forms and forms
And forms of
Different colours and hues
With hooks of questions
And put me into files
Of different colours
According to your knowledge
And providing me with
A cup of drink
And a mouth full of smile
I laughed and laughed
And laughed again
How can I help
To cure you
From the sickness of
Fear and suspicion
How can I make you
Believe and relieve
That you are the cause
Of your own sickness
Fear and suspicion
Is not new like HIV
It’s historic and hereditary
Born with the authoritarians
Like a twin child
And haunts from within
I laughed and laughed
And laughed again

October 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Galileo’s Priests

Priests of Galileo
Are not dead and gone
They are alive
And exist
Every nook and corner
And in all spheres of life

Priests of Galileo
Are not dead and gone

If they are not aware
That’s not exists
If they don’t want
That’s too won’t exists

Priests of Galileo
Are not dead and gone

They are the species
Stick them around
The throne of power houses
And define and dictate
Not only false
But truth too

Priests of Galileo
Are not dead and gone

October 2008

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Two books in English from Maddakkalappu

K.S. Sivakumaran

A man strongly rooted in his own Yaalpaanam culture works as a senior lecturer teaching Drama and Theatre Arts at the Eastern University in Vantharoo Moolai. He is virtually settled there and tries his best to acquire the culture of the people in the East. He is a publisher of a periodical called Third Eye in English. He brings out other publications as well. We learn that he is the coordinator Third Eye Local knowledge and Skills Activities Group and Third Eye English Forum. His name is Sivagnanam Jeyasankar.
A collection of his articles titled Drum of a Herald is one of his publications. In his Foreword (printed as Forward) the author writes:
"Drum of a Herald is a response to marginalization and denial. The collection of articles written in English from years 2000 to 2008 will reveal the above mentioned statement"
Priced at rs.50/- this booklet is available at 30, Old Rest House Road, Maddakkaappu. An Introduction to the book is given by one James Thompson of Centre for Applied Theatre Research, University of Manchester. In that Jeyasankar is praised as follows: I would argue (that Jeyasankar) is one of the most important voices in a new generation of theatre scholars, practitioners and activists emerging from the Sri Lankan Tamil community"
There are 13 articles in the book. Most of them are on folk theatre (Kooththu in Thamil). But I particularly appreciated his comments on DCRA Goonatilleke's and Ranjini Obeysekera's biases in disregarding Lankan Thamil contribution.
In another article titled "Research through Imperial Eyes", the writer says: "Colonial construct of the education system and neocolonial impositions and influences on educational reforms have led to the alienation of the people, especially the intellectual community, from their own environment"
On page 58, the writer gives a list of creative Lankan writers in English. And they happen to have some connection with the Thamil community in Lanka. Historians of Lankan English Literature seem to conveniently ignore most of them in their accounts. The names are:
"C.V. Velupillai, Tambimuttu, Alagu Subramaniam, S.J.K. Crowther, T.Ramanathan Raja Proctor, Heather Loyala, Saraswathi Rockwood, Guy Amirthanayagam, T. Somasundaram, V.Ariyanayagam, Shyam Selvadurai, Bamini Selvadurai, Valan, Indran Amirthanayagam, S.Pathmanathan, S.Thillainathan, Pon Ganeshan and several others."
IOn page 62, the writer gives the following information regarding his mentors:
"The emergence of the 'English Forum' with the support and guidance of Prof S. Canaganayagam, Prof Suresh Canagarajah, A.J. Canagaratna, S. Rajasingam and the involvement of T. Somasundaram gave the morale boost at the initiation and the development of the process of identifying and establishing a tradition for the writing in English by the Thamilians of Sri Lanka."
The Third Eye also published a slim book of 40 pages titled Just Being Me. It is by an adolescent named Tamil Selvi a.k.a Tina Angelin. She attempts to write poetry and her recurring theme invariably is melancholy and sadness and self pity even though there are few lines that suggest positive thinking. There are 31 compositions-most of them lack freshness in treatment or imagination. But there is a tinge of her personal felt experiences centering on hopelessness.
The painting in the cover by Kamala Vasuki is artistic. There in hardly any details about the young 'poet'. She could turn out to write better poetry as time goes by and when she read good poems from the repertoire of fine poetry in English.

Thursday, September 25, 2008


“War on Terror” is
The topic of the time

A highly demanded good
In the market of world politics
Where a handful rules
And defined and defended it as
Politics of people’s democracy

In addition to various offerings
To the ritual of
The people’s democracy
Of the Market politics
Hundreds and thousands of
Poorest of the poor innocents
Offer their valueless lives

In order to celebrate
The free world of liberalism
Of the Market Giants

It’s good or bad
Raising issues and questions
Towards the Kings of Market Politics
To define terrorism first
And discover
The roots of cause next
Before waged a “War on Terrorism”
Not an act of intelligent practice

Asking questions
And raising issues towards King Nero
Meant for King Oedipus
Will only bring fear and pathos
It’s the essence of tragedy

Just write a poem
For cathartic purposes

August 2008


Who am I?!

I am proud
I am a Man
No, not a Modern
Next to Modern
But no
Definitely not a post modern

Man is not the centre
Of the Universe now
I am aware
The nature is not
In the custody of Man
And it will not be too

Science and Technology
The intellectual weapons
Of Inventions and Discoveries
For conquering and control
Of the Modern Man
Experiences its limitations
Even though
Had breakthroughs
Into new frontiers

I am not given up
Who am I to given up
The power of control
But a paradigm shift

I positioned myself
The centre of Mankind
All the visible and invisible
Creatures of the Universe

Who am I to given up?
I am the authentic
And the direct descendant
Of the Modern Man

If you like
Can call me
Neo Modern Man

But definitely
Definitely not a post modern

I am not bothered about
The tremors or quakes
Cyclones or Tsunamis
Floods or the other fatal disasters
Nature thrust on Mankind
And I am not concerned about
Warning or early warning systems
Other than the private purposes

I am aware that some evil forces
Imagining and manipulating
That I might behind
The Natural disasters too

I will make use of it
To exhibit my generous character
By relieving them with
Goods of Mass Pacification

I am still march forward
Not for my mere survival
But to exhibit my fitness
By manufacturing and marketing
“Weapons of Mass Destruction”
To terrorise and to democratise
The world of mine
The Neo Modern World

August 2008

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


"Just Being Me"
Collection of Poems in English By Tamil Selvi
Prasanna Ramaswamy( Writer and Theatre Activist)
Kutti Revathi(Poet and Femenist Activist)

"Drum of a Herald"
Collection of Articles in English By S. Jeyasankar
Prof. S. Raveendran
Mr. Pralayan (Theatre Activist)

Venue: Alliance Francaise De Madras
40, College Road, Nungambakkam,

Date and Time: Saturday, 19th July 2008,
05.30 - 08.00pm


Works of M.Thanapakhiam, Sri Lankan Thamil Women Writer

Invitation for Release of Two Books on 19th July 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

“Subathrai Kalyanam” (Wedding of Subathrai).

“Subathrai Kalyanam” (Wedding of Subathrai).

Staging of Vadamodi Kooththu (Traditional Theatre of the Thamils of Sri Lanka)

Venue: - Narasingha Vairavar Swami Temple in Batticaloa
(Near the Railway Station- Batticaloa)

Date: - 07.07.2008 Monday

Time: - 08.00 PM – 11.30 PM

Produced by: - Seelamunai Kalai Kazhaham
Moondravathukann Local Knowledge and Skill Activists Group.

We are inviting you all for the performance!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

DRUM OF A HERALD: Collection of Articles in English


It gives me great pleasure to introduce this collection of articles by S. Jeyasankar, who I would argue is one of the most important voices in a new generation of theatre scholars, practitioners and activists emerging from the Sri Lankan Tamil community. As is demonstrated here, his work crosses disciplinary borders to combine analysis of theatre, language and the position of women in what I would call examples of committed scholarship. In each article he articulates a passion for issues of justice, but from a position of equality with the communities in which he works. American activist and academic Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick recently talked about how the appropriate relationship between academics and their communities should never be one of mastery: she urged that we should place ourselves besides them as we conduct our work. I would argue that it is this ethics of being beside, connected to but not claiming superiority over, that is impressively illustrated in this collection.

My association with Jeyasankar goes back several years as someone who has been privileged to visit him in Batticaloa and witness at first hand the community-based reformulation projects in that region. My presence in that area owes a lot to the quotation that he offers from Ranjini Obeyesekere’s book on ‘Sri Lankan’ theatre. I was originally invited to run participatory theatre courses for people working with youth affected by the conflict in Jaffna in 2000 by UNICEF. My preparation for that visit included reading Obeyesekere’s book which, while very informative on southern Sri Lankan responses to the situation of the 1980s, unfortunately conspired to imply that ‘because of the war’ Tamil theatre ‘was almost non-existent’. My experience in Jaffna, where I saw theatre by the Centre for Performing Arts, met members of the Theatre Action Group and was introduced to the playwright Shanmugalingam quite abruptly illustrated the degree to which this view was mistaken: because of the war and in spite of the war the theatre community in Jaffna was energetic and very much ‘existent’. These examples of theatre practice, discussed in detail in the articles here by Jeyasankar, showed that what exists is very much a product of who has the ability and power to distribute the knowledge about it. In many ways Jeyasankar’s collection is the necessary riposte to the view that theatre had not survived the war.

But this is not what took me to the east of Sri Lanka specifically. Jeyasankar’s strength in this edition is to make a perceptive critique of the inequality of how information is transferred and how knowledge becomes a tool for maintaining dependency on colonial forms of power. The very fact that UNICEF had invited me to run those workshops in Jaffna is very much part of the inequality and part of the global system of knowledge control that Jeyasankar is criticising. The international ‘expert’ is viewed as having knowledge to pass onto the ‘local’ in a form of education transmission that fails to recognise the knowledge that already exists within different communities. So my presence in Jaffna in 2000 in one sense demonstrated how wrong Obeyesekere was, but also how wrong UNICEF and I were in assuming that there was a knowledge deficit to be overcome. I was invited to teach participants about theatre with youth in an area that had one of the strongest and most sophisticated children’s theatre traditions in South Asia. There is an English expression ‘taking coals to Newcastle’ meaning taking something to a place where it already exists in abundance (taking mangoes to Jaffna, taking prawns to Batticaloa might be equivalents) and in my first visit to Jaffna I can be accused of being the proverbial coal. The experience in that setting indicated that my interest in Sri Lanka should be more about me as pupil not as teacher: there was a tradition of practice that I wanted to learn more about. And the news of Jeyasankar’s work, from Professor Sivathamby in Colombo, Professor Mounaguru from Eastern University and different colleagues in Jaffna, inspired me to go and learn – and eventually took me to Batticaloa where Jeyasankar and colleagues from the Third Eye Local Knowledge and Skill Activists Group generously demonstrated their practice and shared their experiences.

Jeyasankar’s writing in these articles covers a range of diverse topics and themes. He writes forcefully about discrimination against women, and how men escape the censorious rumour mongering that seeks to prevent women taking an active role in public life. The news that one woman committed suicide as a result of these attacks, indicates the seriousness of these insults and the hypocrisy of those that claim they are seeking to protect some version of honour. Jeyasankar rightly condemns this as part of the wider picture of violence against women. The commitment to the struggle against discrimination is also evident in other pieces in the collection – from the negative impact of a rigid form of education to the politics of translation. Each cleverly shows how what on the surface might appear to be benign activities have injustices and inequalities structured through them. Teaching is not a neutral form that might have political content – but the actual form is political. The way teaching, research and translation are conducted all have implications for who participates in what Obeyesekere called the ‘permitted space’ and widening the framework for who has that permission to participate is central to Jeyasankar’s analysis and practice.

The reformulation of kooththu is mentioned in different places across this edition. I believe that it is in this area especially that Jeyasankar has made a major contribution to the development of what he calls the ‘establishment of a community-based applied theatre tradition among the Tamils of Sri Lanka’ or elsewhere an ‘organic form of community theatre’. The impressive nature of this programme is that it is both rooted in a traditional form of practice, but does not reify that practice as fixed or pure. His is an engagement with a tradition seeking to understand it as subject to change and as a performance form that is focused on process and not solely on product. Kooththu is both strengthened and reinvigorated during reformulation and also it becomes an important means via which crucial issues within communities in eastern Sri Lanka are debated. In all this work, Jeyasankar does not position himself as a person from the university studying the practice of others – but he places himself beside communities struggling to create performances that are intimately connected and relevant to their lives. This edition is an excellent testimony to that practice and to that vision.

James Thompson

Centre for Applied Theatre Research

University of Manchester

Just Being Me

On the occacion of the release of books "Just being me" and Drums of Hearald"
Poet 'Kutty' Revathy is the reviewer of the book "Just being me"

"This is poetry very much in the mode of the West's "rap" poets and "spoken word" poets, very avante garde. She writes with the energy of the Twenty-First Century's hopefulness and savvy, and of youth's determination to build a just, generous and healing world. Her work will inspire readers everywhere."

Marilyn Krysl

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Playing with Parai Araivon (Herald) in Kooththu (Traditional Theatre) of the Tamils of Sri Lanka

From Tradition to Reformulation: A Journey through Participatory
Action Research.

Kooththu is the Traditional Theatre of the Tamils of Sri Lanka. Parai Araivon (Herald) is one of the "interesting" characters in the Kooththu
performance. The arrival of the Parai Araivon on to the Kalari (round stage) kindles the spectators and gets them into laughter.

The role of Parai Araivon in Kooththu is to convey the official message (pirasitham) of the court. Basically, Parai Araivon is also a servant of the King and also the citizen of the Kingdom like the Kaddiyankkaran, a dignified character which narrates the arrival of the King to the Court.

But the portrayal of the Parai Araivon is different in treatment from all the other characters of the Kooththu. He is portrayed as a comic element in a negative manner. It's a reflection of caste oppression among the Tamils of Sri Lanka.

It also paved way for conflicts and clashes among the castes of Tamils in Sri Lanka Vies a vie Parior versus other castes who perform Kooththu which contains the element of the traditional portrayal of the Parai Araivon.

The exploration of the politics of traditional portrayal of Parai Araivon and the reformulation process and the character in Kooththu through Participatory Action Research is the on going theatre research activism of the Third Eye.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Story Untold

Painting of Kamala Vasuki

It’s a bright Sunday morning
A girl sits down to think
About the things she has faced
All through her life
She thinks of the battle and the scars
And about those who don’t seem to understand
Where she stands
She cries out for help
But they act deaf
She sheds her tears
And they shut their eyes
Everyday she thinks she can tell her feeling
But she just ends up bleeding
The scars are many
The helpers are few
The hurt is bad
That makes her sad
She expects a lot
But ends up getting shot
Every time she thinks she’s got what she wants
She seems so happy
That she goes back into being a baby
But It’s all short lived
When she realizes that it just stays for two minutes
She’s scared to open her mouth
Because she knows that they will shout
But who else has she got
Still, it makes no difference to them
And they don’t want to treat her like gem
If anything happens, they pull out her past
And that’s something that they all do so fast
Night falls and she goes to her bed weeping
Hoping to tell her story untold
That makes her feel so cold

Santhira Nimalan Tamilselvi

Friday, June 20, 2008


Hush now don’t say a word
Just close your eyes and see the world
The peace, the beauty that surrounds your mind
Is not what you’ll get to see on the outside
Serenity is a quality one must develop
The beauty of it lies underneath your cup
The cup of life is in your hands
Use it wise, use it while you can
Live your life to the fullest
Yes, I have heard that a million times before
But have you thought about the rest
Rest assured you will have places to go
I would love to see the world
The world I see when I shut my eyes
Hopes and dreams fade the minute I open my eyes
I am willing to press on till my last breath
I will not give up even if am in my death bed
Serenity, we will get there for sure
With our eyes open
We will make a secure future.
Santhira Nimalan Tamilselvi

Painting of Kamala Vasuki

A collection of poems by Santhira Nimalan Tamilselvi will be published with the cover painting of Kamala Vasuki soon.
It will be a publication of THIRDEYE English Forum.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

to aj

to aj
aj, does it seem strange,
that i would write this to you,
about you, how you could survive
the gun man’s revenge and die
in a hospital bed, rest in peace
in mortality.
one sudden moment, i see you at my side,
on the long stone corridor of the arts
faculty, off to a wedding i was
uninvited to; and you bring back
a piece of the pie, the wedding cake,
a peace offering for the lost years, for
old times’ sake, the curfew hours, the
soft muffled tones, circling
our literary talk on those
lamp lit nights on the porch.
the stillness of those heady days of long laughing nights
and full throated cry of the nation’s longing,
when jaffna woke up from its slumber
into a murderous rampage of kith and kin,
friend and foe. the tear stricken face;
the umbilical cord, ripped, comes
apart, bloody, in our hands;
you sat on the side lines
a trickster figure almost, like in a painting,
tiny and smiling, suggesting silence.
i am writing
only of death these bomb-filled days,
of the dying and our undoing, and it
seems fitting
that i should write about
you, aj, for laughing at murder in its face.
there is nothing natural about death, or even
sunshine, alcohol and old age. there is nothing
natural about the quiet in the leaves on the
mango trees, the still night broken
by the dog barking in endless fear; there is
nothing natural about natural death,
frightening us with normality
that cannot be, dropped
into the nothingness,
the severance of our waking days.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008



DATE: 7th and 8th June 2008
TIME: 9.00 a.m. to 5 p.m.



Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A look at the shifting usages of the Tamil language in Sri Lanka today : from a theatrical perspective

A look at the shifting usages of the Tamil language in Sri Lanka today : from a theatrical perspective

Sivagnanam Jeyasankar

Jeyasankar was born and grew up in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, and graduated in Drama and Theatre Arts from the University of Jaffna where he was a temporary assistant lecturer in these subjects for two years. He later taught at Eastern University, in Batticaloa. As a “person and a theatre person” as he describes himself, he is, through the educational workshops he conducts all over the country, and in India, in continual contact with the various groups who suffer from displacement as a result of the fighting in Sri Lanka; and he brings a highly tuned ear and informed understanding to the way the Tamil language is shifting all the time and adapting itself in its everyday usages to disruptive conditions that, amongst many other effects, throw together people from different regions and different dialect groups who might otherwise never have come into contact.

This paper that represents a journey through the landscape of displacement and diaspora, with especial reference throughout to usage and variations in current spoken Tamil in Sri Lanka. Jeyasankar shared with the members of the conference his passionately held belief in theatre as an instrument for social change, vividly described the uprooted and uncertain life of the war torn country, and made mention of administrative policies with regard to language as well as to developments in education.

The basic question in this regard is, are we going to celebrate the differences in languages, or are we willing to opt for a standard language that would relieve us of the burden of hierarchical varieties? Or shall we just leave it to market forces to restructure everything?

From Jaffna to Batticaloa is only 500 km. but in this time of war it takes three or four days and nights to cover the distance, most of the time under the surveillance of koalmoody:

‘koalmoody’, informers from the air, as helicopters are popularly called in the “liberated areas” occupied by the militants. If the cry of ‘keli’ - heli goes up among Tamils, then everyone will know there is an alert. Bomper-bomber or sahadai - a converted cargo plane, is used to drop locally made peepa kundu - barrel bombs,and in emergency, to throw human waste. Sahadai is a big, slow moving wooden vehicle used to carry gods and godesses in Hindu temples, and the converted cargo plane is like a ‘sahadai’ in the sky, not because of its contents but because of its size and mobility.

It is relevant to mention a joke about a bomber and bombing at this juncture. One person says to another, "'Eay- hey- look there, it’s bomping". The other one replies, " It’s not bomping, "b" is silent”. The first one corrects himself "oh, its oomping” -to suck , although most derogatory this word is, perhaps regrettably, frequently used.

Military boarders, check posts and check points have to be crossed so often that chekin is a popular term for "checking" among Tamils in Sri Lanka. There are sooniya pirathesangal- no-man's lands, areas with warning boards saying kannivedi kavanam, “beware of landmines”. People say ulavaalikal kavanam-beware of spys and I or eye for intelligence is also very commonly used. During the practice of parading suspects in front of mundams- persons already arrested, or informers used by the security forces to identify 'terrorists ' The mundams cover their heads with sacks or cloths to hide their identity and are called Mundam which means body without head, commonly used to denote people doing unintelligent things. In domestic life mundam is often used by a husband to his wife and is frequently to servants too. This already oppressive word now gains tremendous flavour; it terrifies people, even in their dreams. mundam varuthu- mundam is coming; mundam/mundankal kidakkutha- there are bodies without heads over there, is an oft heard remark these days.

Tamils mostly live in the north and in the east-northeastern provinces of Sri Lanka: malaiyaha makal ,upcountry Tamils in the central province, melaha makkal , Colombo Tamils in the western province, and a dense population of Tamil speaking Muslims in the east, in the north, and all over Sri Lanka. These are the people who are responsible for the spread of the Tamil language to every corner of Sri Lanka.

The Burgher community, particularly in the eastern province, and the Memon/Malay communities in the western province are the most minor among the minorities. Another interesting feature is that modern Sri Lankan politics, based on those of ancient Ceylon, divide the Veddha people into Sinhala Veddhas and Tamil Veddahas.

The name Sri Lanka itself has to do with the politics of the Tamil language in Sri Lanka: the constitutional change of 1972 brought not only a new face to the country but a new name to it too. Even the labels of popular Ceylon tea were reprinted to read Srilankan tea. But in Tamil, Ilangai remains unchanged. All official documents are in English in Sri Lanka and if something is in Tamil it's Ilangai: this may be a minor practice in our daily life but the politics hidden in it are not minor.

There are a variety of dialects among Sri Lankan Tamils. The dialects of the Northeastern province differ from one another according to region, such as Jaffna, Kilinochi, Mullaitivu, Mannar and Vavuniya in the north, and Batticaloa, Trincomalle and Ampara in the east.

Colombo and Negombo in the western province, Kandy, Matale and Nuwara Eliya in the central province, Baddulle in the Uva province and Puttlam in the northwestern province, are comparatively densely populated with Tamils and experience the inter- and intra-regional differences of Tamil dialacts.

A few glimpses of words and meanings should be enough to portray the differences, and the hierarchical nature, of dialects among the Tamils of Sri Lanka. The varieties in tone, style and body language in communication is beyond the capacity of the written texts to record.

Pachchathanniyil paniyaram suduthal- toasting sweets in water, is a saying popular among the Tamils of Jaffna, but when it was used in a theatre workshop Batticaloa in the east, the usage made the participants uneasy. It was a terrible shock to the director to find that paniyaram is used in the villages of the area to denote the sexual organ of women.

Tamils in the north ridicule easterners for using the word kiruhi/kiruhu - turn around or to turn, and, in the same way, easterners ridicule northerners for using penththu to mean later, when for easterners it means, to ease; they also laugh at avai and uvai –they, as popularly used by Jaffna Tamils.

The popular usage of avai, ivai and uvai among Jaffna Tamils, to express different hierarchial and distancing nuances of the word, they, exposes the exclusive nature of Jaffna society; these same words are used by people of other regions to humiliate Jaffna people.

The words nee, neer and neengal – you, in different shades of meaning are in frequent use among Jaffna Tamils, but the word neer is adroitly used to maintain a middle path in communication between informal and formal.

Tamil soldiers of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPFK) made a positive impression on Sri Lankan Tamils, but their casual use of the word nee – you, made people so addressed uneasy and irritated because it is used for inferiors, whether of lower caste or in lower grade positions. The familiar Hindi expression challo challo, which was frequently used by the IPKF soldiers when hitting or chasing people, was in popular use during that period among Tamils, both in earnest and jokingly.

The variety of the upcountry Tamils is another unique feature we have to look into. Upcountry Tamils who were brought to Ceylon by the East Indian Company as cheap labour on the tea estates, have about three hundred years of history in Sri Lanka. Their dialect is regarded as the language of servants; not only were they enslaved by the East Indian Company but they were also used as low paid servants by high caste Tamils of Jaffna.

In popular drama, their dialect is used for servants and comic characters, eg: aamanka iya, varenka iya -with slavish body language. But at the same time creative writers are using that dialect in works published in Tamil Nadu, and Sri Lanka, where South Indian Tamils reigned over the editorial policies of the print media during the 1950s and 60s.

The political emergence of the minorities-within-minorities has liberated them to a certain extent. A particular achievement of the Tamils of Indian origin is the establishment of the name "upcountry Tamils" instead of their traditional label, thoaddakaaddaar- those who work on the tea estates.

People from other regions call Jaffna people, yarlpaani, yarlppaanam being the Tamil version of Jaffna. Paani-syrup, and panagkoddai- palmyra seed, denote narrow mindedness or the ‘frog in the well’ mentality, whereas panai - the palmyra tree, emerged as the symbol of resistance in the war and is an important symbol in art and literary works about the war.

Attempts, such as those already mentioned, to establish superiority over others, go on even within a region. In Batticaloa, the people from Ealuvan Karai –where the sun rises, call people of Paduvaan Karai-where the sun sets, kaaddaankal-foresters. In Jaffna, the people of the islands are called theevar - inferior to others. All the groupings within communities have their own terms for expressing their own superiority and the inferiority of others. Education, the media, and migration itself, are helping to direct the younger generation away from this kind of labeling which is part of a tradition which education is making attempts at ameliorating.

In order that the Sinhala language be prevented from swamping Sri Lanka, where all government initiatives have Sinhala names, e.g. grama sevaka -legal administrative heads of villages, there has to be resistance. The reflection of that resistance in language may be seen in, for instance, the way the very popular terms laksala and salusala – a type of controlled price store, are ridiculed by moderate Tamil politicians who call them malasala,

War, part and parcel of the daily life for the Sri Lankan Tamils, brings new terms and terminologies, many of them politically loaded, and these are nowadays used casually in ordinary conversation. Kompumuri, for example, is a traditional ritualized game of the Tamils of eastern Sri Lankan communities, full of secret rituals and techniques: the community is divided into two zones, vada seri- north zone and then seri- south zone, and both zones prepare for the ritual game in secret ways for many days. Keeping the secrets during this period is so important that there will be fights between married partners over it but somehow the secrets will be kept. Even husband and wife are divided and fight each other during this period. The word recce, from reconnaissance, is used for finding out the other side’s secrets; even very old people use this word which was originally used in military circles for secret missions.

Significantly, the concepts of thiyahi –martyr - and thurohi – traitor, are also familiar to all. Firing, round-up, chekin-checking, pistol, claymore, shell, multibarrel, gunpoint, convoy, inquiry, kidnap, pass, landmine, blast: these are some of the terms *taken from English, in everyday use by Sri Lankan Tamils.

So much vocabulary coined from the horrors of war has not nudged out the variations that are appearing in all spoken languages connected with modern systems and technology. Terms such as sisu uthana, pathuma vimana, vanitha vasana-fortunate ladies, and ithuru mithuru, kantha ran ginum-gold quest of women: these names of banks’s savings and loans schemes, give evidence of the influence of Sinhala on Tamil in Sri Lanka.

Continuous displacement has meant that many people live for long periods as refugees in welfare centers where different communities are all mixed together. New life patterns and unfamiliar activities bring new usages onto the scene. The words “queue” and “relief” are very widely used as Tamil words, for the lives of the people are lived with reference to these two words. Sandai – war, idampeyarvu – displacement, and nivaranam- relief, are three Tamil words, intertwined, not only as terms, but as living experiences too. The development of the term, enjeeoh –NGO, is then logical, both in word and fact. The words pathivu – registration and identi – identity card, have become part of the body and soul of the Tamils of Sri Lanka; someone without pathivu and identi is equal to a dead person. Identi eaduthiya?, Identi enga*,identi konduvanthiya?, pathivuv vaichatha? or pathinchatha/ pathinchacha? Pathivu and identi are very directly connected with the life and death of Sri Lankan Tamils, since these are the two basic things they need for their safety and relief.

"Identi enke?", identi edu, identi iruka, ID edu: the authoritative, sinhalesed, demands of security personnel have become familiar over more than three decades. Then there is tax, vati in Tamil, the subject of many humorous oral stories. Vaddi-interest, another term much used amongst Tamils over a long period has now become civilized to "interest", "interest in Tamil rate", "interest free". And then, amongst all these developments, there is that of the internet by which Tamils may connect with each other in their mother tongue.

Any survey of Tamil dialects in Sri Lanka must give prominence to Tamil speaking Muslims, whose role in the development of Tamil in its written and spoken forms has been extremely influential. In Tamil, they are respectfully referred to as Muslim but the term sony will be used when the expression is of hostility; the Muslims of course have their own terms for res ponding to this.

Another group worthy of attention for different reasons is the Burghers, who are living among Tamils, particularly in Batticola, and who are willing to maintain their identity but not really their language, Portukis. The elite amongst them prefer English but the ordinary people speak Tamil. Tamils are disparaging about Burghers, calling them 'Paranki'; once again, the Burghers have their own ways of disparaging Tamils.

It is very much to be regretted that most people in Tamil Nadu, where large numbers of Sri Lankan Tamils are living as refugees, are still unaware that there are Tamils living in Sri Lanka; so the first questions are, neengal Sri Lankava/Ceylona? and nalla thamil pesariyale?- are you Sri Lankan? and, you speak good Tamil! The Tamils of Tamil Nadu identify Sri Lankan Tamils with Keralites, neengal keralava?.

Under these circumstances, miscommunication is rampant. Take for example, the usage of kathaiththal and pesuthal for, to speak, by Sri Lankan and South Indian Tamils respectively. Another miscommunication arose in a theatre workshop at Madurai, Tamil Nadu when the participants were asked, irunka -to sit, and didn't, even when the request was repeated . Irunka means sit for Sri Lankan Tamils but for Tamils in Tamil Nadu it means, wait. For the participants to have sat , the term should have been ukkarunka. In Sri Lanka nillunka means, wait, nillunka vaaran- wait, I will come.

Manmade and natural disasters play havoc with the lives of Tamils in Sri Lanka, uproot them and scatter them to mix with strangers from other regions, speaking Tamil certainly, but often in very unfamiliar ways. People’s thought processes are affected by these experiences and, over time, there will be deterioration of local culture and local skills will be forgotten. The vital question is: how are we going to liberate ourselves from alienation and avoid disintegration?

Good theatre dialogue requires a clear understanding of the ground realities of all the varieties of poin of view, so concentrating on the language usage of people of different states and from different castes and classes is essential in understanding all these realities.

At this point a dialogue from a school play by Kulanthai M. Shanmukalingam, from the mid 80s comes to mind. A female character, a refugee from 1983 riots in Colombo, is talking about the sufferings of refugees at the hands of thugs and of how Perera Uncle saved them.

She says: 'kaadaiyariddai irinthu Perera Uncle than engalai kapatinavar' -Perera Uncle is the person who saved us from thugs

Another character exclaims: 'Perera enda Sinkalavanallo' - Perera is a Sinhalease isn’t he?

There is always a burst of laughter as a reaction to this dialogue which has an inter-related, two-pronged meaning: it refers to the innocence of the character and to the awareness of the audience that all Sinhalese are not Kaadaiyar-thugs. The play cleverly liberates the audience from stereotypes, which are mostly used as comic and negative elements, and instead deals with actual conflict.

Modern Tamil theatre is being employed in Srilanka as alternative education and therefore concerns itself with the condition of education today and with ways of improving it and of releasing students from constrictive and wasteful systems.

The role of the theatre, in this context, is to stimulate people to connect themselves in a positive way and to create multi-dimensional societies. Theatre must engage itself as an alternative to the media and to conventional education, and in Sri Lanka it must do that in a war torn land amongst people who are in a state of disassociation.

Language will always be a primary tool in theatre work, whether the language being used reflects that of the actual period depicted or not. Today, moves are being made towards a more faithful representation of spoken language in literature and drama. Those who work in theatre are necessarily alert to the way language is used; every tour of the native land is a journey through language and expression…

Monday, June 02, 2008



The festival chariot shines
In its majestic grandeur
Reaching out high
Into the blue sky
The bulls below, yoked to the chariot
Are thoroughly exhausted,
Panting, foaming at their mouths.
The chariot moves because the bulls pull.
But the decorative wooden horses
On the prominent top row
Remain in their proud galloping poses.
Most of the people have lost sight of
The exhausted old beasts below.

R Murugaiyan
(Written circa 1970 in Tamil & translated by the author)

Website: www.ndpsl.org

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Shaumuhalingam's Three Plays- Review

Shanmugalingam Three Plays, trans. S. Pathmanathan. Kumaran Book House
It is often said that there are three levels at which one can enjoy a piece of theatre. First, in performance, where an audience member experiences the full emotional and intellectual force of a piece as it is played out live in front of them. Second, by reading the script and appreciating the quality of the writing, but with little knowledge of how the piece is transformed once on stage. And finally, through review – whereby the quality of the script or production is relayed through the words of others.
Until now my appreciation of the work of Shanmugalingam had been in this third category. I can remember vividly in my first visit to Jaffna in 2000, how actors from Theatre Action Group explained, with infectious enthusiasm, how the first production of Man Sumantha Meniyar was received across the peninsula. They outlined the plot, the style of the production and the reaction of the audiences. Later that year I was given another detailed account by Sithamparanatham, encouraging me to find out more about the play – but of course leaving me frustrated that there were no available English translation. Similarly I can remember discussions with Sopa Pathmanathan as he explained why Entayum Tayum was his favourite play by Shanmugaligam. I could only guess as to the quality of the play and wished I could understand the written Tamil. Finally, in conversations with Shanmugalingam himself, I remember hearing the stories about the reception of the play Velvithee and, like all significant theatre, the very real debates it stimulated. At the time I imagined it as a modern day version of Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ but had little way of testing my assumption.
This edition – beautifully translated by Sopa Pathmanathan – is thus a realisation of a strong desire for me to know Shanmugalingam’s plays at what I called above the second level of appreciation: at last I can read them. They now come alive for me as an English speaker – and their breadth and quality jumps from the page. What I have learned reading them for the first time is that each in its own way can be seen as embedded in an important historical moment in the history of Jaffna and Sri Lanka more broadly. The specifics of the conflict in the 1980s, the themes of migration and then the impact of sexual violence – each illustrate that Shanmugaligam was (and is) writing in a way that demonstrates his firm connection to his ‘soil’; in terms of history, culture and current pressing issues. In some ways the first two plays in the book speak to each other. The demand in Man Sumantha Meniyar for the people to resist the urge to flee is responded to in Entayum Tayum with the vision of those left behind once many have, in fact, left. Optimism, and perhaps idealism, becomes tempered by pragmatics as the elders of the community wait for their absent families to write. The poignancy of this latter piece speaks to an audience well beyond Sri Lanka and in many ways illustrates the importance of Shanmugalingam as a playwright speaking to audiences outside his particular geographical and historical context. The isolation of the elderly – and the international pressures on migration and communication – are intimately captured in this piece, and I believe mark it as an important work which should be performed by communities in many different contexts.
Velvithee repeats the themes in Man Sumantha Meniyar where the pressures of cultural practices meet the contingencies of the conflict in Sri Lanka. The women counsellor who works in the field of sexual violence, when victimised herself, is caught in the complex emotional and cultural demands that intellectually she has encouraged others to resist. This piece illustrates the dilemmas inherent in a community that is subject to external violence – cultural practices both sustain and protect, and also can prevent recovery. This is movingly revealed in this piece, where the lead role, Vasuhi, is, as I had anticipated, the modern day Nora, who is forced to confront the restrictions of her culture from a position of her deep respect for it practices. In Ibsen’s ‘A Doll’s House’ Nora leaves her husband Helmer at the end of the play – tantalisingly, and I think appropriately, Shanmugalingam, leaves the end of his powerful play open. We can only guess what the future for Vasuhi holds, and the playwright thus forces an audience to answer the question that the piece poses.
Of course the sense of enjoyment I have from reading these plays, is still only an appreciation at what I called the second level. For me to understand their texture and feel fully, I need to see them in production. The publication of this excellent edition now makes this all the more likely. I hope English speaking students take on the challenge this book presents and start to stage new productions – which I also hope I have the opportunity to see. The desire kindled by the infectious enthusiasm for Shanimgalingam’s work demonstrated by those young actors in Jaffna, will then be fully realised – and my appreciation will then come from a level one experience.
James Thompson
University of Manchester

Saturday, April 12, 2008


Engagement in two encounters
As I Like it
by K. S. Sivakumaran
I was engaged in two encounters last week. 'Engagement' in the sense that I was a keen listener to erudite speakers. 'Encounter' really meant for me assimilation of ideas. The events were both in English and Thamil and it involved Thamilian personalities and their cultural or political-cultural aspects.
Regular readers would agree with me that I write on all aspects of the cultural and literary scene and not exclusively on Thamilian activities in these columns. And naturally I write about my own language and literature most in the absence of not many writing on these matters in English. And I am proud of my own cultural roots just as much as I am proud of my Lankan roots and Thamilian identity. That this does not mean that I am chauvinistic goes without saying. In fact I respect and love other aspects of culture which I deem admirable; irrespective of whatever medium or language it is expressed so long as I understand it.
That, however, was an overture.
Neelan Tiruchelvam Sixth Memorial Lecture
The first encounter was in regard to three speeches. The speakers were Emeritus Prof.Gananath Obbeysekera, world renowned Lankan scholar, Associate Professor Narendra Subramaniam of Political Science at McGill University, Montreal in Canada and Dr Manickalingam. The last two were Thamilians - one from India and the other from Lanka.
Subramaniam had seen known Prof.Gananath Obeysekera at Princeton University where the latter had studied. He had seen G.O. when he worked as a student waiter at the University canteen. This was revealed by Prof G.O., who chaired the occasion.
The event took place at the BMICH on July 29, 2005. It was the sixth Neelan Tiruchelvam Memorial Lecture. The lecturer, Narendra Subramaniam born to a Thamilan Brahmin father and a non - Brahmin mother, in Chennai in Thamilnadu spoke on " The Political Formation of Cultures: South Asian and Other Experiences". The address was organized by the International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo.
The speaker spoke extensively on "Identity Movements and Group Cultures", " Identity Movements and Cultural Change", "Identity Movements, Prior Alignments and Preexisting Material Cultures". I must say that I gleaned some aspects of the politics of the Indian subcontinent. Understandably the most interesting part of his lecture for us Sri Lankans was " By Way of a Conclusion: Aspects of the Political formation of Culture in Sri Lanka"
The saner voice of the speaker is reflected in the following statements:
Narendra Subramaniam observes
"The militant movement made possible openings for compromise and a peace more just than the one that preceded the civil war. However, the militarized construction of Thamil ethnicity and the strategic orientations which accompany it at least delayed a settlement, and might still prevent one. If the circumstances of the 1970s and the 1980s called forth a militaristic formation of Thamil culture, the situation today requires the re- formation of political culture."
"We can only hope that the pressures operating on both sides will lead to a settlement. If peace is to endure, it is crucial that a pluralistic polity be built. An important step towards this end is the effective contestation of militarized constructions of Sinhala and Thamil ethnicity. While visions which contest militarism exist, attacks from ethnic extremists eroded the sub-cultures embodying these visions. These sub-cultures need to be revitalized. The growth of alternative visions of identity citizenship should constraint those who might wish to continue to roar like lions and growl like tigers. Or rather, more people should learn that the beasts of the jungle coexist at least as often as they threaten or attack each other, even if they see themselves as lions or tigers. Some of the le4gacies of the long civil war and the terms on which it ends may hinder efforts to build alternatives to militarism. However, peace will only brighten the prospects of such alternatives."
Let me switch to another engagement which was in Thamil.
'Nattu Koothu' in pristine form
In Thamil we have the folk plays ( Nattu Kooththu) and the western tradition of modern plays in the field of drama. The late Prof S.Vithiananthan modernized Thamil folk plays and in his footsteps Prof.S.Maunaguru continues with his new extension "Layam". But there seems to be a challenge coming from the portals of the Eastern University where Maunaguru teaches. The new academics seem to be going back to the roots in the primitive and pristine form of folk plays as performed in the east starting from the tradition available still in a village called Seelamunai, not far from Mattakalappu. S.Jeyasangar, who hails from the north, is the younger academic currently exploring new trends and hitherto unnoticed traits in the folk plays of the east that have a strong 'Annaviar' (trainer/manager/director) tradition.
A student of the fine arts faculty of the university and presently an assistant lecturer is in the forefront engaged in deconstruction. His name is Gowrieswaran. I heard him reading two papers at the seminar held last Thursday and Friday. A lively discussion followed after several sessions. The event took place under the aegis of WERC.
I was present at a few presentations.
Recent Expression of the Arts and
Literature of Thamil Women
The tone of the above subject was to explore the varied themes prevalent. Thamil women generally identified with shades of feminism- Selvy Thiruchandran, Shanthi Sachchithananthan and Pathma Somakanthan- and S.Jeyashankar chaired the sessions.
Religious rituals and women was one subject. The participation of women in the rites in honour of female deities worshipped in Mattakalappu based on Navatkudah Nochchimunai Muthu Mariamman temple rituals were elucidated upon by K.Luther Jeevaka, K.Rusendiran, K.Kalaimagal and S.Jeyasankar. I was late for this session and the subsequent one which was on literature and women. Dr. S. Ypgarasa of the Eastern University made some observations on the writing of Lankan women militants.
Mathumai a youngster has shot up to prominence in winning prizes for her short stories. She is presently in Switzerland on a scholarship. She hails from Thirukoanamalai. Recently she brought out a collection of her short stories to which yours truly wrote a preface. Her father, himself a short story writer and a former magazine editor- Sivasubramaniam, who hails from the north, and a poet and critic, A.Iqbal expressed their views on the themes of young Mathumai.
Two papers scheduled were not presented.
T.Gowrieswaran addressing under the heading "Kooththu as an Art Form and the Women" was very clear and it was a revealing exposition. He specifically spoke on something like this (the typical academic headings): A look based on experience for a dialogue absorbing feminist thoughts in re-formation of Kooththu.
Students of the university R.Suboja, S.Stella, R.Tanuja, R.Vinoja and S.Jeyasakar talked about the ideals and challenges of women participation in the execution of Kooththu.
S.Sivanayagam a scenario assistant (Annaviar) and some of the other young women spoke on two themes of interpretations of epic characters. All these talks prompt me to visit Mattakaalppu to witness the changes taking place in the folk play tradition.
Clippings from A Thamil film made by Jeyadevi, an Indian woman with feminist stance was also shown. S.Nithya and T.Bruntha gave their reviews.
The two day session gave me an opportunity to learn more of indigenous cultural traits.
Vibhavi Patronage
The Vibhavi Cultural Centre is doing something positive in the fields of writing. Some of the people involved, as far as I know, are Jayatilaka Kammalaweera, Neervai Ponnian and S.Sivagurunathan. Last Sunday, July 31, 2005, there was a function at the Little Theatre in Borella. Prizes to young Sinhala, Thamil and Muslim creative writers were distributed. This is indeed a welcome task in fostering young writers.
E-mail: kssivan19@sltnet.lk
The Islan Online Edition


People Dressed In White

Every soul is precious
Every cry is heard
But still I see deaf ears
And eyes with fake tears
People dressed in white
Are not angels in disguise
When was the last time?
They ever did something right

Drought, hunger and death
Are all set to strike
What is your take on this?
Are you even willing to fight?
Debates, discussions, interviews
Is not the answer for this?
Put your words into action
And maybe this time you won’t miss
You are the chosen one

Elected by the people
The whole nation looks up to you
But all you do is kill
Go out there and do what is right
People dressed in white
You have the power
In which you take pride
Use it to hear the torment and cry
Of the minority
Who are depressed and deprived.


Wednesday, April 09, 2008


Tibet of the world or Tibets of the Globe

Is spirituality political or apolitical?
Heads and brains of the world of diplomats
Rolls and boils within it selves
And trying to emerge with new theories
In favor of their own interests
After a deep and long political slumber

The sudden burns and bruises
On the top of Himalaya
Shakes the senses of the globe

The meaning of words
Spiritualism, political activism and terrorism
Is melting and melting
In their debates, discussions and in dialogues

All the countries posed
It’s civilized and democratized to teeth
In the eyes of public
By masking by media

Every country stomach its Tibet or Tibets
And try their best to digest silently
While stimulating others
As enzymes
To make their political cakes
And to become the big bakers

Baking everything to make them super
And celebrate themselves super powers
Over the breath and blood of Tibet
Or Tibets world over


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Child is Not Innocent

The Child is Not Innocent

Scream of the mother and the maid
Towering towards the sky
And it reverberates
Through the eight corners of the world
In order to reach the guardians
Of the World Peace and Politics

The crocodile tears
Of the mother and the maid
Overflows in the Palk Strait
And drown the fleeing refugees
And drying the fishing downtrodden

The child bites the ears
And wounded the mother and the maid
Those are dead deaf to the grievances
The genuine grievances
Of the innocence
For generations


Trees whisper

Trees whispher

Shall we dance
To the tune of the breeze
Shall I hold you
And get down on my knees
There's a little heart
That's looking to be healed
With that one kiss of yours
I'm sure you'll open many doors for me
There were times at night
When I could hear the trees
Whisper all their sad stories
It was like they were looking out for someone
For that someone who will make sure
All things are said and done
It's been quite sometime now
Since I heard those trees
Tell their sad stories
I sit it solitude and I wonder
And my mind begins to ponder
I know you will always be there for me
Like how I was there for those trees.

Santhira Nimalan Tamilselvi
*Painting of Kamala Vasuki

Monday, March 24, 2008


March 7-13, 2008


Reflections on the absent poet

by Sivagnanm Jeyasankar

My reflections start with a part of Rabindranath Tagore’s poem which is used by the author Anisur Rahman as the concluding piece in the essay titled ‘The Shelidah Years of Tagore’. ‘Who ever wishes to May sit in meditation With eyes closed To know if the world be true or false. I, meanwhile, Shall sit with hungry eyes, To see the world While the light lasts.’ This book titled The Absent Poet & Other Essays quite simply reveals glimpses of socio-cultural life in Bangladesh. Though the author mentions the absent poet in the title of the book, the collection of essays in the book contains the temperament of a people’s poet. It is very difficult for a people’s poet to liberate her/himself from the inborn temperament of poetic protest or resistance. Anisur Rahman, the poet journalist can’t also escape from this reality.

Anisur Rahman is simply bringing the socio-cultural reality of the contemporary life of the people of Bangladesh into the palms of the readers. The forty capsules of writings make up a 112-page book with an ‘Excuse’ from the author instead of a preface, marking the visible evidence of blindness of independent and modern society. It is not only a story of a particular country. It is the story of all the postcolonial countries. Independence changes only the colour of the rulers but not the conditions of the social situation of the particular countries, which annually celebrate Independence Day as the visible exit of the colonial rulers. The selection of issues and themes clearly exposes the intention of the author’s aspirations and expectations for a genuine democratic world for all the people in the country. Rahman sums up in the essay titled ‘Humayun Azad’s Renewal of Life’ and clearly establishes this.

Rahman writes, ‘We would like to be ambitious, by following in the footsteps of Humayun Azad, and to take oath at his life’s renewal. We expect life’s renewal in Bangladesh through the freedom from corruption, razakars and religious fundamentalism. We hope for life’s renewal in Bangladesh, for a rebirth of our nation. New dreams, new times, new hopes wait for Bangladesh. That is how we patterned our thoughts. We will follow the beliefs Humayun Azad held dear. He renewed himself and the time he lived in.’ The failure of understanding this simple truth is the cause behind all the issues challenging the lives of human beings on mother Earth. The thought-provoking piece ‘Know Thyself — But How?’ reveals how we are parading towards a doomsday against the aspiration, ‘We dream of a state where our children will grow up and know themselves at home, in school and out in the wider world.’ The role of education and media in shaping up the minds of people, particularly children and youth are vibrant but effectively utilized by the rulers (it may be colonial or postcolonial) to control the people as subjects or the law and order obeying citizens. The rulers, if they white or black or brown needs crowed only for the celebration of monumental independence but not a society with creative power and critical thinking. But the cultural personalities included in the book think differently and waged a life for the creation of a positive world for all.

Anisur Rahman, bringing in issues of the voiceless and marginalized to mainstream media which is the real evidence of presence of a poet in the minds of a staff reporter and journalist. This book indirectly arouses fundamental questions: to what extent are the art and literary scenes of South Asian countries are familiar to each other? How do the international pages in the print media or news segments in the electronic media portrays South Asians? Who are the sources or providers of the news to the main stream media of South Asian countries? Why the South Asians fails to connect to each other even in the electronic age? What are the elements blocking in the minds of South Asians? How are we going to link ourselves? What are the roles of mother languages and the electronic media in the interaction process? How to build the consciousness of solidarity and equality? These are few fundamental questions we have to think of in the initial stages.

The essay titled ‘Language, Politics and Culture’ raises important issues for deeper and detailed studies. The author also mentions that ‘In 1998 marking the glorious tragedy of 1952 for our mother language Bengali, UNESCO has shown its empathy for the survival of every language and ‘the languages of ethnic minority groups are also vulnerable today. Here literature does not mean only literary text like poetry, fiction and non-fiction but also all works on and about science, technology, philosophy, arts, geography, and history. Here the question of translation is so vital.’ Rahman worried about the lack of initiative for exchanges only between Bangladesh and Sweden. In the essay titled ‘Swedish Writers’ Journey to Tagore’s Land’ he claims that ‘there was no initiative during the last century after 1913 for literary exchange between these two countries with rich literary heritage. The readers in Sweden are barely familiar with Tagore and his Gitanjali. They are uninitiated into the rich and very developed literature in South Asia.’ The author’s consciousness of South Asian context is a positive aspect in this regard. But the important question is why we are missing the consciousness of communicating among ourselves, the South Asians?

The Absent Poet & Other Essays of Anisur Rahman is a key to open up ourselves on our own to reach our realities in order to enrich and enhance ourselves as people of South Asia and beyond.

Sivagnanm Jeyasankar is a Sri Lankan poet, teaches at the Department of Fine Arts, Faculty of Arts and Culture, Eastern University Sri Lanka. He is currently on a three-week visit to Bangladesh.
The Absent Poet & Other Essays by Anisur Rahman
Publisher: Biddya Prokash Price: Tk 150


Rang Mancha Taal

9/11, digital projectors and Tagore

The maker of Sangsad Bhaban

‘Guts make a writer’

Reflections on the absent poet

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Hail Thee...

Hail thee
Another series of game
Is ready to begin

The coin was tossed
Up the sprit of money
And down
The sprit of game
Which the old masters named as gentleman's
And captured the body and mind
In the making of slavedom

The Aces
In the minds of fans
Fall down as in the pack of cards
Into the pockets of Merchants
The messiahs of extortion
And exploitation
Now owns the old Master's famed Game
The electryfying element
Of the modern day nationalisms
Of the failed states
Which celebratre independance
Once in a year
A monumental annual event
Within the thick forest of militarists
Is now become the property
Of New Masters
The invisible rulers

Oh the children of bared bodies
Playing under the banyan trees
Be prepared yourself
May you be the next target
Of the emperors of the post modern world.

Because they had the plans
Not only to own
The farm fresh huts
In the corners of the villages
But the playing kids in their mother's lap
With the lullabies too


Sunday, February 24, 2008



Saturday, February 23, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

International Mother Languages Day- February 21 - 2008

Dearest All,

We are wishing you all "International Mother Languages Day"

Suman (Karunenthira)
Thirdeye Local Knowledge and Skill Activists Group


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Veteran Thamil Dramatist Illya Patmanathan

Veteran Thamil dramatist who experience the socio-cultural politics of Thamils of Sri Lanka, Tamilnadu and the diaspora and expresses the inner voices of the politics of Thamils in his theatre creations blended with the traditions and modern elements of culture in order to create an authentic theatre for the Tamils.