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.
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