Monthly Archives: March 2013

Nallur Rajadhani by K.S. Sivakumaran

kssivakumaran_newLanka born Canadian Thamilian V.N. Giritharan writes fiction, poetry and prose writing in Thamil. Some of his creations are truly remarkable. His books are of interest and in fact exposes of the pattern of living in foreign claims by former Lankans. An architect (from the Moratuwa University) he is also a qualified. electrical and electronic engineering Technologist. He has wide interests in the sciences, history and children’s literature. On top of it, he is serving a useful purpose in the Cyberspace.

While there are more than a dozen websites in Thamil promoting literary and cultural events of the Thamilians in Thamilnadu in India, it is Giritharan’s ‘Pathivukal’ e-zine that gives almost exclusively a comprehensive coverage of the Lankan Thamil literary scene, apart from other subjects like politics.

One other Thamil website, also from Canada – the e-zine Kuviyam – also covers a larger area of Thamil studies and related matters in a broader scope.

Thamil literature But the accent in ‘Pathivukal’ is on contemporary Thamil literature including what is produced in India. Both Giritharan and Pon Kulendiren accommodate me with my contributions in English in their e-zines. It must be also said that Giritharan’s daughter has her own website,booktrain.ca, for the kids, in English. She, herself a 12 years old, writes to the Toronto newspapers.

My difficulty in writing in Thamil via the Internet is that I cannot typein Thamil and also I don’t know how to use any of the fonts available. That is why I was unable to send any material in Thamil to Lankan newspapers and magazines via the Internet. Thus my computer literacy is incomplete. But I am trying to master the technique.

Here in the West, they never say die. That positive attitude drives them to reach greater heights. May I say that most Lankans have negative attitudes and rely solely on the Karmic theory. This is why some of us are sluggish and not hardworking as others.

Reverting to Giritharan’s books – most of his contributions in Thamil and translations are available in his own website – I must say that his books are works of an investigative mind. The titles of such books are self-explanatory: ‘Nallur Rajadhani ‘, ‘America’ and ‘Mannin Kutal’ (meaning the Voice of the Soil) are few of his titles.

Let me introduce to you the book on the architecture during the existence of the Kingdom of Yaalpanam (Jaffna). We know that the last king of the kingdom of the people in the northern part of the country was Sankiliyan.

The late professor in Thamil, K. Kananapathipillai had written a short play in that title. Sankiliyan ruled from Nallur (Nallur means a Good County or City or Village). One is reminded of the existence of Nallura in Panadura. Again Panadura could mean the port the ballad singer had landed. Nallur remains thesymbolic representation of Lankan Saiva Thamilians of the northern Sri Lanka.

Essence
Let me begin with what the foreword of the book tells us. I give below the essence of what a distinguished writer, a fine stylist and a columnist in Thamil, S Yoganathan has said in his preface: “… The Thamil Brahmic inscriptions belonging to the 3rd century B.C. were dogged out during the excavations in Kantharodai and Aaanai Kottai. This discovery revealed to a great extent of the existence of a fine Thamilian culture in the Megalithic age. The Romans, the Arabs, and the Chinese have had direct trade relations with the Sri Lankan Thamilians. There are records to prove that in the 5th century A.D., the Lankan Thamilians had had an advanced cultural inheritance. A Saiva (meaning a branch of Hinduism) Thamilian kingdom evolved in Yaalpanam in the 13th century. But with the advent of the Portuguese rule in Sri Lanka the fall of the kingdom was inevitable.

Historians belonging to the Thamil community have not sufficiently unearthed historical facts relating to the history of Thamilians in SriLanka, although academics in the calibre of Indrapala, Pathmanathan, Sittampalam and Raghupathy have endeavoured to do so spasmodically. Raghupathy’s book ‘Early Settlements’ in English is a forerunner to young intellectuals and researchers. V. N. Giritharan is such a researcher, although his discipline is architecture.

Despite gathering sufficient evidences, he has written this guide in anexemplary manner…” This book was published eight years ago (1996).

Research
nallurOne must appreciate the fact that this talented writer now in Canada could have really ventured into more historical research had he been living in Sri Lanka. Raghupathy, a great scholar with whom I had the fortune to move with, while both were teaching in Male’ in the Maldives. Raghupathy, I believe, is now in Mysore in India where he had his postgraduate studies.

In the absence of historical researchers from the Thamil community in SriLanka, we have to rely on researchers like Sudharshan Seneviratne and Deriniyagala and a few other scholars for impartial and objective findings.

The new woman member of parliament from the Mattakalappu district, K.Thangeswari writes in Thamil only, because she graduated in that
language. Her books should be translated into English (and even Sinhala) for proper evaluation.

May I be permitted to say that another academic from Mattakalappu, whose field is Thamil, has researched on the subject of names in the northern areas of Sri Lanka. This too is ironical for two reasons: He is not from the North and he too is in Canada now. In the same breath, I must say Indrapala is either in Australia or New Zealand was also interested in Thamil theatre.

He and the academic in English Tiru Kandiah adapted Irish playwright Synge’s play ‘Riders to the Sea’ and staged in Peradeniya and Colombo in the 1970s.

So, If we were to call our history, a Sri Lankan history, we must objectively and in an unbiased manner do research on the past history of the people, places and events of the Thamil speaking. The truth is not totally white or black, it is also grey.

The author, V. N. Giritharan says that he was stimulated to do some research on Nallur while attending a lecture in the university by academic Nimal de Silva. Since this is a subject which I am not very familiar, let me give me some idea of the book by way of giving the titles of his chapters.

They are self-explanatory: Nallur and Singai Nagar, Nallur and Yaalpanam, Historical Evidences of Nallur Rajadhani, Nallur Kanthasamy Kovil, The Fortress of Nallur and Ramparts Around It, Data on Field Studies, The Entrance Gate of the Fortress, the Fort and the Veiyil Uhantha Pillayar Temple, Ancient Works and Architecture, Town Planning of the Hindus and the Caste System, South Indian Temple Cities, Structure of the Nallur Town in Nallur Rajadhani.

This little book of merit has also a few photographs and designs to illustrate what the writer finds in his research.

It would be interesting for the selective readers to learn about the titles of some works which Giritharan mentions as references: Conquest of Ceylon – Queroz F vol 1 & 4, Tamils and Ceylon – C.S.Navaratnam, The Kingdom of Jaffna – S.Pathmanathan, Urban and Regional Planning -Rame Gowda, Urban Geography -Jeyasingam. Early Christianity in Ceylon -Fr. Peiris, Fr.Meersman, Living Architecture: Indian -Andreas Volwahsen, Monumental Art and Architecture of India – K, Sundaram, The Arts and Crafts of India, and Ceylon – Ananda Coomarasamy,’The Ancient Town Planning of Anuradhapura’ Rowland De Sylva The Kings of Jaffna during the Portuguese Period – Fr. Gnanapargasar. Articles in Thamil relating to the subject are also mentioned by the author.

These articles include those by Kula Sababathan, S. Rasanayagam, A. Muttuthambipillai, K.S. Nadarajah, B.S. Acharya, R.P. Sethupillai,
C.K.Sittampalam, K.Gunarasa, M.K. Anthony Sil. The writer has also referred to the maps of the Survey Department, and Jaffna Town Planning Assessment Surveys.

The book is published by Mangai Pathipagam, Toronto, Canada.

Contact: kssivan@juno.com
courtesy: Daily News (Sri Lanka)

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Welcome to The Literature Network!

books_757Welcome to The Literature Network! We offer searchable online literature for the student, educator, or enthusiast. To find the work you’re looking for start by looking through the author index. We currently have over 3000 full books and over 4000 short stories and poems by over 250 authors. Our quotations database has over 8500 quotes…Read More

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Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec and Foreign Literatures

reading_readingWelcome Welcome to the home page of the Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec and Foreign Literatures project. This bibliography project offers students, scholars and others interested in comparative studies and Canadian literatures an invaluable research tool: a database of bibliographic references to thousands of works in the field.

The hardcopy publication of the Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec and Foreign Literatures / Bibliographie d’études comparées des littératures canadienne, québécoise et étrangères 1930-1995, which contains over 1600 entries, is available through les Éditions G.G.C. in Sherbrooke, Québec.

The current electronic version of the Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec and Foreign Literatures project available on this site contains several thousand entries. It provides on-line access to a bibliographic database of articles, books, reviews, periodicals, and other references dealing with Comparative Canadian Literature. Each bibliographic entry contains full bibliographic information as well as a list of keywords and a list of authors under study.

The website includes a Webliography of nearly 1000 websites related to Canada and Quebec’s literatures and cultures.

Courtesy: Bibliography of Comparative Studies in Canadian, Québec and Foreign Literatures  / http://compcanlit.usherbrooke.ca/main.html

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Short Story: AN END AND A BEGINNING! -V.N.Giritharan | Translation By Latha Ramakrishnan

woman_face5Slowly it was turning dark. The Sun who was overwhelmed by the crimson color of the twilight horizon was embracing the horizon with swelling love and was losing his senses in a blissful communion. Widespread, the pond bank remained all still. Birds were returning home in groups. Even at this time some kingfishers were greedily looking for their prey, lying in wait in a closeby tree- branch. Calm, the wind was soothingly blowing.

With eyes on the water-surface and hand on the child that was wandering here and there on the lawn that lay spread on the pond-bank, there was Yamuna. Clear sharp look… broad forehead… she had made her thick dense hair into a bun. In an ordinary cotton saree her rose skin and shapely figure glowed splendidly. In those eyes which would be forever dreaming … that tinge of sadness…

‘Such a gloom should not have come over her’ – So I told myself. Anger and frustration against this damned and cursed society swelled in me.

For, it is the diabolic viewpoints and ugly bent of mind of this society that have turned her so.

I, who was working in Colombo and had come back to my native village after the exit of foreign battalions was so much disturbed by this sight of Yamuna. In our childhood she had been always with me, eating and playing together. My beloved childhood companion. She is older than me by two years. Her astonishing beauty and brains… it is two years since she has got married. I couldn’t attend her marriage at all. It was during that time when our country was full of war and bloodshed that the marriage took place and on that day many youths were taken into custody on suspicion and I was one among them. So much had happened in these two years….

So many changes have taken place. Our very life is but a warfare. A constant struggle to escape, to save our life… as like a warfare within a warfare and a run within the run for life… all those that have taken place… all those unwanted happenings… Today, even after the rains have stopped there is still some drizzling…

Thiayagarajah – Yamuna’s husband. Tying the sacred yellow thread around her neck and taking oath in the presence of the God of Fire that he would look after her as his very life and then not keeping his word and punishing her for no fault of her. Treating her with utmost disdain and contempt at a time when his support and companionship were needed by her the most. At a time when he should be treating her with utmost care and concern, he had discarded her with no second thought and left her, thereby losing his very manliness, to put it mildly.

Decrying her as unchaste and immoral he had gone his way. The condition of Yamuna as the mother of a child caused a deep pain in me. Already she had suffered a cruel assault at the hands of an inhuman scoundrel… and adding to that all-time anguish and agony, this unbearable treatment by her better-half…. God, what is Chastity..? It is something more linked with the mind and heart and it is indeed unfair to use it as a whip to inflict capital punishment on women.

Why did Thiagarajah behave so?

“Ragendran, I’m no Bharathi to discourse on being progressive. The very thought that someone else had enjoyed my wife… kills me. How can I continue living with her..? the very thought is unbearably repulsive…”

“Thiayagu… was it her choice? Please think it over..Did she willingly go to bed with that fellow? At a time when you should be treating her

with utmost care and concern, instilling in her confidence, giving her assurance that everything is fine…how can you speak in this manner?

Think of your child for a moment… Please…”

“Ragendra…. I’m prepared to undertake the responsibility of looking after my child and bringing it up. But, I heard that Yamuna wouldn’t agree to it. Please, place yourself in my shoes and think over… while going out with Yamuna what all catcalls would confront me. Bearing with all those and continue my life with her would prove a shame on my very manhood.. Can’t you realize that…?”

“A shame on your manhood…. God,.. Manliness is not that, my friend… it is your deed of deserting her and leaving her in the lurch that is a blot on your manhood…”

In a way… the society is also responsible for Thiayagarajah’s bent of mind. This society and it’s goddamn rules and regulations… customs, taboos and what not. Caught in the web of all these Thiayagarah behaves so. He is unable to go past the social barriers and he is unable to free himself from their hold…

Faraway, the Sun has already lost half of himself. Darkness has turned more dense than before. Even those few Kingfishers who had been keeping vigil for their prospective prey had left the place long before. Throwing small, little stones on the pond yamuna went on looking at the surface of the water. In my heart too which was in a confused state, a clarity of thought came to be. I too arrived at a decision. And I told her of my decision. She was shocked. For a while she remained deeply plunged in silence, dumb-struck.

“Ragendra…” tears swelled in her eyes. She couldn’t talk further. What can she say. The social- structure into which she is born is such. She is a married woman. Having a child too. In this young age undergoing the trauma of rape at the hands of a cruel, two-legged animal she now

stands all alone, deserted by her husband.But, she is also a woman. And, her heart will also crave for love… and like any other woman she too would long to have the feeling of being wanted. But,will this society give a thought to all these and more, before passing a verdict on her…

‘If they come to know that such a relationship exists between Yamuna and myself won’t my people, my mother and my kith and kin, spit at us? ‘A man-eater, luscious female.. she has caught hold of an innocent youth by her feminine tricks…’ Won’t they tear her to pieces with such heartless observations..? None bothers if a man marries a number of times. A sixty year old man is free to marry a sixteen year old girl. Not one but he can as well have three or four secret marriages. No one questions him. But,a woman.. that too a woman in a hapless state like Yamuna should live this ‘only once born’ life all alone, in a companionless state of exile, killing all her natural feelings and desires, and just behave she has been born a female sans physical and emotional needs. Sainthood is forced on her by the society.

This is the social norm. It is this that the society expects and demands of its female members. I have realized all these. And that is why I stood very much firm in my decision. But,Yamuna turned to look at her child playing on the lawns closeby. And then she looked at me miserably.

Again I continued. “Yamuna, marriage is mainly a union of two persons. who understand each other well and decide to travel together through thick and thin. But Thaiyagarajah’s bent of mind and behaviour has proved that he is no match for you. As for as I am concerned you need a companion, a support in this hour of crisis; the closeness of one who can instil in you the feeling of security and sense of belonging. Why can’t that be me who has been with you right from our childhood days?”

“Ragendra, you have said it all so easily. But, do you know how much of an enmity and hatred it would generate. Your mother, kith and kin… your people.. All would curse me only, you know. Won’t they say that it was right on the part of my man to have left me? Why should you waste your precious life for my sake…? Please leave my worries in my hands alone…”

Saying so, Yamuna remained silent for a while. It is the discourse of womanhood that is so used to bearing all its sufferings in silence… But, I remained firm in my decision.

“Yamuna, I’m sure that I can pacify my mother in course of time. All I want is your consent. Please say yes. That’s enough for me. And, I care a twopence about those social norms that have brought you to this miserable state of being. Suffice it is if we understand each other.”

Uttering these words I looked into her eyes intently. But, she looked into my eyes in all silence. And, I could interpret her silence all too well. I well could realize those pure feelings, love, affection, hope and gratitude that swelled in her eyes and her voiceless words.

“Yamuna…” I took her in a tight embrace. And, she who gave her whole to me finding solace and shelter in my hands went into a blissful amnesia wherein the world outside ceased to be. Faraway, the horizon was turning crimson all over with the Sun losing itself completely in the wholesome communion.

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THE HOMELESS! – V.N.Giritharan | Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan

(Published in the E- Magazine PATHIVUKAL dated May 2003. issue: 47)

Saturday Night. The time was well past midnight. The region called Richmond/ Duncan Area which is the merry making and recreation locality in the downtown of Toronto city was still bustling with activities. In every corner there was a club overflowing with youth and their dance and music. The street-vendors of ‘Hot Talk’ were going round and round, busily looking after their business. Those at the steering wheels of call-taxis were also busy with their passengers boarding and alighting. Some were returning home, not delaying the process .Some others were just then arriving in taxis and cars. In the street-corners,in the midst of all these chaos the ‘homeless’ were deep in sleep with the ‘man-hole’ lids providing the warmth.I was returning from work, retiring for the day, observing all that was happening around me. Observing my surroundings and my fellow-beings have always been my favourite past-time.

While I was standing there, waiting for the signal to change, “Can you spare some coins, my friend?” _so a voice reached me. I turned around. At my side there was a middle aged man, a black Canadian, standing. A beard with slightly grayish tinge. Bushy moustache. A face glowing with happiness and a half-smile. In his hand there was a plastic container. On that it was written ‘Clarke for Toronto Mayor’ in English. Above all that which surprised me was his appearance of a gentleman, sporting suit and coat. I dumped a two dollar coin into the plastic container extended towards me. At that, with the word ‘Thanks’ he conveyed his gratitude to me. This great city, despite all these years spent here, has never failed to supply provide new, different experiences to me every day. Its mysterious self seems something that can never be fully apprehended. So much so, it drove me to coin a new proverb that the real depth of this city indeed be deeper than the great grand sea itself!

The man continued. Taking hold of my hands in a warm handshake he introduced himself: “Friend, my name is Clarke, I am standing for the election of Toronto Mayorship. I am homeless”. His words surprised me further. For the election of Toronto Mayorship many are in the fray and I had already known it. But, as I didn’t know beforehand that such a person, a homeless, dwelling on the streets was also one of the contestants, I was, kind of, taken aback. With my sense of surprise writ large on my face I told him, “Its news to me”. His response was “It is not surprising, for, the journals here would’ve thought why waste time writing about a person like me”. I was reminded of a story narrated to me when I was a boy. Once the then President of Srilanka, J.R., paid a visit to Ankodai. Ankodai is the famous mental asylum in Srilanka. And, one of the inmates of Ankodai addressed the prestigious visitor thus: “Greetings. May I know who you are?” J.R.responded with a smile, saying, “I am the all powerful legally – elected President of this country”. Hearing that the patient who threw at him the query, laughed aloud and then advised J.R with these words: “Sir, I too had uttered those words and as a result had been trapped here ever since. Don’t you dare tell that again to others, that which you have told me now. Then, you will also suffer the same fate”.

A thought crossed my mind. ‘This man is also saying that he is one of the candidates for the Mayor Election. He is a homeless one. And, he is wearing coat and suit in the manner of a gentleman. Could it be that he is also one like the person who welcomed J.R.? Or else why should he say in one breath and in all seriousness that he is homeless and also that he is standing for the election of Toronto Mayorship?’ But, his voice was clear and confidant. There was no conflict or stammer in his words. From his voice no one would think of doubting his sanity. Not even a semblance of such suspicion could confront them. He conversed in such a balanced, down-to-earth manner.

“Friend, may I ask you something?” said I. “Sure”, he responded atonce and waited for my questions. (Here, greeting one another with the words “Hey Man” or ‘My Friend’ is very common).

“You look like a perfect gentleman. At the same time you call youself ‘Homeless’… Who has given you all these dresses!” So I asked, my voice expressing surprise. For that he said “Friend, to tell you the truth, all these have come to me on their own, given to me voluntarily by those who have care and concern for my welfare. The pathway at the spot where Adelaide and Bay meet is where I live. If ever you feel like seeing me, come there ”

With a faint smile I said, “You are a mysterious man”. He too responded with such a smile. I continued. “If you have no objection about revealing, please let me know what gave you the itch to stand in the Mayor Election?” Remaining silent for a while he then said, “You don’t

know about my past. If you come to know of it you would turn shell-shocked”.

My excitement increased. “But, if you don’t tell me about your past my head would go splinters, as like the Vikramadhithya-Vethalam tale”, said I. “Vethalam’? Who is that?”, asked he, “Oh, that’s not important. You can begin narrating your story”, said I. Responding, he continued:”Once upon a time I was engaged in a million-dollar foul play. I distributed drugs.I worked as a pimp with a bunch of girls. Then only I came to realize that life is not just money.. Now, my one and only aim in life is to love all my fellow-beings. Love them all sincerely and in all seriousness. You don’t know. Moreover_”. He stopped.

“Why did you stop?” asked I eagerly. “If I am to go past, crossing this signal I will be stopped. And, advices would be handed over to me, unasked. If I were to be seen by the policemen they won’t leave me. They won’t leave you too. But, do you think that such a situation would befall a white-man? The immigrants, minorities are the ones so much affected and suffer a lot. I should help them all. And that’s why I am going to stand in this Election”, So he replied to my query

. In the end, the story turned in another direction. “Friend! I am a writer. I am bringing out a Monthly. What should I do to have you interviewed for that?” asked I. He responded saying, “My pleasure. You can come to my place, that is, the Adelaide-Bay junction. We can meet there”. And then,he asked me “‘Do you have children? “Oh yes, two real good girl children”, said I. When he listened to that he gave me two ‘twenty-five cent’ coins and also offered the advice given below:

“If ever your children go out, give them these coins. Tell them to inform you wherever they are”.

After that he took leave of me and went away. I stood looking at his departing frame, till it went out of sight. Just like this mysterious city, a mysterious man, – felt I.

Translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan

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MANHOLE – V.N.Giritharan | Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan

Like the Rajaraman of Jeyakanthan’s rishimoolam he has grown beard and moustache, keeping one of the legs in squatting posture and keeping the other in a raised and folded fashion he was holding his knee with his right hand. And, he had placed his left hand firmly on the floor at his back. His hair had grown long. In the mouth there remained half of a still burning cigarette. Only his eyes were filled with a kind of abnormal glow. The man sitting on the manhole resembled the appearance of a seer seated on a sheet of deerskin. If he was one of the wayside heroes I was a small wayside vendor. And, selling hot dog was my business.

Faraway, in the north the Ontario parliament building could be seen. At my back stood the famous child care medical institution Sick Kids Hospital. For a while the seer kept staring at the Parliament of Ontario then he laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” asked I.

“See, the weird game of time…”

“Time’s game..?”

“What else but that?”

He looked at the sky for some time. He enjoyed the full moon’s cool presence there. Darkness had come to set in. Still the city was full of life. Everybody was hurrying at great speed. In the meantime some customers came my way too. One of my customers, a Nigerian taxi driver came after parking his taxi in a corner of the road.

“Hi, how are you chief?” asked I.

“Pretty good man… how are you?”

“What of me… I’m always ok,” saying so he laughed. The person standing next to him also laughed. He was a real chief. In his motherland Nigeria there were some three thousand persons under him relying on him for their very livelihood. He belonged to one of those ancient clans of Nigeria. Every time they would send documents for his approval. He had received a degree in one of the Universities here. During winter he would drive taxi here. As soon as summer sets in he would go running to Nigeria. His people not know of his taxi driving here. If they know they wouldn’t leave him here. So he would say. He had said once that so many other chiefs were also driving cabs.

Only then he saw the man standing next to him.

“Hi, chief…..How are you?” Asked he. An African chief was enquiring after the welfare of a Canadian chief. The tribes of Sami were once the rulers of the entire continent of America. One of the heir-apparents to a clan that reigned supreme. Today they live a marginalised existence of minority within the minority.

Sami smiled in reply. The African chief gave a cigarette to the Canadian chief, and left. “Good soul” said Sami and lighted the cigarette, and inhaling, released the smoke. “He, an African driving cabs in the middle of the road and so living his life,”-saying so he pointed at the Parliament building. “From there they are formulating laws….what else is this but the satanic dance of fate.” Following this observation he sang a small verse melodiously.

“ In time all independent
Or dependent
But, sure it is
So wicked, my friend…”

This Sami’s lineage looked highly mysterious. The song that he sang was that much wise and thought provoking. For me who was a lecturer in Physics in the faculty of Antiquity this native Indian appeared as highly mysterious. I knew him for the past three months. From my experience about him so far that which I had gained by way of information or knowledge could be summed up in the following manner.

Another native Indian. He appeared different from his clan of people who were seen on the pathways often with bottle and faltering steps. Except cigarette he never laid hands on drinks. He didn’t have anything like a family of his own. Was there one earlier? God alone knew. So far he had not spoken of his origin. Once when an attempt was made to probe he firmly dissuaded it. After that I had never attempted again, and he too had not spoken a word on that.

His life continued with the help of those small little coins that those who go along the way offer him. The whole day he would be smoking . He wouldn’t spend anything on cigarette. He would go collecting the small pieces of smoked cigarettes that would be strewn on the pathways in front of the very many buildings and smoke them. As for meals every now and then he would drink coffee from the nearby Donut shop. Sometimes Donut would buy and bring. At night everyday I would give Hot Dog and some juice to drink. He wouldn’t get them free of cost. He would offer whatever he would be having in his hand. Mostly he would be meditating all the time. Or else, he would chat with me. Easing himself out, washing the face, all in the nearby hospital washrooms only. Rarely sometimes he would visit a hostel sometimes and have his bath and come. Except these if there was a home and world for him that was this manhole on which he would sit. He had kept a bundle of his rags inside that only. God alone knows what at all is there in that bundle….

So far I have learnt only this much about him. Henceforth only I should fry to gather some more information about him.

Another night has come to rest a while, swaying. Business has also turned a little dull. Sami contemplated on something then, laughed.

“Why did you laugh?” asked I.

“Indians are overflowing all over the world.,” said he and laughed. A look of content has come to settle in his cantenance as if he had uttered a profound philoshopical truth.

“But, in truth, you are not an Indian. And I am also not one.”

“True, that I am no Indian. But, all those belonging to the Indian sub-continent are Indians only to them. East Indian.”

“But for many Paki” said I.

When he heard this Sami laughed aloud.

“ Here, they refer to Indian as Paki and call Pakistanis Indian. But there the two factions are always attacking each other” Said I.

For this observation of mine also, Sami laughed heartily. Only then I could observe the fatigue that could be seen widespread all over his cantenance and that if stood out despite his mouthful of laughter.

“What is ailing you?” asked I. “Nothing. Just slight fever,” said he. I always keep an aspirin strip and plaster by my side.

“Do you wan t an aspirin?” asked I.

“No need. Just slight indisposition. That’s all. It’ll be gone soon.” Said he. After that I too didn’t insist on his having some medicine.

When I spread my shop the next day I observed one thing. Sami couldn’t be seen in his place. Usually he would be the one greeting me. I could feel some sort of uneasiness within. For these three months this was the first time I was deprived of Sami’s greeting. Usually I would open my shop around 10 o’clock only. In the meantime Sami would have finished all his morning chores had his lunch and would be sitting on his throne. Those glowing eyes came to my mind. I could visualize the friendly smile. Could it be that Sami had got up rather late? It was the I remembered that he was having slight fever the previous day. ‘Has the fever intensified and he is now hospitalized?’ Wondering I. then, for a while I became involved in my business. When the business slackened night had set in. still Sami could be seen nowhere. Again I could feel some kind of heaviness within.
Around 10 p.m. Nigeria chief came. “How goes the business?” Asked he. It was then that he noticed the emptiness of the manhole.

“Where is chief?” asked he.

“The whole day he could not be seen. No idea as to where he has gone….”

“Did he tell anything last night…”

“He was with mild fever…But, he refused to take aspirin.”

“Does he stay anywhere else…?”

“As far as I know he would always lie on the man-hole cover. He would keep his few possessions too inside this man-hole only.”

“I see….” The African chief was lost in contemplation for some time and then came back to his senses.

“A thought comes to me.” Said he.

“What?”

“Can it be that he has changed his spot…. Anyway to make sure all that we have to do is to just open the manhole and look inside. If his possessions are not to be seen there, then we can be rest assured that he has moved over to another place..”

Saying so he opened the manhole cover. Opening he let out a cry. ”Oh, my God…”

He called out to me asking me to come and see. I went there and peeped inside. There, hugging his bog and baggage close to his heart Sami was lying in a crumpled and folded fashion.

“My God…he has been lying here the whole of today..”

“Yes, chief…chief..” Nigerian chief screamed.

There was no stir at all. In the mean time the passersby had gathered there. Nigerian chief jumped into the manhole and felt the pulse.

“Gone,” said he.

Faraway, in the darkness the parliament building of Ontario built in the style of Romanesque structure could be seen glowing in full splendor

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New Tamil Writer

– S.Ganesalingan ; Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan –

ameri1Epics were being written in the poetic form itself. At the same time verses that lacked the essential rhyme and rhythm were also being written in the magazines. Right from the period of Sangam literature these trends could be seen. This remained the profession as well as the heart’s content of the poet’s clan. But, listening to the tales continued to be the prime interest of the general public. From old to young, people loved tales. A period of illiteracy when people didn’t know to read or write. The tales of the rural side, moral stories, stories from epics and anecdotes were used to satiate this appetite of the general masses. In the last century, with rise of capitalism and that of the middle-class which is literate when people started leaving their native villages and came to settle in the towns and cities and lead a kind of secluded life new literary forms such as the novel and short-story came to be in simple prose style so as to fulfil their emotional needs.

With the development of printing technology these new literary forms too developed and it resulted in the decay of the ancient forms of poetry and verse. If we leaf through the pages of the popular magazines of today we can perceive this all too clearly. Their will not be totally gone or done away with. But, just one or two pages alone are being allotted for these old forms. Poetry will always remain intact to be sung with music. It endeavours to stay on with new names as like Prose-Poetry, Neo-Poetry, Haiku poems and so on. All these also would be seen mostly as but a feeling or message usually conveyed in Prose-style , having been said in several lines with the words and lines arranged in such a way as one below another so as to give it a semblance of poetry. The rhyme, metre and rhythm are not to be found anymore. Mostly they are statements. Because of this, with the poems joining hands with the musical art forms and so staying on, the verse form is fast losing its poetic characteristics. This is my perception. Novel and short story are developing into the neo art forms. In the last one century the short-story form has come to have a great hold and influence on the Tamil literary field. Every year thousands of short stories are being written by hundreds of writers. So far, there has not been any hard and fast rules formulated for this literary-form. Works of such veteran writers as Pudumaipithan have become models for the growth and development of this form. We can evaluate short stories and novels on the bais of the very basic perceptions, which hold that for any form of art, there are what we call a structure, social relevance and responsibility, form and contents.

I was given the anthology of short stories written by Sri Lankan Tamils who are immigrants. Titled, ‘Paniyum Pannayum’ meaning ‘The snow and the Palmra’, the book was given to me by the sub-editor of ‘The Hindu’ for review. When I read all the stories in the anthology ‘A cow’s tale’ cought my attention very much. In my review I had made especial mention about that story. Before two months when I was conversing with Mr. Nithiyananthan who was formerly a lecturer of the Jaffna University, before he left for Paris. I told him that this was the story I liked most in the anthology. He too expressed the same view. It was through that story only that I was introduced to Mr.Giritharan, the author of this book. Going down the memory lane and relieving all those momentsI read this anthology eagerly.

Giritharn has shaped the stories on all that he has seen and experienced in the land wherein he had sought refuge. This would be something very new to Tamils, Sri Lankan Tamil and to the foreigners. No doubt about that. Mostly entwining himself into the story as an essential character and adopting the first person figure of speech he has tried to fell the story and its incidents. This very trait can make the story authentic and enable the reader identify himself/herself with its course and characterizations. The author has also tried to give a profound message in each and every story in the anthology. One can say that it was that drive that had him impetus to write. In his first story, he brings the man who dies after living his entire life by the side of a manhole to stand before he who was formulating laws in front of the Parliament of Ontario. In the story ‘Ponthup Paravaigal(The Hollow existence)’ he shows a man living in a small room and going to work with knee problem being saved from fire by a black-man of Jamaica who has been looked down by the former all the time, and so upholds a humanness that has no caste, color or creed. In the story, ‘A Co(w)nference Problem’ (Oru Maa(naa)ttupp Prachanai), a Cow which escapes from the slaughterhouse desiring to have the freedom to live causes traffic jam. Through its struggle the author describes the present condition of the Sri Lankan tamil. The style and the content of the story makes it a striking example of a good short story. That the source of human life, sexual needs are the same for one and all irrespective of their class and caste is told convincingly with absolutely no obscenity in the depiction of those walking hither and thither in Young street. With the help of a little rat he has tried to speak about the significance of existentialism that has man at its center. In ‘Kanavan’ and in ‘Oru Mudivum Vidivum’ he highlights the idea that one shouldn’t worry about the days of hi/her life -partner prior to their marriage.

‘America’ is the longest story of the collection. In this he has dealt with the rules and realities of America in a humorous vein. How refugees are handled and treated by the American laws are brought forth in a detailed manner in this story. Giritharan proves himself as a significant Short-story writer from Srilankan Tamil in the ever-widening expanse of the Tamil literary field. This story-collection is also noteworthy in another aspect, in that it proves once again that books written in English on the plights and perils of the refugees as well as the ‘Sons of the Soil’ can never be as effective and as informative as those written in Tamil.

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Fractured Self: A Study of V.N. Giritharan’s Selected Short Stories

Fractured Self: A Study of V.N. Giritharan’s Selected Short Stories A dissertation submitted to the University of Madras in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Master of Philosophy in English under choice based credit system By M. Durairaj…. Read More

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The ‘Translocal’ Nationalism of the Sri Lankan Tamil Diaspora:A Reading of Selected Short Stories of V.N. Giridharan

 By Dr.Gnanaseelan Jeyaseelan.

The Pain of Living Away– the Ethno–cultural Alienation, the Sense of Guilt, and the “Translocal” Nationalism of the Srilankan Tamil Diaspora– A Study of the Selected Short Stories of V.N. Giritharan, presented at the UGC National Seminar Session on “Issues of Identity and Culture in Recent Asian Diasporic Fiction”: Department of English, the New College, Chennai–14, on March 13th and 14th 2007: ..Read More

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Void Within – The Migration of an Albatross into an Unsolicited Province – A Study on the Writings of the Canadian Tamil Writer V.N. Giritharan

Dr. R. Dharani M.A.,M.Phil., M.Ed., PGDCA., Ph.D. Assistant Professor in English, LRG Government Arts College for Women

DR_AKILDHARANI_25[March 1, 2013- Recently, a conference on canadian writing was held in the National college , Trichy. Called ‘Canada:A Multitude of Spaces’, the conference was spearheaded by the Indian Association of Canadian Studies. The following paper on V.N.Giritharan’s writings was submitted to the conference by Dr R Dharani.]

Literature, in a way, is a manifestation of an individual’s or a community’s elusive experiences. A grand procession of happy episodes alone in a life is highly impracticable and astonishing, as life itself is, and in most cases, akin to the tragi-comedies of Shakespeare. However, in the history of literature across the globe, catastrophe gained more attention than romance, chivalry and happy endings. The misfortunes of African- American writers have ever earned them the proper justice. The sorrow-stricken lives of a community who had been intimidated simply because of their ethnic background have been the cause of many social changes in western countries. Of all the complexities of life, the crisis of a survival stands first in the life of any human being. This is not the case with any other living creature in any part of the world. In any piece of literature, it is not uncommon to unearth such a theme intertwined with many other themes. Man struggles to locate a place of his own on this planet to ascertain a sense of identity of his life. Nationality, nativity, society, family, tradition, culture, language are such things endorsing the survival impulse of a man. Depending on the needs, man sets the priority for concepts like nationality, family and other matters.

Literature, being the replica of reality, has been communicating the indispensable impulse of human survival in various forms for ages. The predominant theme of many writings is of life and how to live it. There always appears to be an empty space in the psychic sphere of human beings, specifically in the modern ages. Waging war made the ancients lose their stability in the earlier times. There are no explicit wars today. Nevertheless, the same kind of callousness makes modern men desperate with the loss of their identity. In the name of Globalization, the entire world shrinks into the palm of a human. However, there is a giant void within the human heart. Such a void shall be discussed here.

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Canadian Literature roughly began with the writings of the travelers, explorers and settlers of Canada. There were themes of adventures, landscapes, patriotic fervor of the natives and the reflection of the life style in Canada since the beginning. In the modern times, writers like Bharathi Mukherjee, Michael Ondaatje, Vassanji have moved from the eastern zone to Canada only to settle there for one reason or another. Most of these writers, though known as a group identified as “Writers of Diaspora,” with their spontaneity of expressions in English have virtually turned out to be the natives of Canada.

For many years, Canada has been a safe haven to the Tamil community who had migrated from Sri Lanka. The motive behind the migration was not to just improve the conditions of living or to earn a high salary. Unfortunately, the hunted and tormented Tamils of Sri Lanka, have sought the helping hands of Canada for some political reasons. Toronto has more Tamils than any other major Sri Lankan cities. It would be hard for common people with no such grief to understand the pain and anguish of those who were forced to move from their mother country where they had their strong space of identity.

In Canadian Literature too, it is probable to notice delicate voices of deprived souls who wish to enlighten the world about the plight of being aliens in Canada. One such writer is V.N.Giritharan, a Sri Lankan based Tamil, who had moved from Sri Lanka to Toronto. “Padivukal” is an internet Tamil e-zine published and edited by V.N.Giritharan since 2000. He has authored six novels, a grand collection of short stories and poems. In an e-mail interview with V.N.Giritharan, he says “My two novels on my American experience and a few of my short stories have been translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan. My short stories, novels , poems and articles were published in ‘Thedal’, ‘Thayagam’ , ‘Pothikai’ and a few other Tamil news papers published in Canada. My Tamil short stories were republished by many Tamil weekly newspapers (even without my approval). A collection of my Tamil poems ‘Eluga Athimanuda’ and ‘Mannin Kural’ (another collection of poems, essays and a short novel) were published in Toronto Canada. ‘Mannin Kural’ (published by Kumaran Publishers in Chennai), is a collection of my four novels including the one published in Toronto.” He is one of the most vibrant and committed writers of Canada who intends to bring out the issues of Canada and Sri Lanka, but also the essential themes like protecting the environment and the world of Computers. The paper deals with the short stories of V N Giritharan.

It is apparent that V N Giritharan could be recognized as a writer among the Canadian writers, though his writings are translated into English from Tamil. His works deals with the complexities of existing as the “other” in Canada on different planes. For the research paper, the psychological complexity of existence of the immigrants in Canada, as expressed by the author is discussed. Three short stories namely Husband, Homeless and Mice (translated into English by Latha Ramakrishnan) are taken for the purpose. Basically, all the three short stories deal with different themes at the surface level. However, in the deeper level of analysis, it is to be observed that the author writes his views as a Canadian immigrant through the characters.

In Husband, Sababathi is the protagonist in the story whose situation is best known to the readers by his thought-process. There is no direct conversation at all, except for the one that Sababathi had with his colleague Christina in the Greek restaurant. At the outset, the theme of the story appears to be revolving around the suspicious mind of Sababathi about the past of his gorgeous-looking wife Banumathy. However, there is an intense emotion of suffocation expressed by the protagonist- the misery of being an alien to a refugee land. The suffocation is the result of the void within his mind – an emptiness produced as he is being dispossessed of his own land. Sababathi thinks, “human animals suffocate within the narrow walls of these concrete jungles.” The contrast, he sees in the weather of Toronto and the climatic conditions of his motherland strikes him very hard.

the yearning to recline near the Navali sand mounds and enjoy watching the fields spread far and wide, the crownland seashore that could be seen faraway, ‘Kallundai’ space, the palm girls swaying in the wind would grip him painfully

In addition to the weather, the immigrant thinks about the drinks that his people used to take in his native land. The comparison of “Panag Kallu’ and ‘Kuranku’ (palmwine and arrack)” with Tequila and Marguerita illustrates the plight of Sababathi that he craves to be in his own bucolic space than to be in a sophisticated place of total emptiness. The luxurious drinks do not offer him any console as the memory of his native land does. He recollects his apprenticeship in a ship where he mingled with people from various other nations. The survival anxiety makes him learn so many new lessons from his acquaintances. In this way, Sababathi acquires a good deal of knowledge about the Greeks – Archimedes, Plato and Aristotle – that he makes use of in the Greek restaurant where he works.

The author attempts to bring out the pathetic condition of the people like Sababathi who are brought to Canada though agents. Both Sababathi and his wife Banu had been uprooted from Sri Lanka, when the situation became too worse to live in. They had to depend on the agents who could almost use them as commodities. This is the real cause of the suspicion in the mind of Sababathi, as he imagines that Banu might have had an affair with the agent who retained her for a month in Singapore in the past. It can be inferred that Sababathi or Banu did not willingly choose Canada to be their refugee land. It was the agent who chose the immigrant country for these unfortunate souls.

The cultural suffocation in the story is another layer of outlook that shows the hollowness of Immigrant existence. Sababathi lives in Toronto, works in a Greek restaurant, moves along with the Canadian people like Christina, but is a typical Indian husband, believing highly in the ethical values of the chastity and loyalty of women towards their husbands. Christina is shocked by this attitude and she refers to the Epic Ramayana:

Did Seetha go to Ravana willingly? If the Epic was written in such a way that the people suspected her chastity and fidelity but Rama accepted her back whole heartedly with no doubt whatsoever then Ramayan would’ve been my favorite story. Look us at us. Till we get married we are living as we please. After marriage we are not bothered about our past lives. But you Indians, you would go with any number of women. But, your wife should be chaste and loyal.

This is a blow to the disgusting attitude of a narrow-minded husband who suffers from the disease of suspicion. This cultural suffocation makes Sababthi’s plight much worse. The readers feel sorry for him rather than to be angry with him. The emptiness, a kind of less, or no, space at all around him makes him a pitiable immigrant. Finally, he makes up his mind to welcome his wife with a hot cup of coffee, again a typical Indian attitude.

The story Homeless, as the name suggests, communicates the weirdness of the behavior of an immigrant. The speaker in the story is a working- man who is returning from his daily labour every night. The story is narrated in the first person point of view. The speaker witnesses an African homeless man who diplomatically begs with a plastic container. “On that it was written ‘Clarke for Toronto Mayor’ in English.” Though stunned by this, the speaker donates two dollars, and tries to shoot questions regarding this odd behaviour. The black man “introduced himself: “Friend, my name is Clarke, I am standing for the election of Toronto Mayorship. I am homeless”.”

This answer reminds the speaker about an incident in Sri Lanka where the Sri Lankan President once visited a mental asylum, and introduced himself as the Sri Lankan President to one of its patients. He said, “Sir, I too had uttered those words and as a result had been trapped here ever since. Don’t you dare tell that again to others, that which you have told me now. Then, you will also suffer the same fate.” The speaker humorously compares the inmate of the Sri Lankan mental asylum with the homeless African in Canada. He is sympathetic towards the homeless man, as he himself is in the same – a strange albatross to the Canadian mariners.

It is really a startling matter that a homeless immigrant, an outsider, aspires to become the Toronto Mayor, not only for the speaker in the story, but for the readers too. With increased excitement, the author asks him for the reason why he wishes to become a Mayor. The reply is:

“If I were to be seen by the policemen they won’t leave me. They won’t leave you too. But, do you think that such a situation would befall a white-man? The immigrants, minorities are the ones affected and suffer a lot. I should help them all. And that’s why I am going to stand in this Election”

At the outset, the odd behavior of the homeless appears to be comical, as the author himself is reminded of an inmate of a mental asylum. The homeless suffers from a space-less life in a country, which offers more space to the majority. The emptiness of the mind makes the African behave in a mysterious way. The speaker somehow identifies his own self with the homeless, who at least has a space to imagine about his role in the Mayor Elections of Toronto. Moved profoundly by the story of the homeless, the speaker finally passes a comment “Just like this mysterious city, a mysterious man.”

Mice brings out the philosophical view of the survival impulse of both the author as well as the mouse that torments the family by its mere existence. In a way, the author expresses his existential struggle through the mouse. He uses words like “defeat” and “victory” as if he is in a battlefield. The agony of living with cockroaches and mice is not destined to the elite group of immigrants in Canada. There is a choice in being an immigrant. For the Sri Lankan immigrants, it is an imposed one, as in the case of the mouse. Wherever the mouse could get little food, water and a small hole, it starts occupying the place, not bothered really about the original owner. In the story, the author’s better half is very obstinate in getting rid of the mouse in the apartment.

The author takes the mission in his hand to encounter the mouse in the battlefield. He keeps the trap ready on the dining table with some rice and flour to attract the enemy foe. The author watches each and every movement of the little mouse with awe-stricken eyes. He marvels at the existential ventures that the tiny animal risks for its survival. A sudden enlightenment must have come to the mind that a mouse too needs fortitude to maintain its space. He ponders:

My wife’s grumbling and complaints to find a way to do away with mice came to mind vaguely. Oh! My foolish woman, don’t these mice also have their family, kids and such other relationships, just like us? And, who can say how many lives are there relying on this one tiny life? Just because it eats a few grains or food particles, say what at all do we lose…?

Apart from the humanistic appeal that the author makes, it is obvious that the author relates his own immigrant space as an unwanted visitor of the new land through the story. It is painful to be an unsolicited visitor to a new province. The mouse escapes the fate of being killed by the author, unlike the albatross that was shot dead by the Ancient Mariner in the poem of S T Coleridge. The inner consciousness of the author wishes to be free of any sort of subjugation.

V N Giritharan shares his views about his short stories as, “The problem of color is a very important issue that one has to face in an immigrant existence. It is something that every immigrant is bound to face.”

The negative space of such immigrants in the alien land makes them an addict to their complex memories. The bliss of motherland memories relieves them with interim space. The immigrants portrayed in the short stories are torn between the present and the past with a query about their future. The present state of their rootless existence chokes them with much pressure from the inside, though they appear to be natural on the outside. The result is that there is a void within. In the case of V N Giritharan, the Canadian Tamil writer, the emptiness he felt in his heart was shaped in the form of stories. He painfully acknowledges that he is not able to forget the travails and traumas of his motherland, and at the same time he could not free himself from the clutches of his new surroundings in a different country.

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Bibliography> Giritharan V.N. “Re: Re: A Paper on your work.” Message to Dharani. R. 20 January, 2013 6:33 AM. E-mail. Giritharan, V N. Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan. Husband. 28 Jan.2013. . Giritharan, V N. Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan. Homeless. 28 Jan.2013. < http://www.geotamil.com/vng/vng_story_homeless.html&gt;. Giritharan, V N. Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan. Mice. 28 Jan.2013. Giritharan, V N. Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan. My Stories. 28 Jan.2013. < http://www.geotamil.com/vng/vng_on_mystories.htm

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