– S.Ganesalingan ; Translation By: Latha Ramakrishnan –
Epics 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.