Canadian Literature

The Experience of Diaspora to SriLankan Tamil Literary Oeuvre; Changing Landscape and Identities in Tamil Culture! By Hildegard Anne Maria, MA English, St.Alosyius College, Mangalore, India

This paper explores on the literature of the exile and diaspora, their imagination within the alienation from their native culture, their struggles, perceptions, and their confrontations with an another culture etc. Tamilians had migrated into several parts of the world; but major migrations occurred towards Srilanka and Malaysia. The people from these places in fact had immensely contributed to the Tamil literary hemisphere despite of the political, economic and social distinctions from the mother culture. The quest for self- identity(suya adayalam) and Tamil identity (tamizh adayalam) is in jeopardy. Perhaps this juxtaposition of identities help in creating distinguished identity, one that is intrigued by the mixed cultural experience and heritage. The paper also explores on the life of the people in those migrated areas of Srilanka and the reflection of their lives in the culture.

KEYWORDS: Diaspora, Tamil, identity, displacement, migration, multiculturalism.

The collective self-identification of a diaspora as a distinct community in a triadic relationship with host society and home society also has political implications. Collectively, the diaspora community is strategically positioned to engage in both immigrant politics (say, to better its situation within the host society) and homeland politics (say, to better the situation in the land left behind). The latter, a form of “translocal” political involvement, has come to be labeled as ‘long-distance nationalism’ (Anderson, 1998) or ‘diaspora nationalism. (ibid. p.496)

These themes are perhaps more relevant today than ever as there is a growing relevance in the study of diaspora and especially of that of Tamil literary oeuvre. The writings of this genre are rising to the point that it explores the scope and exponents of one’s true identity that is being questioned. One of the eminent writers, V.N. Giridharan showcases the lives of Srilankan people through his short stories. His exploration into the effects of asylum-seeking as well as immigration in Canada and the most vital and cherished components of traditional Tamil culture and Tamil homeland of Sri Lanka had received international attributions. His books discusses on the consciousness of linkages within the Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora so that, despite being numerically small and geographically dispersed, it has emerged as a vocal and influential force in shaping political developments in Sri Lanka. The diaspora’s economic, cultural, and political importance in relation to the Tamil community in Sri Lanka has also increased. (p. 496)

V.N. Giridharan reveals the altered fibre of a community that has tried to adhere rigidly to the traditional ideals of an idealized Tamil culture in a North American nation that physically serves as home, yet remains insistently alien. Recognizing the ambiguity of the boundaries of diaspora, he presents the plight of the diaspora which cannot still feel a homeland as a place that has to be imagined by nurturing a sense of communal distinctiveness, socially though not geographically. Under these circumstances, the imagination of “home”, however, does not have to take the shape of a particular community rooted in a particular sort of place, whereas modernist theories of nation conceptualize nations as a particular community rooted in a specific place, geography, or physical setting (Billig 1995).

Whenever the homeland people who have their relatives and friends in the immigrated countries contact them over the phone or letter, the immigrants never fail to express emptiness, a sense of boredom resulting from the mechanized life style and a reservation to mingle with the host community resisting assimilation into their socio-cultural framework. Though they express a yearning to be in their mother land within their familiar social and physical setting, their priority for personal, political and economic security lures them to settle in these new lands.

The long-hour monotonous odd jobs and labours do not satisfy their fundamental longings for socio-cultural identity. They are not able to find themselves a political identity in their host countries. These are the identities which can give fulfilment and complete meaning to their personal and social life. As a result, their social conscience pushes them to see a wide gap Under these circumstances, the imagination of “home” and “identity”, however, does not have to take the shape of a particular community rooted in a particular sort of place, whereas modernist theories of nation conceptualize nations as a particular community rooted in a specific place, geography, or physical setting; transcending to the conflict between what they feel as a ‘freedom’ in their land and what their kith and kin feel as a “freedom” in the homeland. This gap creates a vacuum in life in the west and instils a thrust to practice a long distance nationalism and culture in their host land. It also persuades them to support the political struggle financially and instils in them a moral commitment to the political resistance in their homeland.

Given its size and strategic location, Sri Lanka has been more open to the world and international flows of goods, people and ideas than some of its larger and more land-locked neighbours. While from ancient times to the present, Theravada Buddhism was carried by monks from Sri Lanka along the “Sea Silk Route”, travellers, visitors and colonisers were to leave behind an island of hybrid histories and ambivalent legacies. The island’s people and cultures were romanticised in colonial anthropological literature that dwelt extensively on the cultural diversity of its inhabitants and their harmonious coexistence − until the program of July 1983, which sharply divided the island’s two dominant communities and precipitated an unprecedented outflow of refugees. The post-1983 mass migration gave rise to the most clearly articulated Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora identity. Recent studies of the Sri Lankan diaspora have focused primarily on migration during the past 30 years of conflict between the state and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), which resulted in a large flow of refugees to all parts of the world. Some families have been divided and live in multiple continents. However, prior to this conflict-induced displacement and migration, there were earlier waves of migration from the island during the colonial and early post-colonial period. During the conflict between the government and the Marxist-Maoist Janatha Vimukthi Peremuna in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a refugee exodus from southern Sri Lanka, particularly to London. More recently, a large number of women and men have found employment in the Middle East and constitute transnational communities. The notion of “diaspora” may be broadly defined to signify not only the “scattering of people” due to political persecution (as in the original use of the term in the Jewish tradition), but also the emergence of transnational communities and the economic and socio-cultural dynamics of migration. Conflict-induced migration and economic migration has often merged and blurred the distinction between economic migrants and refugees. In recent times, the Sri Lankan diaspora has grown and been engaged with post-colonial conflicts and, increasingly, reconstruction and development in the homeland. Reclaiming a Multicultural Diaspora for Peace and Reconciliation In the aftermath of almost 30 years of armed conflict between the state and the LTTE, which has generated and accelerated waves of migration from Sri Lanka and fractured a multicultural social fabric that was once famed for the peaceful coexistence of diverse faiths and cultures, the diaspora metaphor may be ‘good to think with’. Diaspora also connotes the mixing and mingling of cultures, peoples, histories and the pluralityof identity. It signals multiculturalism and hybridity while connoting cultural, religious and historical ties to Sri Lanka, Ceylon, Taprobane and Serendip (from which the English word serendipity originates), as the island has been known at different times to different trading communities that settled there. The study and understanding of the Sri Lankan diaspora may serve to pluralise history and identity and, indeed, the history of identity in Sri Lanka beyond the confrontational ethno-nationalist identity politics that was consolidated in the recent armed conflict. It may provide a conceptual frame for the accommodation of cultural diversity and pluralism and reclaiming Sri Lanka’s multicultural past.

Romesh Gunesekara a Sri Lankan born British author keeps revisiting his home country through his poems, novels and short stories. In an interview to the Gaurdian he says, I have always written out of an urgency… because, any minute, everything can fall apart – including life.‖ [353] When asked as to why his stories were always set in Sri Lanka he replies, ―One reason the stories have tended to go back to that setting is my desire to understand violence… It could as easily be Nazi Germany or Rwanda, But Sri Lanka is the one.‖ Further down in the interview when talking of his novel, ‘The Match’ he says that Sri Lankan ethnic divides are ‗all manufactured‘ he also says that when goes down the history they are not deep rooted and are infact intermingled. He aimed to create a fictional and imaginative Sri Lanka through his words and adds that, ―It doesn‘t matter to me if it corresponds with reality.‖ [354]

In an interview with Ka Bradley in Granta to the Magazine of New Writing Gunesekara speaks of the protagonist of his novel Noontide Toll. Vasantha a taxi driver finds himself in a ―world where people are fundamentally talkative but sometimes too frightened to speak, or prone to forgetfulness. The scenario being post war it is easy to comprehend as to why people were afraid. The uncertainty ‘lulls over them and their hesitation to participate in the reconciliation are only obvious. Gunesekara recollects the words of a famous Sri Lankan journalist in the 1950s, long before the recent war began but at a time when trouble was brewing, called Ceylon (as it was then) the land of amnesia‘.

Jean Arasanayagam has a rich contribution to the Anglophone Sri Lankan literature. Born of Dutch Burgher parents and married to a Tamil, she offers insights as to what it is to be the other in a race conscious hyper pseudo society. Through her poems and short stories she keeps reassuring the fact that she shares a common heritage in the Island Nation. She brings in the complexities that are involved in feminine identity in a conflict zone. The domestic alienation by her in-laws who did not appreciate their son marrying a lady of a different ethnic background, the larger picture of the conflict zone and the ‗displacement faced by a minority citizen‘ are the overpowering themes one can find in her works.

We have to record the history of our times. Our personal histories are related to the cataclysmic events that have swept away our dislocated lives. Memory must not be effaced. What we have learnt, what we have experienced in these camps are the lessons of humanity, a shared humanity.‖ [357]

She says talking of the refugee camps and the displacement of people during the war. Speaking of the polarisation of the relationships between the Sinhalese and Tamils she notes Suspicion, Alienation and Hostility. All these things became a part of society here. Sge thought of those who died in holocaust here, while nature, undisturbed, proliferated. It was happening that should never be erased from living memory. It was the moment of the loss of humanity. Bestiality was rampant. This was seen in the looting, burning, rape, killing. We were all de-humanized Answering to a question on search of her identity, she says, ‘Hybridity’ of her ancestral roots and its transplantation in the indigenous roots of Sri Lanka gives her a strong feeling of belonging here and yet being part of there.‘ This is the collective voice of a number of people in Sri Lanka. While the country is busy demarking the boundaries and divides between Tamils and Sinhalese, what happens to those who were engaged in inter-ethnic relationships and marriages are they being ‘assimilated’ or are they being ‘alienated’. Sections of literature tell us of how families have disowned their children who chose to marry the ‘other’. And most of them sought refugee off shores as they were sceptical of their future in the Island Nation.

Vasugi. V. Ganeshananthan the Sri Lankan American fiction writer and journalist in her famous novel Love Marriage (2008) gives voice to the hundreds of Diasporic couples and individuals who despite the geographical distance from the war zones of Sri Lanka face the turbulence in their domestic lives when married to the opponent ethnic group. In a review of her novel Salil Tripathi remarks that the story, ―mixes up the sequence, tossing before the reader shards of memories which look like pieces of broken bangles. But when we look at those broken bangles through her kaleidoscope, her twisting of the lens reveals patterns that make it possible to understand aspects of the conflict, even if the horrors cannot be excused.

Nothing is simple about the Sri Lankan conflict, in which (as the writer Suketu Mehta pointed out to me) nobody accuses Muslims of fanaticism, Hindus are suicide bombers, and Buddhists can be brutal. A global terrorism study found that Muslims did not lead the league table of suicide bombers; the Tamil Tigers did. [360]
There has been the temptation in some quarters to dismiss the seminal work as some sort of an apology for the Tamils. To fall for this easy line of thinking would in quite unsophisticed for Subramanian also records the fashion in which the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam went about its business in the name of achieving the stated objectives. Ten years, I calculate to myself. That was long it had taken for the Tigers to go from killing out of perceived necessity to killing for sport‘ he has said in his well researched book going to talk about the rise and fall of the LTTE chieftain Velupillai Prabhakaran, his massive operation, audacity to run a government within a government, large scale destruction, lack of compassion leaves us speechless.The author has made the argument that even as the Tamils were tormented enough in being denied their identity and sense of belonging, they were also traumatised by the tactics of an organisation that they looked up to.
And this would naturally bring forth the debate on whether the LTTE lost the ―war‖ even before its final conclusion in 2009. And scholars like Subramaniam will make the point that the LTTE lost the war much before 2009 when they lost the faith of the Tamils themselves. By the time the Tamils, the author makes the point, had realized that their struggle for an identity was misrepresentated a decade had passed by and enough damage was done. They were sandwiched between the Tigers and the Lions. Inter-twined with the concept for the searching identity is that of the Displacement of the Tamils–people constantly running for their lives, either by themselves or being chased by both parties. To live in this bedlam, where nothing was constant, one had no clue of the whereabouts of the rest of the family, or safety of the kith and kin.

Subramanian‘s work is not just an addition to the Literature on immigration, identity and social change for This Divided Island has also been seen as another brilliant contribution to media and the ethnic conflict as it throws light on the tremendous pressures faced by Sri Lankan media outlets to survive in the course of the conflict journalists were intimidated, violated, abducted and at times killed. Press offices were set on fire and the whole world was watching this unable to do anything. In End Games he records the reconstruction of the entire nation, where the Rajapaksa government is trying its best to scrub clean of all evidences, challenging the cries and screams of humanitarian voices, rewriting history and archaeology. The contribution of authors like Subramanian brings about mixed emotions. Stories enthral, entertain, and educate. Questions of Identity‘that became critical during war were seen through the literature sections and the Social Change that constituted the post – war Sri Lanka highlighting the Triumphantalism‘, Majoritarianism’ and ‘National Reconciliation‘ from the works of these authors. In fact an argument can be made that even during the post conflict phase, these very themes have been loudly debated both within Sri Lanka and outside, the argument being that even if the ethnic conflict has been largely won by the government in Sri Lanka by wiping out the LTTE, the contributing factors that led to the unfortunate scheme of things continue to be largely unaddressed and only complicated by tizzy notions of triumphantalism, majoritarianism and a so-called national reconciliation that refuses to address issues of Tamil identity and assimilation two core issues that are at the heart of the problem. The pain of living away from the homeland is reflected in a different perspective, which includes the blacks, and the Indians in addition to Sri Lankan Tamils. The empathy shown mutually among them is really heartening. What binds them together is the identity crisis of living as refugees doing odd jobs. They were well off in their country with social respect and they found some meaning in life over there.

Categories: Canadian Literature, Literature, Reviews, World Literature | Leave a comment

The Dark Night of the Soul: A Study of the Existential Crisis of the Sri Lankan Tamil Refugees as depicted in the novel An Immigrant by the Canadian Tamil Writer V.N. Giritharan

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

Any journey in life is blissfully ever sought by human travelers across the globe. However, there are certain migrations by specific ethnic groups who are left with not much choice except for a disagreeable movement, sometimes hazardous ones too. Life and journey go hand in hand in a pleasant manner for any human being with comfortable existence. Crisis occurs only when life becomes uncertain in the homeland and to enter an alien land. Srilankan Tamil people is one such ethnic group who have been going through the crisis of existence for having born in a land that coerces cruelty upon them. The writer V.N. Giritharan was born as a blessed being like others in a Tamil family in Sri Lanka. He grew up as a writer as well as an Architecture graduate with great sensitivity towards the land and people around him. However, his state of affairs did not remain the same, as there were the chaos and brutalities of the ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamil. The only way to survive was to leave the homeland with a heavy heart and to move towards an asylum. This journey is the most pathetic one in any man’s life. His sufferings have been portrayed vividly in the novel An immigrant in which the protagonist named Ilango lives as the replica of the writer V.N. Giritharan himself.

The paper attempts to explore the existential predicament of the protagonist of the novel An Immigrant whose personal experiences demonstrate the physical, psychological multicultural, ethnic, political and socio-economic issues of such immigrants across the globe.

Key words : Canadian-Tamil Writer, V.N. Giritharan, forced migration, Diaspora, Tamil ethnic race, refugees, unwilling immigrant, identity crisis, political asylum.

“I remained, lost in oblivion;
My face I reclined on the Beloved.
All ceased and I abandoned myself,
Leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.” (St. John of the Cross)

Literature is the outcome of multiple outlooks of the creator, well or ill reciprocated by the society. Fictional world is crafted out of the composition of the original passions. The concepts of the imagination could exemplify the unfeigned nature of the situation of the author. Such is the situation with the writer V.N. Giritharan, the popular Tamil writer of Canada who is presently publishing an on-line Tamil magazine known as pathivugal from Canada. He belongs to the family of Tamil in Sri Lanka who had to migrate from his homeland to an alien land for political causes.

Being a child prodigy, he exposed his writing talent even at the very early age of 10 years. From his childhood days, he has been a keen observer of the people and the events around him. It is this observatory quality that has made him a creative writer who blends facts and imagination. He is the author of many articles in various magazines along with poems and short stories. He has 5 books to his credit, originally written in Tamil and later translated into English such as ‘The Voice of Soil’, ‘America’ -A collection of short stories and a novella- ‘Rise the  Superhuman’  – an anthology of revolutionary Tamil poems, ‘An Immigrant’ – the novel taken for the research paper, ‘Nallur Rajadhnani City Layout’ – a critical study of the interior architecture and the planning of the city Nallur during the 16th century and some short stories too. It is evident that he is a multifaceted person with the genius of touching upon various genres of literature with ease. Though he was born and brought up in Sri Lanka, where he obtained the degree of architecture from the University of Moratuwa, he along with his fellow Tamil group, had to leave his motherland in the crisis of the 1983 ethnic conflict.

The research paper makes a modest attempt of the issues related to the refugees from Sri Lanka to the USA and Canada, which have been offering political asylum to the Sri Lankan Tamil people. The novel An Immigrant echoes the predicament of V.N. Giritharan himself through the major character Ilango. As the title suggests, the novel revolves around the various aspects of the immigrant Ilango in an alien land. His journey from his motherland to a new soil forced on him. The odious expedition of the young man of Sri Lanka involves multiple layers of meaning. The existential struggle of the protagonist as portrayed in the novel An Immigrant can be evaluated from the viewpoint of the following themes.

The physical adversities
Psychological anguish
Social injustices
Cultural incompatibility and multiculturalism
Economic deprivation
Political encumbrances
Linguistic inability

The basis of any human existence lies in the freedom of choosing one’s own life. In the case of an Immigrant like Ilango, the Protagonist of the novel, his existence is transformed into a form of survival. In the very beginning of the novel, Ilango spends a sleepless night in the detention camp contemplating his uncertain future. In his diary, he refers to the physical brutality enforced upon fellow Tamil people in Sri Lanka. To quote the words of Ilango,

When we were running to safety, huddled inside a State wagon thanks to the grace of an Indian engineer in Colombo, the thugs had poured petrol over a mini-van carrying Tamils and set it on fire, eliminating them cruelly. They had caught hold of a hapless Tamil youth riding in with his bicycle and bashed him to death. Another Tamil had been disrobed by them, humiliated and was subsequently set ablaze. In Kirulapanai, they had killed the little sister of a young Tamil woman right in front of her eyes, so turning her into a psychological wreck and then subjected her to gang-rape before finally killing her too. As is the rule, this time also, the labourers of the Tea-Estates in the mountain regions – the Tamils of Indian origin – have become the target of wide-spread arson and violence. (19).

The violence on the physique is the most ruthless and mean form of showing authority. Though Ilango has not been violently treated physically, the distress of his friends and the family intimidate him, and agitates him to the extent of leaving his homeland. The memories of the past and the nostalgia are the two important issues that cause dejection and depression in the immigrant. When it rains in the alien land, Ilango recollects his homeland – the land that celebrates the Rain God and the Mother Nature. A chapter in the novel with the subtitle “The Heart that gets into the trance in the rain” (24) is devoted completely to the reminiscences of Ilango associated with the torrential shower in the “Long island.” The craving to be with the family in the homeland remains unfulfilled in the life of an immigrant like Ilango. He happens to negotiate between the past and present incessantly.

The loss of identity is another major issue to be noticed in the novel, which has the effect of fracturing the psyche of the already distressed refugees. Ilango flees his homeland along with other victims to a land that might offer him an asylum. Unfortunately, the most essential thing he has to forgo is to lose his identity as an individual. All who have sought an asylum are viewed as criminals and illegal immigrants since most of them do not have the legal papers that are expected in the rule of immigration. There are exploitations at the working place since these people do not have appropriate legal documents. Some agents or anti-social elements tend to manipulate pathetic situations of people like Ilango. In such situations, an even righteous person like Ilango has to compromise with the expectations of the inhuman employer for the sake of his survival. However, when the dreadful nature exceeds the limit, Ilango retorts:

“Don’t you like the work here?”
lIango decided to speak the truth as far as possible, being true to his conscience, “It is not that I don’t like the work, but – ”
While he was half way through his sentence Napoleon cut him short and shot another question, “Then, is the work difficult to do?”
“That is the foremost reason. Working for too many hours, non-stop, and when I return home at last, it is just to go to bed, sleep and get up early and return to work. This is what is proving very hard. The body feels terribly fatigued and broken. Then…”
“The income is not proportionate to the hard work. It is not something easy to do, the work of two single-handedly.”
When Ilango uttered these words, they must have made Napoleon a little startled. His next question made it clear, “What? Doing the job of two? Who told you so?”
“Where is the need for anyone to tell? The mere quantity of work tells it all. Don’t you see?”
Ilango’s blunt words must have saddened Napoleon a little. “Being here is illegal. In such a condition what better job can you expect?”
The way Naopoleon stressed the illegal immigrants pitiable existence angered Ilango. In a voice that expressed his anger, which was rarely shown by Ilango, “Though my stay here is presently illegal, I have the relevant documents with me, you know. True, I have entered this country as an illegal immigrant and circumstances have thus forced me to come and stay here.” (44)

As a chain reaction to the loss of identity, the immigrants tend to compare their original culture with the new one. The habits and the manners of the alien land are very shocking to Ilango and Arulrasa. However, they become accustomed to the culinary habits and the societal mannerisms of the new land. An assimilation of two cultures is evident in the life of the refugees. Food is an important aspect of any culture. Being Tamil people, the two characters Ilango and Arulrasa pine for the special food prepared and served on the long banana leaves. After the search for a dwelling place ends with the a rented home, they immediately plan for cooking their favourite meal:“Cooked, hot rice and an excellently fried chicken side-dish, chicken soup, fried potato chips, boiled egg-pieces, and another side-dish made of grains and one more with vegetables and a beverage made of ‘Iraal’. We have all the facilities there. It will not be hard” (31). It is evident that Tamil people are fond of spicy food that is not available in the western regions of the world.

It has always been a matter of economic crisis for any refugee that encounters a new land. Leaving all wealth behind, in the process of rushing to a new country, the basic need for any person is enough currency to take care of the day-to-day expenses. Ilango and his friend Arulrasa struggle hard to find a job and a place to live in New York. They are offered a shared dwelling place with Gosh, a Bengali for a weekly rent thirty dollars in the home of Mrs. Padma Ajith. This is a temporary relief for them. The next major challenge is to find a suitable job for their living. Ilango, who had a respectable job in his homeland Sri Lanka, is now in a state of apprehension about his jobless present and the uncertain future. Ilango asks, “Gosh, is there any way I can get a job without delay? I don’t have any relevant certificate, which could fetch me a job. I am presently trying to apply for a Social Insurance Number”(32). Ilango and Arulrasa are warned of their status as illegal immigrants with no Social Insurance Number in a city like New York. Finally, they resort to the aid of a man named Peter from Greece, whose sole occupation is to supply temporary jobs to these kinds of illegal immigrants from whom he used to take a commission of eighty dollars each.

Agent Peter is a man who is an opportunist in a way to make use of the financial scantiness of the illegal immigrants. He offers a job to Ilango in a restaurant only after waiting for five days in the office of Peter. Ilango is instantly happy to have got a job, and joins his work the next day. His work is explained by his chief Mark:

You have to wash and clean the cups that the female attendants would be bringing every
now and then. You have to wash them in the ‘dish-washing machine’ and keep them in
their places. When you are doing so, you are not to throw away the butter-pieces, jam and
all that were left unused in the plates and cups. Instead, you should collect them in another cup. With that, you should also collect the peelings of lobsters that would also be left unused at times. That is your first piece of important work. If you are slow in doing this, the female attendants would become disorientated and their work will suffer. So, the moment they come and place the cups and dishes, you should wash and clean them at once. Secondly, you must cooperate with me. I would keep the pans that I use for frying fish and other meats in those wash-basins over there. While washing the cups and dishes, you should have an eye on those wash-basins too. When you see the basins filled up to a certain level, you will wash them (and any utensils you may find). The next important chore is washing and cleaning the kitchen floor, which becomes dirty and sticky every now and then. Not just the kitchen, if required, if asked, you should clean the floors of the restaurant too. (42)

Ilango becomes speechless about the descriptions of his work, as he never used to do such
manual labour in his past life. His status as a refugee and his financial crisis in an alien land
has brought such an unfortunate situation in his life.

Politically, the issue of the Sri Lankan people and the Tamil ethnic race is the cause for the suffering of countless Tamil people like Ilango and Arulrasa. The migration is forced upon these so treacherously that the respectable people like Ilango have to seek an asylum for their future and to opt for blue-collar jobs. Ilango directly accuses some political leaders of Sri Lanka for the agony and the desolation of the Tamil Ethnic race. He writes in his diary:

As soon as J.R. Jeyawardhane won the seat of the President of Sri Lanka in 1977, there was
a terrible ethnic violence on an enormous scale. And the present President described it as the
outcome of the Tamils voting in favour of a separate State, saying “WAR MEANS WAR:
PEACE MEANS PEACE’ thus worsening the current state of affairs. It is indeed very apt to
describe J.R.Jeyawardhane as the most experienced and cunning jackal in the political arena.

It was he who, by the undertaking of a ‘paadha –yaathraa’ to Kandy, forced the agreement
that was between the then Prime-Minister Bandaranayake and S.J.V Selvanayagam to be
torn to pieces. He was an expert in using his power and avenging his political opponents. It
was he who had made the premier Sirimavo Bandaranayage lose her fundamental political
rights. This time, arson and violence against the Tamils in a well-planned, systematic
manner were unleashed with the blessings of his cabinet ministers. This was used as another
excuse for the killings of the Sinhala Policemen, who were shot at the election meeting that
took place in the courtyard of Naachimaar temple in Jaffan, in the year 1981. Now, right
under the nose of ministers like Gamini dhisanayake, ethnic violence was unleashed onto
the State and the Jaffna library was burnt to ashes. The office of Eela Naadu Daily was
ransacked and set afire.(19-20)

The malice and self-centered motives of some political leaders devastate the lives of the Tamil ethnic group and the genocide. Ilango feels desperate about his helplessness as a refugee in a country where he can never use his melodious Tamil Language too. In all his losses in life, he considers the loss of his mother Tongue as the dominant one. His love for his mother tongue Tamil and Tamil Literature has to be forgotten temporarily as there is no such scope in the alien land. However, his thoughts revolve around the rebellious poems of the Tamil poets and Eelam writers such as Bharathiar and Kavindran (Aa.Na.Kandasami) in times of depression to him. These poems supply extraordinary energy to his sorrow-stricken psyche.

The Novel An Immigrant articulates the existential crisis of a Tamil refugee who seeks asylum in a land that might offer him a political shelter. From the detention camps of America, Ilango (the author V.N. Giritharan as well) finally reaches Canada where he can feel safer compared to the stringent rules of the USA. However, as discussed above, the losses of Ilango are not compensated. In the journey of Ilango, the path is thorny, unclear, foggy, hazardous, and there is the low prospect of reaching a blissful destination. In addition, the journey was not a willing one. The political and the social instability thrusts the migration upon the Tamil race.

To conclude, the story of Ilango in the novel An Immigrant is not just the tale of a single person. It incorporates the woeful tales of infinite number of the Tamil ethnic race who have been brutally assaulted in riots – some escaped, some murdered, some survived as mere vegetables, some committed suicide and so on. Ilango identifies their group as “Pulam Peyarnthor” (means migratory people). It would be appropriate to quote from the novel itself. Starting from the line from Silappadhikaaram which says,” KALAMTHARU THIRUVIN PULAM PEYAR MAAKKAL’ migration takes place due to various reasons. And, today’s immigration takes place mainly for socio-political and economic reasons. Ilango continued with such thoughts as he remembered the poignant poem of the
renowned poet of Eelam, V.I.S.Jeyabalan that has the following lines:

just like the camel
that has lost its way and
have arrived in Alaska being in Oslo

A poem that speaks to any migrant whose purpose was to move due to the prevailing socio-political and economic reasons. Be it Musthafa or Michael or his own self – they all
appear as the camel that has lost its way and has landed here. The fact is, real camels may have not even survived in Alaska, but these human camels would surely find ways to
survive and get along with life. Or at least venture on all possible roads in order to do so. (38-39)

From the above lines, it is clearly inferred that the existence of such people who are forced to migrate to an unknown landscape with unfamiliar customs would be beyond description for an ordinary man. Among the challenges and the issues faced by mankind, forced migration due to political reasons is a prominent one. The plight of the Tamil ethnic race that had sought an asylum in various countries for so long has expressed their crisis through literature. Promoting literature that deals with such issues would at least make the reading public sensitized to the crucial issues of forced migrants like Ilango.

Works Cited
John, St. of the Cross. Dark Night of the Soul. Poet Seers. Ed. Abichal Watkins 14 May,2002 accessed Jan. 15.2017. web.
Giritharan, V.N. kudivaravaravaalan. Oviya Pathippagam, December 2015. Print.
An Immigrant. Trans. Latha Ramakrishnan. Feb.14 2013. <; Dec. 07. 2016. Web.

Courtesy: ‘Scholarly International Multidisciplinary Print Journal’ (January -February 2017)

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Poem: The Tropical Man! By V.N.Giritharan


While lying on the bed,
I glanced through the windows
to see the Urban night sky.

The sky without stars!

Melancholic thoughts engulf me.

The thoughts of the tropical night
bring back the good old memories
of the land
I left a long time ago.

The star-twinkling night sky!
The large-eyed owls!
The night-roaming bats!

The tropical man
I am.
longing for the
lost memories

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Novel: AN IMMIGRANT By V.N.Giritharan ; Translation By Latha Ramakrishnan; Proofread & Edited By Thamayanthi Giritharan

novel_an_immigrant5aNovel: AN IMMIGRANT By V.N.Giritharan ; Translation By Latha Ramakrishnan; Proofread & Edited By Thamayanthi Giritharan

I have already written a novella , AMERICA , in Tamil, based on a Srilankan Tamil refugee’s life at the detention camp in New York. The journal, ‘Thaayagam’ was published from Canada while this novella was serialized. Then, adding some more short-stories, a short-story collection of mine was published under the title America by  Tamil Nadu based publishing house Sneha. In short, if my short-novel describes life at the detention camp, this novel ,An Immigrant , describes the struggles and setbacks a Tamil migrant to America faces for the sake of his survival – outside the walls of the detention camp. – V.N.Giritharan I

Chapter 1 am born anew
Chapter 2 In the middle of the night
Chapter 3 Cyclone
Chapter 4: A Courageous Priest
Chapter 5 From Ilango’s diary..…
Chapter 6 The heart that gets into a trance in the rain
chapter 7 Mrs. Padma Ajith
Chapter 8 Fabulous Feast
Chapter 9 The pride and glory of 42nd Road
Chapter 10 The camels of the desert that have lost their way.
Chapter 11 The tale of Ilango turning into Ilanagaa
Chapter 12 With hope intact!
Chapter 13 I want a job
Chapter 14 Funny immigration officer!
Chapter 15 Selling Umbrellas!
Chapter 16 16 Haribabu’s advertisement
Chapter 17 Haribabu’s road side business.
Chapter 18 Henry’s Cleverness (Yes?)
Chapter 19 Gosh in Love !
Chapter 20 Indira’s doubt
Chapter 21 By the grace of Carlo….
Chapter 23 An appeal to the goddess of freedom
Chapter 24 Heading towards lawyer Anisman’s office!
Chapter 25 Anisman’s advice and suggestion!
Chapter 26 A clever agent called Papblo
Chapter 27 I am born anew



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My English Poems!

My English Poems!
writing599Some of my English poems are available at PoemsHunter.Com in text and audio format. These poems talk about my thoughts on nature, E.T, urbanization, my mother land, life on this universe , my childhood memories and war mongering world politics. ‘My Humble Request To The Bellicose Rulers Of The World’ requests the leaders of the modern world to learn from the wars and their atrocities of the past. Birds always fascinate me because of their ability to fly freely over the lands divided among themselves in the name of religion, language and various divisions . ‘Einstein, My Dad And I’ describes my childhood memories fondly. The (M) Other Land talks about how my mother land became the other land. I encourage you to go through the site and enjoy the poems in the format of your choice.

1. Beseeching Mother Nature! By V.N.Giritharan 9/10/2013
2. My Belief On E.T By V.N.Giritharan 9/10/2013
3. A Squirrel And I By V.N.Giritharan 9/10/2013
4. The Damsels Of The Night Sky And Their Giggles. 9/10/2013
5. The Wanderers Of The Sky And Their Cry Of Melancholy. By V.N.Giritharan 9/11/2013
6. Night By V.N.Giritharan 9/16/2013
7. The (M) Other Land! 9/18/2013
8. An Urban Folk’s Cry! By V.N.Giritharan 9/22/2013
9. Einstein, My Dad And I By V.N.Giritharan 1/14/2014
10. The Earth! By V.N.Giritharan 1/14/2014
11. An Object Oriented Program! 1/14/2014
12. A Refugee’s Thoughts On Birds By V.N.Giritharan 9/10/2013
13. My Humble Request To The Bellicose Rulers Of The World!

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V.N.Giritharan (Navaratnam Giritharan ) Poems – Poem Hunter

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Poem: An Urban Folk’s Cry! By V.N.Giritharan

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Poem: A Jealous Poet! By V.N.Giritharan

I am jealous of  birds.

Some times I dream of

placing myself

in their shoes.

When the ground blooms

in the spring,

They arrive here, the North

from the South.

They are tireless flyers.

When the leaves leave the trees

They too leave from the North to the South.

In between,

they mate,

they lay eggs, and

when the eggs hatch,

they look after their offspring

until they become full fledged birds;

until they are ready

to spread their wings.

As I face the wintery environment,

they fly back to the warmer sky.

As they leave for the South,

A kind of sadness envelopes me.

Many years ago,

I left my home land

like these birds.

Since my arrival here

as an immigrant,

as a refugee,

I have been dreaming about

the land I left.

While, I am still dreaming

about sharing my life

in between the land I left

and the land I reach,

the Canadian Geese

live my dream

year after year.

I am jealous of them

for the way they divide

their life;

for the way

they accomodate

the best from both worlds.

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The Earth!

The Earth!
Which bird
lays this
magnificent egg?

An egg
produces lives
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An object oriented program!

Falling leaves, chirping birds,
blue skies, trees, lakes, twinkling stars,
Who wrote the code
of this program of space-time
where we all function?
An object oriented program.
This program has bugs like
all other programs,
but exceptional
in one aspect:
It allows
its objects
to fix its bugs.
Though the fixes
are not perfect and
they can be upgraded
by continual service packs
by the objects themselves,
not by the programmer.
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