Saturday, December 11, 2010

How a writer influences society is important!We find writers who crave for power & shamelessly justify their acts while blindly follow politicians.!!!

Meet the Author

Sundara Ramaswamy

I was born in 1931 in a village called Thazuviya Mahadevar kovil, the place where Lord Shiva embraced his consort. This village is a part of Nagercoil, a town located 20 km North of Kanyakumari. Nagercoil is my mother’s hometown and I was born here since it’s the tradition in our culture for women to have their deliveries at their parent’s house. At that time, my father worked for a company in Kottayam, an important business town in the erstwhile state of Travancore. When I think about my early days I remember that the standard of our life was that of a middle class family. Though there was no luxury, there was always enough food to eat and enough money to spend.

I began to feel that I was an unfortunate child even at a very early age. There maybe many reasons behind this. But the most important was that my mother was a chronic asthmatic patient who couldn’t do much household work and was always in bed. The first lesson that I learned from my father was that I should not go to my mother’s bedroom and disturb her unnecessarily. A mother expresses her love for her children by explicitly pouring out her affection, but children often express the same love by disturbing their mothers. As a child and even as a young boy I expressed my love by constantly bothering my mother and all those who were around me.

I believe that disturbance sprouts from a passion for freedom whereas order is contrived by humans to suppress that passion. My father was a disciplinarian. Whenever I share this with my friends, invariably they too tell me the same about their fathers. From this I have concluded that we were the lucky or unlucky children of disciplinarian fathers. For good or bad I believe they have vanished from this earth. Though the primary objective of disciplinarians is to create a perfect child, it always backfires. My father tried to make me brilliant. I was the only son. Not out of modesty but rather out of the faith I owe to facts, I have to say that I was the dullest child of the four. I was shy as a child and avoided guests as much as possible. Little by little I built my own world of dreams where I had unlimited space for my imaginations.

My mother tongue is Tamil but since there were no schools at Kottayam that taught Tamil, I learned Malayalam till I was nine. The other subjects that were considered important in school were Travancore history and Travancore mathematics – the value of the British rupee was 28.5 chakrams (the currency unit of Travancore) and the value of the Travancore rupee was 28 chakrams. For at least their first ten years, children were harassed in school in working out this conversion. Being very weak in mathematics, I always prayed to my God to make the value of the two different rupees the same. My nonchalance towards education continued without any change until I completed the 10th standard. My proficiency in general, was to score single digits in almost all the subjects with the exception of three or four times for which I believe I cannot be held responsible.

My father decided to wind up his business and move to Nagercoil, and in 1939, we all came to my mother’s hometown. Until then I knew very little about this town. I also don’t recall visiting a place where the majority of the population spoke Tamil, prior to this. But my mother had a passion for the place where she had born and had painted a few pictures in my mind about it. My most important desire was to see donkeys since I had never seen one at Kottayam. When we entered Nagercoil town my eyes scanned the roadside hoping to glimpse a donkey. Fortunately just before we reached Vadaseri a part of Nagercoil, I saw a pair of donkeys and my mother asked the driver to stop the car for sometime so I could see my favorite animals up close.

After reaching Nagercoil, I developed two interests. To roam endlessly with my uncle who was just two years older than I to various parts of town. Within a year I was intimately familiar with the town’s roads, byroads, magicians, snake charmers and beggars. I also whetted my appetite for temples, churches and mosques without conscious realization that they were the abodes of different gods. The other was to develop a fascination for observing street fights between men and women and among women. I would lose myself to the variations, tones, rhythms, passions, proverbs and obscenities of the language as well as the different forms of colloquialism. My uncle and I also attended almost all the meetings held in and around Nagercoil- political, cultural and religious. In the beginning I had difficulty in understanding the meaning and nuances of many words in Tamil since my ears had heard only Malayalam until my ninth year. In the political meetings when my uncle laughed I too would imitate him and when he clapped I would do the same.

The school that I attended from my fifth until my tenth standard at Nagercoil was considered the biggest in Travancore State. The teachers were so sincere, affectionate and firm, that it was very difficult to be a poor student in class. Nevertheless, I managed to win that credit and retain it from the beginning until the end. In my youth, I was absorbed with roaming inside the fascinating world I had created in my mind and paid little attention to what was being said in class. This day dreaming nature created a lot of problems in my family and there were times when I doubted that I was not a normal child. To this day, I believe that I treated myself through literature in the same way that wild animals instinctively heal themselves by ingesting wild plants and minerals.

Although I learned Malayalam, English and Sanskrit, I was not proficient in these languages in my school days. I was attacked by infantile rheumatism when I was ten, and for the next five or six years I was sick, often bedridden and very irregular in attending classes. I was examined by a well respected physician at a critical stage, when I thought that my end was drawing near for I saw the shadow of my death reflected in my mother’s eyes. This outstanding physician was able to cure me using very simple allopathic medicine. It is he who told my father that my education should be discontinued, since the demands of school would deteriorate my health. That advice was a great blessing to me.

My mother used to enjoy reading the stories that came out in a magazine called Manikodi, which was published in the thirties, and was responsible for the renaissance of our language. Pudumaipithan, Na. Pitchamurthy. Ku.Pa.Rajagopalan, Ka. Naa. Subramoniam, CS. Chellappa, B.S. Ramaiah and Mauni were the important contributors to this magazine. They all belonged to the last generation and their chemistry was totally different from today’s generation. All of them were a breed of sincere writers who tried to change the quality of life because of their love for it. They were sincere to themselves and their experiences. I was greatly influenced by Pudumaipithan, who I believe is the most significant writer in this group. When I was fifteen and bed ridden, my mother often used to talk me about the magazine Manikodi and some of the names of the writers I mentioned earlier. Her favorite writer was Na. Pitchamurthy. These conversations induced me to see a different world to dream about.

In those days, I happened to read a collection of stories by Pudumaipithan, without realizing the name of the author because the book was a library copy whose front flap was missing. From the first to the last, each story gave me a new experience I felt physically. The story which influenced me the most was Mahamasanam (The Great Graveyard) which describes the death of a muslim beggar on the sidewalk of Mount Road, a major artery of Madras and the continuous flow of day to day life around him as he dies. Intoxicated by his writing my world began to revolve around what he had written. Over the next few years, I was consumed by reading and remembering his stories over and over again. Later in my life after I had written a few stories, poems and a novel, I suddenly realized one day, that the madness created inside me by Pudumaipithan was a fascination for realism. At that time, the entire backdrop of literature in my language was that of romanticism, which included great writers such as Kamban, Illango and Subramania Bharathi as well as an exhaustive list of absurd writers. Pudumaipithan’s serious concern about what was happening around him was thus a great inspiration to me.

I hadn’t learned my mother tongue Tamil when we were at Kottayam. So when I had the urge to write in Tamil, I studied my mother tongue by writing the alphabets on a slate at the age of 18 and wrote my first short story Thanneer (Water) when I was 20. My first literary attempt was to translate Thottiyin Mahan (Scavenger’s Son), a story about scavengers by the well-known Malayalam writer Thagazhi Sivasankara Pillai. This story’s realistic style, which was in stark contrast to the romantic literary background prevalent in Tamil, created a sense of wonder in me. Tamil commercial magazines of this period published the most unreal and fabricated romantic trivia further fueling this romanticism.

Many serious magazines were published during the national upsurge led by Gandhiji. But after 1940, following a decline in this movement, commercialism of the lowest kind seeped into our literature. The process of degeneration was almost complete by 1947, when India won independence. Although the serious writers of that time wanted to create a social revolution, for some strange, illogical and irrational reason their social responsibilities were now in the hands of the government. This was a doomed notion r no government in history has accomplished what various movements have repeatedly done so India gained independence when I was sixteen and emotionally I was a nationalist but with very little comprehension of this ideology. My biggest desire at that time was to get arrested and be imprisoned for at least a few days. I tried to irritate the police as much as possible in all the student strikes that I participated in, but invariably they neglected me and arrested other student leaders. This disappointed me a great deal and I carry that disappointment with me until today.

My second attempt at writing was to publish a commemorative volume for Pudumaipithan in 1951 or so, in which my short story that imitates his style and resounds with his echoes was included. I became a revolutionary without knowing what a revolutionary should do to transform society. I was consumed by two strong emotions in those days. Even though my father had a deep concern and love for me, my youthful outlook on life made me consider him as a dictator who wanted to suppress me by snatching even my basic freedom. I was also deeply saddened by my maternal aunt’s poverty stricken life and her struggles to raise her family. These two strong emotions stemming from my relationship with two different personalities created two strong desires in me. One was to win individual freedom so that all human beings could think and express themselves without restrictions and the other was to eradicate poverty so that man could dream and create a better world.

During this time, I started reading several political magazines in Malayalam and Tamil. I would go to the bazaar and buy a pamphlet or a magazine in Tamil and Malayalam and finish them by the end of the day. I was influenced by Gandhiji to start with and then I moved on in my explorations to various personalities like E.V.Ramaswamy, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Dr. J.C. Kumarappa, the most important Gandhian economist and J.Krishnamurthy. In Malayalam the political, cultural and literary ideas of M.Govindan attracted me. I developed a fascination for the emotional outburst of K.Balakrishnan, the editor of the Malayalam weekly Kaumathi. Since Trivandrum is not far from Nagercoil, I went to see Balakrishnan but found his lean frame screaming slogans outside the secretariat. I was unsure as to whether I should meet him and finally I returned without doing so and never met him subsequently. On the contrary, M. Govindan became a close friend in the early fifties after he published his collection of articles titled Anveshanathintte Aarambham (The beginning of search) and remained a good friend until his death. I tried to meet him as much as possible and he too wrote to me often. I received a letter from him the day I read about his death in the papers. From this, I presume that he wrote his last letter to me. I can say without hesitation that he’s most important intellectual that I have met in my life.

In the early fifties, the political climate in Kerala (Nagercoil was under the old Travancore State before the linguistic division) propelled me towards leftist politics and I became an ardent supporter of the United Communist Party. It was an emotional decision and also one against my father. I wanted to prove to him that I was not a puppet in his hands and that I had visualized my own course of life. Though I wasn’t a Marxist scholar, I was very sincere to the movement and steeped myself in Marxist literature and in endless discussions with my friends. I also organized the progressive writer’s meeting at Nagercoil and participated in the peace committee organized by the Soviet Union, which strove to gain peace everywhere in the world except in its own country.

My early stories appeared in Shanthi, a magazine edited by my good friend T.M.C. Raghunathan who was a staunch communist. Another magazine that published my stories was Saraswathi, edited by Vijayabhaskaran, who was also a communist but had minor differences of opinion with the movement. From the day I became procommunist, I had my own doubts and suspicions about the Soviet system and Stalin’s political outlook. I used to pester my friends in the movement mostly about Stalin and the Soviet system, though I fully agreed with the ideologies of the movement and the communist party. In those days I read Arthur Koestlar’s Darkness at noon, The God That Failed and other books which seriously questioned the Soviet system.

As days went by, my doubts continued to grow and I was in a dilemma as to whether I should support the communist movement or criticize them openly. I was reluctant to lose overnight the love of my comrades and was sure that would be the outcome. Then I happened to read Khruschev’s address to CPSU’s XX congress and the cruel suppression of the Hungarian writer’s revolution. After that I left the movement and identifying myself with the modern movement began to contribute poems to a little magazine called Ezhuthu. This magazine was edited by the renowned writer C.S. Chellapa and played a prominent role in creating modern Tamil poetry.

My first novel was Oru Puliyamarathin Kathai (“Tale of a Tamarind tree”). In Tamil literature, almost all the previous novels had portrayed Tamil life in the context of a family. My novel was radically different as the story evolves outside the family and centers on a tamarind tree. The novelty of the work attracted considerable writers and readers in those days. I began to write literary criticisms and articles, in which I tried to evaluate the deterioration of values in Tamilnadu. In those days, mostly due to the political situation prevailing in Tamilnadu, the Tamils were engrossed in their golden past, which blinded them from realistically assessing the present and left them with little concern for the future. In the late seventies, I wrote my novel J.J. Silakurrippukal (J.J. a few notes) which is also considered as a novel that departs from tradition. It was a criticism against Tamil life and depicts the cultural and literary state of old Travancore. This novel earned me much caustic criticism. I was painted as someone who degraded Tamil values and embraced western ideas and values.

My most current novel titled Kuzhanthaigal, Pengal, and Angal (“Children, Men and Women”) is autobiographical and centers on my early life in Kottayam. When I started writing that novel, I was surprised to find out that I had memories of all the people who were a part of childhood. I have created a lot of characters of children and women, though the dominating factor in my mind was to reassess my father with intimacy and love. I am glad that I was able to discover his essence, to an extent through this novel. After writing that novel, I became a close friend of my father though he did not have an opportunity to know about this development.

This is in short who I am today.

Meet the Author

Sundara Ramaswamy

I have always believed in democracy and in an individual’s right for freedom. Although numerous experiments have been conducted throughout mankind’s history, no government has succeeded in creating a fully equal society. But a society like ours, where inequality is dictated by caste has little hope of attaining equality. I also believe that the democratic form of government despite its flaws is comparatively the most tolerable. The social evils that tarnish our country’s image on the national and international level are still rampant in our society. The condition of our country, half a century after independence, makes me unhappy in almost all spheres of life for we have failed miserably in addressing even our most basic problems. Half a century hasn’t been enough for us to eradicate untouchability, to wipe out poverty, to educate the masses and to create a society with little or no corruption.

Untouchability continues to be a part of our society in spite of the progressive policy of Nehruvites, Socialists, Communists and the various political parties who compete to be more progressive than the others. The distance between men created by the caste system is now widening to create gulfs among religions. Every man has become suspicious of his neighbour and spontaneous interactions have pretty much disappeared. The message we get from society is not to deceive ourselves by loving our brethren, but to be cautious and clever when we deal with others.

I have no faith in any of the political parties in India though some of them are less dangerous than others. I always exercise my vote with a sense of shame and frustration over having to choose the lesser of the evil. To identify a politician among criminals requires close scrutiny. Our elections have become a farce where the decisions are decided by caste, political power and the power of money. It has become increasingly difficult to change social patterns by exercising the right to vote. Even the illiterates are aware of this pitiable condition. I don’t need to develop this theme further since we all know what is happening around us.

Indian writers by and large have not combined their social consciousness with their creativity. They have not raised their voice as a single unit against the worst possible dangers imaginable which corrupt the very soul of our country. Due to linguistic divisions, Indian writers are not as familiar with their fellow writers in other Indian languages even to the extent that they are with the younger generation of writers in the world arena. This is a really strange and shameful situation.

Writers are at the mercy of commercial magazines which publish their creations merely as an obligation. I know the situation in TamilNadu more than other regions. Till 1990, I published my short stories, poems, social and literary articles in little magazines with a printing order of 500 copies. They invariably failed to distribute all the issues due to their incapacity to meet postal expenses. I was 60 years old by the time I was remunerated for the first time, a sum of Rs. 200 for a short story. Although there are magazines in our language which sell over 5 lakhs copies, with a corresponding readership of more than 15 lakhs, a serious writer worth his salt cannot get even a cursory space inside these commercial magazines. What they encourage and promote are of a superficial nature with no concern for life. This has created a curious situation where the only source of publishing something that provokes thought is little magazines. A serious writer in my language will be considered lucky if he or she is able to reach ten thousand readers after struggling in the field for forty or forty five years. The situation in many other Indian languages may be much better, but at least in some languages the fate of the writers can be favourably compared with us.

In recent years, the situation in my language has started to change. Formally a serious book of any form will take up to two or three years to sell 1000 copies. Now a similar book is likely to sell a 1000 copies every year for the first two or three years. While little magazines are selling 500 to 1000 copies, the middle magazines are reaching a circulation of nearly 5000 copies. Book fairs at Chennai used to be deserted now attract thousands of readers. We consider even this as a favorable development since we faced a pitiable condition for a very long time. The Tamil population all over the world is considered to be seven crores. If a book is bought by one in 10,000, it will reach 7000 readers. If it is bought by one in a 100 it should still sell 70,000 copies. This is the normal readership in many of the developed countries. So from this we can discern that we still have a long way to go. Although the situation is significantly better today we cannot afford to be complacent.

Most Indian writers lack conviction. Since they have difficulty in realizing and believing in their own ideas, they are unable to assess their position in relation to their colleagues. All writers differ with their contemporaries to a small or large extent. Yet they hide these differences and pretend to blindly support their fellow writers, so that they too would do the same. The relationship among Indian writers is driven by commercial considerations with little respect for ideological differences. Many writers don’t believe that their passion for writing is a reflection of their passionate interest in society and fellow humans.

A writer with conviction will choose to express his ideas among people who reject them rather than where his approval is assured. The failure or success of a writer during his life is not important. If one is doomed to fail in his period, he should accept his fate with a sense of pride. A writer should not cunningly endorse what he presumes to be politically correct ideas. He’s likely to win by doing so, but his success is really a failure and it creates shame in the minds of his fellow writers who have the conviction and courage to share their ideas however popular or unpopular they maybe. Another trait of an Indian writer is to consider his fellow writer who differs from him as his lifelong enemy. The writer then sets out to annihilate his co-writer. I find it rather absurd that this hatred stems not from the existence of differences but rather from it being openly expressed.

Fortunately in India, writers have the freedom to articulate their ideas. Today we have space to share our ideas with our readers without facing intimidation or persecution from the power center. But, I believe that we are heading towards a society where radical differences with the state will bring about the same fate that writers have faced under a dictatorship or under a veiled dictatorship. Our writers should rise up to this occasion. I have no hesitation in saying that Tamil society is being overpowered by a form of dictatorship now. A Tamil writer can choose to either uphold his honour by strongly opposing the government or be dictated by atrocious laws by compromising his principles and supporting the government. I refer to situations from our region as they are characteristic of the national scene and not because I believe that we are a special kind of species among Indians.

No writer in India can live a respectable life with an income based on his writing. As far as I know, many writers face rejection or belittlement. Those who try to be independent as writers or those who try to undertake a job which they believe is in sync with their ideologies are the ones who suffer the most. I can cite many Tamil writers who lost their lives while in the heights of their creative power, since they did not have the economic stability to meet their basic needs.

Subramanya Bharathi’s underprivileged life tarnishes our literary history and also proves that Tamilians failed miserably to respect an outstanding poet during his lifetime. Tamil poetry has a history of over 2000 years. Nevertheless Tamilians today glorify his struggles as a sacrifice to develop Tamil. I differ from this point of view and believe that a writer regardless of his creativity has a responsibility towards his family. Bharathi shirked his family responsibilities and subjected his family to misery as well. This is true of many Indian writers. While I respect a writer for his creative quality, I value his role in supporting his family, especially his wife. I know a fairly good number of women who were forced to live an impoverished life unaware of why they were being subjugated to such misery by their husbands. I have a greater concern towards these women than towards a writer’s creativity. I would hesitate to refer to even a brilliant writer who neglects his wife as brilliant.

This raises a difficult question. Should we examine a writer’s contribution to society through his creativity or his humane characteristics? Many examples can be cited of literature of mediocre quality written by great people and literature par excellence written by socially irresponsible artists. Yet another point to mull over is that unlike today’s writers or those of the recent past, we have little or no knowledge of the day to day lives of great writers of the past. Accepting contradictions in my own viewpoints, I am always interested in finding out if a writer is true to himself. If there’s a major contradiction between a writer’s words and deeds, then I believe that he has no respect for his own words. Often I consider life to be more important than literature and literature as just one of the tools to create the kind of society we dream of.

In India there are all kinds of people who justify all kinds of inequalities and superstitions. We as a society have been desensitized to divisions between the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, between men and women, villagers and urbanites and above all the numerous caste divisions. Advocates cleverly quote literature or religious works to justify Sati, Untouchability or cruelty towards animals, earth and nature. I have more respect for faithful conservatives than untruthful progressives. The orthodox man if he’s sincere always gives us an opportunity to fight against him unlike a counterfeit progressive who plays safe by endorsing progressive ideas merely as a lip service.
How a writer influences society is important. We often find writers who crave for power and shamelessly justify their acts while blindly following the footsteps of politicians. If a writer is insensitive to social injustices, he cannot be a good writer, since sensitivity is a fundamental quality of a writer.

Talk delivered at Sahitya Akademy, New Delhi under the programme, ‘Meet The Author’ on 05.01.04.

சுந்தர ராமசாமி
பெயர் சுந்தர ராமசாமி
முகவரி 669 கே. பி. சாலை நாகர்கோவில் 629 001
தொலைபேசி: 04652 278159

புனைபெயர் பசுவய்யா
பிறந்த தினம் 30 மே 1931
கல்வி முறையான கல்வி ஏதுமில்லை
அறிந்த மொழிகள் தமிழ், மலையாளம், ஆங்கிலம்
வெளியான நூல்கள்
சிறுகதைகள் காகங்கள் 2000
மறியா தாமுவுக்கு எழுதிய கடிதம் 2004
ஒரு புளியமரத்தின் கதை 1966
ஜே. ஜே. சில குறிப்புகள் 1981
குழந்தைகள் பெண்கள் ஆண்கள் 1998
கவிதை சுந்தர ராமசாமி கவிதைகள் 2005
விமர்சனம் / கட்டுரைகள் ந. பிச்சமூர்த்தியின் கலை மரபும் மனிதநேயமும்(விமர்சன நூல்) 1991
காற்றில் கலந்த பேரோசை
(விமர்சனக் கட்டுரைகள்) 1997
விரிவும் ஆழமும் தேடி
(விமர்சனம்) 1998
தமிழகத்தில் கல்வி
(வசந்தி தேவியுடன் நேர்காணல்) 2000
இறந்த காலம் பெற்ற உயிர்
(கட்டுரைகள்) 2003
இவை என் உரைகள்
(சொற்பொழிவுகள்) 2003
(க.நா.சு., சி.சு.செல்லப்பா, ஜீவா,
கிருஷ்ணன் நம்பி ஆகியோர்
பற்றிய நினைவுக் குறிப்புகள்) 2003
பிரமிள் 2005
வானகமே இளவெயிலே மரச்செறிவே
(கட்டுரைகள்) 2004
வாழ்க சந்தேகங்கள்
(கேள்வி பதில்கள்) 2004
ஆளுமைகள் மதிப்பீடுகள்
(கட்டுரைகள்) 2004
வாழும் கணங்கள்
(படைப்புகளின் தொகுப்பு) 2005
புதுமைப்பித்தன் கதைகள்: சு.ரா. குறிப்பேடு
(எழுத்தாளர் குறிப்பேடு) 2005
மொழிபெயர்ப்புகள் மலையாளத்திலிருந்து இரண்டு நாவல்கள் தமிழில்
செம்மீன் (தகழி சிவசங்கரபிள்ளையின் சாகித்திய அகாதெமி
பரிசு பெற்ற மலையாள நாவல்,
சாகித்திய அகாதெமி, புது தில்லி ) 1962
தோட்டியின் மகன்
(தகழி சிவசங்கரபிள்ளையின் மலையாள நாவல்,
காலச்சுவடு பதிப்பகம், நாகர்கோவில் ) 2000
தொலைவிலிருக்கும் கவிதைகள்
(மொழிபெயர்ப்புக் கவிதைகள்) 2004
பெற்ற பரிசுகள் குமாரன் ஆசான் நினைவுப் பரிசு கவிதைக்காக (1988)
கனடாவில் தமிழ் இலக்கியச் சோலை மற்றும் டொரண்டோ பல்கலைக்கழகத்தின் தெற்காசிய கல்வி மையம் இணைந்து வழங்கிய இயல் விருது வாழ்நாள் இலக்கியப் பணிக்காக (2001)
புதுதில்லி கதா அமைப்பின் சூடாமணி விருது 2003 ம் ஆண்டுக்கான சிறந்த இலக்கிய படைப்பாளிக்கான பரிசு.
இலக்கிய உரை நிகழ்த்த சென்ற நாடுகள்
சிங்கப்பூர் (3 முறை)
அமெரிக்கா (10 முறை)
கனடா (2 முறை)
பாரிஸ் (இந்தியா விழாவில் பங்கேற்க)
இந்திய ஐரோப்பிய மொழிகளில் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்ட நாவல்கள்:
ஒரு புளியமரத்தின் கதை ஆங்கிலத்தில் A Tale of a Tamarind Tree என்ற பெயரில் எஸ். கிருஷ்ணன் அவர்களால் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் Penguin, India.
இந்தியில் இம்லி புரான் என்று திருமதி மீனாட்சி புரி அவர்களால் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் Nilakant Prakashan, New Delhi.
மலையாளத்தில் ஒரு புளி மரத்தின்டே கதா என்ற பெயரில் ஆற்றூர் ரவிவர்மா அவர்களால் மொழி பெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் DC Books, Kottayam.
ஹீப்ரூ மொழியில் Ronit Ricci என்பவரால் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House, Tel Aviv.
ஜே. ஜே :சில குறிப்புகள் மலையாளத்தில் ஜே.ஜே. சில குறிப்புகள் என்ற பெயரில் ஆற்றூர் ரவிவர்மா அவர்களால் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் DC Books, Kottayam.
ஆங்கிலத்தில் J.J. Some Jottingsஎன்ற பெயரில் ஆ.இரா வேங்கடா சலபதி அவர்களால் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டுள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் Katha, New Delhi.
சிறுகதைகள் சுந்தர ராமசாமியின் 26 சிறுகதைகள் மற்றும் சில படைப்புகள் ஆங்கிலத்தில் மொழிபெயர்க்கப்பட்டு (Eastwest Books)முதலில் Waves என்றும், பிறகு That’s It Butஎன்ற பெயரில் வெளிவந்துள்ளது. வெளியிட்டோர் Katha, New Delhi. நூலைத் தொகுத்தவர் Lakshmi Holmstrom ஆங்கிலத்தில் மொழிபெயர்த்தவர்கள் Gomathi Narayanan, S. Krishnan, Lakshmi Holmstrom and A.R. Venkatachalapathy.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Does Your Language Shape How You Think?
Does Your Language Shape How You Think?
Horacio Salinas for The New York Times
Published: August 26, 2010

Seventy years ago, in 1940, a popular science magazine published a short article that set in motion one of the trendiest intellectual fads of the 20th century. At first glance, there seemed little about the article to augur its subsequent celebrity. Neither the title, “Science and Linguistics,” nor the magazine, M.I.T.’s Technology Review, was most people’s idea of glamour. And the author, a chemical engineer who worked for an insurance company and moonlighted as an anthropology lecturer at Yale University, was an unlikely candidate for international superstardom. And yet Benjamin Lee Whorf let loose an alluring idea about language’s power over the mind, and his stirring prose seduced a whole generation into believing that our mother tongue restricts what we are able to think.

Enlarge This Image

Horacio Salinas for The New York Times
In particular, Whorf announced, Native American languages impose on their speakers a picture of reality that is totally different from ours, so their speakers would simply not be able to understand some of our most basic concepts, like the flow of time or the distinction between objects (like “stone”) and actions (like “fall”). For decades, Whorf’s theory dazzled both academics and the general public alike. In his shadow, others made a whole range of imaginative claims about the supposed power of language, from the assertion that Native American languages instill in their speakers an intuitive understanding of Einstein’s concept of time as a fourth dimension to the theory that the nature of the Jewish religion was determined by the tense system of ancient Hebrew.

Eventually, Whorf’s theory crash-landed on hard facts and solid common sense, when it transpired that there had never actually been any evidence to support his fantastic claims. The reaction was so severe that for decades, any attempts to explore the influence of the mother tongue on our thoughts were relegated to the loony fringes of disrepute. But 70 years on, it is surely time to put the trauma of Whorf behind us. And in the last few years, new research has revealed that when we learn our mother tongue, we do after all acquire certain habits of thought that shape our experience in significant and often surprising ways.

Whorf, we now know, made many mistakes. The most serious one was to assume that our mother tongue constrains our minds and prevents us from being able to think certain thoughts. The general structure of his arguments was to claim that if a language has no word for a certain concept, then its speakers would not be able to understand this concept. If a language has no future tense, for instance, its speakers would simply not be able to grasp our notion of future time. It seems barely comprehensible that this line of argument could ever have achieved such success, given that so much contrary evidence confronts you wherever you look. When you ask, in perfectly normal English, and in the present tense, “Are you coming tomorrow?” do you feel your grip on the notion of futurity slipping away? Do English speakers who have never heard the German word Schadenfreude find it difficult to understand the concept of relishing someone else’s misfortune? Or think about it this way: If the inventory of ready-made words in your language determined which concepts you were able to understand, how would you ever learn anything new?

SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.

Consider this example. Suppose I say to you in English that “I spent yesterday evening with a neighbor.” You may well wonder whether my companion was male or female, but I have the right to tell you politely that it’s none of your business. But if we were speaking French or German, I wouldn’t have the privilege to equivocate in this way, because I would be obliged by the grammar of language to choose between voisin or voisine; Nachbar or Nachbarin. These languages compel me to inform you about the sex of my companion whether or not I feel it is remotely your concern. This does not mean, of course, that English speakers are unable to understand the differences between evenings spent with male or female neighbors, but it does mean that they do not have to consider the sexes of neighbors, friends, teachers and a host of other persons each time they come up in a conversation, whereas speakers of some languages are obliged to do so.

On the other hand, English does oblige you to specify certain types of information that can be left to the context in other languages. If I want to tell you in English about a dinner with my neighbor, I may not have to mention the neighbor’s sex, but I do have to tell you something about the timing of the event: I have to decide whether we dined, have been dining, are dining, will be dining and so on. Chinese, on the other hand, does not oblige its speakers to specify the exact time of the action in this way, because the same verb form can be used for past, present or future actions. Again, this does not mean that the Chinese are unable to understand the concept of time. But it does mean they are not obliged to think about timing whenever they describe an action.

When your language routinely obliges you to specify certain types of information, it forces you to be attentive to certain details in the world and to certain aspects of experience that speakers of other languages may not be required to think about all the time. And since such habits of speech are cultivated from the earliest age, it is only natural that they can settle into habits of mind that go beyond language itself, affecting your experiences, perceptions, associations, feelings, memories and orientation in the world.

BUT IS THERE any evidence for this happening in practice?

Let’s take genders again. Languages like Spanish, French, German and Russian not only oblige you to think about the sex of friends and neighbors, but they also assign a male or female gender to a whole range of inanimate objects quite at whim. What, for instance, is particularly feminine about a Frenchman’s beard (la barbe)? Why is Russian water a she, and why does she become a he once you have dipped a tea bag into her? Mark Twain famously lamented such erratic genders as female turnips and neuter maidens in his rant “The Awful German Language.” But whereas he claimed that there was something particularly perverse about the German gender system, it is in fact English that is unusual, at least among European languages, in not treating turnips and tea cups as masculine or feminine. Languages that treat an inanimate object as a he or a she force their speakers to talk about such an object as if it were a man or a woman. And as anyone whose mother tongue has a gender system will tell you, once the habit has taken hold, it is all but impossible to shake off. When I speak English, I may say about a bed that “it” is too soft, but as a native Hebrew speaker, I actually feel “she” is too soft. “She” stays feminine all the way from the lungs up to the glottis and is neutered only when she reaches the tip of the tongue.


Guy Deutscher is an honorary research fellow at the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures at the University of Manchester. His new book, from which this article is adapted, is “Through the Language Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Other Languages,” to be published this month by Metropolitan Books.

Copyright 2010 The New York Times

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Book of Photographs 'Treasured Legacies', Photography Exhibitions several times all over Canada:

Fra: Lalitha Brodie (
Sendt: 25. mars 2010 05:42:42
Til: Shan Nalliah (
1 vedlegg
LalithaPh...tif (523,7 kB)

Subject: FW: Photo
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 2010 20:41:18 -0400

Hello Julia,
This is my portrail by Social Worker / Photographer Irene Borins Ash, who photographed me with 30 shots after reading my book of poems - she used another picture in her book of Photographs 'Treasured Legacies', and also included it in her Photography Exhibitions several times all over Canada including Mayor Hazel Mac, David Suzuki & others -. & Treasured Legacies which you can google and view.

It will be great if you mention that the photograph is by irene Borins Ash please if it is possible.

Thanks a lot Julia.


Lalitha Brodie

Monday, March 22, 2010

Yes! I must write my story in English now....!!!

Fra: Lalitha Brodie (
Sendt: 22. mars 2010 03:00:25
Til: Shan Nalliah (

Hello Shan,

How are you? Yes! I must write my story in English now - Do you listen to Konesh's International Tamil radio - ITR 24 Hour Radio in Norway? You can listen to my voice on at 6.30 pm every Sunday for 28 minutes. You can google Lalitha Brodie and get everything.
Trust you and your family are fine.

Lalitha Brodie

Subject: FW: Please help to publish my poem in The Globe & Mail during this Multicultural Week In Toronto

Date: Wed, 17 Mar 2010 23:50:12 -0400

Lalitha Brodie Marh 17, 2010
4132 Starlight Crescent
ON L4W 4R3

Hello Ian Brown,
How are you? I am sure you will remember meeting me at one of your readings at Toronto Reference Library a few years ago.

I am still the only Asian writer with the Older Womens Network - OWN Writers Group and I read this poem written on a random word 'WANT' to them this Tuesday.I am herewith attaching my biography and another poem on the random word 'Affirmation' for your information - you can know more about me if you google my name please.

I will be most grateful if you would please help to publish my poem during this multicultural week -At 76, I am a veteran bi-lingual writer and still broadcast over 24 hours ITR- International Tamil Radio and my program starts every Sunday at 6.30 pm.
With best wishes

Yours Sincerely

Lalitha Brodie
Tel: 905 270 1214


In retrospect, I realize that
almost every wish of mine
in life has mostly come true.
In arid Jaffna, when I was nine
how thrilled I was to pick up
a tiny pink carnation bud
from the discards of flowers
received for the College Prize-giving.
It was fulfilled, this want of mine
decades later, when I cultivated
my own carnations on estates
in the tea carpeted verdant hills
for sale to expensive Colombo florists.

In Grade Five, I map-marked America's great lakes
never realizing that I will live by lake Ontario now.
I admired many English and Tamil writers.
and in my old age, I am a bilingual published writer.

The famous honey-laden Kurinji flower
blooms only once every twelve years.
It blossomed in 1970 in Agrapatna hills,
the bees built hives all over our balcony
and workers jungle trekked to collect honey.
I always regretted that I never got down
the rare Kurinji flowers for me to see them.
As I write these lines, I just googled
and Internet reveals the bell-shaped blue Kurinji
in all its glory, satiating that want of mine too

Our life does unfurl according to our thoughts
and our heartfelt wishes usually materialise.
However, some things do remain inexplicable.
It is indeed tough to change the norms
of our Sri Lankan lifestyle inbred in my veins!
I find that I am yet rather reluctant to confess
that I want to heal the cracks in my relationships
and hope I will succeed before my departure.

I really want to know the truth and answers
for the eternal unanswered qustions
of the mystery and purpose of our life on earth.

I do also want to know why my Tamil community
that lost thousands of innocent civilians
plus a whole generation of our youth
these three decades in the ethnic conflict
continues to still suffer so much
even after the war is over, persecuted
ruthlessly as displaced refugees
in their own land and imprisoned
without trial in crowded camps
by the despotic State of Sri Lanka,
without even a glance from World Leaders.

During this multicultural week in Toronto
global media blares loud about the need
to close zoos and set captive animals free!
What about the urgent need to set free
the human captives languishing so long
without freedom in State camps of Sri Lanka?

Lalitha Brodie
March 16, 2010
Tel: 905 270 1214



Though Hindu by birth, as a spiritual seeker,

I delved into several faiths and religions.

Instinct confirms the presence of God

like the pervasive power of the unseen wind.

Manmade religions, surging rivers seeking

to merge into the common sea of bliss,

The Divine, that One Omnipotent Power

that is God who so skillfully orchestrates

this vast kaleidoscope of the whole cosmos

with such precision and glorious grandeur.

I realize that I too am a tiny part

of that Whole. I have no name or form

for my creator now and believe

that when in tune, God's power and grace

always envelops helps and guides me.

However, I cannot understand why my people languishing in camps in Sri Lanka

along with others worldwide,

continue to be oppressed by the heartless Powers?

Even if it is karma, surely there

should be some peace with justice!

Where is God? How can

He/She permit such atrocities?

I know some atheists who are most caring

and lead exemplery lives.

At times this makes me ponder whether

I am just blindly following the flock with my belief

in the existence of the Power that is God!

But when I retrospect and scan my life,

memory pictures flash forth,

vivid as ever in my minds eye. . .

From age 26 to 46, twenty years of Venus rule

in my horoscope did elevate, bestowing my family

a better life on Demodera Group,

the 3000 acre largest tea estate in Sri Lanka.

My daughter married well, our sons went abroad

one by one, my burdens were eased and material me, miraculously gained free access to books

quite unexpectedly in the seventies,

to nurture my spirituality which led

to the first of my nine Puttaparthi pilgrimages

when we were quite broke!

On another trip, I lost my handbag with all essentials,

help arrived from every corner,

restoring my confidence and faith in God.

However, I could not still my mind to meditate

though I tried so hard, but in 1983

started my trek with the mantra of Mahesh Yogi's

TM meditation. I who loved meat

and fish became a total vegetarian,

broke all rules and tasted different

methods of meditation.

As I progressed, I received all what

I needed and could always feel

God's guiding hand on my shoulder.

I almost died and was unconscious three days

in Colombo Accident Intensive Care with swollen head,

arm and eight ribs fractured and a collapsed lung,

when a minivan knocked me down

at a crossing in 1991, but I did arise

with all my faculties intact!

From 1992 in Canada, I grasped opportunities,

broadened my vistas and am grateful

to be what I am today. Though I am

five inches shorter with severe osteoporosis,

a crooked spine with both shoulders

and wrists fractured, I have minimal pain,

my mind is sharp and I still manage

to cope pretty well at seventyfive!

I am ashamed of my floundering fickle faith
and this reluctance to accept life
as it unfolds around me
that from time to time, I seem
to need this affirmation
that the You do exist
and reign supreme my dear God!

Lalitha Brodie
October 2009

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever!
Beauty does emanate from
such different facets of life.
Fluttering butterflies, frolicking lambs
fields of flowers, flitting fireflies,
the glint in a loved ones eyes,
a baby's smile, sunset painted skies
the passion of the orator
the lithesome grace of the dancer
the piety that springs forth
from the melodious singer's voice
gently invading and captivating me. . .

However, why is beauty is so fleeting
as change always distorts and destroys
every single material thing in the cosmos?
Isn't there anything that can remain
beautiful perpetually to spread eternal joy?

Why not? Our emotions can imprint
moments of infinite beauty
in our mind's eye and immortalize
them in countless ways.
The outpouring of selfless love
in the spoken and written word
the lilting melody of an instrument
the soul stirring voice of the singer
the vivid portrayal of an actor
the superb performance of a maestro
do etch lovely memories in our minds.

The Sathya Sai Global 'Ahandanama Bhajan',
the annual 24 hours of devotional singing
heralding Guru Sai Baba's 84 th birthday,
was on 7nth Nov. Saturday 6 pm to Sunday 6 pm.
As I entered the Toronto Mandhir that Sunday
the throb of the pulsing spiritual vibrations
created by the fervent faith and devotion
of so many singers both young and old
did engulf and envelop me with such force,
nurturing and elevating my awareness
that I literally staggered under this experience
filled with God's love, grace and beauty.
Lalitha Brodie.
Lalitha Brodie: no time to slow down

Lalitha Brodie wears many hats and although she is a proud Canadian citizen, her Sri Lankan roots continue to inspire her life amongst the Tamil community here. Some of her five children live in England and Sri Lanka. She has 11 grandchildren and three great grandchildren. She and her husband Rajah Brodie, now retired, came to Canada as landed immigrants in 1992, fleeing their troubled country. They joined two of their four sons.
Although she has never been a wage earner, her life has been dedicated to her many causes and working interests. She speaks three languages - Tamil, Sinhalese and English. Right now, she is assistant editor to the bilingual quarterly magazine Mental Wellness for Tamils, published by Charitable Universal Community Help. She is also a director of Omkara Spiritual Vedanta Centre.

Educated in Sri Lanka, Lalitha received a diploma in psychological counseling in Jaffna in 1987. She was co-founder of the Association for Health & Counselling Shanthiham associated with The Teaching Hospital in Jaffna.

During much of that period, she also expanded her involvement in her war-ravaged country to become president of the Selva Refugee Camp, which housed over 1,000 refugees from Trincomalee; and was president of a Mothers' Front in Chundikuli, Jaffna. Always a seeker on a spiritual path, Lalitha has traveled to puttaparthi India nine times: from 1992, she has been the only Tamil member of Sukiyo Mahikari, a global spiritual organization based in Japan.

Although five inches shorter in stature due to severe osteoporosis, Lalitha commands attention, bringing out from her various bags mounds of material connected with her various enterprises.

Last year, Ahilan Associates published her second book, Peace with Justice - poems that vividly portray her life and feelings about Sri Lanka, what has happened to her, her family, other Sri Lankans and people who have been important on her journey. She hopes her writing will inspire other Asian woman to join, as she has, a feminist organization – the Older Women's Network - "and reap rewards of all OWN activities, along with wings for their words."


Traveling the Toronto TTC
With passengers of a multicultural flare
I daily marvel at the well synchronized harmony
Evident everywhere …

Currently, she is working on another book. Although Lalitha regrets that she did not start writing earlier, she says it is rewarding that she is now a well-recognized broadcaster/telecaster, and writes extensively in both Tamil and English. According to International Tamil Radio, her broadcast influence reaches beyond the Tamil community to the mainstream.

Lalitha says her Tamil articles on individual personal growth in bi-monthly Vlambaram "seem to touch the hearts of many and bring pleas for counseling/referral."

Despite her age - she is in her mid-70s - Lalitha shows no sign of slowing down. Like other successful people, she knows the value of networking. She is involved with OWN's Creative Writing Group, with whom she shares her work in progress. She acknowledges that these women give her both practical guidance and friendship.

Dawn Hembling, chair of OWN's Creative Writing Group, acknowledges Lalitha's lifelong advocacy for women of all nationalities and all ages, and admires her tireless work and her courage in putting down her thoughts in her writings and poetry.
Anne Farrel
For now Past Chair Older Womens Network, Writer/Poet & and News Reporter

Friday, February 19, 2010

I enjoyed reading this opus written by a personality who deserves to be remembered and honored for his profound contribution towards Tamil literature!

Writings on a vast and varied range
Author: SM Haniffa
[ISBN 978-955-9044-05-4: Sri Lanka, Thamil Manram, 2007: pp80]

The death in recent weeks of the octogenarian author, SM Haniffa, prompts me to pen a few lines on one of his English publications titled Enigma which he personally presented to me.

Enigma, which is dedicated to the author's mother, Hajiani Safiya, comprises of over twenty-five mood pieces, a few autobiographical sketches, some fictional tales, Haniffa's love for India and especially the Gandhi-Nehru family, and his deep involvement with the Galhinna Students' Union: A compact collection of poems, short stories and opinions.

Each mood piece runs over a page or two. Haniffa's writings cover a vast and varied range from peace and proliferation to achieving good health and realizing the hand of God behind various happenings.

Apart from having secured a double degree, and served as an attorney-at-law, Haniffa's extensive background at Lake House as a sub-editor during the 1958-68 decade and as deputy editor at the SLBC followed by a publication of fifteen books stood him in good stead to write confidently about the subjects he touches. The apt Foreword by none other than the dean of the faculty of Education at the University of Colombo, Prof. S Chandrasekaran reveals the valuable contribution made by Haniffa to especially Tamil literature. Notable is Haniffa's book on Sonia Gandhi which he wrote in Tamil at age 78. The inspiration sprang to complete this project after he read Rasheed Kidwai's biography on Sonia.

The flashes of autobiography depicts some degree of poignancy in that of his somewhat harrowed childhood, being the only boy in a family of seven; losing his mother at age six; then seeing his father marry a second time and disappear with his spouse for over a lustrum to the Middle East, leaving him lost in the hands of his grandparents. His fiction in The Big Brother is reminiscent of that age old story of the Ant and the Grasshopper, while The Anchor shows shades of the personal trauma he endured as an 'orphan.' Amidst a swell of advice on various aspects, the one which warns "avoid eating in between" is reminiscent of the strict practice of that illustrious nonagenarian, the late Alhaj Sir Razik Fareed, Kt, Haniffa's contribution towards establishing the library and reading room for the Galhinna Students' Union, in which he was the secretary, is significant. He was one of the members with MH Jalaldeen and HL Fareed to draft its constitution in Nov-1946. Notable are the erstwhile donations generously made towards the construction of the Library and Reading Room by Commerce and Trade Minister, Hon. HW Amarasuriya, Alhaj MA Mohamed Cassim, also and Messrs WMA Wahid & Brothers, maternal uncles of the present CMC Special Commissioner Omar Kamil.

I enjoyed reading this opus written by a personality who deserves to be remembered and honored for his profound contribution towards Tamil literature.

May he attain Jennathul Firdous!

Alhaj AHM Azwer

SL-Presidential Advisor

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Those Delhi Days (1950-54) ....!!!

Those Delhi Days (1950-54)
Book Review

Author: Trixie Marthenesz
Trixie Marthenesz, who obtained her Bachelor’s Degree on Nursing from the College of Nursing of the University of Delhi in 1954, is in her eighties at present. In August, 2009 her book on ‘Those Delhi Days’ was launched through the Sri Lanka Federation of University Women. It is revealed that Deshabandu Dr. Wimala de Silva had inspired her to write this text. I had the opportunity to glance through this publication when she handed over to me a complimentary copy.

I was fascinated and quite attracted to read it in full, purely on its most reader friendly and the anecdotal form of presentation. The way she had skillfully manipulated the language made me to read it at a stretch. While reading the book I was automatically carried away to the scenarios she referred.

The chapters were chronologically arranged and the meticulous care that she has adopted in presenting in minute detail, the events related to the episodes that were described therein is another attractive feature of the book.

The descriptions and episodes addressed in the chapters varied from history (Chapter 10 on Growth and Development of Delhi) to humour (Chapter 24 on A Policeman Sees Ghost) sciences (Chapter 12 on First Semester Blues) to sports (Chapter 15 on Another First - India vs West Indies), professionalism (Chapter 23 on My First Cap) to patriotism (Chapter 20 on Ceylon Independence Celebrations in New Delhi - 1951), Travelling (Chapter 11 on Around Delhi) to Treatment (Chapter 32 on Tuberculosis Care in Kasauli), and Exploration (Chapter 28 on A Lesson, An Adventure and An Escapade) to Experience (Chapter 28 on In the Public Health Field). The preceding examples amply portray the wide variety of issues that were highlighted in the whole text along with the richness of the contents.

Skillful presentation
It is amazing to note after a period of almost six decades how the author has remembered all the episodes that were so meticulously described and the efforts made in preserving the relevant documents connected with the cited events. The langauge used was very much reader friendly and in simple short sentences. It sometimes portrayed a form of a novel, embodied with true life episodes.

The narrative style of presentation of an event in a mixed approach of combining description and thoughts related to the event being presented simultaneously made the reading more pleasant and sometimes stimulated curiosity. The whole publication portrayed a true description of various aspects and experience that the author had gained that were worth recording even after five decades, to be passed on to the next generation of not only nursing students but to all undergraduates.

The text addressed issues related to the efforts taken by her to enroll on a course of study leading to a bachelor’s degree in nursing in order to become a truly professional nurse. It amply demonstrated the courage and self-confidence she had developed in order to face a competitive interview with dedication and determination.

She also elaborately displayed her multiple interests in history, literature, culture in addition to her chosen profession in health care. Ms Marthenesz amply demonstrated her abilities in self-expression as a novelist as well as a professional author. In many instances she was honest and humble enough to simply express her inner feelings unhindered.

For example wherever they were offered a variety of Indian delicacies how they were enjoying them and craving to have them more and more was a lively unhindered description of her natural feelings.

The book also tried to inculcate such desirable qualities as, to be engaged in many outdoor and extracurricular activities as an undergraduate to become a full blown mature person in the future.

The crux of the presentation gives an important and timely message to all allied health science professionals in this country.

Although at present we are in a dilemma to accept the duration of the degree programs in allied health sciences, even in the early fifties, India had a four year degree program conducted for allied health science personnel.

The forty-two chapters devoted in this book highlighted varied aspects that are essentially encountered by an undergraduate especially in a foreign land.

The message
This is a book which describes the ideal characteristics of an undergraduate. It embodies, maturity, intellectual capacity, ability to adapt to new environment, competency to understand different cultures, responsibility to undertake self learning, the capacity to face challenges and to be compassionate in all the activities to be performed.

In addition the book vividly describes the combination of political and socio-cultural events that had occurred during her period of stay in New Delhi with such accuracy and affection.

The text amply displayed many of the good qualities an ideal undergraduate necessarily should attempt to inculcate, as a result of experience gained in the university days and their significance and merit for the future life.

Even at her present age, the author is very alert and demonstrated her capabilities as a lively author with a distinct style of writing. Her details of expression and descriptions were accurate and conveyed a deeper message to all stakeholders involved in higher education.

Certainly there is ample valuable information and enriched with concepts embedded within the text which needs to be read with intense concentration and care. Definitely I gained a wealth of new knowledge on the circumstances under which the students in those days proceeded on scholarships and survived the elements and the environment.

It also portrayed the best practices involved in socialization, appreciation of nature, tolerance of varied cultures, facing the new challenges and overall to be a compassionate professional. In summary it is a book worth reading by all grades of academics as well as any undergraduate to learn about the difficulties faced five decades ago in pursuing higher education.

I wish Mrs. Marthenesz longer and healthier life to be able to continue to contribute to the nursing education in Sri Lanka in particular as well as to higher education in general.

- Prof. M. T. M. Jiffrey , Vice Chairman , UGC

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Collecting the maiden book copies at book launches...!!!

Pillar of strength to the literary world

He has an exclusive hobby that any one in the world would have. It is collecting books. Not merely collecting books but collecting the maiden book copies at book launches. If there is a book launch, you see around you will surely see this wonderful person. Because he is hardly excluded in such ceremonies. Of course it is hard to exclude him when writers know his generosity. And he is the only one in Sri Lanka who undertakes in publishing maiden books of talented writers who find it difficult to bear the cost of printing totally out of his expenses.

He makes their dreams come true - those who are interested in writing and are unable to see their work in print. That is no doubt a great encouragement and a noble favour for writers whose dream is to publish a book yet wait years and years, finally frustrated and give up writing. Now, those budding writers no longer have to shed tears out of desperation having being so far unable to publish their maiden book. There is this god-sent book lover to wipe out their tears.

Puravalar (philanthropist) Hassim Omar is a philanthropist in the very sense of the word. He is a king who helps the needy and talented writers. As a king is responsible for his kingdom, this king is responsible for the kingdom of literature. Our history bears many witnesses of kings who made a mammoth contribution to the field of literature. Puravalar Hassim Omar is the latest addition in that list of kings.

Who else in the world is fortunate than Hassim Omar to possess as huge a collection as nearly 500 maiden book copies? His name should be written in the Guinness Record Book in this regard as he is the one and only person who had purchased a huge amount of first book copies at book launches. “Most of the writers in Sri Lanka are rich in talent but poor in money. That is why I buy their first copies at functions” He says. It is a custom that at a book launch the chief guest is expected to make a small monetary donation to the author of the book. Our protagonist is lavish in his donation for authors. They never receive less than Rs. 5,000. It sometimes exceeds Rs.25,000 depending on the financial status of the author.

In fact Sri Lankan writers are fortunate because they have a benevolent publisher who thinks “The plight of the Sri Lankan writers are pathetic. That is why I embarked on a task like this to help them to market their books and to recover invested money on their creations.” The buzz of his lavish contribution at book launches received feathers and flew overseas. Thus Omar constantly received invitations from India, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand for book launches. “It is a great honour to me when the world famous Indian Agricultural Scientist Dr. R. Swaminathan who introduced green revolution to India invited me for his book launch. I bought the maiden copy of his book,” he proudly reminisces.

Hassim Omar is of Memon origin who was born in India. Though his mother tongue is Gujarati, he studied in Tamil language when they settled in Sri Lanka. His Alma Mater is St. Mary’s College, Kegalle. “I am not a great scholar. I studied only up to grade 10. Then I embarked on my own business,” he humbly reveals. Hard work paid off. With his hard work he stands a gigantic business figure in the country today. He is now spending time leisurely rendering various favours for the needy but with no publicity. “Now I do not have to work hard. Because the money I have earned is now earning money for me.” He smiles restfully.

He established his publishing house- Puravalar Puththaga Punga in 1999 which is a treasure park for budding writers in Sri Lanka. It has hitherto published 20 books. The theme of the publishing house is “Madham Oru Nul” - one month one book. It is not on the purpose of making profits for Omar himself by publishing books. It is absolutely for the purpose and profit of the authors. He undertakes the huge task of publishing and holding a book launch on his account. Whoever the fortunate author does not have to spend a single cent for that.

I asked him, being the owner of a publishing house, if he intends to publish any book under his authorship. “No, if I write a book, I will consider it as the best book of the world. That is the normal psychology. Then I will underestimate other writers and it is an injustice for them. And it will also ruin the purpose of publishing house.” What a philanthropic thought is that.

Yet recently ‘Puravalar Puththaga Punga’ published his biography namely ‘Puravalar Sila Padhivuhal’ Some records of Puravalar. It consists of newspaper articles so far written about him. “I was totally unaware of this at the beginning. Kaleignar Kaleichchelvan had carefully collected news paper articles written on me in all three languages and some valuable photographs. It was a huge and hectic task but Kaleignar Kaleichchelvan with the help of several others somehow accomplished the complicated task.

But you have not allocated a price for that book?

“Yes. If I allocated a price for that many would misunderstand that we try to recover the amount we have so far spent on other books. Moreover it is as I feel a priceless book”.

He recently held a felicitation ceremony for all journalists and photographers who wrote about him in newspapers whose articles were re-published in the book ‘Puravalar Sila Padhivuhal’. It was a great encouragement for the journalists whose talent is hardly appreciated and are often excluded in sophisticated and biased award ceremonies. His immediate plan is to hold a book launching ceremony for four female writers on Women’s Day next year.

He does not stop there. He has a high hope to build a separate place for writers to engage in their work, to conduct book launches and other literary related works. “I need to carry forward this task in future even in my absence. For that I am planning to start a trust fund so that this would continue to exist and help needy writers”. He remarks with a note of triumphant hope in his eyes. Sri Lanka needs more and more people of this caliber with liberality for the uplift of the literary industry. It is hoped that he alone can make a huge revolution in the literary field with Allah’s blessings.

- R.D.W. Subasinghe