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