In recent times, understandably, women have been
in the forefront. Take for instance, the women’s organisations
that are active in different parts of the island. One such
organization is the Women’s Education Research Centre (WERC)
headquartered at 58, Dharmarama Road, Colombo 06. Dr. Selvy
Thiruchandran heads this institute. They publish a trilingual
bulletin. Vol 12, No. 1 of this bulletin named "Pravahini"
carries tidbits of information pertaining to women in general
and the Thamil version compiled by Mahes Vairamuthu focuses
naturally on Thamil women in general.
The English edition has a tribute to the late
Regi Siriwardena. It’s signed by S.T., presumably Selvy
She says "His greatness was testified by the
fact that a few of the Thamil writers who write exclusively in
Thamil journals and newspapers, could not but pay tribute to him
in Thamil. One UK based writer (Yamuna Rajendran) in an Indian
journal called "Uyirmai"–another one in a Thamil Marxist
column–entered into a debate with a non-Marxist writer who had
referred to Regi as a humanist who has gone beyond Marxism. I do
not want to enter into this debate. It is merely to mention the
impact Regi had on such writers both Marxist and Non-Marxist. "Thetithal",
a small unconventional newsletter like quarterly paper published
in Jaffna which had referred to Regi as a great man and an
honest Marxist, marks his contribution to art and politics and
how the Thamil community benefited by reading the translation of
his work into Thamil.
Incidentally, Yamuna Rajendran, who is a man, is
greatly admired as a great critic by some of the Thamil-only
young intellectuals and critics in Sri Lanka, particularly "Natchathiran
Sevvinthian" (an incongruous pen-name of a promising poet, now
domiciled in Australia). Personally I have reservations on his
film criticism because he voices outdated Marxist views culled
from earlier Marxist handouts and slogans. However, he has
written a few books in Thamil on Cinema that is outside the
confines of the Thamil Cinema.
Let’s go back to S.T. on Regi:
"Besides the literary genius and his
intellectual and creative powers, the political man in Regi has
appealed to these writers. His uncompromising stand on the
ethnic questions and his uncritical condemnation of the betrayal
of the Left on the language issue has been remembered by these
Thamil writers as worthy of comment in a world of political
opportunism and bargains in the power game."
Selvy Thiruchandran by the way is the daughter
of the late Handy Perinpanayagam, a pioneer left winger in
Yaalpaanam, more than half a century ago. She is also a sister
of Siddharthan, a professor in Sociology in the U.S.
Sinhala and Thamil conferences
Flipping through the pages of "Pravahini", I
found that the WERC had had the annual Sinhala conference a few
months ago. The theme of the conference was "Women’s
Contribution to Sinhala Cultural Productions". Ten specialists
presented papers on this occasion. Cinema, drama, lyrics etc.
were the subjects on which papers were presented.
A similar conference in relation to activities
and contributions in Thamil would be held in the latter part of
Satsorupavathy Nathan: a
woman of great talent
Although well known as a broadcaster in Thamil,
Satsorupavathy Nathan who had had more than 40 years of service
with Radio Ceylon, broadcast in English, and, above all, was at
one time a programme organiser for talks and features in the
English service of the SLBC. It was under her aegis that I
compiled and presented the arts magazine on this frequency. I
also presented "Rhythms Thamil", a quarter hour programme
presenting Thamil film songs with introductions in English, was
also broadcast over the commercial service of the SLBC.
Presently I am on the panel of presenters in English on the same
service, but could not come on the air for the past two months
due to slight changes in the structure of the programmes where
young and new presenters are given way. It is understandable.
After all "Old is Not always Gold".
Ms. Nathan, as she is popularly known, is also
an orator, speaker on women’s interests and a presenter of chat
shows over Rupavahini’s Eye Channel. She is also a part time
editor of the Thamil news bulletins over SLBC and a visiting
lecturer on media in many institutions. She is also associated
with the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam as one of the members of the
governing body. Such is her greatness. She had been feted
recently by many institutions. The very recent one was by the
Yaalpaanam Hindu Ladies College Old Girls association.
A Gunda Awardee, Ms. Nathan is one of the
greatest Thamil women in this country contributing her varied
talents to the media, women interests and the society at large.
The passing away recently of Jimmy Bharucha, a
fine and knowledgeable broadcaster and trainer with amiable
manners and an unostentatious profile removes from us the
memories of a golden age in English broadcasting in this
country. Jimmy was a distinguished man of talents belonging to
the immensely talented Farsi Community in Sri Lanka.
In the late 1950s, there were many quiz
programmes over the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon. The
indomitable Vernon Corea, Geoff Fruightnit and Jimmy Bharucha,
then very shy and young, presented on the stage in studio 06 of
Radio Ceylon a sponsored quiz programme. As a student I appeared
on the programme and won a prize. It was then that I saw Jimmy
for the first time. I was also a contributor to the Radio
Journal programme compiled and presented by Jimmy.
In 1966, I joined as a relief Thamil announcer
over the Commercial Service. I was trained by the late S. P.
Mylvaganam, the legendary voice that along with the late Greg
Rozkowski and the late Prosper Fernando and the Ganjal sisters
put Radio Ceylon on the world map of popular broadcasting. Jimmy
was listening to me while I was being trained and I made silly
mistakes on the air, particularly reading the clock and airing
the correct time due to tension and excitement. Jimmy walked
into the studio and told me that I would be a good announcer
because I am making mistakes and that I would learn by making
mistakes and built confidence in me.
When I worked as an editor of Thamil news
bulletins, Jimmy was the director of news. Jimmy read widely and
that was one of the reasons for his sound knowledge in
broadcasting. He was a regular reader of my columns in the
newspapers and had something complimentary to says when he meets
me in the corridors of the radio station.
Jimmy was also behind the mike man for GFU News
Reels and Documentary films.
In the annals of Radio Ceylon, the chapter on
Jimmy Bharucha would be a revealing account of the country’s
exercise in broadcasting.
Last Sunday, Pathma Somakanthan, a woman writer
of this country who has brought out three collections of short
stories and also a book for children in Thamil was feted for her
golden year’s contributions towards Lankan Thamil Literature.
She had also been feted recently in Toronto, Canada and Chennai,
India. An educationist, Pathma edits a journal of women’s
interests besides being a good speaker in several seminars.
Belonging to a Brahmin family, she broke the restraints of that
community even as a teenager when she wrote progressive short
stories under her nom de plume–"Puthuma Piriyai". Her husband,
N. Somakanthan (Eelathu Somu) is also one of the foremost
writers in this country combining spiritualism and social
realism as his spouse is.
T. Easwaran of the well-known mercantile
establishment, Mala Sabaratnam, an attorney who speaks elegant
Thamil, P. Balasundaram, Ananthi Balasigham of the Thinakaran,
A. Sivanesachelvan of the College of Journalism, Jeyaraj of the
Kamban Kalagam, and Dominic Jeeva, editor of "Mallikai"
eulogised the writer Pathma Somakanthan befittingly. Pathma
Somakanthan is a very senior writer in Thamil in this country.
Some recent events
Three Thamil books were launched recently; "Vaanil
Mithantha Valluvar Vaimoli" - a collecton of radio plays written
by S. Paramasamy was one of the books. The new president of the
Kolumbu Thamil Sangam, Kumarasamy Somasudaram chaired the
function. Dr. V. Maheswaran of the University of Peradeniya was
the guest speaker. Annaladchumi Rasadurai, editor of "Kalaikesari
"of the Virakesari and yours truly reviewed the book.
On the same day (June 26, 2005) the late
Rajanayagan’s collection of short stories, "Sontha Munn" was
released. The reviewers were Siva Subramaniam, editor of the
Thinakaran, Vasanthi Thayaparan, an emerging literary critic, T.
Mathusothanan, editor of " reviewed this book. The author’s son
Bharathi delivered the vote of thanks.
Also on the same day a book of short stories in
Thamil by M. Basheer was launched. Ali Akbar of Sri Lanka
Islamic Art and Literature Forum chaired the occasion. Member of
the Shipping Corporation, Hashim Omar was the chief guest.
Nazimul Husain, Ilaya Abdullah, N. M. Ameen, T .Mani, M. A. M.
Nilam, Ashraf Shihabdeen – all notable writers, poets and
journalists participated in this function. Yours truly has
written the foreword for M. Basheers’s book – "Nijangalin Vali"
(The Pain of the Real).
The fifth in a series of talks in Thamil on
Cinema organised by the Thamil Unit of the Film Corporation was
delivered by the hillcountry literati, Anthomy Jeeva on Lankan
Some weeks back Tissa Devendra’s collection of
short stories was released at the BMICH. Minister Sarath
Amunugama, a fine speaker and sociologist entertained the
audience with his anecdotes as a former civil servant and media
Thus we see a lot of cultural activities are
taking place in the country despite the uncertainties of the
future of our country.