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V.N.Giritharan
Canadian Tamil Literature
V.N.Giritharan: Canadian Tamil Writer V.N.Giritharan's Corner
Fractured Self: A Study of V.N. Giritharan’s
Selected Short Stories

A dissertation submitted to the University of Madras in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of

MASTER OF PHILOSOPHY IN ENGLISH UNDER
CHOICE BASED CREDIT SYSTEM

By

M. Durairaj

DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
UNIVERSITY OF MADRAS
CHENNAI-600 005

August- 2007

Department of English
University of Madras

Mrs. M. Angkayarkan Vinayaka Selvi
Lecturer in English
University of Madras
Chennai 600 005

Acknowledgements
I am highly indebted to my supervisor, Mrs. M. Angkayarkan Vinayaka Selvi, lecturer, Department of English, University of Madras, for her constant help and valuable guidance. Her efforts made me think about my subject from various points of view which has helped me greatly.

I wish to express my profound gratitude to Dr. C.T. Indra, Professor and Head, Department of English, University of Madras for the kind support and constant encouragement throughout the period of my study.

I express my heartfelt gratitude to Dr. R. Azhgarasan, Lecturer, Department of English, University of Madras, for his constructive ideas. This  motivated me to move faster on my work. He had been the source of inspiration for me throughout the period of my study.

I would like to thank Dr. D. Venkataramanan, Lecturer, Department of English, University of Madras, for rectifying the errors in my writing and  giving suggestions to choose title for my thesis.

My sincere thanks are credited to Dr. Rajani, Dr. Armstrong, Miss. Supala Pandiarajan and non-teaching staffs for their kind help to complete my thesis.
I extend my thanks to all my friends who were with me to support my work at every level.

Last but not least I would like to use this opportunity to thank my parents for their love, support and affection.

Abstract
Diasporic writing occupies a significant place in literature in the recent years. Many writers have emerged in the world literary scene and they contribute to this genre. But critics argue the need for such writings and they decry diaspora literature as bourgeois literature. Giritharan’s writings serve as an answer to these critics’ argument. His stories prove that there is a need for such writing to convey the sufferings of  Srilankan Tamils.

Chapter one traces the history of diaspora and gives a brief discussion of the Tamil Diaspora. Chapter two deals with the life and works of V.N. Giritharan. It analyses his works in terms of language, form and theme.Chapter three highlights the problem of diasporic identity as discussed by Giritharan in his short stories. Chapter four gives a clear description of the Tamils as a Transnational community in the widespread world in an era of globalization.Chapter V concludes the above argument and contends that Giritharan’s short stories are not an outcome of leisure of bourgeois society instead it is an outburst of a depressed mind which has undergone a traumatic genocide.


Contents

Chapter I Introduction 1
Chapter II Giritharan: The Man and His Works 11
Chapter III Questioning the Self: Giritharan and Identity Politics 34
Chapter IV Engaging Transnationality 53
Chapter V Conclusion 71
Bibliography 74

Chapter-I Introduction!

The term “Diaspora” comes from the Greek word ‘diaspeirein’ that means to disperse or scatter. Diaspora is the dispersal or the scattering of  people from their homeland to various parts of the world. The term ‘diaspora’ conveys different meanings at different levels. Initially it was used by the ancient Greeks to refer to the colonizers who immigrated to the colonized land for the purpose of colonization. Later, the meaning of the term changed when the Old Testament was translated into Greek. Then the word ‘diaspora’ is specifically used to refer a huge population of
Jews who were forced into exile from Judea by the Babylonians.

The term was assimilated from Greek into English in the twentieth century. Even then the word Diaspora literally meant the scattering of people from their homeland by willing or by force and settling in other countries. The terms migrant, expatriate, exile, refugee were replaced by the term Diaspora in recent days. The word Diaspora has an ambiguous meaning of the scattering of two types of people i.e. ambassadors and refugees. The first one includes professionals and job seekers who fled the country in search of white-collar jobs. The second types of people
are those who were expelled out by force. These people fled the country due to ethnic conflict, economic problems and as indentured labourers.

Though both the type of people leaves their country for settling in an alien land, the need for both of them differs. There were many reasons for the dispersal of the people from their homeland. While one tries to understand the foreign culture and makes life comfortable, the other seeks refuge and protection in the host land. The former has a forward looking attitude and assimilates the host culture easily while the latter keeps himself isolated and has a nostalgic attitude in them of their homeland. Though the definition for the immigrants and the expatriates
differs, what captures one’s attention is the cause of the migration.

Of the dispersed people not all were educated. Only a very few were educated and these people tries to record their feelings and sufferings in an alien land. Thus, in the recent years a great body of writers has emerged on the world literary scene who have highlighted the problems of the dispersed population. There are many writers who contribute to this genre and they formed a community called ‘Diaspora community’. These writers have depicted all the problems of the dispersed people which include the reason for migration, the problems in the native land, the agents of migration and the life of the migrants in an alien land that usually concentrate on the socio-cultural, socio-political and psychological
issues.

At present there are different Diasporas in the world. Among them the Jewish, Indian, African and Chinese are some notable Diasporas. The Indian Diaspora is a major one, which constitutes approximately of twenty million people all over the world. They are serving as entrepreneurs, workers, teachers, researchers, innovators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, managers and even political leaders. There are many eminent writers of Indian Diaspora like Bharathi Mukarjee, Rohinton Mistry, Salman Rushdie, V.S. Naipaul, Jumpa Lahiri and Uma Parameswaran who have been discussing several issues concerning their homelands and the land in which they live.

The evolution of the Indian Diaspora can be traced from the beginning of the nineteenth century. The first wave of migration started with the abolition of slavery during 1833-34. Many people were sent as indentured labourers to Mauritius, Carribean, Fiji and South Africa. There were two main reasons behind the migration under the colonial rule. One was the poor economic condition that prevailed in India due to the destruction of cottage industries, which resulted in extreme poverty and unemployment. The other reason is that the colonial masters found the Indians skillful and hardworking. So the British, French, Dutch and the Portuguese took Indian labourers to their territories. The labouring poor were made to work in the plantations under British control.

The second wave of migrants was Businessmen, Artisans, Traders and Factory workers who emigrated for betterment of their trade and business. The third wave of immigrants was the professionals and the educated elites of India. They went in search of green pastures and white-collar jobs in the more advanced countries. One of the basic reasons of the dispersal of Indians and Chinese was the overcrowded population. So the educated elite moved towards developed nations such as the United States, Britain, France and Australia. Among the dispersed people, the Tamils form a larger group and they are called the “Tamil Diaspora”. The Tamil Diaspora refers to the scattered Tamil population of Srilanka and Tamilnadu. The dispersal of Tamils around the globe is not of recent origin. This scattering started with trade in olden days and grown as indentured labourers during the early colonial, especially after the abolition of slavery in 1834 and continuing still as refugees and asylum seekers. Like other Diasporas, the Tamils are scattered and dislocated across the globe with majority in Canada, Europe, Australia, USA, Malaysia and Singapore.

Even though the Tamil Diaspora constitutes Tamils from different parts of the world, it is the Tamils from Srilanka who forms a major part of the Tamil Diaspora. The Srilankan Tamil Diaspora is also called as ‘Ceylonese Diaspora’ or ‘Jaaffnese Diaspora’, which in common refers to the Srilankan Tamils all over the world. The Tamils in Srilanka are as old as the Sinhala tradition. Their origins lay in south India in cultural region known as ‘Tamilakam’, which comprises the entire present day Tami Nadu, and some parts of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala. The Tamils occupied a prominent place in the Sinhala kingdom especially from the seventh to eleventh century. They occupied many higher positions in the government of Srilanka.

The Ceylon Tamils are an industrious community who easily grabbed the opportunities. Even though there are some Christians in the Tamil community, majority were the Hindus. Most of the Sinhalese were Muslims and some claims as Buddhists. Hence there existed a difference between the Sinhalese and the Tamils.

H.A.J. Hulugalle in Introducing Ceylon quotes Dr. G.C. Mendi’s explanation for this difference as:

The rise of Tamil kingdom created problems to which Ceylon was accustomed. In Ceylon, so far Sinhalese had been the chief language and Buddhism its main religion. In the Tamil kingdom Tamil became the chief language and Hinduism its main religion. Before long a distinction arose also in economic conditions. The Tamil kingdom arose in the dry zone and the Tamils followed the method of cultivation suitable to this area. The Sinhalese, on the other hand, gradually abandoning the dry zone, began to occupy the wet zone, which was more productive and suitable also for the cultivation of products other than rice. These differences created a gulf between the two peoples and they are partly responsible for the divisions between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. (Hulugalle 18)

Roughly one-eighth of the population of Ceylon is Tamils. These are people who come from Madurai, Pudukottai, Trichinopoly (Trichy), Tanjore, salem, Coimbatore, Tinnevelley (Tirinelveli) and Ramnad districts. They are Tamils who profess Hinduism and they work as labourers in tea and rubber estate. A major part of the trade and commerce of Ceylon before 1983 was in the hands of the Tamils. The financiers, traders and businessmen include many ‘Nattukottai Chettiars’ from Pudukottai and Ramnad districts. Thus the Tamils were enjoying a better position in
Srilanka even though there was an underground protest (the protest of the Tamils for a separate nation), which was not rigorous.

The census report of 1981 says that the Tamil population in Srilanka was 95.3% in Jaffna, 76.0%in Mullaitivu, 56.9% in Vavuniya, 33.7% in Trincomalee, 70.8% in Batticaloa and 20.1% in Amparai. The Tamils constitute almost 17% of the total population of Srilanka. But in the recent days the Srilankan Tamil population was reduced to 4% because of the ethnic conflict. The history of Srilankan Tamil migration can be divided into three distinct phases.

During the colonial period the immigration of Srilankan Tamils started with the British rule in Srilanka. The British were in need of skilled labourers and professionals to work in foreign lands under British rule. The Tamils in Srilanka were ready to get educational or job opportunities through the British. The British also preferred the Tamils even though the Sinhalese are the majority in Srilanka. Though the Sinhalese outnumber the Tamils in Srilanka they were not able to outsmart the Tamils. The British considered that the Tamils were much better off than the Sinhalese who were fed up with ethnic conflict. This led to the migration of Tamils mainly to countries like Malaysia, Singapore and the then Madras Presidency in India. Due to this immigration the Tamil immigrants occupied many higher positions in the government of Malaysia and Singapore.

There were many Tamils in Malaysia and Singapore to whom goes the credit of being first Asian non-white doctors and engineers. In the early days in Malaysia and Singapore’s history, the Srilankan Tamils achievements had a special place. Even today the Tamils play an important role in Malaysia and Singapore. In the judiciary, civil service, military, educational sectors, medical services and in many other professions they are contributing their selfless service. This is not because they are the members of a minority community but they are selected only on the basis of their merit. The Tamils of Srilanka are ready to compete with any larger community and they want to judge them only on the basis of merit rather than considering them as a minority community. Even in Srilanka many of the plantations, textile industries were owned by the Tamils before 1983. The Srilankan Tamils have established schools, banks and temples many other institutions in all parts of the world as a symbol of  their cultural heritage.

During the post independent period there was not much migration, as the Tamils did not have any problem or lack of opportunities in Srilanka. Everything changed within a short period as the government of Srilanka, which was controlled by the Sinhalese, introduced ‘Sinhala only act’. This was because the Tamils occupied all the major positions in the Srilankan government since they were proficient in English. This resulted in unemployment among the Sinhala youth. So they gave pressure to the government to act in a way that all jobs should be given on the basis of identity, nation, culture and language apart from merit. Hence many Tamils were removed from meritorious posts in Srilankan government. Thus many Tamil professionals started migrating to foreign lands where they felt they could get better positions.

The third phase of migration started with the outburst of civil war 1983. ‘Black July’ is the name given to the conflict that burst out in Srilanka on 23rd July 1983 and it has become a day of mourning and remembrance for srilankan Tamils around the world. Thousands of Tamils were killed, many houses were burnt and a large number of srilankan Tamil sought refuge in other countries. Black July was considered as the catalyst that increased the ethnic conflict, which already existed in Srilanka.

What triggered the unprecedented state of violence against the Tamils was the killing of thirteen government soldiers on23rd July in Jaffna by the Liberation Tigers of the Tamil Eelam (LTTE). The liberation tigers who were fighting for a separate state have never involved in such a terrible violence. But, the rape of four Tamil women who later committed suicide by the Sinhala soldiers made the liberation tigers to indulge in active violence. On 25th July the bodies of thirteen soldiers were brought to Colombo for their funeral. By that time some Sinhalese formed
groups and started killing Tamil people and looting and burning their properties as an act of avenging the soldier’s death. The government also acted in favour of the Sinhalese as the government itself was Sinhala dominated.

The government enforced a curfew after twenty-four hours of burning violence. Even before that the violence began to spread to all parts of Srilanka where the Tamils lived. The rioters initially targeted the houses, factories and estates owned by Tamil people. Then they went in groups and killed Tamils wherever they saw. This made many Tamil youths to join the Tamil militant groups like LTTE and TULF (Tamil United Liberation Font). Thousands of Tamil people fled the country to settle in countries like India, Australia, Canada and some other European
countries in search of asylum.

All Diasporas have love towards their nation, origin, the place of their birth and their ancestors. In a similar way there is one core element that binds together the Tamil people dispersed across the world, which is their Common language ‘Tamil’, and it’s rich and inspiring manifestations. The Tamil language and culture have transcended national boundaries. It also continues to record and express thoughts of all the Tamils in writings. Apart from this, the Tamils have taken the media as a tool for expressing their views and uniting Tamil people all over the world. There are many Tamil websites where all Tamils can voice their woes and express their feeling which easily reaches all Tamils.

Statistics says that the migrated population after 1983 is said to be above 800,000. Nearly one fourth of the Srilankan Tamils have spread across the world. India has 150,000 Srilankan Tamils, Canada 320,000, Germany 60,000, France 100,000, UK 300, 00, Switzerland 400, 00 US 250, 00, Italy 240, 00, Malaysia 200, 00, Australia 530, 00 Norway 130, 00 Netherland 7000 and Sweden 6000. Among them Canada
has major concentration of Srilankan Tamils. Most of the Tamils in Canada emigrated after the outbreak of civil war 1983. These people are called as Asylum Diaspora in Canada as they sought refuge in that land.

The Tamil community is centered in the Toronto area. Nowadays Toronto has more Tamils than some the major Srilankan cities like Jaffna and Colombo. One can say that Toronto is the largest Srilankan Tamil city in the world. Many Srilanka born professionals who are also writers live in Canada. Michael Ondatjee, Chelva Kanaganayagam, Rudramoorthy Cheran, V.N. Giritharan and Pon Kulendiren are notable among them. The Tamils in Canada also have two Internet websites Pathivugal and Kuviam. Kuviam is being edited by Pon. Kulendiren. This e-zine features many aspects of Srilankan Tamils. Pon Kulendiren writes fiction and he has authored a collection of short stories in English titled Stories from Srilanka. V.N. Giritharan who writes fiction, short story and poetry in Tamil edits Pathivugal. While Kuviam is Trilingual Pathivugal is bilingual.Even though the diasporic writings are gaining importance these days, there are many critics who argue about the essence of such writings. These critics raise the question against the diasporic writers regarding their sense of dislocation and reason for not glorifying their homeland.
There are many diasporic writers who find it difficult to answer these questions since they are professionals or Ambassadors and their purpose of immigration was seeking green pastures and white-collar jobs. Hence these writers have not experienced many difficulties in their homeland as well as the land of their settlement. They live a sophisticated life and only for some people there will be nostalgia towards their homeland. But writers like Gritharan experience many problems such as ethnic conflict, social problems, employment problems etc in their homeland. After migrating to some other countries these problems exist. They feel alienated and their identity being fractured and feels very difficult to survive in
the host land. Giritharan’s writings depict the problem of immigrant existence as well as the problems of the native land. For this Giritharan himself says:

At the same time we are people who have come running here forced by the ethnic problems of our land. Of late, some of our fellow men are expressing such views as the works of immigrant writers speak of nothing else save the sorrows and problems of their motherland. But, this should not be and that their works should also concentrate on the issues of the land in which they have sought shelter. I cannot forget the travails and traumas of my motherland. My stories can never escape from their grip. At the same time I cannot free myself from the clutches of my new surroundings. My stories are bound to reflect it in its various aspects. But, even when I reflect this new surrounding the complexion of the ethnic problem that is eating out my motherland would surely reveal itself through all my depictions. (Ramakrishnan)

There are many writers from Srilanka but not all of them are of Tamil origin. Even if they are from Tamil origin many writers chooses to write in English. Only a very few writers tend to write in Tamil. The literature produced by them is called as ‘Pulampeyarnthor Ilakkiyam’ (Literature of the Expatriates). Giritharan proves himself as a significant short story writer in the widespread Tamil literary field as well as the recently emerged Diaspora. His works proves that writings in English about the sorrows and sufferings of the immigrants can never be effective as those written in
Tamil. It is with this standpoint this dissertation tries to analyse selected short stories of V.N. Giritharan and locate him as a diasporic writer who has given a new dimension to the Diaspora literature.



Chapter-II
Giritharan: The Man and his Works!

V.N. Giritharan (Navaratnam, Giritharan) is basically a Tamil writer from Srilanka who moved to Canada at a very young age. He was born to Navaratnam in Vannara Pannai, Srilanka. He spent most of his childhood days in Vavunya, particularly in the Vanni district. In order to show his love for the place where he spent his childhood days, he added the first letter of the district ‘V’ before his name. He started his primary education in the Vavunya Maha Vidyalaya. He had his higher education in the Jaffna Hindu College (Yal Inthuk Kalluri). He also obtained a bachelor degree in Architecture from the Morotuva University. At present he lives in the Scarbarough district of Toronto, Canada.

Giritharan has authored many short stories, poems, novels and essays. He started his writing career at a very young age. When he was living in Srilanka, he entered the literary field through the Children’s magazine. His first poem “Pongalo Pongal” was published in the popular Tamil magazine Sudanthiran. When he was studying seventh standard he won the first prize in the essay competition conducted for the Srilankan Tamil day celebration all over Srilanka. He has written many children stories. His writings were published in many popular Tamil magazines such as Eezha Nadu, Sudanthiran, Siruvar Malar, Siritharan, Kanmani, Veera Kesari, Eezha Mani, Kanayaazhi, Subamangalaa, Aanantha Vikatan, Thulir, Thaayagam, Thedal, Chuvadugal and Thinnai.

One of his short stories named “Salanangal” (Agitations) was selected for prize in the short story competition conducted by Sirithiran. Kumaran Publishers and Sneha Publishers in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, published some of his short stories and novels. One of his story entitled “Oru Maa (naa)ttu pirachanai” (A co(w)untry Issue) had been added into the book titled Paniyum Panaiyum ( The Snow and The Palmyra) edited by a Tamil writer Indira Paarthasarathy. One of his short stories 'Pondhu Paravaigal' (birds of the Furrow) had been published for the Tamil students in Singapore. His essays on ‘Nallur Rajdhani city lay out’ and ‘Preserving Historical Monuments’ were published in Eezha Naadu and Veera Kesari. Many of his essays about Astrophysics were published in Veera Kesari, Kanaiyaazhi, Thinnai and Pathivugal. He has also served as the editor of the Morotuwa University journal ‘Nutpam’ for a short period.

After his immigration to Canada his writings are published in Thaayagam, Kanayaazhi, Thulir, Chuvadugal, Uyir Nizhal, Aanantha Vikatan, Subamangala and in some e-zines such as Thinnai, Ambalam, Aaraanthinai, and Maanasarovargam. Some of the essays that were published in these magazines include ‘Essays on Einstein’s Theory of Relativity’ and ‘essays on the Dravidian Architecture’. ‘Marabum kavithaiyum’ (Tradition and Poetry), ‘Valarmuga Naadugalum Kudimanai Pirachanaigalum’ (developing countries and the problems of Architecture), some essays on Bharathiaar’s works and many of his critical reviews about Tamil literature were published in Thaayagam. Since 2000, he has organized a Tamil  e-zine named Pathivugal and has been the chief editor of that magazine. He has also tried his hand in some of the magazines and newspapers after his immigration to Canada. They are Iravi and Kalvi (weekly magazines) Kural, a manuscript, Namadhu Boomi and Kanini Ulagam (News letters).


He has written a series of short stories. They are:

“Seethaakaa” (Sister Sita)
“Oru Ma (naa) tu Pirachanai” (A Co(w)untry Issue)
“Nee Engirunthu Varugirai?” (Where are you from?)
“Deva Tharisanam” (Auspicious Sight)
“Aathmaavin Puthuyirpu” (Re-incarnation of the Soul)
“Goutamanin Vaazhvu” (Life of Gautama)
“Nadu Vazhiyil oru Payanam” (A Journey in the Midway)
“Vangaalai”
“Manoranjitham”
“Jamaickanutan Sila Kanangal” (A Few Moments with the Jamaican)
“Kalaanithiyum Veethi Manithanum” (Kalaanithi and The Street Man)
“Saavitri Oru Srilankan Agathiyin Kuzhanthai” (Saavitri a Srilankan Refugee’s Child)
“Pulam Peyarthal” (Expatriation)
“Concrete Vanathu Kuruvigal” (Birds Of The Concrete Forest)
“Oru Mahonnatha Padaipaali Ezhuthum Sirugathai” (A Short story Being written by a Renowned writer)
“Sonthakkaaran” (Relative)
“Thappi Pizhaithal” (A Way Out)
“Africa America Canadiya Kudivaravaalan” (An African, American, Canadian
Immigrant)
“Veedatravan” (The Homeless)
“Manaivi” (Wife)
“Yannal” (window)
“Sundeligal” (Mice)
“Palli Koodam” (A Hut of a Lizard)
“Kattatak Ka (Koo) ttu Muyalgal” (Hares of Concrete (Caged) Forest)
“Aasiriyarum Maanavanum” (The Teacher and the Student)
“Utaintha Manithanum Utaintha kaalum” (The Broken Man and The Broken Leg)
“Akkarai” (Concern)
“En Kuzhanthai” (My Child)
“Kanavan” (Husband)
Some of the short stories written during his early age are:
“Salanagal” (Agitations) selected in the A.N. Kandasaamy memorial essay competition and was published in Sirithiran.
“Aalamarathadiyil Pirantha Jnanam” (Enlightenment under the Banyan Tree) Published in Thinakaran.
“Anjalai Ennai Mannithu Vidu” (Forgive Me Anjalai) published in Eezha Naadu.
“Ippadiyum Oru Pen” (A Woman Even of This Kind) Published in Eezha Naadu.
“Manal Veedugal” (Sand Houses)
“Niyathi” (Obligation) a Metaphorical story published in Eezha Naadu.
“Arasaalum urimai yaaruku?” (Who has the Right to Rule?) A children’s story published in Kanmani.
He has also written some novels. They are:
Mannin Kural (Voice of the Soil) published in Puratchi Paathai.
Kanangalum Kunangalum (Time and Attribute) published in Thaayagam.
Vanni Man (Vanni Soil) Published in Thaayagam.
Aruchunanin Thedalum Agaligaiyin kaadalum (The Quest of Arjuna and the Love of Agalya) published in Thaayagam.
America Published in Thaayagam.


There are many eminent literary figures from Srilanka but nobody has dealt with the problems of Tamil people in particular. Giritharan’s writings are based on the sufferings and sorrows of the Tamil people. He has written all his stories and novels based on what he has seen and experienced as an immigrant. In many of his stories he adopted the first person narrative to make the story realistic and effective. This technique helps the reader to identify himself or herself with the characters of the stories. In all the stories, he portrays some kind of problems. His stories record the memory of the past as well as the present condition of life of the immigrants.

The diasporic experience is shaped by economic positions, personal skills and political relationships between the country of origin and the country of adoption. Reception and acceptance of immigrants in the host country also helps in shaping the diasporic experience. The host country’s immigration law, legal system and cultural openness also contribute to this diasporic experience. The diasporic writers are situated in a critical position between two nations and cultures. They can neither forget their nation or culture from which they come nor can they fully
assimilate the culture of their adopted nation. Thus Giritharan himself says:

Based on my own experiences as a migrant and at the same time having the plight and problems of my country as the focal points my writings have taken shape. As regards my Tamil writings of today has left its soil to survive in an alien land, it leads a life in a world that hangs suspended, struggling to come to terms with life in between the strange climate of the land that has given shelter and the memories of their mother land. As I too belong to this hanging suspended generation I cannot help but depict the living conditions of the land of refuge and the
plight and perils of my motherland. (Ramakrishnan)


Giritharan’s use of puns in the title of his short stories is one of his notable techniques. Some of his short story title has ambiguous meaning and it also sounds ambiguous. They are “Oru Ma(naa)tu Pirachanai,” “Pallikoodam,” and “Kattatak ka(koo)ttu Muyalgal.” With the usage of pun and word play in his titles, Giritharan is able to bring out the situation of the Diaspora people who have lost the meaning of their life. All the three short stories, as the title suggests have a direct suggested meaning and it also has an implied inner meaning. The author ironically brings out the condition of the Tamil immigrants through the play of words by giving some examples and equating them with the immigrant situation.The short story cycle is an interesting genre that is used by some of the diasporic writers. Giritharan also adopts this form to portray his thoughts and ideas. In the short story cycle the writer is able to negotiate ideas, characters and themes, which are simultaneously independent and at the same time interdependent, resembling a novel in its totality and yet composed of a series of short stories. The short story in its totality becomes comparable to a novel because in the recent years the borders between the literary genres have become fluid. The stories in these cycles deal with three thematic issues. First, the stories are concerned with the creation and preservation of a particular ethnically related group of people. Next, they explore the intra-community dealings and reflect on the inter-racial relations. Finally, the scope of the stories goes beyond the geographical boundaries to describe the process of immigration and adaptation to another socio-cultural environment. Hence, the shifting borders of ethnicity in their location/dislocation discover in their formal expression that forms the cycle.

The short story collection has added the advantage of the polyphony of voices in different stories and each story is independent and complete in itself and yet thematically and structurally related to the others. The stories display a dynamic pattern of recurrent themes that are connected to each other or a common theme that is viewed through different angles. The characteristic form of the short story cycle is metaphoric in expression. The themes explored in the short story cycle are the same as in most of the migrant literature such as nostalgia for the past, fear
of losing own identity, loneliness, hostility, exile, dislocation, discrimination, assimilation, acculturation, language issues and problems of duality. These issues form the core of Giritharan’s short stories.

The concern of the diasporic writers is not only with the memory and nostalgia but also with the ‘place’ and ‘displacement’. The theme of home/homelessness is an important issue in diasporic literature. Many of Giritharn’s short stories prove this. Thoughts and images of life in the past either of sorrow or joy give a new experience to the immigrants and they are situated in a particular geographical space. However the context provided by space in which memory is positioned changes with time and distance. The space of the homeland that seems constricting for the people prior to migration becomes a source and object of nostalgia and longing after the migration. The immigrant could only have the nostalgia but can never think of returning to his homeland because the concept of identity entirely changes with the dislocation of the immigrant. These issues form the core of the short story “The Homeless.” The story opens with the description of a night in Richmond Duncan area of  the Toronto city, Canada. The author gives clear picture of the busy city with the street vendors busily looking after their business, the dance clubs overflowing with youths and some people returning home after finishing their duties. The narrator also finds many homeless who were deep in sleep with the manhole lids providing warmth. This manhole lid is one of the recurrent images in Giritharan’s short stories. He brings this image to point out the homeless condition of the immigrants.

The narrator was also returning home from his work and was waiting for the signal to change. By that time the narrator hears a voice “can you spare some coins my friend?” After turning around he finds a South African with bushy moustache and beard with a plastic container in his hand. The narrator says that he is supplied with many different experiences everyday in his host land. Since Canada is a multicultural country, immigrants from all over the world occupy Canada.

The African man introduces himself as ‘Clarke’ and says that he is going to contest for the ‘Toronto Mayor Ship’ election. This gives a great surprise to the narrator. It also seems ridiculous to him as there were many popular persons competing for Toronto Mayor Ship and this homeless creature who is dwelling on the street is also one among the contestants. By hearing this, the author is also reminded of a story that he had heard during his childhood days. He also narrates the story thus:

Once, the then president of srilanka, J.R. paid a visit to Ankodai. Ankodai is the famous mental Asylum in Srilanka. And, one of the inmates of Ankodai addressed the prestigious visitor thus: “Greetings, May I know who you are?” J.R. responded with a smile, saying, “I am the all powerful legally-elected president of this country.” hearing that the patient who threw on him the query laughed aloud and then advised J.R. as follows, “sir I too had uttered those words and as a result had been trapped ever since. Don’t you dare tell that again to others that which you have told me now. Then you will also suffer the same fate. (Ramakrishnan)

With a sense of humour, Giritharan has brought out the condition of the mind of the homeless immigrants. The psychological trauma that they undergo makes them get affected mentally. The author gets new experience everyday. Many incidents seem to be a kind of mystery to him.The issue of colour is one of the most difficult problems that the immigrants experience in their homeland as well as their host land. Even in a multicultural society like Canada, this problem persists. Towards the end of the story, the author highlights this issue. The narrator gets the reason from the African man for his interest in contesting the Toronto Mayor Ship and before they bid farewell, the African stops before a signal. The narrator eagerly asks for the reason and the African replies thus:

If I am to go past, crossing this signal I will be stopped. And, advices would be handed over to me, unasked. If I were to be seen by the policemen, they won leave me they won’t leave you too. But, do you think that such situation would befall a White man? The immigrants, minorities are all so much affected and suffer a lot. And that’s why I am going to stand in this election. (Ramakrishnan)

Through this the author brings out the racial discrimination, colour problem that the immigrant’s face in an alien land. Differences always exist in aspects of colour, race, culture, language and educational backgrounds. The author also suggests through the character of African man that these immigrants should also be given equal freedom in all respects in the host land. So, he tries to bring forth the issue that all the immigrants should be treated equally without colour differences.

“An end and a Beginning” is a story about a married young woman Yamuna. Her husband, decrying her as unchaste and immoral, has deserted her. Yamuna has been violently raped by an inhuman scoundrel during wartime. But her husband discards her with the opinion that the society would talk ill of her. Here, Giritharan brings out the memory of his homeland, the ethnic conflict in Srilanka, which is killing the
innocent Tamils. He says:

Our life is nothing but a warfare. A constant struggle to escape for our life… as like a warfare within a warfare and a run within the run for life… all those that have taken place… all those unwanted happenings. Today the rains have stopped but there is still some drizzling. (Ramakrishnan)

From the above passage one can understand the struggle of Tamils who have been facing many problems in Srilanka. He has used war as a metaphor to portr ay those problems. In this story Giritharn also gives attention to the social norms and the strict rules that were imposed on women. He says that since yamuna has been born a female sainthood has been forced on her by the society. The rape of yamuna brings out the trauma of the Tamil women who were raped by the Sinhala soldiers, which led to the cause of active violence between the Tamils and the Sinhalese in Srilanka. The press and media have been acting in favour of the Sinhala people, as the political leaders of the Sinhala government owned most of these. Hence, they were not true in reporting the news and hid many atrocities that were committed by the Sinhala soldiers.

Among the women who were raped by the Sinhala soldiers, some women committed suicide. There are some women like Yamuna who have some commitments survived regardless of their shame. Either these women has to take care of their children or their aged parents. But their husbands discarded these women and they were not allowed to mingle with the society. This was the condition of many Tamil women particularly after the outbreak of the civil war in 1983. These women who need protection and care in the hour of crisis were left helpless.

The short story “A Co(w)untry Issue” is one of Giritharan’s notable stories. In this story the hero Ponnaiya drives his Honda Accord to the Punjabi Wala’s garage to get it serviced. On his way he witnesses the strange fight for freedom of a cow on the main road. The cow has escaped from the slaughterhouse and it has blocked the road creating a traffic jam. There were also some beef packers trying to catch the cow standing around it. Ponnaiya could see the fear of death in the cow’s eyes and he starts worrying for the pathetic situation of the cow. Immediately he was reminded of his native land and the people who were in the same situation of the cow. The author has chosen the cow’s situation as a metaphor to picturise the piteous situation of the Tamils in his native land. He says:

Poor cow, it is not able to realize the tenuous nature of freedom it has won, and that is why it is struggling with all its might to protect this freedom.” And he couldn’t help thinking of those in his native land. How many are there who are exactly in the same situation of this cow. There are those who escape in a haphazard manner and then are caught again, and those who, unable to find any way die where they are.
(Ramakrishnan)

Through these lines the author reveals the plight and sufferings of many Srilankan Tamils who were caught in the Sinhalese attack. The position of Srilankan Tamils is either they have to fight for their freedom or they have to leave their country. These people who undergo the ethnic conflict do not have the courage to come out of their country and they become the victims of the Sinhalese attack. Some people dares to come out of their country but among them many were caught by the immigration officers as these people try to travel without a valid visa. These people were forced to live in the refugee camps. Only a very few tries to enter other countries but these people also have to face several immigrant problems. These people even after migrating to other countries were not allowed to live peacefully.

In the next half of the story, Ponnaiya is so moved by the cow’s plight and he feels that he could buy the cow by paying some amount. But, he is reminded of his own situation that he himself is in the same condition of the cow. He has come out of his home country and now he is struggling to come to terms in an alien land. He thinks:

“What if I pay for the cow and so save its life? At home in Jaffna we could at least tie it in the backyard. But where could I keep it here? In the apartment? And even if I am able to save it, will saving just this one cow alone solve the problem of all the rest of the cows who are in the exactly same situation as this one? (Ramakrishnan)

These lines were the author’s anguish statements. Even though the author is experiencing several problems he is not concerned with his individual freedom but the freedom of his community. These lines also reveal the author’s concern that he wants to get freedom for the entire Srilankan Tamil community who were killed everyday like the cows being butchered in the slaughterhouses.

Finally the cow’s plight comes to an end by a person shooting it with a tranquilizer. Even though the cow had met its pathetic end, the author feels very proud of the cow for its heroic fight and struggle for life. Immediately in the next paragraph the author brings out the helpless situation of the Tamils in Srilanka. He brings out that in his words thus:

The cow is involving in a life or death struggle, fighting to save its life. There’s one part of the crowd to overpower it and do away with it, another part to enjoy watching the excitement, another to photograph it and also that is indifferent or impotent to do anything. (Do) Like the cows struggle, the struggle of the Srilankan Tamils was left disregarded by many. The Sinhalese soldiers are trying to chase all the Tamils away from the country and the Sinhala government enjoys watching these atrocities without taking any actions to save the Tamils. The media is also acting in favour of them and they are capturing only the negative aspects of the Tamil and showing to the people. And there are also some people who never bother about anything, as they were impotent.

To this violent genocide, media and politicians from all parts of the world have shown their responses against the Sinhala dominated government. They condemned the politicians of Sinhala government as acting in favour of the Sinhalese. Many of the famous magazines like The Economist, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times and New Statesman from London, Norwegian Tourist Eli Skarstein from Oslo, The Arab News from Saudi Arabia and The Week from India have recorded the atrocities committed by the Sinhalese with the support of the Government. For example, in an article “Ever since Ceylon became independent in 1948, the Tamils have been a persecuted minority…” written by Francis wheen in The Times London 30th august 1983 say that:

Under the prevention of terrorism act, which has been used almost exclusively against Tamils, suspects can be held without trial for up to 18 months. Three weeks ago Amnesty International published a report, which suggested that Tamils detained under the act, had been tortured both in army camps and by the police. President Jeyawardene dismissed the allegations as soon as the report appeared denouncing Amnesty as “communists.” This reaction was consistent with his normal approach to the bearers of bad tidings. One month ago he ordered closure of two leading Jaffna newspapers Suthatnthiran and The Saturday Review, which had printed accounts of attacks on Tamils in Trincomalee…. But President Jeyawardene, like many of his compatriots, seems to use the word “terrorist” and “Tamil” as if they were interchangeable these days. He told an interviewer this month: “I am not worried about the opinion of the Jaffna people now. Now we can’t think of them; not about their lives orof their opinion of us.”(wheen)

The short story “Husband” is about the condition of the immigrants who have to do some tedious jobs in the new land that they have come in. The hero of the story Sababathi is assigned with ‘playing Guitar’, which means to clean dishes in the hotels. He faces many physical problems, as his body condition does not accept the cold climate of the winter at Toronto. This makes him turn nostalgic about his homeland. The narrator recalls his happy moments that he has spent in Cashorinaa beach, The Navali Sand Mounds, the Kallundai space and the Palm girls swaying in the wood. As years passed on he has become accustomed with the climate of Toronto. But, the thoughts of his own land never left him. The thematic outline of the story is the hero’s suspicion of his wife.

Though the narrator is fed up with all these thoughts, the thought about his wife Banumathi bothers him a lot. He is married to her since one year. A suspicion arises in his mind by an incident, which happens in a party in his friend’s house. In a drunken mood his friends start to discuss about some criminals who have exploited many women in the name of agents. There are many women who have undergone these travail and traumas in the process of immigration. It was through that agent the hero’s wife Banumathi was also brought to Canada. The narrator finds the root cause of all these problems in his homeland. He describes the reason for such problems in the following lines: The way our men are being ruined is all because of our country’s prevailing climate. It is this climate that forces every one of us to run hither and thither for shelter. This is the source for all kind of problems. Therefore if our country’s condition could improve then all the mischiefs and mismanagement could rapidly go down. (Ramakrishnan)

The ‘country’s prevailing climate’ in the above passage reflects the ethnic conflict which prevails in Srilanka. The author tries to find out a solution to solve the problem and he says all the traumas of the Tamils will come to an end only if the country finds a solution to that.

An air of suspicion arises in the hero’s mind. The reason for his suspicion is Banumathi’s extra-ordinary beauty. Her spellbound beauty is capable of attracting anyone. So, the hero’s mind struggles with the fire of suspicion. In order to come out of his haunting thoughts, he tries to find happiness by having some drinks. Here the author introduces the Canadian drinks ‘Taquila’ and ‘Marguerite’ which the hero is fond of drinking. Whenever the narrator introduces something he is reminded of his homeland. Even in the introduction of these drinks his memory goes to his homeland where his favourite drinks were ‘Panangallu’ (Palm wine) and ‘Kurangu’ (Arrack). The hero says that, he could not find any alternative for this ‘Kurangu’ in Canada, as it is much powerful and incomparable.

The narrator then introduces a women character and he says that she has been working with the hero in a Greek restaurant in Toronto. Even though there is no description of Christina’s origin or identity, the author has given importance to her views. While all the other whites disregarded the people who have come from Asia and called them as ‘Pakis’, she mingles with everybody without any distinctions. For her, people who have come from Srilinka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India are Indians. Through Christina’s view the author brings out the Rama’s issue in the great Tamil epic Ramayana. Christina says:

“Sababathi, look at your Rama. You place him on a pedestal, call him god and worship him and give him your offerings. But, he couldn’t believe even his own wife. Whatever reason he could come out for his thought and deed of doubting his wife it was wrong on his part to have subjected Seetha to test by fire.”(Ramakrishnan)

The author here compares the hero’s suspicion with the suspicion of Rama. The author tries to mock at the Indian culture where men are allowed to go with any women but women should be chaste and true to their husbands. They should live their entire life with an Individual to whom they get married. He also says that even the great epic Ramayana is in favour of the Indian culture in supporting this male-dominated issue. The author tries to give a solution to this problem. This he brings out through the words of Christina:

Of course, it is wrong. Lord Rama, who is an incarnation of god, doing so makes it right on the part on one and all to suspect their wives and subject them to such tests. Marriage is not an ordinary thing. It is a rare kind of relationship or togetherness where they rely on each other and believe each other all through their lives. For this, the mutual belief is of paramount importance. Each one should respect the right of  the person. Did Seetha go to Ravana willingly? If the epic was written in such a way that people suspected her chastity and fidelity but Rama accepted her back whole-heartedly with no doubt, whatsoever then Ramayana would have been my favourite story. (Ramakrishnan)

He also brings out another issue that what will happen if women start questioning men’s purity. If it happens then many men will be left helpless. Thus, through this story the author has brought out these important issues that one should not suspect his/her partner. Although there are many writers who have discussed this issue already in their writings, Giritharan’s way of reading Ramayana is quite different from anybody else. Giritharan himself gives answer for the Critics of Diaspora for their disapproval of the writer’s choice of theme, dislocation and presentation. He says:

Contradictions always exist. They shouldn’t be antagonistic instead they should be friendly. There is need for children’s literature at the same time there is need for serious literature. If we understand this, there won’t be any fighting among literary groups. The purpose of the literature is for various reasons. It can be a guide; it can be an entertainment…it can be useful in various ways. For me all these different ‘…isms’ in literature are important for various reasons. Fighting against each literary concept is not a positive thing to do. (Do)

The short story “Seethaakaa” is divided into five parts. Like many of Giritharan’s stories, this story also starts with the description of Toronto city. The narrator of the story meets a bus driver from Monreal. The driver asks the narrator to help a girl who came as a refugee from Srilanka. The narrator accepts and goes forward to help the girl. He is surprised to see the girl, as she is the Seethaakaa whom the narrator has already known and she lives near his house in Srilanka. She is good-looking and since there is no male child in her family, she has to take care of her aged parents. Though she is beautiful and good mannered she doesn’t get married. The narrator says that Seethaakaa is fond reading the novels of Jeyakanthan, Uma Chandran, Naa. Paarthasaarathy,Akilan, Kalki and Jegasirpi. This is nothing but the author’s own interest in the works of these writers. The author’s statement in many stories implies that he is a reader of these writers from Tamil Nadu. In some of his stories his statements also proves that he is a fan of Tamil cinemas produced in Tamil Nadu.

After recollecting all his past memories the narrator assists Seethaaka to his apartment to help her, since he is not able to help her in his country, at least he can help her in this alien land. On their way to the apartment, they start talking and the narrator comes to know that Seethaakaa has got married. Through her, he also comes to know that her husband has been stopped at Singapore, while she has been allowed to go to Canada.

The problem in the agents of immigration is a recurrent theme in many of Giritharan’s stories. Almost in all his stories at least at one point he
highlights this issue. Many families are separated because of this serious issue. The immigration officers stop many people and they are not allowed to pass out. The tragedy is that they are not stopped in their home country but they are caught in Thailand or Singapore. These people are not allowed to go back to their home country or to the country, which they want to migrate. They were imprisoned in the refugee camps where they have to suffer the imprisonment for having done no crime.

In the second part of the story the narrator takes Seethaakaa to his apartment, introduces his roommate Sababathi to her. Seethaakaa has got used with the apartment soon. The apartment got a divinely fragrance with her duties and worships. In the meantime, the narrator contacts the agent who has sent Seethaakaa to Canada and gathers information about her husband. He makes arrangements for Seethaakaa to talk with her husband over phone. The author, in this paragraph brings out the agony of many people who were separated from their family. Due to the civil war in Srilanka many Tamils are scattered without any address. Many recently married couples are separated and young children are separated
from their parents whereas the aged people are left unnoticed. Though these people sell all their property to immigrate to some other country in seeking asylum, the fate of these people makes them to suffer in refugee camps.

The third part has a description of the author’s sweet memories. The narrator finds Seethaakaa fed up with the memory of her husband. He tries to console her by making promises to reunite her with her husband. In the meantime, he hears the news from his homeland that they have arranged for his marriage. This gives a kind of relief to his confused mind and he starts dreaming. But his dream does not last for a long time. Sababathi’s way of looking and his habitual actions create a doubt in the narrator’s mind. So, before any misdeed happens the narrator decides to send Sababathi to some other apartment. To his surprise, Sababathi accepts to leave the apartment without showing any objections.

The fourth part has a shift in the story, which was flowing smoothly till then. Sababathi, who vacated the apartment without any objection, started spreading rumours about the narrator and Seethaakaa. As a result of this, the narrator receives a letter from his sister saying that his marriage arrangement has been cancelled for the rumour story has reached the bride’s parents. The narrator accuses his culture and culture, which always spreads rumour. He decides to send Seethaakaa to his friend’s apartment who works with him and who lives with her only mother. The last part of the story shows Seethaakaa as a woman who takes decision independently. She, who has been living with the help of a man till then, decides to go out of the apartment as she too came to know about the rumour. She writes a letter to the narrator and leaves the apartment in the narrator’s absence. In this part she gains more importance as she takes the courage to live independently. At no point in the story she has been described as a sexual object. Giritharan in this aspect differs from other writers who have portrayed women as an object of sexual pleasure and he stands unique in his way of portrayal of woman.

The narrator feels very much disappointed, as he could not help Seethaakaa even in this critical situation. He curses his own community and people who involve in this type of spreading shameful issues and bad rumours even after migrating to other countries. The last two sentences of the story bring out the author’s pain. He asks: “Ethanai Naatuku Thaan Pulam Peyarthenna? Pulan Peyarnthoma?” he makes use of the pun in the words ‘Pulam’ and ‘pulan’ to mean that physical migration can never result in accommodation of mind with the country of settlement.

Through this question he states that the people are involved only in physical migration but they haven’t came out of their evil qualities. They carry these qualities wherever they go. Hence this story is a mock at the wrong side of the Tamil culture and people.

“America” is a novella, which has taken shape as a result of the author’s stay in Brooklyn refugee camp in America. The writer has criticized the immigration policies and the legal systems of America in a ridiculous way. The novella starts with the picturesque description of the Brooklyn refugee camp. Like many of Gritharan’s stories this novella also features the first person narrative. The narrator says that he had great honour and respect for the American society, culture and politics as they show much concern on the human rights since it was a democratic country. He also has written an essay about America when he was studying in fourth standard highlighting America as a democratic country where human rights are valued, so that even an ordinary man like Abraham Lincoln could also become the president. But as a writer even after experiencing all the problems in Brooklyn he could not help depicting the wrong side of the American systems. The novella brings forth the bitter experiences of nineteen Srilankan Tamils who fled the country due to the outbreak of the civil war in Srilanka. As the author was also one among them it made him to record those bitter experiences which many hundreds of Tamils face every day in the refugee camps all over the world. The author has reduced the nineteen characters to five and has given equal importance to each character.

As there was burning violence everywhere in Srilanka, these people sold their properties and left their country with lot of dreams in search of a new land. These five were allowed to travel up to Boston. In Boston they were assigned to catch the Delta Airlines. But the officers of the Delta Airlines stopped all the five, as they did not posses a valid visa. An immigration officer threatens these people as they would send them back to their country and he also prepares documents for that. But these five, with the help of another immigration officer managed to ask
permission to stay in America as a refugee.

They were later taken to the New York City in a bus. All the five are eagerly waiting to see the New York City as they have heard many things about that city in their homeland itself. The author here asks a question that why these people who are caught in Boston are taken to New York. And immediately he gives answer in the next sentence itself. Boston is a city where many Tamil organizations are functioning with great honour. If these people are kept there some political issues will be raised and in order to avoid this, they were transferred to New York. On their way to New York they have been watching several wonders, which they have never seen before. All were fed up with an immense joy. But the narrator’s mind is full of the memories of his homeland. He has to earn and solve his family problems, perform his sister’s marriage grandly and also to bring his brother to Canada as soon as possible. Above all, his memory goes to Kousalya who was adamant in her opinion to marry him. Her thoughts make him lessen the burden of his heart. As they reach the refugee camp, their properties are seized and they are given the refugee dresses to wear. When they enter into the rooms the doors were locked. It is only then they come to realize that they are going to lead a jail life.

Here, the author brings out the atrocities committed by the officers in the refugee camp. There is a separate cell for the refugees from each country. They are not allowed to go out of the camps at any circumstances. The author anguishly states that they are imprisoned with worlds most cruel criminals whom he cannot found anywhere in the world except in that refugee camp. The narrator also gets a chance to visit many people who are like him. Their only freedom in the camp is they can chat freely with the fellow refugees. So, all the five men discussed about their problem and they finally arrive at a decision to go out of the refugee camp by some way. They also talked with the members of the Boston Tamil organization but this organization, which showed concern for these people in the beginning, started to decline their offer. These people are treated like criminals in the camps, though they have sought refuge as per the rules and regulations of the American laws. In these people’s visa they have written that these are people who have been staying after their transit visa period got over. Even though these people have applied for seeking refuge before the prescribed time, the American law has cruelly punished them. The author painstakingly brings out several issues that to whom can they address these problems and who can be responsible for the psychological trauma that they have undergone in the refugee camps. Somehow, they managed to come out of the camps but their bitter experiences can never be erased from
their memory.

Though the author did not give any details about how these people got freedom from the refugee camp, he has described the problems that every refugee has to undergo in a refugee camp. Many people who are innocent were forced to this type of situation. The author finds the civil war as the root cause for all these problems. Through this novella he also puts forth the darker side of the American legal systems, which was rigid with the refugees.

There are many eminent writers from Srilanka such as Michael Ondatjee, Dominique Jeeva, Chelva Kanaganayagam and Rudramoorty Cheran. Giritharan stands unique among all these writers in the use of language, theme and the form he has adopted for his writing. The language he has chosen is the contemporary Srilankan Tamil. The theme of most of his short stories is ‘survival’. In all his short stories, the civil war of 1983 appears like a refrain. The forthcoming chapters analyses the issues that were discussed by Giritharan in his short stories. The succeeding chapters also equate these issues with the issues discussed by other diasporic writers and bring out Giritharan’s handling of these issues.



Chapter-III
Questioning the Self: Identity Politics and Giritharan!

Identity is the fact of being who or what a person is. The words such as ‘character’, ‘distinctiveness’, ‘individuality’, ‘nature’, ‘particularity’, ‘personality’, ‘selfhood’, ‘singularity’ and ‘uniqueness’ are the terms that can be replaced for identity. There are various factors that contribute to the formation of identity. Certain elements, which constitute markers of identity, are food, clothes, language retention, religion, music, dance, myths, legends, customs, individual and community. These are retained, discarded or adopted differently at different times and places but a
feeling of oneness; a tug of the roots persists even after several years and sometime centuries. Based on the individual’s relationship with these factors the identity differs and hence can be differentiated as cultural identity, personal identity, collective identity, ethnic identity, gender identity and religious identity.

Personal identity is formed by different stages of development of the personality of an individual, where the individual recognizes his/her own characteristic features. This makes an individual to define himself or herself to others as well as to themselves. This can also be called as self  -identity as this is a complete understanding of one’s self. This identity is formed through several elements such as the individual’s physical, psychological and social qualities, which get influenced, by the individual’s attitudes, habits, beliefs and ideas.

Cultural identity is the sense of feeling or belonging to a culture or a particular society, where the individual reacts more positively to the culture to which he/she belongs. This identity is influenced by various factors such as customs, social structure, rules and norms of the society, food habits, clothing, family and marriage.

Ethnic identity is the identification of an individual with a particular ethnic group. This identity is formed by a general resumption of having ancestral or genealogical relation to the particular ethnic group, which is often united by cultural, behavioural, linguistic, ritualistic and religious principles.

National identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations. It is the identity of a political community, its values and commitments, its characteristic way of talking about itself and conducting its political affairs and its organization of principles. Members of a nation share a common identity and usually common origin in the sense of ancestry, parentage or descent and they have a strong affiliation to the nation in which they identify themselves.

Religious identity refers to the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual who follows the codified beliefs and rituals. These individuals also involve in the study of ancestral traditions, writings, history, mythology, belief in faith and mystic experience. Thus this term denotes the personal practices related to communal faith and rituals and the message that arise from such convictions.

Collective identity is the sense of feeling or belonging to a group. This identity is formed by an individual’s membership in various groups such as family, occupation culture, ethnicity and religion. Members who identifies with this group will dedicate his/her life to the group over the individual identity. They will defend the views of the group and assume risks for the group and sometimes to the extent of risking their life. The cohesiveness of the collective identity is so strong and they suffer pain of grief for the loss of a member.

Hence, all these psychological and psycho-social factors combine to form an individual’s personality and it is this personality that becomes a major factor in defining one’s identity. Sunanda Mongia in her essay “Fabricated images/Processed identity in Bharati Mukharjee’s Jasmine” quotes Nancy’s description of identity thus:

According to psychoanalytic theory, personality is a result of a boy’s or a girl’s social-relational experience since earliest infancy. These social relations are appropriated, internalized and organized to constitute his/her personality adding to the total structural organization. At the same time, these are important determinants of any person’s behaviour both which is culturally expected and that which is idiosyncratic or unique to the individual. (Mcleod 205)

Thus, according to the Neo-Freudian concept, identity is formed through different stages of development of personality where the beginning stage is the mirror stage. Though it is the complete understanding of the self it is something different from the self. Identity is the external layer related to external factors such as colour, race, class, social position, economic status and nationality. But, self is the inner layer constituted through images of reflection, memory, education, and exposure to media. It is also constituted by the act of choice among other things. This self is affected by and sometimes affects identity. Thus identity is formed by the process of bringing out the individual’s differences in the society through fabricated images. But the process of identity formation is not simple because all these images are fluid, fractured, heterogeneous and unstable. So identity cannot be stable as it is an amalgamation and fabrication of images.

In all the diasporic writings, this identity is represented as a fractured one. Like the Diaspora (people) that get scattered and dispersed around the world, the identity of these people is also scattered. Here are many diasporic writers who have seriously discussed this issue. They say that all the immigrants irrespective of caste, nation, gender, religion, race or educational background face this identity problem. These immigrants who have multiple identities in their homeland lose such identities in the host land instead they get different identities as an ambassador or a refugee. Though both types were losing their identity, it is the latter one, which undergoes much scrutiny. This is because the former gets a recognition in the host country whereas as the latter cannot. The first group of people has a national identity in their home country. So they can return to their homeland whenever they wish but the latter type cannot do such because these are people who were denied identity in their homeland itself. So the problem of identity affects these people most. This is the case of the Srilankan Tamils who fled the country due to the ethnic conflict. Therefore it becomes important for all the diasporic writers to speak about Diaspora politics.

Diaspora politics is the study of the political behaviour of transnational ethnic Diasporas, their relationship with their homeland and their host countries and their role in the ethnic conflicts. A Diaspora is a transnational community that defines itself as an individual ethnic group based on its shared identity. Self-identified Diasporas gives much importance to their homeland because of their ethnic and cultural association with their homeland which has been conquered by somebody. This has led to the outbreak of ethnic nationalist movement among the several
Diasporas whose major aim is to establish a separate homeland.

The Tamil Diaspora identifies itself in linguistic and cultural rather than national or religious terms. The Tamils demand that their identity is different from the national identity. The Tamils celebrate this difference and they are proud of it. The Tamils who have their origin in ‘Tamilakam’ (a region in the southern part of India which comprises Tamilnadu, kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh) and Srilanka never claims for a national identity as an Indian or Srilankan. This is mainly because of the Hindu/ Hindi problem, which started during the early twentieth century.

Tamils had opposed the attempt to impose Hindi as a national and official language from 1935. This is due to their sustained campaign that English is still an official language of India. This led to the outbreak and the rise of the Dravidian movement in Tamilnadu. EVR (E.V. Ramasamy), who was popularly known as ‘Periyar’ brought out this movement. EVR is revered by all the Tamils but has been marginalized to a large extent in the Indian thought. They contest the claims of Mahatma Gandhi and the congress as nationalist discourse and construct an alternative discourse, which forms the Dravidian Movement. This difference forms the basis of all Tamils. The Tamils oppose any attempt to create a monolithic identity based on a single primordial factor. The Tamil identity is transposed against the Hindu/Hindi identity.

All the diasporic writers are concerned with identity politics. Identity politics is a political action, which increases the interests of members of an oppressed group whose oppression is mainly because of a shared and marginalized identity. The aim of identity politics is to empower the oppressed to articulate their oppression in terms of their own experience. Identity politics thus focuses on the major elements, which constitute for identity formation such as race, ethnicity, sex, religion, caste, physical disability and nationality.

Theorists who talk about identity politics say that oppression shapes the consciousness of the oppressed in a way that the oppressed people internalize their oppression. This oppression can raise their voice only in the absence of the oppressor who enforces unjust definitions of equality, justice and right. Hence, this identity politics leads way to separatism. This forms the basic reason for the Tamil separatist Movement. The Tamils who were oppressed by the Sinhalese in Srilanka got dispersed around the world. They raise voice against their oppression and fight for separate Tamil Eelam. For these people literature becomes a channel to articulate their voice. They record the oppression and their sufferings in their writings. One such attempt is the outcome of Giritharan’s short stories.

Giritharan’s writings have this problem of identity as a central issue. As he himself belongs to the wide spread Tamil Diaspora, his writings have brought out the struggle of the immigrants whose identity gets fractured in the host country. The issue of colour is one of the major problems that the immigrants face in an alien land. The colour also plays am important role in shaping one’s identity.

In the story “A Journey in the Midway,” Giritharan has brought out the problem of colour. The narrator of the story goes home after finishing his night watchman duty. The author says that he likes those moments which he waits for bus. In such situation he gets time for admiring the beauty of the night, sky, the people and the city, which gives him utmost pleasure. He has also gained a lot from these moments than by studying books or magazines. On his way, he finds a black man who is trying to stop the taxis going that passes him. The man seemed to be a Somaliyan for the narrator and he is tired of stopping taxis as no taxi stops for him as he is a black.

The author here brings out the black man’s anguish statements as, “See! As I belong to the black race, nobody stops for me. See there! Even the black taxi Saarathi not stops for me” (Translation Mine). This statement makes it clear how the dark coloured people were treated in the white country like Canada. They were not treated equally as the natives of the country. Even the immigrants who were whites never mingle with the black. The author feels very pathetic for this colour difference exists not only in the immigrated land bit also in their homeland. So he says,
“There’s nothing to blame them. You might have seen in newspapers. How many times they have been attacked? Some are even killed.” (Translation Mine) The blacks were treated inferiorly in their home country and they were killed in their homeland. So, these people fled their country and sought refuge in other countries but the colour difference persists even in the land which they sought refuge.

After sometime the narrator gets a taxi and both the black man and the narrator travel in the same taxi. They converse with each other and the narrator comes to know that the black man is not a Somaliyan as he guessed. He belonged to Erithiriya. As the narrator has already known about the freedom struggle of Erithiria, he feels proud of that country and the people who fought united for their freedom. The story ends with the narrator pitying for the blacks. In most of his stories, Giritharan finds the problem of blacks as parallel to the Srilankan Tamil
problem.

The Black Diaspora is also a compelled Diaspora. The Blacks are treated like slaves in the African countries. They are caught in nets like animals and burnt alive. They are also not allowed to leave their home country. These Blacks somehow manage to escape and migrate to other countries. But in the host countries the condition of the Black immigrants is even worse than the condition of Srilankan Tamils. The problem of colour follows them to the host countries also. We can find a parallel between the Black Diaspora and the Srilankan Tamil Diaspora in the writings of Giritharan.

In the short story “Saavitri, a Srilankan refugee’s child,” the author brings out the issue of the third generation. The narrator of the story Saavitri is a Canadian citizen. Her parents belonged to Srilanka. They have left their country and settled in Canada. They have a longing to return back not to Srilanka but to some peaceful place in India but Saavitri likes to remain in Canada. So, she begs her father not to leave Canada and her father also agrees not because of her insists but because of his concern to his child. This is mainly because he has faced the problem of identity when he entered Canada. He who was recognized and given a national identity as a ‘Srilankan’ couldn’t get any recognition in Canada. He also struggled to get recognition for his education in Canada. The author brings the father’s thought into words such: For my interest why should I spoil my child’s future? Why our daughter has to face the critical situation, which we have faced? We didn’t get any recognition for our education in this foreign land. To get we have to struggle a lot. All cannot struggle as their family condition does not allow them. My child after completing her education has to face the same problem when she comes here, as we did. (Translation Mine) The daughter in the above passage suggests the forthcoming generation. The Tamils who have settled in the foreign countries are very much afraid about their future generation. They are very much bothered about them because they also have to face the similar problems of identity in the migrated countries. They also have to undergo the struggle like their forefathers who struggled a lot to gain recognition in the host countries. Through this story, the author brings out the problems of the third generation immigrants who are becoming the victims of identity problems.

In the short story “A Few Moments with the Jamaican” the author describes the same issue of national identity in a different manner. The story starts with the narrator being caught up in the rain meets a black man. The black man wishes the narrator thus: Welcome friend! It seems that you to belong to the same group, which started without any preparation, like me. In this aspect we both are
travelers of the same boat. (Translation Mine)

Through the above lines the author is trying to convey two meanings. The direct meaning is that the narrator and the black man have come out of their residence without umbrella to protect them from rain. But the inner meaning is that the author ironically conveys that both of them have fled their country without any idea or preparation to stay in a foreign country. This is the state of many Srilankan Tamils who have fled their country due to the civil war. They started to migrate to foreign countries without having any knowledge about those countries.Both the narrator and the black man involves in a serious discussion about rain and nature’s calamities. The black man says that all the calamities are caused due to man’s destruction of nature. The author tries to convey the idea that in the eastern countries they are implementing laws not to destroy nature but the western countries were full of concrete buildings which are constructed at the destruction of
nature as there is nobody to question them. The weapons that are used in wars are also resulting in the destruction of nature. On the process of their conversation they also find that war is a major reason for this kind of destruction. The narrator says that the world will be happy if there is no war in the world. For this the black man says:

You don’t know… How long have you been staying here? But, it has been thirty years since I have arrived here. I don’t have any school education. Even then they are asking me ‘Where are you from?’ Two young boys asked me such yesterday. Do you know what I told them? (Do)

As the narrator is eagerly for his answer, the black man again continues:

Nowadays when I confront these types of questions I am not getting angry as earlier. My mind has attained maturity in this matter. I asked, Boys how old are you? For that, one of the boys said “why are you asking? Even though, if knowing that helps to know the answer for our question, I will tell… coming November I am twenty years old. Ask his age to him.” For that I said that’s enough for me. Then I asked “My relationship with this land is much more when compared to yours. If it is so then how can you have more rights than me in this land? Where are you coming from? You know how both of them were agitated? (Translation Mine)

Through this passage one can realize how an immigrant’s national identity is questioned in the host countries. The author’s statements seem like questioning what decides one’s national identity. It is very difficult to find a particular factor that forms one’s national identity. He asks is it ‘the birth’ that gives the national identity or is the period of stay in a particular country that forms ones national identity. If it is birth that decides one’s national identity then what identity does one gets if he lives the remaining party of his life in another country. Thus the identity of the person gets fractured as he moves from one country to another.

Language plays an important role in shaping one’s identity. Often a person is identified on the basis of the way he speaks and the words he use. In the case of immigrants, language becomes a primary factor for their survival in an alien land. For many Tamil immigrants assimilating the host country’s language is a difficult task. Hence Giritharan also gives importance to language in his short stories. He has dealt with the problem of immigrants understanding the foreign language. He conveys this idea through the short story “expatriation.”

The hero of the story Aasaipillai is the security guard of a vehicle shed in a ten-storeyed building in Canada. He is one of the Tamil immigrants who come from Srilanka. He is one among those who fled the country to save their life because of the atrocities committed by the Srilankan army. In the beginning he cleaned dishes in a hotel in Canada but as time passed on he found very difficult to continue the same job as he had a respectful job in his native country.

For his ease, he found a security guard job. He has to work from midnight to early morning in the shed. One early morning, a white man after parking his car in the shed, greets Aasaipillai and informs that there is a bomb in the second floor. This news makes Aasaipillai to shiver but thinking that it will be a shame on his part to express the fear, he hides it and asks the details of the bomb to the White man. He also asks the white man that how he has confirmed it as a bomb.

The white man laughs at him and makes fun of him by saying that there is no such difficulty in finding out a bomb. Aasaipillai thanks the white man for the information and his mind starts thinking about the carelessness of the white man in the bomb case. The very word ‘bomb’ makes Aasaipillai to remember the bombs which are used by the Srilankan army to kill the innocent Tamils. His memory goes back to his friends who have become the victims of the genocide. But, for the whites it has become an unusual thing.

Several thoughts become to occupy Aasaipillai’s mind. First he thinks of clearing the bomb by carefully searching it. Then he also thinks of informing the police but he was very much worried as if it is a time bomb and bursts immediately, his wife and children who are in his native will be left helpless. He prays to his god ‘Kathirkama Kanthan’ for saving him from such terrible situation. In many of his stories Giritharan has a mention of the god Kathirkama Kanthan. This shows his religious affinity and assertion of Tamil culture. Murugan devotion among the Tamil
Diaspora is one of the notable qualities of Tamil people and Giritharan has also made use of this concept in many of his stories.Aasaaipillai after making a note in the reference book as a precaution goes forward to clear the bomb. He starts from the ground floor, carefully inspects every nook and corner of the floor and moves to the second floor. It is on the south-side stairs that the white man has mentioned about the bomb. There he finds George, a homeless sleeping in a corner. The author gives a description of George who is an example of homeless immigrants. George had a descent job once but for some reason he left the job. Now he is mentally affected and roams in the street. Aasaipillai had sympathy on George and he allowed him to sleep in that building.

The author says that it is not a great wonder or surprise to see such a homeless in the streets of Toronto. It has become an ordinary incident to see the people sleeping on the manhole lids. He ridicules that there also some welfare organization functioning in that area for giving food and shelter for the homeless. But, these welfare organizations are never concerned about these people because they are working only for their profit.

Aasaipillai’s movement disturbs George’s sleep and he spreads a smile. Aasaipillai carefully investigates all the places but he could not find anything as the white man said. He also enquires George about the bomb and finds that the white man has cheated him. He gets very angry that the white man has treated a sincere guard inferiorly. If he informs this illegal action of the white man to the police, the white man will definitely be severely punished. The white man has insulted a respectable human being who had great honour in his native.

The author here says that Aasaipillai being an immigrant has forgotten a basic difference that accent also sometimes plays with the meaning of words. He could not realise the difference between Bum (homeless) and bomb. The author concludes the story by asking that the misunderstanding of Aasaipillai can either be called as innocence or as one of the important features which has to be recorded in the immigrant experience. He says that the immigrants do not leave the tradition, language and culture with their home country instead they carry it with them wherever they go. Thus language and accent also plays a vital role in the immigrants’ survival.

The short story “where are you from?” is one of Giritharan’s most popular stories. The title of the story itself symbolizes the questioning of an individual’s national identity. The narrator of this story is a taxi driver. One day a white Canadian woman gets into his taxi and asks ‘where are you from?’ The narrator is pained to hear such a question because he has been facing the same questions repeatedly since his arrival to Canada. This question is faced not only by the narrator of the story but also by all the immigrants who take refuge in a foreign country. Even though the immigrants have got the host country’s citizenship and have assimilated to the host country’s culture, this question still persists. So this tormenting question made the narrator to think such:

It has been ten years since I have arrived Canada. I am a full-fledged Canadian citizen. This old white woman is asking where I come from. In future, my children who are born and brought up here (Canada) might also have to face the same question by some other whites. (Translation Mine)

Through these lines the author has brought out the thoughts of several Tamils who are living in Canada and other countries. These immigrants want this trauma to be ended with their generation. They were afraid that their children may also have to undergo this trauma. The narrator feels to interrupt the white woman. He says, “Am I not looking like a Canadian?” The white woman replies “that I know but where you lived before?” Although the narrator is frustrated by the white woman’s question he says that he is from Srilanka. He also anguishly states that the white woman is his fifteenth customer of that day and among the fifteen, she is the tenth person to ask the question, where are you from. The narrator asks in return: Why all of you are asking the same question? You might have recognized every one of us by seeing our physical features. Then why do you question us?

The white woman replies, why? Don’t we have the right to ask? You all are immigrants. Are we not interested in knowing your nation? The narrator could not contain his anger anymore and says, “You people are also immigrants. You came some days ago and we are coming now. That’s all the difference is.”(Translation Mine)

Through this dialogue the narrator attacks the identity of the whites in Canada who were also immigrants. Since they came and settled earlier they are exerting power over the Tamils who have reached the place in recent years. These Tamil immigrants are struggling hard to get a national identity in the host land but they get depressed and alienated by hearing such questions repeatedly. The author also says that those who ask these types of questions never realize how much this questions affect one’s psyche.

All the time when an immigrant faces these types of questions he feels ashamed and gets irritated. Of course for some immigrants it’s not a big problem as the cause of their immigration is not so pathetic as the refugees. They can return to their native country if they wish as they have a national identity in their home country. And, these people never bother about the identity problem because they are well placed and they never face any problem in getting a job or finding a house of their own. But to the refugees like Srilankan Tamils who are denied national identity in their homeland itself, has to face lot of problems in every aspect such as seeking jobs, finding living places and getting vehicles. And, the Tamil people who are fed up with the dream of getting a government job have to suffer a lot in this aspect.

In the second part of the story, the narrator gets another customer who is a middle aged white man. The white man asks the narrator’s permission for smoking in the taxi. The narrator refuses to give permission, as smoking inside the taxi is strictly prohibited. So the white man gets angry and he shows his anger in different manner. He shouts at the narrator to go fast. The narrator quietly replies him that he cannot cross his speed limit for the sake of customers. This increases the white man’s angry and he asks the narrator to stop the taxi near the pathway. He gets down and shouts:

This is Canada man. Go back to your own country!

The narrator also gets angry and he thinks, “This is my country. Which country do you want me to go?”(Translation Mine) Even though the Srilankan Tamils are settlers in Canada, they feel that they are a part of that nation since they have spent most of their life in Canada rather than in Srilanka. As they couldn’t get a national identity in their home country, they somehow managed to get an identity in Canada by becoming citizens of that country. Even after getting citizenship, they are not fully free from such national threat because they are frequently reminded of their homeless condition by this distressing question ‘where are you from?’

The Trishanku metaphor is an important element used by Uma Parameswaran in her writings to explore the diasporic identity. In Hindu mythology, Trishanku was a king who was sent to heaven by Viswamitra through his yogic powers. But, Trishanku was denied admission to heaven because he was still in his mortal stage. Being rejected by both the worlds he was given a place in the sky. Neither he could enter the heaven nor could he come to the earth. Thus caught between heaven and earth Trishanku undergoes the intense experience of the existential despair being in a land of no man. In the context of the diasporic writers the Trishanku metaphor plays a vital role in bringing out the immigrant’s dislocation, sense of alienation, loss and dislocation. Giritharan’s writings are also not an exemption to this.

Giritharan’s use of images, symbols, metaphors and names of characters shows his affiliation towards the Tamil nation and culture. The very first sentence of the story “Manhole”, starts as, “like the Rajaraman of Jeyakantan’s Rishimoolam he has grown beard and moustache” (Ramakrishnan). All his examples and characters are deeply rooted in a sense o Tamil identity. In this story he painfully expresses the condition of many of Indian and Srilankan Tamil refugees who take the manholes to be their shelter. The author also brings the character of a Nigerian taxi driver who proudly calls himself a ‘chief’. In many of Giritharan’s stories one can find blacks as parallel to Tamils. This is because the sufferings of the blacks are equally important as the Indian and Srilankan Tamils. The narrator finds a mysterious ‘Sami’ (saint) sitting on the manhole looking disparagingly at the parliament building. Though the Sami is poor and starving, he is so enthusiastic and he often cracks jokes.
He has good wit and sense of humour. One day the narrator, the Sami and Nigerian taxi driver meets together. The Nigerian gives a cigarette to the Sami. Sami thanks him and lights the cigarette. He inhales it and by releasing the smoke he says:

“He an African driving cabs in the middle of the road and so living his life,” (pointing out the parliament building) “From there they are formulating leaves……… what also is this but the satanic dance of fate.”(Ramakrishnan)

From the above lines Giritharan brings out the helpless condition of immigrants who were unnoticed by the government of the country in which they dwell. Their problems are left unnoticed as they don’t belong to that nation. Instead they are given nicknames. For the Canadians all those who come from the South–East Asia are ‘Pakis.’ This the author brings out through the dialogue between the narrator and the Sami.
“Why did you laugh?” asked I.“Indians are overflowing all over the world…” said he and laughed. A look of content has come to settle in his cantenance as if he had uttered a profound philosophical truth.
“But in truth, you are not an Indian. And I am also not one.”
“True, that I am no Indian. But all those belonging to the Indian sub-continent are Indians only to them East Indian.’
“But for many Paki” said I.
When he heard this Sami laughed aloud.
“Here, they refer to Indian as paki” and all Pakistani-Indian. But there the two factions are always attacking each other,” said I. (Do)
Through this dialogue, the author tries to capture the condition of the minds of the Tamil immigrants who are unable to get any recognition in
the host countries. These immigrants could not share the rights of the host countries government as they belong to some other nation. So,
many immigrants find very difficult to get shelter in an alien land and for some of them like the Sami, have no house and they live their entire
life near the manhole.

The author ends this story with the death of Sami inside the manhole. Though he did not give much information about Sami’s death, he contrasts the manhole with the glowing parliamentary building in Ontario.

The sense of place becomes a real geographical entity in the diasporic writings. This is because the immigrants perceive both the physical and the emotional journey from the past to the present connected with locations. The representation of the past becomes blended with those of the present and it depicts the struggle of he immigrants. The writer of the Diaspora goes back to the land of their origin and projects their past life. They document how they have lived and their history. The immigrant writer tries to bring his history identity to the forefront for recognition and to reaffirm his identity. As the individual moves from one place to another, the culture of the land of origin within the immigrant is constantly interacting and contesting with the new culture of the adopted land. Therefore place occupies a very important position in identity politics for the immigrant writers.

Giritharan’s portrayal of his characters gives a clear view of the diasporic identity. His characters are often placed in a separate world and they struggle hard to create an identity for themselves. He deals with characters those who have lost everything and tries to gain a new life for them. As he has also undergone the ethnic conflict in Srilanka and experienced the diasporic struggle in Canada, he is capable of bringing out the problems of identity of the Tamils of Srilanka in a unique way.


Chapter-IV Engaging Transnationality!

This chapter intends to analyse the theme of Transnationalism in the selected short stories of V.N.Giritaran. In order to understand the idea of Transnationalism one must be familiar with the term ‘Nationalism’ and its ideologies thoroughly. Nationalism is a term that refers to a doctrine or a political movement that holds a nation in terms of ethnicity or culture based on a shared history. Nationalists believe that the borders of the state should be congruent with the borders of the nation. Extreme forms of nationalism hold that nationality is the most important aspect of one’s identity and attempt to define the nation in terms of race or origin. Nationalism has also been an important element in shaping the world history. In modern time the concept of nationalism underwent a change. The idea of nationalism that was used to refer to a nation earlier has become metamorphosed and now it is used to refer even a particular state. Now historians use the term ‘nationalism’ to refer to this historical transition and to the emergence and predominance of nationalist ideology.

With the dispersal and scattering of people from one country to another the idea of nationalism extends the border of a particular nation. This surpassing of the national feeling across boundaries and cultures is called ‘Diaspora nationalism’. The Diaspora nationalism, as Benedict Anderson calls Long-distance nationalism refers to the nationalist feeling among a Diaspora such as the Irish in the United States, Lebanon in America and Africa, and the Armenians in Europe and the United States. To this category the Tamils also are added, as the Tamil Diaspora also claims for a nation-state. Natesan Satyendra in his article “Tamils- A Trans state nation” quotes a famous saying in Tamil:

“Tamilan illatha Nadu illai-
Thamizhanuku endru oru Nadu illai”
“There is no state without a Tamil-
But there is no state for the Tamil” (Satyendra)

The quotation suits the Srilankan Tamils much better than the Indian Tamils. This statement conveys two serious issues i.e. the homeless state of the Srilankan Tamil Diaspora that has laid its feet in all parts of the world and the ethnic conflict that made the Tamils homeless. Tamil nationalism is a strong aspiration by the Tamils to establish traditional Tamil homelands as a separate nation within India and within Srilanka. The Indian state of Tamilnadu and the Tamil Eelam region in Srilanka are considered as Tamil people’s traditional lands.

Tamil nationalism is rooted in an identity mixed with the Tamil language and culture. It seeks to preserve the Tamil language and culture, unite Tamils across boundaries, eradicate caste discrimination within Tamils, emancipate and empower Tamil women, uplift the economic status of Tamils and to securely establish Tamil identity in a globalized world. In order to achieve their goal Tamil nationalists seek separate or self- governing political power in Tamil Nadu and Tamil Ealam. In other words, this can be called as ‘Ethic nationalism’ because the Tamils are a separate ethnic group and they consider themselves as different from other groups. Ethnic nationalism is a form of nationalism wherein the ‘nation’ is defined in terms of ethnicity. It always includes some element of descent from previous generations. It also includes ideas of a culture shared between members of the group, with their ancestors, and usually a shared language.

The emphasis in the definition of ‘nation’ changes with its relation to culture, language and ethnicity. The main feature of ethnic nationalism is that each ethnic group is entitled to self-determination. The result of this self-determination is the need for self-regulated administrative bodies within an already established society, aiming at a sovereign state separate from that society. The ethnic nationalism is often contrasted with the ‘Civic nationalism’. Ethnic nationalism gains membership of the nation by descent or heredity, often articulated in terms of common blood or kinship, rather than political membership whereas Civic nationalism tend to define nationality in terms of origin within the nation state. This notion of Ethnic nationalism is often opposed to the Western views of a nation defined by its geographical territory.

A nation-state for an ethnic group gives freedom for protection against colonization, persecution, racism and its claim to facilitate the shared cultural and social life, which was not possible for them earlier as they were in the status of ethnic minority. The ethnic nationalism is gaining importance in the modern criteria because of its use by extremists to raise voice against racist agendas and genocides.

In the word Transnationalism, the prefix ‘Trans’ means crossing borders of states, nations, territories and cultures. The transnationalism is one of the major aspects of Diaspora. The Tamil Diaspora is one of the notable Diasporas which spread across the globe and still have an affiliation of unity. Transnationalism therefore means crossing national borders, either physically in terms of migration or through a network of some kind. Natesan Satyendra defines transnationalism as follows:

“Transnationalism refers to sustained ties of persons, networks and organizations across nation-state borders, arising out of international migration patterns and refugee flows (Faist 5000). The recent global transformations in economic relations, ethnic conflicts and communication technology have led to the creation of new transnational kinship groups, transnational social circuits and transnational communities. By expanding borders across nations and creating new social ties, the concepts pertaining to cultural spheres, acculturation, cultural retention, and citizenship are started to change drastically. (Satyendra)

Like identity and ethnicity, ‘transnationality’ (how a person or a community is defined internationally) is becoming more important in this era of globalization. The most important feature of ‘transnationalism’ is the interconnection it has with the immigrant experience. Transnational networks often established by immigrants play major roles in business, immigration and politics. Satyendra again says:

People and their ideas are moving freely back and forth across global borders than ever before. This ebb and flow, through easy travel and growing communications technology may be reshaping the traditional concept of a nation. In fact, some people with homes in two countries are showing an amazing capacity to maintain dual identities with strong cultural ties and contributions to both places. (Satyendra)

In the present scenario more than 10 million Tamil people have spread across the world. The passion and love of the Tamils for their language and culture, which has a cherished heritage, is the one that binds the Tamil Diaspora worldwide. Their unity and coherence is fast growing as that it can be recognized as an international force.

A Trans state nation is a cultural, economical and political togetherness of people living in different places across distant areas. It is a togetherness consolidated by struggle and suffering. It is not an idealism expressed only in one word. It is a political togetherness expressed by voices around the world. It is a togetherness directed to secure the aspirations of people for equality and freedom by establishing, nurturing and maintaining governmental or nongovernmental networks or institutions necessary for that purpose.

The digital revolution that has brought new changes in the world is helping to advance Tamil togetherness. Globalization and localization are taking place at the same time. Tamils living in many lands and across distant areas are communicating with one another through Internet newsgroups and mailing lists. Tamil websites continue to multiply. And so do the other Medias of communication like Tamil newspapers, periodicals and broadcasts on the web. In the early days of migration people did not have the opportunity to remain actually engaged or even adequately informed of events in their home countries. Policy makers and scholars had a limited understanding of diasporic communities and their importance. But, in the present scenario this has changed with the impact of globalization and the increase in number of transnational migrants. Diasporic groups are capable of maintaining and investing in social, economic and political networks that span the globe, are of increasing relevance and interest to the policy makers in home countries as well as host countries.

Tamils around the world have a strong desire to establish a newsgroup on the internet to share their views on Tamil history, ancient and modern literature, ancient Tamil civilization, Tamil culture, religion, art, drama and philosophy. This newsgroup serves as a means to preserve Tamil language and culture and it also gains a special place in the electronic communication network. Today, there are hundreds of Tamil discussion groups and blogs in cyber space. The most important transnational voices for Tamil independence are available in the websites www.tamilnet.com and www.tamilnation.org, which are being updated frequently.

Dual citizenship is one of the best examples of transnationalism. Dual citizenship allows a person to simultaneously be a member of two countries, therefore gaining the benefit of having two nationalities. In Canada after 1977, any Canadian citizen who chooses to immigrate and become a citizen of another country may retain their Canadian citizenship, allowing them to be citizens of two or more countries at the same time. Therefore a person who immigrates to Canada may become a citizen of Canada and then immigrate to another country becoming a citizen of that country, while remaining a Canadian. This ability to naturalize oneself in a new country is one of the major influences that have led to the phenomenon known as transnationalism.

The Transnational state is made up of those aspects that violate the circumscribed structures, politics and ideologies of nation states. Many diasporic writers have preoccupied with the question of bourgeois nation-state and its troubled relations with displaced groups and practices, frequently seen as symptoms of transnationality. Sudesh Mishra quotes Tololyan views of Diaspora as:

Diasporas are emblems of transnationalism because they embody the question of borders, which is at the heart of any adequate definition of the others of the nation-state. The latter always imagines and represents as a land, a territory, a place that functions as the site of homogeneity, equilibrium, integration, this is the domestic tranquility that hegemony seeking national elites always desire and some times achieve. In such a territory, to differences are assimilated, destroyed or assigned to ghettoes encloses demarcated by boundaries so sharp that they enable the nation to acknowledge the apparently singular and clearly fenced-off differences within itself. While simultaneously reaffirming the privileged homogeneity of the rest, as well as the differences between itself and what lies over its frontiers (Mishra132).

From the above view of Toloyan, it becomes clear that in all the Diasporas there will be questions of nationalism and place which play an important role in the diasporic writings. Transnationalism also paves way for ‘transculturation’ which is also due to the dispersal of people from their home countries and their settlement in foreign countries. The transnational feeling can be recognized from Giritharan’s short story “Relative.”The story starts with the description of a winter night in Canada. As there was continuous flow of snow during the past twenty four hours, the
streets are covered with snow. The hero of the story Somasundaram was an honourable physics teacher in Srilanka who has produced many doctors and engineers. But, in Canada he is a responsible immigrant who works all the seven days in a week for Canada’s economic prosperity. He works in a perfume company. His duty is to reply phone calls and inspect the factory once in every hour. So he finds it as a very comfortable job but his poor economic condition makes him to earn more. So, he also does the work of a Night watchman.

One night he gets a call from Joe under whom he is working. Joe says that Somasundaram’s duty on that duty is in the city hall underground parking lot. Joe knows well that Somasundaram is a sincere security guard. Since there were many complaints that there are many homeless sleeping in the parking lot Joe sends Somasundaram for clearing them. This makes Somasundaram very uneasy because he has to go out for his work in the biting cold. Also, he was unable to take rest even in the week ends.

Somasundaram finds his wife sleeping with their children and he even gets jealous of her because it has been ten years since they have arrived Canada but he never asked her to go for any work outside. He knows that she is taking care of the household activities and the children. So he never bothered about her work. But, in contrary to this, his wife always despised him for helping his relatives in his native. She never thinks of the difficulties of Somasundaram, an honourable physics teacher who lost all his dignity and works hard all the days of a week for the betterment of the family.

All these thoughts occupy Somasundarm’s mind and he comes out of his house. As he thought already, there was snow spread everywhere without any human beings on the road. He somehow manages to get into a bus and reaches the city hall. He greets the cashiers who were already there busy with their works. He also greets the Poland old man who cleans the parking lot. He has known the Poland man earlier when he worked there temporarily. He used to inform him if somebody enters the parking lot without his permission. So, he asks the old man to inform him if somebody sleeps in there. Somasundaram remembers Joe’s order to call him when he starts his works, so he makes a call for him. Joe is very much delighted in seeing Somasundaram’s sincerity and he promises to increase his salary.

Nearly half of the night passed on without any important incident. Somasundaram inspects the parking lot once in every hour and he listens to radio for lessening his boredom. He listens to a Tamil channel which is available all the twenty-four hours a day. As the clock struck three, the Poland man comes running towards Somasundaram. He informs that there was a man sleeping in the fourth floor. Somasundaram goes with the old man to inspect the fourth floor. The author here brings out the physical features of the homeless immigrants through the homeless sleeping in the fourth floor. The man who is sleeping appeared to be fifty years old. He wore torn clothes. Foul smell spread the floor  because of him.

Somasundaram remembers Joe’s strict order not to allow any homeless inside the parking lot. He also thinks of the biting cold outside. The Poland man is also eagerly waiting for sending the homeless out. Somasundaram is caught in a critical situation and he thinks of sending the Poland man away from that place first. So he thanks him and sends him away. The Poland man unwillingly moves away. Somasundaram says the homeless that he has no right to sleep there and he asks him to go to some hostels. The homeless replies that, all hostels are already full and he also promises not to create any trouble.

Somasundaram does not like to send him out in such a situation, at the same time he has gained name as a strict security officer. The author here brings out the details of the homeless. The homeless is a native Indian. Somasundaram knows him very well because he has seen him sleeping there many times. He Thinks:

I am from the other end of the globe, being chased away from the native land, came running here as a refugee. But you are the one who has lost his freedom in the native land itself. I am a refugee in a foreign land but he has become a refuge in his own land. (Translation Mine) Through the above passage, the author tries to bring out the fellow feelings of the immigrants who help each other in times of need. It also shows that the Indian immigration is not a forced migration like the Srilankan Tamil migration.

Somasundaram is a strict security officer but he is a humanitarian. He allows the homeless to sleep there till morning. The Poland man asks him about the homeless. He that he somehow\w managed to send the homeless out of the parking lot. The author ends the story with a note of contempt.

The story also brings the transnational feeling of the immigrants who can easily understand the sufferings of their fellow immigrants. Giritharan’s portrayal of his characters shows that they are helpful, kind, pitying and generous. They are nowhere presented as a symbol of cruelty. Giritharan never curses people instead he curses the situation that made people to disperse. This story proves to be an example of nurturing transnational kinship.

Transculturation is a term coined by Fernando Ortiz in 1947 to describe the phenomenon of merging and converging cultures. It reflects the natural tendency of the people to resolve conflicts over time rather than increasing it. In the modern context both conflicts and resolutions are intensified through communication and stronger forces for bringing societies together have replaced transportation technology with the ancient tendency of culture drifting or remaining apart.

In one sense transculturation covers war, ethnic conflict, racism, multiculturalism, cross-culturalism and interracial marriage. In the other sense, it is an aspect of global phenomena and human events. The processes of transculturalism are extremely complex, steered by powerful forces at the macro-social level and ultimately resolved at the interpersonal level. Separation and isolation of people become the issue of a conflict when societies encroach upon one another territorially. If a way to co-exist cannot be found, then conflict becomes worse, leading to a process by
which contact between individuals lead to some resolution.

The realities of social change through natural and artificial means brings out the fact that culture is destined to change. It is the perception of individuals within cultures that their cultures do not in fact change fundamentally over time. Human mortality and reproduction provides for social regeneration as well and this process of regeneration that naturally includes sexual union often integrates other cultures. The inability of societies to maintain divisions over generations is the reason for this integration. As parents die, their children have the opportunity to reflect upon the nature and validity of non-convergent perceptions and change them if they like.

Transnationalism and transculturalism are the result of new era in immigration. Laws and business have changed in the era of globalization mainly because of the principles set by historical migration. Changing view points and acceptance of immigrants as well as the development of immigration policy in many countries has led to this new phenomenon which influences global culture.

For the diasporic groups these changes often represent differences between their homeland and the host country’s culture. Thus, this becomes a great obstacle to ethno convergence. The obstacle for ethno convergence is ethnocentrism, which is the opinion that one’s culture is of great importance than others. There are some factors that contribute to ethnocentrism. Religion or belief is the prime ethnocentric divider as religion is a highly personal and attached part of culture. Language takes the next place in this process as people of an ethnic group are often attached to a particular language. Learning a foreign language for the people in this group is giving up one’s cultural heritage.

The Tamils of Srilanka have a cultural affinity. Canada has a major concentration of Srilankan Tamils. They are very proud of their past and see themselves different from their nation. They are very much acquainted with their language and speak Tamil regardless of the country in which they live. The Tamils who were spread across the globe raise their voice for Tamil unity. They preserve their culture and tradition. They have website through which they spread Tamil music, films and culture. The Tamil Diaspora in Canada has grown to the extent of changing Canada’s perception of LTTE. But these Tamils have been scrutinized by Medias for their involvement with the LTTE. They have organized a Tamil Rehabilitation Organization (TRO) in Toronto, presided by Raj Gunanathan. In an article “Culture and the Tamil Diaspora” Ramalingam Ganesalingam writes thus:

“Our children born in the host countries think differently from most of us who were born and brought up in Srilanka. Many parents are unaware of this fact while the children are young and are within the home environment. But as they grow up as young adults they question the need for some of our practices and rituals. Our parents never experienced these situations and as a result many of us have been brought unprepared. How should Tamil culture be preserved? What steps should we take?” (Ganesalingam)

This is not only the fear of Ganesalingam but this is a major threat to many Tamils who live in foreign countries leaving their homeland. The Tamils who live scattered everywhere struggle hard to nurture their culture and tradition.

Isolated Diaspora communities often preserve their cultural heritage much more than the people who live in their homeland. The Jaffna Tamils preserve a dialect of Tamil that is in many respects closer to classical Tamil. The Tamil Diaspora community strives hard over generations to achieve economic prosperity but it is also preserving its Tamil identity and ancestral traditions. They have their own stories of how they overcome numerous obstacles in their adopted homeland but despite their relative isolation from their homeland, they have preserved and nurtured their tradition such as ‘Kavadi’ festival and other Amman festivals in all their adopted countries. The ‘Manimekalai cult’ and the ‘Perumpannan kovil’ in Indonesia, ‘the Thiruvempavai festival’ in Thailand, ‘Karraikalammair kovil’ in Kampuchea and the ‘Sivalinga worship’ among the people of Mexico are some of the examples which the Tamils claim as their cultural identity.

The dispersed Tamils have also established educational institutions in their host countries. For example, Tamil as a mother tongue is taught for Tamil children form primary to the pre-university level in Singapore. Myanmar (Burma) has fifty Tamil primary schools and two Tamil newspapers Rasika Ranjani and Thondan were circulated prior to 1966 in many countries. Tamil culture is well preserved by staging plays such as Harichandra, Nala-Damayanti and Nallathangal. Prayers in Tamil and the singing of ‘Thevaram’ and ‘Thiruvasagam’ are also being done in
order to show the richness of Tamil literature and culture. The Tamils also have electronic media that reaches the nook and corners of the world, which serves as a useful agent to unite the Tamils all over the world.

Thus transculturation becomes one of the serious issues for the Tamil Diaspora. The Tamils have a vibrant language and a strong cultural heritage and they celebrate it. But, with their dispersal and settlement in a multicultural country like Canada where immigrants from different societies and different cultures have settled, it has become very difficult for the Tamils to assimilate the foreign culture and the foreign language. As the Tamils are very proud of their customs and society they find it difficult to manage and mingle with a different society and
people.

Transnationalism and transculturalism form the major part of Giritaran’s short stories. He has brought out this problem of assimilation in many of his stories. One such story is “The Teacher and The Student.” The story starts with a description of an early morning scene. The narrator introduces the hero of the story Subramaniyam Master. The Master had gained respect from all people in Srilanka. Opposed to this experience he is unable to move freely with anyone in Canada. Even though he is not willing his son has brought him to Canada. But, life has become bored for him within his one-month stay in Canada. His condition is like caging a bird that sang freely by enjoying the nature. The narrator through the thoughts of the Master brings to light the difficulty in assimilating the host country’s culture. For the immigrants it becomes very difficult to forget their past and the life they lived.

All the dispersed Tamils can feel the depression of the Master as they have enjoyed every moment of their life in their native before the civil war. They find happiness in thinking about their past which include the beauty of the dawn, dusk, rain, wind and the sky full of stars. But, in the host country they have to spend their days only within four walls. They have to work all through the day and even after finishing their work; they can rest only in the small apartments from where they could not even recognize whether it is day or night. They have to struggle hard to earn for their food and for paying mortgage for their rented apartments. For many immigrants even this least pleasure is not available as they are not able to rent an apartment and their condition is even more pathetic as they spend their lives near manholes or roadside. This creates a mental disease for many immigrants. They think of their situation and become depressed. The narrator out the condition of the mind
of the Master through these words:

His son worked as an Engineer in his native. Here he works as a labour in an industry. Many immigrants who come here are working like this without having any relation to the degree they have obtained. The third world immigrants driving taxis or delivering pizzas or cleaning dishes in the hotel is not a strange thing. Like this the young minds which have to be utilized for the development of their nation are being spoiled here. (Translation Mine)

From the above passage, it becomes clear that the immigrants are ready to do any kind of work that they are assigned in the host county regardless of the degrees they have obtained in their native country. They are forced to do such menial jobs because they have to earn out of their living only through this way. They have to work hard for their food and for paying mortgage for their apartments. So these people forget their dignity they had in their place and they change their way of living to adopt the host culture. For these immigrants it becomes compulsory to assimilate the host country’s culture. The immigrants find great difficulties in adopting the food habits of the host country. Particularly for the Tamils who have the habit of eating rice everyday, it becomes very difficult to get used with the western style of eating.Subramaniyam Master’s situation is also the same. His son’s and daughter-in law’s earnings are enough only for food and paying mortgage and they could not save any money for their future. So, Master even at a very old age plans to go for a job. Sitting inside the walls has brought monotony to him. Thus, he decides to pass his time in a useful way by going for a job as his earnings will also help the family and he can also fond a kind of recreation in doing such. He who has to cherish in happiness by seeing the doctors and engineers whom he has produced, is willing to do any work that he gets.

On his way, Master meets Ragunathan who was one of his favourite and sincere students. Master has felt very proud of him when he returned from the university as an engineer. At the same time master’s mind also asks the question of Ragunathan’s arrival. Both of them chat with each other and go to a nearby Tim Gordon Doughnut shop. Master’s mind goes back to the happy moments of how he was honoured for his valuable support to Ragunathan. So, Master leaves his job-seeking journey and returns back home with heartfelt joy having met his old student. But the thoughts of Ragunathan are something different. The author ends the story with the thoughts of Ragunathan and he also gives reason for this entire struggle as:

At the same time, Ragunathan who has been returning home is fed up with different thoughts. He is working as a cleaner in a factory in that area. How much the Master had helped him to become an engineer? When he planned to leave his studies, how much had he encouraged him the use of education? How much will the Master feel if he comes to know that he is working such? How cruel has been the war? How it
has torn the relationship between individuals? (Translation Mine)

The author here like most of his stories, finds the war as a major reason for all human problems. It is this war that had made millions of Srilankan Tamils to lose their identity. The author also points out from this story the difficulty in leaving one’s culture and assimilating other’s.Natesan Satyendra quotes G.U. Popes translation of a part of Kaniyan Poongundran’s Purananuru:

To us all Tamils are one, all men our kin.Life’s good comes not from other’s gift, nor ill Man’s pains and pains’ relief are from within Death’s no new thing; nor do our bosoms thrill When joyous life seems like a luscious draught. When grieve, we patient suffer; for, we deem This much-praised life of ours a fragile raft Borne down the waters of some mountain stream That o’er huge boulders roaring seeks the plain Tho’ storms with lightnings’ flash from darken’d skies Descend, the raft goes on as fates ordain. Thus have we seen in visions of the wise!- We marvel not at greatness of the great; Still less despise we men of low estate. (Satyendra)

This poem, which was written some hundreds of years ago, is likely to provide a solution for growing transnational kinship and it also cultivates confidence in the minds of the Tamils who struggle for a separate nation.

Giritharan’s writing serves as a means to nurture transnational relationship. All his short stories bring out the pain of the Tamil people in Srilankan and the struggle they undergo in the countries where they have migrated. In his website ‘Pathivugal’ there is a continuous publication of articles, short stories and essays which are contributed by Tamils all over the world and it also it reaches all parts of the world. He serves as a channel for re-uniting the Tamils who were scattered in different parts of the world. He says:

For me there is difference between writers from Tamilnadu or from Singapore or from Malaysia or from Srilanka. We all belong to one family: Tamil writers’ family. Tamil writers living in many different parts of the world should feel united. For instance in Tamilnadu various Tamil writers from various parts write different Tamil: they speak different Tamil. Speaking differently or writing differently doesn’t mean they are different. They all belong to the same Tamil writers’ family. Srilankan Tamil literature or Pulam Peyarnthor literature or Malaysian Tamil literature or tamilnadu
Tamil literature all should be considered as part of the same Tamil literature. (Ramakrishnan)

Giritharan’s passion for Tamil people, their language and culture has been portrayed in the form of his short stories. He is writing about Tamil people’s everyday and spreading it to peoples view with the help of his Internet magazine. His dedication and devotedness to Tamil language and people can be seen through his contribution in the form of writing. In other terms he is a bridge who connects Tamils all over the world.


Chapter-V Conclusion
Expatriate writing occupies a significant place in literature in the recent years. Writers from all parts of the world contribute to this genre. Most of the writers from South-east Asian countries and African countries adopt English for writing about the expatriates. Quite differently Giritharan chooses to write in his native language Tamil. His stories proves that expatriate literature written in Tamil is much effective than that which is written in English.

Giritharan’s stories have sustained criticisms because of the issue he has chosen as the theme for hi short stories i.e., the ethnic conflict. His stories also attained greatness within a short time due to his style, theme, form and use of language. He has chosen the first person narrative and the contemporary Srilankan Tamil which adds to the effect of the stories.

His writings provide authentic reason for decrying his home country. Unlike other diasporic writers who glorify their home countries, Giritharan’s writing reveals the pains about his past. His stories claim to identify in terms of ethnicity rather than in terms of nationality. Though living in Canada and having received many scholarships and awards, he chooses to write in Tamil. This sense of attachment to Tamil language and culture has brought recognition for Giritharan’s stories in the world literary scene.

It is through his works many people are coming to know about the struggle and suffering of many innocent Tamils both in Srilanka and in the country to which they have migrated. Giritharan’s stories attained greatness regardless of the disparagement of critics because of his victimized Srilankan Tamil identity. Due to his rich experience, he is able to picturise the suffering in his work and this makes the reader to think of such problems. One can observe the interlinking of his life with the characters and projecting himself as an essential character in his short stories. For the present study, the Short stories of V.N. Giritharan are taken for analysis. An attempt is made to analyse his stories in the thematic level. Few of his short stories are viewed from the perspectives of identity politics and transnationality. The introduction has brought out the history of Diaspora in general. Emphasis is given to the Srilankan Tamil Diaspora and the reason for their migration. Attempts are made to locate Giritharan as an eminent Tamil Diasporic writer in the field of Diaspora Literature.

The second chapter has marked out the uniqueness of Giritharan in his way of choosing, the form, theme and language and the technique he has adopted to narrate his stories. The third chapter has concentrated on the problems of identity which forms the core of many of Giritharan’s short stories. Some selected stories are analysed on the basis of questioning one’s identity in a transnational world. The fourth chapter has brought out the elements of transnationalism as presented in Giritharan’s short stories. It has also shown the part played by Giritharan for nurturing transnational kinship among the Srilankan Tamils. The conclusion sums up the whole argument and contends that the need for writings like Giritharan’s have become indispensable.

Readers from all parts of the world have appreciated the works of Giritharan and they honour him as the soul which struggles for the re-union of Tamils all over the world. Many of his fans have urged him to continue his journey of writing as it provides medicine for the aching hearts of the scattered Tamil Diaspora.

Only some of his short stories are translated into English. If all his writings are translated into English and the regional languages, people all over the world can realize the problem of Srilankan Tamils. His stories can also be made as syllabus for schools and colleges as it is easy to comprehend. One of his stories “Ponthup Paravaigal” have been made the syllabus for Tamil children in Singapore.

Beyond all this, his writings have attained much popularity because of his earnest attempt to record the immigrant experience in Tamil since no other writer has come forward to record the sufferings of the scattered Srilankan Tamils. Thus Giritharan has proved himself as a significant Tamil diasporic writer in the corpus of world literature.


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