Karthigesu Sivathamby: Mighty Intellectual!
Thamil community in general and the academic / intellectually oriented student
population both in this country and abroad, in particular, treat him as an icon
of the past and present century. He is just not merely a Thamil scholar, but
also a multi-disciplinarian of the intellectual kind. He is much more than to us
Sri Lankans. His beginnings as a Marxist and a student of Emeritus Professor
Tompson at Birmingham University in the UK and his association with academics in
various universities as pacesetter teacher and his gradual concern about the
dilemma of being a Thamilian and a Sri Lankan at the same time has led him to be
an overly excited humanist of Thamil Nationalism.
Sivathamby has many facets and versatility. I am not going to describe all
aspects of his contribution to our country in this column. That has to be
written at length. Instead, I wish to draw the attention of readers in Thamil to
a dossier on K.Sivathamby in the current issue of a Lankan Thamil literary
journal called Gnanam edited by an important writer in Thamil,
Dr.T.Gnanasekeran. Scholars and students in Thamil Studies are indebted to the
editor for the compilation of various articles on Sivathamby that put the
scholar and intellectual in the right portfolio. There are many more who could
give their estimation of the learned professor, but due to exigencies of space
only a few had contributed within the 64 pages of the magazine. But the articles
are substantial and show us the subject of description as a phenomenal figure.
Among those who had written are six Lankan academics. They are A.Shanmugathas,
C.Maunaguru, Nagaraja Iyer Subramanian, S.Yogarasa, K.Raghuparan and
S.Santhirasegeran. There are also other writers like P.Maathaiyan , A.Muhamadu
Sameem, V.Vimalarajah, Theniyaan, Sengai Aaaliyaan, A.Ravi, S.Moses and Anthony
I enjoyed reading M.Sameem's article for its sheer personal note recreating the
atmosphere of the Peradeniya campus in the mid fifties of the last century. He
also highlights contributions in relation to Sivathamby's works. The lighter
side of the relationship between Sameem and Sivathamby is totally amusing and
Maunaguru's article, equally personal, analyses the part played by Sivathamby in
the field of theatre. It could be recalled that Sivathamby's theses for his
doctorate in Birmingham was on Ancient Tamil Drama. Sivathamby was an actor and
director on the stage as well as an artiste on the radio. It is an exhaustive
study true to Maunaguru's style of writing. Maunaguru himself is an artiste and
producer of folk theatre.
Sivathamby is one of the few Thamil academics familiar with Sinhala.
Shanmugathaas recounts the quintessence of Sivathamby as far as his reputation
in Thamilnadu as the beacon light for the scholars there. Similarly
Santhirasegeran shares his experiences with Sivathambyin foreign climes. A
Thamilnsu scholar, Maathaiyan relates Sivathamby's perception as literary
historian. It is also a studied analysis. N.Subramanian sees Sivathamby as a
I liked S.Yogarasa's article as it introduces the traits in Sivathamby's writing
hitherto unexplored. K.Raghuparan discusses Sivathamby's deep interest in
ancient Thamil literature. Vimalarajah places him as the symbol of Vadamaradchi
region in the northern peninsula.
Theniyaan speaks about the terms and words Sivathamby has coined for the benefit
of Thamilians among other things. Sengai Aaliyaan reviews Sivathamby's role as a
literary critic. A.Ravi writes about how he was moulded by his guru. I found
that this was a sort of clumsy writing in relation to the rest of the articles.
And it is longish and undisciplined. On the other hand Moses as a student of the
professor focuses on his guru in an organized manner. Finally Anthony Jeeva
eulogizes Sivathamby as a temple of knowledge.
This particular issue of Gnanam also has its usual features like poems, short
stories, readers' letters and columns.
The magazine is available from 3 B, 46th Lane, Colombo 06. web; www.gnanam.info
Last Sunday, there was a get together of theatre people of the past decades,
pioneers in Colombo in keeping Thamil theatre alive, despite several obstacles
and unguided direction in understanding drama and theatre. They were not
sophisticated and they are poor. But their enthusiasm was great. Some of the
artistes who contributed are dead.During their time they improved theatre
presentation and emerged as great players,though their achievements and
contributions are not recorded by academic critics.
I was invited to this get-together held in Kotahena. This was organized by
Kalaichelvan and Siva Pradeepan supported by several artistes belonging to
different theatre groups in Colombo North. The philanthropist, Hashim Omar was
the chief guest. Among those present were some members of the Colombo
The highlight of the event was the variety entertainment they provided mainly
singing; their hidden talents came to the fore, despite the fact that they were
They are all in need of a building for the Thamilian artistes to rehearse and
conduct their theatrical activities. If the government is disinterested in
reckoning the Tamilian artistes, and they will have to rely on the private
sector to support them.
It was revealed that Hashim Omar is ready to provide Rs.250, 000 to furnish a
state of the art building for the deprived artistes. But the CMC with
concurrence of the President has to allocate land for this purchase.
It is a pity that businessmen never sponsor any artistic activities- theatre,
music, film productions, and literary activities for the benefit of Lankan
Thamilians. Is it because they think that the local Thamilians do not belong to
Sri Lanka? Hope not.