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K.S.Sivakumaran's columns!

A Gender Periodical in Thamil

by K.S.Sivakumaran

K.S.SivakumaranWomen's Education and Research Centre at 58, Dharmarama Road, Wellawatta, Sri Lanka has published a periodical in Thamil on Gender
issues for the past nine years or so and the second issue for the current year came out in June last. It's edited by Dr.Selvy Thiruchandran, an author and writer both in English and Thamil. Her books in English include  " Subjectivities and Historicism "and" Feminine Speech Transmissions: An Exploration into the Lullabies and Dirges of Women ". She has also edited in English a volume on "Gendered Subjects". Her institute has also brought out two more collections in English. They are: "Writing and Inheritance: Women's Writing in Sri Lanka (1860-1948, Vol 1)" and ' Celebrating Sri Lankan Women's English Writing, Volume II". It's all interesting. 

One of Selvy Thiruchandran's writing in Thamil is " Pennkalin Vaai MoliIlakkiyam: Oppari, Thaalaatu Patiya Samokaviyal Noakku " (which roughly means a sociological look at oral literature of women vis - a - vislullabies and 'mourning songs'). The other is called "Varthakam, Saathi, Pen Nilaip Panpaadu Patiya Noakku" (in other words, it looks into trade, caste and culture from a female point of view)

Publications by WERC
One of the other publications in Thamil by the WERC is Malaiyaha Makkaludiya Inathuiva Itupil Paal Nilai (The stance in gender in an
ethnic context of the people in the hillcountry) by Kamalini Ganeshan.A second one is by Prof.Chitraleka Maunaguru. Her book is called "PennNilai Chinthanaikal" (Feminist Thoughts) there is one more book titled "Samookak Koadpaddu Thalathil Paal Nilai"(Gender as in Social Concept).

Current Issue
The name of the journal is called 'Nivedhini" The current issue of 82 pages consists of five essays, a book review and a proclamation on
Nivedini's aim and objectives. The editorial bemoans that only a few understand the Feminist point of view and the magazine will welcome the writings of only those who comprehend and accept feminist thoughts. Further, the readers do not respond to the articles published in the
journal says the editor.

Michael Joachim writes about the emergence from cultural burdens among the plantation sector women. This article indicates that there are some changes taking place for the betterment of the women folk.

It is interesting to note that way back in 1927, the Women Association in Thirukoanamalai had published a journal called "Maathar Mathi
Maalikai", a garland of women's thoughts. An article from this journal is republished in the journal under review. The article is by Thirumahan Itathina Subramaniam. The subject is titled "Penkal Moolaiyil Poathia Arivu Illia?" meaning 'Is the Knowledge Inadquate in Women's Brain?' The writer with substantial evidence proves that the size of the brain in women is not a criterion to measure the knowledge of the fair sex.

Kannada Work
In the subcontinent of neighbouring India comes a translation in Thamil from Kannada language, an article by Kanchana Nadarasan. The translator is Nanchundan. This was originally published in a 'Little Magazine' from Thamilnadu called "Kaalachuvadu". The title of the article is 'Alli'. A Puranic character is Alli, who is featured in the 'Mahabharata', an Indian epic in Sanskrit. Alli is supposed to be the kind of the deadliest of the human species. She succumbs the energy of Arjuna and makes him a helpless vegetable. And the warrior prince had to obtain the help of Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu to get himself out of the spider like claws of Alli. It is an interesting interpretation of female domination even in ancient times.

I was surprised and indeed happy to note that A.J.Canagaratna, one of the finest translators in Thamil had undertaken to translate an English
article into Thamil. The article is by K.Srilata, a don in English at an institute in Chennai. She is a poet and writer on Humanities andSociology. The title of her essay is longish. It reads: "Vearu Kathai Adalkalin Noakil: Penkalinathu Eluthu Suya Matiyathai Iyakkam;Pennilaivatha Molipeyarpil Thokkinitkum Atasiyal 'Honestly, I do not know how to put back into English for the simple reason, I don't knowwhat is meant by 'Kathai Adalkal'. However the essence of the title is that the politics is involved in translating the feminist stance in
self-respect writing. 

Heavy Writing
To be honest with you that with my limitations in understanding academic style research papers, I lose interest in reading these valuableaccounts. I get tired of reading heavy stuff written in strictly rigid patterns. But In English, very serious writing is written in lucidmanner. I enjoy them. This is because writers in English take the reader with them step by step and in a logical manner. But in this case theoriginal writing is in English itself. That's something writers in English in the Indian subcontinent and evening Sri Lanka should take
note of.

An Autobiography
The editor, Selvi Thiuchandran introduces a 1911 book in Thamil titled "Anjukathin Suyacharithai" ( Anjukam's Autobiography) This is a
well-written piece because it interests me and is not clouded with a laboured terminology that has not come into use in practical terms. The
writer quotes in English from a book published in Andhrah in India, called "The Gendered Tongue, Women Writing and Censorship in India". I reproduce the extract here:

"For most women writers in the country, writing remains an isolated, solitary activity often surreptitious, generally unacknowledged andundervalued. Although the number of women writers may well run into some they are thousands, they are still invisible, encounter all manner of obstacle in expressing themselves freely."

The book is narrates in first person the life story of a courtesan in Yaalpaanam. I must congratulate Selvy Thiruchandran for researching onsuch subjects and books published earlier in the country. The academics in the universities are either too shy or resting on their past laurelsthat they do not even read their fellow writers. I wonder the academics who speak Thamil ever read columns like mine whether in Thamil orEnglish, even if they don't remember my name.

Even among the Thamilian academics in this country the term 'Literary Criticism 'is not properly understood. The word 'Criticism' isindiscriminately used for all kinds of estimation. The common use in Thamil is 'Vimarsanam'. They use this for everything, irrespective ofwhether it is a book review or a critique or an analysis. And usually, the word "Vimarsanam" is understood as 'finding faults and condemning'. This is because such people who use this term do not seem to have understood the principles of literary criticism. They are thrilled to run down a person or write scathing remarks on a book, for instance, and call it 'Vimarsanam"

S.Anusuya reviews a book by Selvi Thiruchandran and it is published under the head "Nool Vimarsanam". The proper term would have been 'Nool Mathiputai". A review is 'Mathiputai'. The title of the book taken for review has this longish title: "Mathap Panpaatin Koalangalayum,Katuthiyalayum Kaddavilkkum Otu Paal Nilai Noakku ". Now, how do I put this in English? Could it be something like this?  " From a Gender Perspective, the decoding of religious-culture and ideology".

Book Review
S. Anusuya's review is readable. She informs that Selvi Thiruchandran through her institution, WRC, published a 147 page volume of six
important articles by Munshitha Lebbe, Vai.Ka. Sivapragasam, Vijitha Itanganatahn, Chitrasleka Maunaguru, S.Yogarasa and Ruby Valentina.
The topics were: Women's Rights and Ethics, Religious Philosophy, Religious Rites, Thoughts of the Siththars, The Islamic, Buddhist,Hindu, Siththar, worship, renunciation from the point of view of Renunciation. I would be interested in reading this volume to educate

The last page and the front portion of the back page details the aims and objectives of the journal, Nivedhini and the requirements to submit
manuscripts for publication.

One of the pleasant experiences I had in a three day visit to Yaalpanam was witnessing Layam (Rhythm?), one of the performances at the three day cultural festival organized by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth Affairs of the NorthEast Province. Literary Awards, Governor's Awards, Pageant, Book Exhibition and reading of Papers on Literary, Educational and Cultural subjects formed part of thecelebration beside the cultural performance. Many contributed to the success of this annual function which was held for the first time inYaalpaanam, but special mention should be made of R.Thiyagalingam, the secretary to the ministry and N.Sridevi, the assistant director of the
ministry. Among the distinguished people who participated was Professor Emeritus, K.Sivathamby. I went to Yaalpaanam after 15 years and felt exhilarated to receive a Governor's Award along with seven others on the soil of the where the cream of the Thamilian intelligentsia come from.That was great, I should congratulate myself.

I enjoyed the various cultural items, but here I wish to say something about Prof.S.Maunaguru's attempt to formulate and codify characteristically a Lankan Thamil theatre. As a preliminary exposition, he presented Layam ', which could mean the harmonious blending of Raga and Thaala. It's Eela Thamil Kooththu (Lankan Thamil Dance Theatre introducing the 'Vadamoadi' and 'Thenmoadi' dancing style as practiced in the folk theatre in the Thamil-speaking areas of the country. The performance was by the artistes of traditional folk theatre of
Kannankudah in Mattakalppu, by the students of the fine arts faculty of the Eastern University and the academic staff, which included Maunaguru and Balasukumar. A fine exponent and performer in Thamil folk plays, Maunaguru danced well despite his heart ailments.

Prof. Maunaguru says that Yakshaganam, Kathakali and the Kandyan dance have become the National Theatre of the Kannadigas, Malyalees and the Sinhalayas respectively. For Lankan Thamilians, what is their national dance? It should be a people's theatre comprising the two modes of folk dancing - Vada Moadi and Then Moadi, contends this talented artiste and academic.

There are certain performances which you can't describe in words. I was mesmerized by the gentle, delicate movements of the dancer and the
fascinating music provided by the young and old performers. The Eye Channel of Rupavahini, Shakthi TV, Swarnavahini TV, and other channels should video this performance if it is performed again and show it to the aesthetically profiles 

Contact: kssivan19@sltnet.lk

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