A Gender Periodical
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
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).
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.
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
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
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".
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
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
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