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2004 52 -
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K.S.Sivakumaran's columns!
Columns and Lankan Writing! 
 
- K.S. Sivakumaran -
 

K.S.SivakumaranThe 'I' factor creeps into my writing when I attempt to be a columnist. It may sound personal or seemingly an attempt to promote myself through these columns. As opposed to the modest editorial 'we', I very often use the personal pronoun. In fact, when I was editing the 'Culture' page for 'The Island' in the 1980s, editor Gamini Weerakoon used to caution me on many times to write impersonally. But I couldn't and cannot. The reason is this: Using 'I' is more intimate, personal, objective and subjective, sincere and most of all, it helps to record events or the history particularly when you yourself is a part of the literary scene. 

And if others fail to mention your own contribution for some reason or the other (as the compilers of 'A Lankan Mosaic' did, one has to say things personal, if it is to be not forgotten or denied. Hence reminiscences of the past is also important. Further if the style is the man, writing in simple style with active voice and connecting flow of related thoughts make it understandable and interesting to the average reader. 

After all, column writing is not academic oriented. It's conversational, light and purposeful. It's basically informative and on occasions analytical. Well then, who is a Columnist in a newspaper or magazine? A columnist writes a regular column with a title or name and a byline. For instance, 'Light Refractions' by Lucien Rajakarunanayake. 

Often a photograph of the columnist accompanies each column. In Sri Lanka, this is not being done, but in neighbouring India, it is done. Many columnists become personalities in their own right. Depending on the specific publication, the frequency vary - daily, weekly, fortnightly, monthly, periodically. 

I use to enjoy reading William Safire's columns in the New York Times. Columnists write on a variety of subjects, depending on their specialities. These columns could be serious or humorous, analytical, literary, sundry etcetera. They develop their own unique ideas for columns with interesting angles. They write and report general news, represent the publication at social or press functions. 

In the U.S., a columnist can earn between $ 18,000 and $ 100,000 or even more annually. That all depends on who writes for whom. It is estimated that Syndicated Columnists in major publications might have earnings near $ 100,000 or more, annually. 

A bachelor's degree, preferably majoring in Journalism, English, Communications or related fields is invariably a prerequisite. 

Any type of writing experience is useful. They must have excellent writing skills and a good command of the language. They must also be able to write clear, crisp and interesting copy with unique hooks and angles. Many columnists start as reporters or other type of journalists, then move up the career ladder. 

Communicable words!
Film esoterica, formerly consumed only by cineastes, is now aimed directly at, and snapped up by, all of us claims Elvis Mitchell, a writer for the New York Times. Says he: Sound changed the scope of movies, but it didn't really change the way they were made, the way they were marked or the way they were watched. The DVD is changing all those things. That's why everyone is a "Film Geek" now. For more information, please read the paper of August 17 last year. 

I liked the way film critic Stuart Klawans for The Nation described the Polish film director Kieslowski' 'Decalogue'. Those who have seen this DVD in three sets would agree. "With daunting technical mastery, and an artistry that went beyond technique, Kieslowski crafted tantalizing, disturbing, alluring images, then made them seem to dissolve into human situation." 

A similarity between Sinhala and Yiddish words are observed: Tatha (S) Tateh (Y). For parents, the word in Yiddish is Tatehmama. 

Terrorism - what does it mean? The U.S. Law defines thus: "the intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence the policy, conduct or activities of the government through intimidation or coercion." 

Two Asians as pioneers!
Did we know that Srinivasa Ramanujam (1887-1920) produced many original results in infinite series, and number theory? He is credited to have discovered over 100 theorems. Abdus Salaam (1926) is a physicist who discovered a link between electric magnetism and the week force of radio active decay. For this work he was awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize for Physics. 

Aspects of Maldivian culture!
As we know, the language spoken in the Republic of Maldives is Dhivehi. If I am correct up till now only two Sri Lankans have written books on Maldivian culture. The names are Subash Chawla and J. B. Disanayake. 

I happened to teach at the Majediyya School in capital Male' some 10 years ago, when Lankan educationist, S. J. Samuel was the greatly admired Principal of the school. Rawalpindi (Pakistan) born Punjabi Hindu Subash Chawla wrote a book titled 'The New Maldives', which had colour photographs, maps and charts and an account of the history, economy, education, constitution of the islands of Maldives. In his book, the author says that the original settlers were Hindus 3500 years ago. 

Dhivehi is based on Ely, an offshoot of Sanskrit Islam came to the Maldives around 1150 A.D. In the pre-Muslim days, the local people were the Redi and then Hoin. Here were Thamil predecessors among the pre-Dhivehi speaking people of Giravaru island. 

They were called Tamila. The writer substantiates his views by reference to the discovery of a Phallus temple in Nilandu with many Sivalingams, and a coral slab in the National Museum in Male. 

There are some hieroglyphic characters on the slab. This he says resemble the prehistoric script of the Indus Valley Civilization that flourished on the banks of the Indus river over 3500 years ago. He also admits that the Maldivians are more similar to the Indo-Gangetic people than to the people of the Indus Valley. 

A guide to Lankan Thamil literature (1922-1963)!
The late Kanaga Senthinathan from Kurumbaciddy in Yaalpanam was a belle-lettrist and a writer nurtured in tradition and yet adaptable to modernity. He wrote fiction and poetry and wrote pieces of literary value in his columns. He had a huge collection of newspaper clippings of Thamil writing especially in regard to Lankan Thamil literature. Unselfish and charitable, he could provide information on writers and their works, which he had at his finger tips. 

He earnestly collected such data and compiled a book titled "Eelathu Ilakkiya Valarchi " (The Growth of Lankan Thamil Literature) in Thamil and gave a title in English as 'A Short History of modern Ceylon Tamil Literature'. However, just as much as the writing of 'progressive' critics was partisan, Kanaga Senthinathan's book was also biased. Although he tried to incorporate a lot of information on writing or writers between 1922 and 1963, one suspects that interpolation in the form of prejudicial writing had entered into the printed book. 

One suspected that a leading Thamil writer and his friend who also wrote and published books had had a greater influence in editing his book for publication. As a result biased interpretation had crept in this book. 

Truly, it was not a History of Lankan Thamil Literature as envisaged. Basically it was a compendium of what the author thought of Lankan writers of fiction, poetry, essays, plays and critical pieces written in the Thamil language. He categorized the writers as ones who were bent in erudite traditional writing, reawakend (Maru Malarchi) writers and Islamic writers. 

He also gave brief notes on newspapers and magazines, special supplements and periodicals, the Sahitya Mandalam, literary associations, folk songs and other features of writing. 

The latter part of the book revealed diametrically contrary views to the first part of the book. Hence it was suspected an outsider has laid his hand into the project, which was earnestly initiated by the late well-meaning Kanaga Senthinathan. Kanaga Senthinathan was a walking encyclopedia of his times and an aesthete. Some of his short stories deserve mention. 

He was good in creative writing, but lacked a basic understanding of literary criticism. However, in the absence of any book on Lankan Thamil Literature covering the early period of its evolution, his book serves a useful purpose to the uninitiated younger generation. 

Kenneth De Lanerolle!
The late educationist, Kenneth M De Lanerolle was a Linguistics specialist and he had done comparative studies of Sinhala and English. 'Southern River', 'Princes in All the Earth', 'Pale Hands', 'Towards Relevance in Education' are some of his books. 

One of his statements was "If only the confrontation between adult and child could be broken, if only adult and child could face the future together, through renewed family life, through schools which are homes of love and concern, and similar structures of comradeship, then their respective human rights will complement each other and Sri Lanka will have a fair chance of developing a lifestyle that is the envy of all." 

Obsolete Words!
Here are some obsolete words which we come across in our varied reading: caluminate (malicious statements known to be false in an effort to harm someone's reputation or character), inhume (to bury), halch (to hug), fleer (to laugh in a disrespectful way), emacity (a fondness for buying things), brume (mist or fog). 

Contact: kssivan1@juno.com 
Courtesy: Daily News,Sri Lanka 

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