Thursday, July 25, 2013

Literature abounds in the North

 Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

 41st Literary Meet paved its way amidst endless criticisms

The 41st Literary Meet of Tamil writers and poets took place recently in Jaffna.It was the first event of its kind to take place in Jaffna after the end of the war. Two days were dedicated solely to discuss and debate literary themes under the titles: 'traditional arts and culture,' 'casteism,' 'literature,' 'activism' and 'national ethnicities and issues. The first literary meet of this kind was held in Germany, in 1988.

Literature enthusiasts, writers, journalists, poets and novelists hailing from Tamil, Muslim and Sinhalese communities across the island and from overseas gathered in Jaffna. Participants from India, Canada, Germany, France, United Kingdom and the United States of America added a unique flavour to the two-day event.

House full of Literary Meet

Vithya, representing the transgender community in India, voiced built-up sentiments at the meet, etching a poignant mark on listeners' experience of the event. "I am a refugee in my own country. Our rights are violated at home, school, work place and elsewhere," Vithya said.

Vithya sharing her experience

"Sinhalese are ready to share their affection with the Tamils, but they are not ready to share the State (power). Some young Sinhala poets have begun to rethink after the end of the war. Some Sinhala writers have felt the sense of guilt with regards to the minorities," observed Peradeniya University Senior Lecturer, Dr. Liyanage Amarakeerthi.

Panel on Literature

Somesasunthari Krishnakumar talks about Women and Spiritual Culture

Panel on Traditional Arts and Culture

Panel on Castetism

Some of the participants

Panel on Activism

Raghavan introducing "Guernica"

Intense meeting led to serious discussions and debates

"Why am I writing? shares Ashrafa Noordeen

Cross section of audience

Professor Sitraleka Maunaguru talks about poetry by women in 25 years

Serious and sensitive subjects were discussed and debated during two-day meet 

Panel on National Ethnicities and Issues

Literature brought like minded people to Jaffna

Post war Literary Meet in Jaffna

COURTESY: Ceylon Today

Uncle was too gentle to be burnt alive

                          By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

Month of July has become a month of remembrance for my family after 1983 “Black July”. Among many losses of lives and belongings, I still remember one of our closest family friends. He was a leading Tamil businessman in Colombo until his unfortunate fate took his life in July 1983.

He was on his way to his business in Pettah as usual on that fateful day. He was stopped by the mob, brutally attacked and burnt alive in his car! Uncle was too good to be murdered in such a cruel way. His driver ran away from the scene.

 30 years ago

After the unfortunate and unexpected demise of this particular Uncle, the business was closed down as nobody was there to keep it functional. His beloved wife and daughter have left the country, and have not even thought of visiting Sri Lanka afterwards.

He was a simple Tamil gentleman, who has helped many from his village in Jaffna to get education and find employment. He was generous person, who has contributed to Hindu temples, orphanages and elders homes in the Peninsula. He always wore a white dhoti and a white shirt.

Uncle, 30 years have just flown by, but I can still remember you visiting our home to share my Amma’s delicious meals over breakfast, lunch and dinner, long hours of chat with my Appa, and your precious gifts including beautiful ballerina shoes and fashionable frocks. I will always treasure your love and cherishing memories.

Uncle, May your soul rest in peace.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pretended to be dead

                              By Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

My maternal Uncle was a Doctor at Ragama General Hospital. He was at work as usual, when violence broke out in July 1983. As a dedicated, and soft spoken Tamil gentleman, he was afraid, and concerned about his safety and his family’s safety in Wellawatte, when he heard the news about “Black July”.  He was helpless, as he was far away from home. He could do nothing. He wasn’t brave enough to travel from Ragam to Colombo.

 Black July: Never Again; Never Forget

But the staffs at Ragama General Hospital came forward to help him. Staffs of Ragama General Hospital covered him up with a white sheet (as they cover a dead body), placed him on a stretcher, put the stretcher in a hearse, and have driven through many streets with fear, stopped by the Sinhala mob on the way. They have bravely lied to the mob, “we are taking a dead body” more than once until they safely reached my Uncle’s house in Wellawatte. He had to pretend to be dead. There was no mobile phone facility in 1983 to check about his wellbeing, once he was on the move through mob attacks. Ragama General Hospital staffs have helped him to reach his home safely. His family was not at all sure about what was going to happen. He was ever grateful to the Ragama General Hospital staff for taking a collective risk to safeguard his life. But, after the traumatic journey from Ragama to Colombo, he was traumatized, he was in tears while shivering whenever I as his niece used to discuss the matter. 

He shared with me the unforgettable word “is there a Tamil?” asked by the mob all throughout his harrowing journey from Ragama to Wellawatte.