Books As bridges

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By Thulasi Muttulingam

The International Tamil Writers Forum, Australia launched the translated versions of three of their books at the BMICH recently. The Authors are Sri Lankan Tamils domiciled in Australia, Dr. Noel Nadesan and L.Murugapoopathy.

The books released were Lost in You, the English translation of Dr. Nadesan’s work, Unaiyae Maiyal Kondu, Samanalawewa, the Sinhala translation of a book by the same author, titled Vannathikkulam in Tamil and Mathakasevanali, the Sinhala translation of a book of short stories by L.Murugapoopathy.

Said Dr. Nadesan at thebook launch, “This country needs reconciliation between its communities urgently. A major barrier to that reconciliation process is the lack of understanding and communication between the different communities.

“We hope that by making the writings of Tamils available to the others though these translations, that the fears, hopes and aspirations of the Tamil people can be understood by the other communities. On one of the many steps to reconciliation, this is also an important step.”

On critiquing and reviewing his book Samanalawewa (Tamil: Vannathikkulam), both the reviewer K.S Sivakumaran and the translator, Madulugiriye Wijeratne said they were certain that Dr. Nadesan had written his own life story. They were particularly struck by the relationship details of the main characters, a veterinary surgeon (like Dr. Nadesan) and his wife.

“I thought for certain, while translating the book, ‘Ha this man has definitely married a Sinhalese lady’”, said Wijeratne, a Bank of Ceylon Manager who has also earned a name for himself as a Tamil pundit / translator. K.S Sivakumaran said he had thought the same while reading the book but the author refuted it, when he queried him.

“I write creative fiction. Creative writing is equated to ‘lying for profit’ in the western world where I live,” said Dr. Nadesan. “However, there is no profit to be made in the narrow genre I operate in. I only write for my own mental satisfaction. The books draw on my experiences as a veterinary surgeon in Medawachchiya in the 1970s, where I spent the week days amongst Sinhala farmers and went back to Jaffna over the weekends.

“I saw the rot setting in then which would lead to the later conflicts and took some mental notes but I was then only a silent witness. That was the basis for Samanalawewa. It is important that the minority perspective is brought to the attention of the majority. People have to understand what we went through and to do that, the people who went through them have to relay what they went through. I do not claim my works are literary masterpieces but it is important that the other communities understand the Tamils’ feelings, hopes and fears which is why we are having these books translated.”

The translator of his book, Madulugiriye Wijeratne who grew up in Vavuniya noted that reconciliation was possible only when both the Sinhala and Tamil communities took pride in each other’s cultures and languages. Himself a Tamil scholar, he noted, “I take offence whenever I hear the Tamil language wrongly used. That same pride I take in that language should one day be taken by all Sinhalese.”

Reconciliation was the theme of the evening touched on by all speakers, whether Tamil or Sinhala. Said the author L.Murugapoopathy, “There was a claim at one of the reconciliation seminars I attended that inter-marriages between Sinhalese and Tamils would give birth to national unity. A Buddhist monk sitting there retorted, ‘No, marriages, whether inter-marriages or not will give birth only to babies not national harmony. We need to do more than that.’

“I agree. We need to understand each other as well as speak each other’s languages. The president of this country already speaks fluent Tamil. When it progresses amongst all our countrymen as it has with our brother Madulugiriye Wijeratne, we will finally have national unity.”

Ceylon today

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About noelnadesan

Commentator and analyst of current affairs.
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