Thursday, February 9, 2012


After the teaching semester came to an end this May, as usual I had this list of huge things I planned to do. Now university resumes in mid-July and I have to welcome a new batch of students and I look back at the vacation, and I feel, well, I did the stuff that had to be done. (Even if it was not part of the plan)
So, what did I do this summer? Well, I managed to translate this moving collection of poems written by Cheran Rudhramoorthy, V.I.S.Jayapalan, Latha and Ravikumar about the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka’s NorthEast last year. The poems emit bitterness and tragedy, even as they speak a language of hope and resistance and faith and pride. Some of them are extremely intense, most of them bleed.
Cheran and Jayapalan are well-known poets from Tamil Eelam and have been anthologized (along with my hero-of-sorts Puthuvai Rathinadurai) in Wilting Laughter: Three Tamil Poets. While I have translated Cheran, Jayapalan and Ravikumar (with generous inputs and help from Sascha Ebeling) for this as-yet-untitled forthcoming book, Latha’s poems have been translated by my dear friend Ravi Shanker.
Darker than the poems, and much more haunting in its directness is the extensive 4000-word introduction by writer Ravikumar (the editor-publisher of this collection) of this who captures the myriad facets of the genocide and its aftermath. He makes use of a wide range of sources: letters by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Arbitrary Executions, report of the University Teachers for Human Rights (Jaffna), news-stories, eye-witness accounts in exposing the anti-Tamil, xenophobic and ruthless nature of the Sri Lankan state. He also writes painstakingly of how India betrayed the Tamil people and how it failed to protect them. Because I had to pause to cry, I found his prose deadly and damning.
Lest we forget the horrors of the genocide, this book was brought out in Tamil (Engaludaya kaalathildhan oozhi nigazhndhadhu – எங்களுடைய காலத்தில்தான் ஊழி நிகழ்ந்தது,published by Ravikumar’s publishing house Manarkeni) in May 2010 to mark the first anniversary of Eelam War IV that left nearly half a million Tamils dead.
Watch this space for more details on the English translation, its publication and so on. If you are highly curious, please drop me a line.

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