Karthigesu Sivathamby: Mighty Intellectual

by K.S.Sivakumaran

The Thamil community in general and the academic / intellectually oriented student population both in this country and abroad, in particular, treat him as an icon of the past and present century. He is just not merely a Thamil scholar, but also a multi-disciplinarian of the intellectual kind. He is much more than to us Sri Lankans. His beginnings as a Marxist and a student of Emeritus Professor Tompson at Birmingham University in the UK and his association with academics in various universities as pacesetter teacher and his gradual concern about the dilemma of being a Thamilian and a Sri Lankan at the same time has led him to be an overly excited humanist of Thamil Nationalism.

[Professor K. Sivathamby]

Sivathamby has many facets and versatility. I am not going to describe all aspects of his contribution to our country in this column. That has to be written at length. Instead, I wish to draw the attention of readers in Thamil to a dossier on K.Sivathamby in the current issue of a Lankan Thamil literary journal called Gnanam edited by an important writer in Thamil, Dr.T.Gnanasekeran. Scholars and students in Thamil Studies are indebted to the editor for the compilation of various articles on Sivathamby that put the scholar and intellectual in the right portfolio. There are many more who could give their estimation of the learned professor, but due to exigencies of space only a few had contributed within the 64 pages of the magazine. But the articles are substantial and show us the subject of description as a phenomenal figure.

Among those who had written are six Lankan academics. They are A.Shanmugathas, C.Maunaguru, Nagaraja Iyer Subramanian, S.Yogarasa, K.Raghuparan and S.Santhirasegeran. There are also other writers like P.Maathaiyan, A.Muhamadu Sameem, V.Vimalarajah, Theniyaan, Sengai Aaaliyaan, A.Ravi, S.Moses and Anthony Jeeva.

I enjoyed reading M.Sameem’s article for its sheer personal note recreating the atmosphere of the Peradeniya campus in the mid fifties of the last century. He also highlights contributions in relation to Sivathamby’s works. The lighter side of the relationship between Sameem and Sivathamby is totally amusing and absorbing.

Maunaguru’s article, equally personal, analyses the part played by Sivathamby in the field of theatre. It could be recalled that Sivathamby’s theses for his doctorate in Birmingham was on Ancient Tamil Drama. Sivathamby was an actor and director on the stage as well as an artiste on the radio. It is an exhaustive study true to Maunaguru’s style of writing. Maunaguru himself is an artiste and producer of folk theatre.

Sivathamby is one of the few Thamil academics familiar with Sinhala. Shanmugathaas recounts the quintessence of Sivathamby as far as his reputation in Thamilnadu as the beacon light for the scholars there. Similarly Santhirasegeran shares his experiences with Sivathamby in foreign climes. A Thamilnsu scholar, Maathaiyan relates Sivathamby’s perception as literary historian. It is also a studied analysis. N.Subramanian sees Sivathamby as a Thamilologist.

I liked S.Yogarasa’s article as it introduces the traits in Sivathamby’s writing hitherto unexplored. K.Raghuparan discusses Sivathamby’s deep interest in ancient Thamil literature. Vimalarajah places him as the symbol of Vadamaradchi region in the northern peninsula.

Theniyaan speaks about the terms and words Sivathamby has coined for the benefit of Thamilians among other things. Sengai Aaliyaan reviews Sivathamby’s role as a literary critic. A.Ravi writes about how he was moulded by his guru. I found that this was a sort of clumsy writing in relation to the rest of the articles. And it is longish and undisciplined. On the other hand Moses as a student of the professor focuses on his guru in an organized manner. Finally Anthony Jeeva eulogizes Sivathamby as a temple of knowledge.

This particular issue of Gnanam also has its usual features like poems, short stories, readers’ letters and columns.

The magazine is available from 3 B, 46th Lane, Colombo 06. web; www.gnanam.info e-mail; editor@gnanam.info

Last Sunday, there was a get together of theatre people of the past decades, pioneers in Colombo in keeping Thamil theatre alive, despite several obstacles and unguided direction in understanding drama and theatre. They were not sophisticated and poor. But their enthusiasm was great. Some of the artistes who contributed are dead.During their time they improved theatre presentation and emerged as great players,though their achievements and contributions are not recorded by academic critics.

I was invited to this get-together held in Kotahena. This was organized by Kalaichelvan and Siva Pradeepan supported by several artistes belonging to different theatre groups in Colombo North. The philanthropist, Hashim Omar was the chief guest. Among those present were some members of the Colombo Municipality.

The highlight of the event was the variety entertainment they provided mainly singing; their hidden talents came to the fore, despite the fact that they were ageing.

They are all in need of a building for the Thamilian artistes to rehearse and conduct their theatrical activities. If the government is disinterested in reckoning the Tamilian artistes, and they will have to rely on the private sector to support them.

It was revealed that Hashim Omar is ready to provide Rs.25,000 to buy a land.

But the CMC with concurrence of the President has to allocate land for this purchase.

It is a pity that businessmen never sponsor any artistic activities- theatre, music, film productions, and literary activities for the benefit of Lankan Thamilians. Is it because they think that the local Thamilians do not belong to Sri Lanka? Hope not.

Contact: sivakumaranks@yahoo.com

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Print this page