TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Selected Writings & Poems
Satyendra, 10 May 2000
A struggle for
freedom is no afternoon tea party. The struggle of the people of Tamil
Eelam for freedom has brought with it death, pain and suffering - at the same
time the struggle is a witness to singular displays of courage and expresses the
steadfast determination of a people.
It is the
thiyagam of those who have who have given of themselves so that their
brothers and sisters, their udan pirapukal,
may live in equality and in freedom, which has evoked an answering response
from Tamils who may not be directly involved in the armed conflict. It is a
response which has found expression in literature, paintings, dramas and poems.
Tamils have sought,
through the medium of art, to give expression to their pain, their
insecurity, their aspirations in the social milieu in which they find themselves
- and to identify themselves with, and contribute to, the growing togetherness
of a people to whom they belong.
And, here, Swarnan is one of those Tamils who has,
perhaps, done more than many others. His poems in Tamil come from deep within
him. He writes with passion - but not a mindless passion. He appeals to the
mind. But he is no desiccated calculating machine. His poems blend mind and
heart together and it is this authentic whole, which touches our own being. It
would seem that Swarnan has no need for Gramsci's caution:
'The error of the intellectual consists
in believing that it is possible to know without understanding and
especially without feeling and passion.. that the intellectual can be an
intellectual if he is distinct and detached from the people-nation, without
feeling the elemental passions of the people..... without this emotional
bond between intellectuals and the people-nation... the relations between
intellectuals and the people-nation are reduced to contacts of a purely
bureaucratic, formal kind; the intellectuals become a caste or a
The emotional bond that Swarnan has with his people-nation is
that which gives his poems the capacity to move those who read them.
His poem at Professor Vithyananthan Ninaivu Vizha at Peradeniya University on 27
reflected Swarnan's search within:
இனம் ஒன்று தன் இருப்புக்காய்
இன்னல் படுகையிலே - நாங்கள்
இலக்கியம் தீதல்ல - எனில் எம்
இன்னல்கள் தம்மை இவ்வுலகுக்கு
He questions himself: "When a people are struggling for their
existence, we are engaged in writing poems" and answers: "No, literature is not
evil, we need writings which express to the world our pain and our suffering."
We who read Swarnan can relate to that which he says. We understand him,
because he understands us. We understand him in the same way as we understand
Jean Paul Sartre when he wrote:
"...whether he is an essayist, a pamphleteer, a
satirist, or a novelist ... the writer, a free man addressing free men, has
only one subject - freedom...One does not write for slaves. The art of prose
is bound up with the only regime in which prose has meaning, democracy. When
one is threatened, the other is too..."
On the occasion of the International
Conference On Tamil Nationhood & Search for Peace in Sri Lanka held at Carleton
University, Canada on 19 May 1999, Swarnan wrote:
உலகத் தமிழினமே எழுக..
Truth does not sleep. Also, truth must not
sleep. It was a call which did not go unnoticed in the international Tamil
Swarnan wrote in July 1999 on the 16th Anniversary of the 1983 genocidal attack
on the Tamil people, defies adequate translation in English, but to all those
Tamils who lived through those fateful days, the metaphors he employs, will
convey meaning touched with poignancy - and determination. The sum of his words
is greater than the parts, and we see a glimpse of that which has given
stature to Swarnan's work:
உயிர்வாழ விரும்பினால் - நீ
in ManNin Maintharkal, written in November this year, Swarnan bows in
humility before those who have given their lives in the struggle, and in so
doing, he makes a statement not only about the struggle but also about himself.
உங்கள் உடல்கள் சாய்ந்ததால்
எங்கள் தலைகள் நிமிர்ந்தன..
கவிதை பாடிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம்..
"Because your bodies have fallen, we stand with our heads
we simply write poems, but you... have become poems."
It is said that Subramanya Bharathi went through a process of mental and
physical anguish before his poems were born. The pain and anguish (and some
times, even anger) of Swarnan find moving expression in his poems. A
poet touches the being of his readers, when that which he abstracts from
his own life experience serves as a key to his readers to clarify their own life
experiences. A poet does not simply write for others. He gives expression to
himself. It is this integrity which moves his readers. At the same time, the
poet is himself constituted by the social milieu to which he belongs - and is
part of it. Swarnan has much to contribute to the growing togetherness of the
people to whom he belongs.