TAMIL NATIONAL FORUM
Selected Writings & Poems
Nadesan 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
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 priesthood...'
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 May 1999
reflected Swarnan's search within:
இனம் ஒன்று தன் இருப்புக்காய்
இன்னல் படுகையிலே - நாங்கள்
இலக்கியம் பேசிக் கொண்டிருக்கிறோம்..
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 community.
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
And, finally, 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 upright:
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.