Writers in Tamil include Muslims, Malays and Thamilians. Most Muslim writers hail from the Eastern province. A good many are living in the western and southern and a few from north central, northwestern and the hill country.
Although their writing find a place in national newspapers and magazines there are no exclusive literary journals or newspapers to feature their contributions.
There is a weekly newspaper called Navamani which covers the political and cultural scene almost exclusively of the Muslims in Lanka. It would not be impertinent to say that this reviewer had been its pioneer editor in chief.
Yathra (a pilgrimage or a journey), a literary magazine edited by Ashraf Shihabdeen maintained good standard reading material for sometime but fell on the wayside after a short period of existence.
Reasons are obvious: readership for serious writing became limited, lack of advertisements, printing cost and the like. After publishing 20 issues the journal was heard no more. But suddenly the 21st issue was launched recently in Kolumbu Thamil Sangam with a new format and spreading its wings beyond poetry and poetry criticism.It’s now a magazine that covers arts and literature.
We understand that it is a quarterly journal with a new editorial board. The poet, essayist, critic, travel writer, broadcaster, and television personality – Ashraff Shihabdeen from Oddamaavadi in the Batticaloa district remains the editor with Nachiya Theevu Parveen functioning as the Managing Editor. Vaalaichenai Amar is the assistant editor. The April-June issue is available from 37, Sri Sicharitha Mawatha (Dhankanatta Road), Mabola, Wattala.
This 96 page journal has the following features: poetry, articles, short stories, columns, short fiction, play, politics, Internet, News and appreciations of deceased. Admittedly there is a spectrum of varied reading material.
To me the font size of the print is small to read and enjoy the journal. The editorial expresses fear that our country could turn to be another Somalia if the different communities in the island clash as the one that happened recently in Dambulla. There is an interesting expose on the storming of writing in the name of poems on the websites.
Yet another piece I liked was on the fiction of feminine gender by Zarina Abdul Haq. A lyric of Bob Dylan is translated into Tamil by Mani. A Sinhala story by Anushka Thilakaratne is rendered into Tamil by M. Rishan Sharif. Black and white photographs of the launching of the journal covering three pages is another feature. A short fiction by the late Maruthoor Majeed and a tribute to him by the editor too could be mentioned here.
Lot of Lankan Tamil and Muslim writers living here and abroad have their own blogs and very often enter into discussions and quips in the Face book these days. Yathra has posed the question “In the future politics of Lanka, wouldn’t political parties of the minorities be redundant?” In response, Ninthavoor Shibly, Fathima Sherine, Razana Manai, S Begum, Mohammed Faiz, Mohammed Fazi, Mohammad Faznath, A Halim Sulaima Lebbe, Rauf Hazir, Manas Mohammed and Shakir Mabas A.R. had responded.
To know what they have said, please read the magazine. One notices that most of the contributions to the current issue of the journal are from newcomers to the field of writing.
There is a satire on Modernism based on the entries one finds as comments and contributions on the Facebook. A short piece by Prof. Rohan Gunaratne on ‘Becoming a Lankan’ is also found in translation. Another tribute by the editor of another Muslim writer “Sheiko” who passed away also finds a place in the journal. A playlet featuring all Muslim characters is also interesting.
It is good to know that Muslim writers in Tamil are being encouraged and finding a place in this newly reborn journal Yathra. [pic courtesy of: http://ashroffshihabdeen.blogspot.com]