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A literary magazine from the hill country

Literary magazines published in Thamil in Lanka give some indication of the trends in contemporary writing. Such magazines are published in Colombo but there are quite a few published in Thamil speaking and other areas too. One such magazine is Kolunthu edited by Anthony Jeeva of 57 Mahinda Place, Colombo 05.

For some time it was published from Mahanuwara (Kandy). So far 28 issues have come out. The latest has an appreciable get up than its previous numbers. Kolunthu means tender tea leaves. Understandably the magazine promotes writing from the hill regions of Lanka - Central, Uva and Sabragamuwa regions. This was because literary evaluators usually concentrated and promoted writing only from the north and ignored other regions. As if with vengeance writers and intellectuals from the hill country have emerged as a formidable strong force that could not be ignored any more.

The Editor Anthony Jeeva (not to be confused with Dominic Jeeva, editor of Malikai), though born in Colombo took interest specifically in promoting literature of the people of recent Thamilnadu origin along with other pioneers in the progressive advance of that community. But he is not parochial and in fact he thinks nationally and has wider contacts with other writers in Thamil and more importantly with the Sinhala dramatists and writers.

Diminutive Anthony Jeeva is an enthusiastic literary figure in the country. He is a dramatist, actor, columnist and vociferous speaker fighting for the need to set the wrongs to rights.

Influenced by the late Dayananda Gunawardene in the field of stage plays, he is also an ardent searcher for knowledge in arts and literature. He may not be an academic in the formal sense but he has acquired a lot of knowledge in an intelligible manner. His contributions to Lankan Thamil Literary Arts Scene should be evaluated on another occasion. He is very fluent in Sinhala too and that I a great advantage for him to mix with the Sinhala literati and artistes.

The September-October 2009 issue of Kolunthu is available belatedly rather late due to obvious reasons. The cover of the current issue depicts a colour photograph of a literary event - a meeting of international Thamil Little Magazines. The picture shows some prominent Lankan writers writing in Thamil. They are Pathma Somakanthan, Anthony Jeeva, Prof. Saba Jeyarasa, patron of the arts Hashim Omar, Kalaichelvan and Prof. S. Santhirasekean and Barrister S.Joseph.

Within the 48 pages the magazine carries a few more photographs of literary events. Among the articles is one by the editor - a note on the late G.K. Haththotuwegama. He recounts that he learnt about street theatre from GK and on one occasion with Gamini, he directed street drama on the streets of Hatton during a May Day Parade. He also conducted a workshop with Gamini H. on 2007 at the National Educational College. Another interesting article is on George Wall (1820-1894) by T. R. Gopalan. We learn that the Britisher George Wall was member of the Lankan Legislative Assembly during 1857-1887. He was also a poet, writer, politician, president of Lanka Planters association and an astrologer.

He was a prominent advisor for the country's Coffee plantation. In 1850 he had published a book on Fertilization for Coffee Plants. He cared for Plantation workers and initiated a bill. His documentation on deaths and ill nourishment among the workers is still applicable.

He was an intellectual even though he had to face criticism from many quarters for being sympathetic to the downtrodden. He was a humanist he advocated learning in mother tongue in 1880 and the Government enacted a law in regard to this in 1900. He was a philosopher too. He wrote many articles explaining his philosophy of love for the humankind in the Colombo Observer.

We must thank the writer T R Gopalan for the valuable information he had given in his article. He is a senior writer from the hill country and had written seven books.

The editor of Kolunthu in his note refers to another great politician from the hill country. He was Deshabakthan Ko. Natesa Iyer (1887-1947). Calling him a 'personality of an Epoch', the writer reminds us the though he was born in Thanjavoor in Thamilnadu, he was a spokesman for not only the people of recent Indian origin but also for the downtrodden anywhere. He identified himself in Lanka as a trade unionist, politician, creative writer and journalist. Readers might remember that it was Dr Kumari Jayawardene who unearthed the significance of Natesa Iyer first.

Anthony Jeeva has also written an essay on the politics in the hillcountry beginning from Natesa Iyer to Soumiyamoorthy Thondamaan. This piece should be read by all concerned.

Young people write to this journal contributing poetry and short stories. Among them are M.Mohana from Maskeliya, Suguna, and A. Gunanathan from Malaysia,

There is an interview with a Lanka born writer in England- Vavaniyoor Ira Uthayanan who won the Lanka State Award for the best novel in 2008 written in Thamil. There are short reviews of magazines in Thamil and recommendation by Kolunthu of books published locally at present. S. Muralidharan appreciates the poems of Kanga Latha, a Lanka born journalist working for a Singaporean Thamil daily. A. Sivasunramaniam has written a critique on Thamilnadu's prominent writer - the late Puthumaipiththan (Viruthasalam)

This magazine hitherto was not regularly published but with new format one hope it appears at least once in three months. One should congratulate the enterprising editor.

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