20 July, 2024

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A Living Legacy: A Tribute To Mallikai Editor Dominic Jeeva

By L.  Murugapoopathy – 

L. Murugapoopathy

Dominic Jeeva, born to Joseph and Maryamma on June 27, 1927, in Jaffna, launched the arts and literary monthly magazine, Mallikai in 1966. He continued its publication until 2012, serving as its editor and publisher. Through his unwavering self-effort in that endeavour, he became widely known as Mallikai Jeeva.

On January 28, 2021, he succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The name “Mallikai Jeeva” resonated across Sri Lanka, among Tamil, Sinhala, and Muslim literary circles. Born into a modest middle-class family and deprived of opportunities for higher education, Dominic Jeeva became a self-taught scholar through the experience he gained through his extensive reading of works by intellectuals and progressive writers. His tireless contributions significantly advanced Tamil literature in Eelam. Dominic Jeeva passed away at the age of 93.

Dominic Jeeva

Had he lived a few more years, he would have reached the centennial mark. This past June 27th, he would have turned 97. Although he is no more, his memory remains everlasting!

Jeeva first entered the literary world as a short story writer. His debut story collection, “Thanneerum Kannneerum” (Water and Tears), earned him Sri Lanka’s National Sahitya Award, making it the first national-level literary award received for Tamil literature in Sri Lanka

While managing his father’s “Joseph Hairdressing Salon” on Kasthuriar Road in Jaffna, Dominic Jeeva simultaneously penned numerous literary works.

His mate ‘Bookstore’ Boopalasingham and his dear friend Rajagopal, encouraged and nurtured Jeeva’s passion for reading by providing him with good books to read. Jeeva was also a member of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka and participated in various struggles for the underprivileged.

Following his debut short story collection “Thanneerum Kannneerum” (Water and Tears), Jeeva continued to write short stories and published several other collections, including “Paathukai,”(Wooden Sandals), “SaalaiIn Thiruppam,” (Bend in The Road) and “Vaazhvin Dharisanangal,” (The Visions of Life), further enriching the literary world.

Upon receiving the first National Sahitya Award for Tamil literature, Jeeva returned to Jaffna by train, where he was warmly welcomed by the townspeople. Durairajah, then Mayor of Jaffna, led the reception, adorning Jeeva with a garland to honour his achievements.

Mallikai, the magazine Jeeva tirelessly published, brought him fame as a literary figure. He even received a mention in the Sri Lankan Parliament. Initially published in Jaffna, and later from Colombo post-1990, due to the war, Mallikai featured contributions from writers across Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, and various countries where Sri Lankan’s had sought political asylum. It also included translated works of many Sinhala writers, thereby fostering readers of Sri Lanka, Tamil Nadu, Singapore, and Malaysia, to gain an understanding and appreciation of Sinhala literature through translation. In short, Dominic Jeeva served as a bridge of cultural and literary connection among Tamil, Singhalese, and Muslim communities.

While publishing the Mallikai monthly, he also published and distributed the works of many creators through the “Mallikaipandal” (Jasmin Canopy) publication. Additionally, he brought out several regional special issues, enriching the literary world with local flavour. He deeply admired Sri Lankan artists, literary figures, university professors, and lecturers who were also literary critics, providing them an excellent platform for their creations.

He received Sri Lanka’s highest literary honour, the Sahitya Ratna award, other national awards, and also the Canadian Tamil Literary Garden award for literature. Jeeva’s short stories have been translated into English and Sinhalese. Many of his stories were translated into Sinhalese “Patharey Prasuthiya.” (Translator Ibnu Asmath).

Jeeva’s biography is akin to an Undrawn Portrait for Unwritten Poetry.” This was translated into English under that title by the Australian-based writer Nallaikkumaran K. Kumarasamy. Jeeva was honoured by artists and literary figures from the Soviet Union, France, Germany, and London during his visits there.

Mallikai Jeeva did not merely vanish with his identities as a writer, editor, and social activist; he continues to live in our collective conscience as a part of our living history! Mallikai Jeeva made significant contributions to the development of Tamil national literature in Srilanka. He provided a platform for many Srilakan writers and served as a driving force for the direction of Tamil literature.

Born into a humble lower-class community, he echoed the voice of that community in literature. He was greatly respected by writers of all three communities and prioritized translated literature in his Mallikai magazine to promote ethnic harmony.

Dominic Jeeva honoured and celebrated hundreds of Tamil, Sinhala, and Muslim artists, literary figures, social workers, and literary professors by featuring their images on the covers of Mallikai magazines. He also published insightful articles about them in Mallikai, offering a platform for writers from all regions of Sri Lanka.

Jeeva introduced prominent Sinhala writers like Martin Wickramasinghe, K. Jayatillake, G.B. Senanayake, Karunasena Jayalath, Ediriweera Sarachchandra, Gunasena Vidanage, Ariyaratna Vidanage, and K.G. Amaradasa to Tamil readers through Mallikai. He also highlighted the works of literary figures such as Ven. Ratanasara Thero, Ven. Ratnavansa Thero, and film artists like Lester James Peries and Henry Jayasena, featuring their portraits on Mallikai covers and publishing special issues with in-depth articles about them.

Given his significant contributions to ethnic harmony through literature, the Sri Lankan government should issue a commemorative stamp in honour of Dominic Jeeva.

His short stories are a subject of literary research for university students, and Mallikai magazines serve as an invaluable resource for Tamil students in university arts departments. These magazines, published from 1966 to 2012, are available for reference in libraries and archives.

Prominent Sinhala literary figure Martin Wickramasinghe and scholars like Professor Aziz, Professor Sithileppai, Arumuga navalar, Swami Vipulananda, and  Ananda Coomaraswamy have all been commemorated with stamps by the Sri Lankan government. Similarly, our esteemed writer, Mallikai Jeeva, should also be honoured with a commemorative stamp.

Furthermore, the Jaffna Municipal Council or the Northern Provincial Council should establish a memorial hall for Jeeva in Jaffna. This memorial should house Mallikai magazines, Jeeva’s literary works, photographs, and the prestigious awards he received, creating a comprehensive exhibition.

*Translated by Mahroof Noor Mohamed

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