21 August, 2019

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Jean Arasanayagam, A Life Lived In Exuberance: A Personal & Professional Tribute

By Harshana Rambukwella

Prof. Harshana Rambukwella

Kindura

Feathers slice off your waist,

Tail plumes splay the air,

Claws grasp earth,

Fingers touch flute,

Music twitters from those human lips,

Your imperturbable profile

Does not suggest

Discrepancy of disembodiment,

Yet your folded wings, 

Unruffled feathers 

Suggest an immobility

Of flight arrested,

And I see in my own

Submerged personality,

A strange, restless,

Ghost of Kindura.

(Jean Arasanayagam 1973)

Jean Arasanayagam

My first memories of Jean Aunty are from the suburb of Watapuluwa in Kandy where the Arasanayagam’s were our immediate neighbours. Our house was on a small hillock and they lived immediately below us. The compounds in the Watapuluwa housing scheme were generous 40-perch blocks of land which were separated by nothing more than patchy live fences. Food, neighbourly affection, dogs and cats and many other things including books flowed freely between these porous borders. It is within this small domestic economy that my first substantive encounters with literature in English began to form. Food flowed from our house and literature flowed in return from the Arasanayagam’s. The bonds were strengthened because my father and Jean were contemporaries at Peradeniya and were connected in other ways as English teachers. 

I did not come from a household where literature in English was common currency. But the Arasanayagam’s house literally overflowed with literature. Books occupied and spilled out of every conceivable surface and the house itself was in perpetual disarray. It is in this strangely magical space that I began to form a love for literature and reading. Jean gave her time and knowledge generously and she, Arasa Uncle and their two daughters Parvathi and Devasundari collectively created an atmosphere where literature and a world of imagination came alive. I did not realize it at the time but the encounters with Jean left a deep and abiding impression on me – one that would later develop into literature becoming an avocation. 

Perhaps the most enduring memory of Jean was one darkened by the tragic ethno-nationalist history of Sri Lanka. But one, which in many ways captures how the personal and the political mingle in our lives – both hers and mine. When Black July 1983 happened I was a 9 year- old boy with little or no understanding of the dark political undercurrents of postcolonial Sri Lanka. But they came home to Watapuluwa in the form of a mob that set fire to the Arasanayagam’s Tamil neighbours’ house and threatened to attack the Arasanayagam’s themselves – on account of Arasa Uncle’s Tamil identity. Jean and the two daughters sought refuge in our house and uncle at a neighbours’ until the army arrived and took them to a refugee camp. The only real emotion I can recall from that time is a little boy’s excitement at this sudden turn of events in an otherwise mundane suburban existence. Reflecting on this moment as an adult I can only marvel at the fortitude and composure with which Jean faced this moment of existential threat. But this experience had left something in me – something to which I would turn much later as an undergraduate student.

1983 of course marks a turning point in Jean’s career as a writer and poet. By this time, she was already well known and critically acclaimed as a writer. But the tragic events of Black July and her complex identity as a Burgher woman married to a man from a high caste Tamil Hindu background and how this in turn made her a victim of chauvinist Sinhala nationalist forces, propelled her writing to national and international recognition. Her narrative voice became one intimately identified with the violence of the Sri Lankan post-independence nation state and the multiple ways in which it excluded people. Speaking from a doubly or triply marginalized space, Jean’s poetry became iconic signifiers of the cultural politics of nationalism. The poem I quote at the beginning of this tribute captures the multiple contradictions and potentials of her identity. In the restless energy of the Kindura – half bird, half human – Jean sees herself – constrained and inhibited by the cultural and political forces of mainstream society but full of the promise and potential of a hybrid being. Post-1983 this becomes an abiding and dominant theme in Jean’s poetry and prose. In a richly suggestive and lyrical language she begins an intense and passionate exploration of her divided identity which in turn produced a rich, varied and challenging body of literature that constantly reminds us that Sri Lanka is a place of many peoples, many cultures and many belongings.

After my boyhood encounters with Jean Aunty it is to this body of literature I turned as a young undergraduate. I wrote my undergraduate dissertation at Peradeniya on Jean and later as a postgraduate student at the University of Hong I was able to convert and publish this as a journal article. At each stage of the maturation of this work I kept in touch with Jean. It is never an easy experience for an author to encounter their work as interpreted by others but she readily read, commented and critiqued my analysis of her work and it was a singular pleasure and privilege as a literary critic to have direct access to the author whose work you were critically exploring. It is also through Jean’s work that I developed a sense of the politics of belonging and unbelonging in Sri Lanka. Nationalism, which has since become my most dominant scholarly preoccupation, was literally and figuratively shaped by the presence of Jean in my life.

I want to conclude with the exuberance that characterized Jean Aunty as a person. She was loud, opinionated and passionate. Whether it was praise or critique, it was given in full measure. As a young boy I was always afraid when she boarded the bus. Suddenly a sonorous voice would boom out your name across the aisle of the crowded bus and you would cringe in embarrassment as she would ask the most personal questions or shower you with effusive praise – “you are such a good boy, how is your wonderful mother?” – completely oblivious to the bystanders fascinated by this spectacle. Years later when I met her as an adult at a State Literary Festival at the BMICH nothing had changed. Despite the location and despite the formality of the event she hailed me across an aisle and proceeded to happily interrogate me about my personal life – much to the amusement of a curious audience of VIPs. This exuberance was also on full display when Jean won the 2017 Gratiaen Prize. In typical fashion she dispensed with all decorum, embraced her win with full passion and proceeded to address the audience with so much energy that those of us in the front rows feared the microphone would fly out of her hand. Her performance was so singularly remarkable in the staid world of literary prizes that my friend Janaka Inimankada from the Sinhala literary world posted an account of it on Facebook, admiring the effusive joy with which Jean embraced her win. For me it was also a particularly gratifying moment to see her win the Gratiaen – the one Sri Lankan literary prize that had eluded her for many years. 

Jean’s demise leaves a vacuum in Sri Lankan writing in English. She was one of the pioneers of Sri Lankan writing in English who took our writing to the world and helped place Sri Lankan writing in English on the global literary map. The singularity of her personality and poetic vision will remain unmatched. Her passing also marks the passing of a generation that experienced 1983 as a defining moment in the postcolonial history of this country and a generation that was mature enough to craft an enduring literary-cultural legacy out of this trauma. But knowing Jean Aunty, it is not with solemnity and somber reflection she would want to be remembered – rather it would be with the exuberance of her Kindura-like hybrid life. 

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Latest comments

  • 10
    0

    Harshana,

    Thank You for sharing your reminisces.

    May Jean rest in peace.

    • 5
      0

      Harshna Rambukwela

      I had never met Ms.Jean Arasanayagam but have read her fascinating book ‘Peacock &Dreams’.
      After Alagu Subramaniam a versatile writer who many decades ago who wrote subtle and nuanced and satirical stories about Nothern Tamils and their lives and customs, it is she who has written with some degree of authenticity and understanding to give an insight about the
      dynamics of Nothern Tamil culture it’s values and inhibitions.
      Her description about the enigmatic Yogaswamy in her book is in many ways different to the book of ‘Homage’ by Susnaga Weeraperuma to him.
      It is saddening to learn about her demise.
      May she RIP.

      • 4
        0

        Thank you for this review, yes, a wonderful writer and person.

        We need many more voices like Jean’s, who celebrate diversity, hybridity and humanity.

  • 6
    0

    A wonderful tribute. As someone interested in post-colonial studies You have wetted my appetite to discover ‘Aunty Jean’s’ writing. Thank you.

  • 4
    0

    A fine tribute to a fine literary figure.
    I remember the Arasanayagams at Peradeniya. They were both in the English[ or sub dept?] dept. Arasa had long hair and longer strides,and both would alight from the bus and head towards the Dept; like rushing for the train! The 1983 saga has not spared even them: Sad.They were both on a totally different plane!
    Rest in Peace J.A.

  • 4
    1

    Beautiful review. I have never met this lady

    • 6
      0

      A tribute to Jean Solomons Arasanayagam ( JA) from a student
      As she stood in front of Grade 9 English class, “Deep Silence invaded the school building in Novalepki Street, …beneath the stone pediment carved in Russian Letters ‘High School for Boys’….” this was in 1962 January, it echoes in my ears as if it was yesterday. This is the first sentence from Madam Curie life story written by Eve Curie. The voice that echoes is that of Jean A
      Then again in 1963 my class room Jean was the English teacher and her voice “Patriotic dreams of glory were ended” from Louise Pasteur Life story first chapter describing Sargent Major Jean Joseph Pasteur
      My recollection is JA joined St Anthony’s College tutorial staff in 1958-59, as a young grad from University of Ceylon. In 1961 she lived in, front room of 396 Katugastota Road Kandy with her newlywed Husband Arasa.
      I was a student bordered at 401, the house in front, on the opposite side of the road.
      In 1962 JA was my English teacher. I still possess my school report book where the remarks column says: 1st Term Mid Term Test – Fair, but Grammar + Spelling poor, JA
      1st Term Test – English is week – must do extra work to improve JA
      2nd Term Mid Term Test –Is improving JA
      2nd Term Test – Has Improved JA
      Now I am retired and live in Tasmania, went to see JA in 2017 March, of course I didn’t forget to take my treasured Report book with me. That was 50 years since I left school. It was surprising JA and Arasa, both could remember and recollect many things about me…..Continue

      • 6
        0

        Continued….
        When I showed the report book, JA was shocked to see the 1st remark but was very delighted to see the last ones.
        Many of her past students visited her that day and JA was very happy to see all of us and said it is her “Special College Day”
        She gave me a copy of her “Murals” and “A Nice Burger Girl”. And she gifted me another book Sinhala Poetry in Translation by Ranjini Obeyesekare
        I treasure both these books, same as my “Report Book” with JA’s remarks.
        It is a privilege to have had her as my English Teacher in Grade 9
        Sisira Weragoda
        Student SAC 1955-66

  • 4
    0

    May Jean’s soul rest in peace. Bensen

  • 5
    1

    Harshana,
    Though I am an avid reader particular of literature and have had heard a lot about Jean, must confess that never read her. This beautifully written highly readable tribute of yours really whetted my appetite to reach Jean’s writing instantly- many thanks. Just now downloaded her “All is Burning” to my Kindle e-reader.

    Regards
    Maximus Jayantha Anandappa

  • 5
    0

    Charming tribute, Harshana – and in such rich, touching prose. In the Lankan
    context English united us – as it did that great and diverse sub-continent across
    the Straits. While India managed to keep her links and retain the language – despite
    more strident pseudo-nationalistic political attacks, we went under to the atavistic
    influence of bogus nationalism. Our slide in this area from 1956 continues – despite the
    desperate efforts to resuscitate the damage in recent years- at such great cost.

    I did not personally know the Arasanayagams – I wish I did. However, their contribution to English Literature is part of recent Lankan literary history – that benefitted us all. BTW, why do I associate the Arasanayagams with Wattala and her poem about a Jambu Tree in the 7/83 context?

    R. Varathan

  • 4
    19

    A typically bad example of so-called ‘appreciations’ of dead people that appear in our media these days, followed by the hackneyed news item headed ” so and so is no more”.
    /
    The type of sentiment and image developed during growing up as a neighbour to somebody does not form a strong enough basis to evaluate somebody’s life in terms of itsvirtues, ability, competence or decency in terms of contribution to society as a human being..
    (This is not to say that Jean Solomons was a bad person), just to drive the point using this example.
    /
    If such flowery, shallow appreciations come from so-called professors, what hope does the rest of the country has?
    /
    We need to lift our game in all areas, including writing appreciations of dead people.

    • 13
      1

      Suranjith,
      Remember this note is only a tribute- not meant to be a critical assessment of her works. Why are you so annoyed and sceptical?

      JAY

    • 9
      1

      Suranjith Bandara,
      Are you offended with Harshana because he has discussed the atrocities committed by the Sinhala people in 1983 July riots? I don’t know why?
      A Gypsy

      • 1
        5

        Tribal loyalties seem to demand that any tribute to a tribal member (Solomons conveniently become an Arasanayagam in this case!) should be placed on a pedestal, according to colonialist traditions the Galagedara.mulatto is trying to keep alive.
        /
        But truth and the great Kandyan tradition prevails despite tribal parangi abuse.

    • 6
      1

      It is a mystery as to why nobody has cared to mention Jean’s winning of the much touted Gratiaen Prize for 2017.
      /
      Have we lost our admiration of this prize and recognition of its winners as ‘bees knees’ of tribal English writing in Sri Lanka?
      /
      What a pity!

    • 10
      1

      Suranjith,

      you pathetic, disgruntled, pitiful, wretched, contemptible, miserable, undignified human being.
      What kind of evil is lurking in the Dark Corners of Your Mind?

      As Prof. Higgins told Eliza Doolittle, “even the Angels in Heaven will weep for you”

      Go back and crawl under the rock you came out of.. and remain there!!

    • 4
      0

      Every now and then someone like Suranjith Bandara will come along, mean-spirited and curmudgeonly, with a sad and inappropriate comment. Harshana has written a perfectly acceptable tribute, honest, first-hand and sincere.

  • 8
    0

    I had the blessing of being under the tutelage of both Arasu and Jean at St. Anthony’s College, Kandy. I can vouch for their dedication in pushing the use of the English language in our rebellious class. The end result being, every single student in the class passing GCE-OL in English.
    Being of a rebellious in nature and with a “smart-alec” attitude I remember vividly, her outsmarting me on one occasion. As she walked into the class inquiring “what are we going to do today?” I whispered “nothing.” And I saw her “not so pleased” face staring at me speaking in a stern voice; “Lakshaman, remember that I can lip read.” That silenced me for a while.
    I don’t consider myself a scholar in English. The level of the use of the language I now practice, to Arasu and Jean, I am grateful.

  • 8
    0

    A beautiful tribute. Thank you for giving something precious to read.

  • 7
    1

    Thanks Harshna for that tale of a writer. But also painful to note how our so-called nationalistic rabid racism propagated by many that led to the present day chaos and how we have lost very many capable people. But did the racists realise the damage they have done? Have they learnt any lesson? If so this curse wont be still haunting and ruining Lanka and racism has become an important key word for political and various other evil schemes. Many countries have progressed by leaps and bounds. In many countries political agenda is based on development and humanity and quality of life but in lanka still it is naked, rabid racism. Now that the so-called worthless elections are round the corner only policy issue is Rabid Racism and hatred and so-called superiority of one race over other. Worst tragedy is the Buddhist Monks who are on a rampage to see that blood of the innocent flows freely in Lanka. But who cares? Do the politicians and the bogus patriots think of the country or to grab power by hook or crook. As it stands we have no future. Only way is to start from beginning while erasing the past. We have lost so many capable people owing to this racism and what more to expect.

  • 6
    0

    Thanks Harshana! A fine tribute to her. I had a chance to talk to them in few occasions. A great humble couple.

  • 7
    0

    Jean has done a great service to the Jaffna Tamil community by recording their Hindu culture and customs for posterity.I am proud to say that I have been in touch with her for 65 years!

  • 8
    0

    Prof. Harshana Rambukwella,
    Thank you for your appreciation of this lady – I had not heard of before. That is purely due to my own ignorance and my dissociation with every thing Sri Lankan – due to my bitterness with the way the country was spiraling down the precipice.
    In my retirement – after living overseas forty years – I have taken an interest in post independence Sri Lankan history and have been reading and researching materials I can lay my hands on.

    I am touched by the anecdotes you recount from your personal relationship with this Sri Lankan literary giant , who happened to be your neighbor. You were blessed to have had a professional relationship with this lady as well. Your undiluted expression of your heartfelt feelings arsing from these two relationships says it all.

    It is heartwarming, that in spite of 1958, 1977, 1983 and a thirty year civil conflict, people like you still hold views that are positive and encouraging – that there can be lasting peace and communal harmony in Sri Lanka.

    Your tribute has directed me to another treasure trove of poems and writings that I would like to explore as part of my research. Thank you.

    May She Rest in Peace.

  • 6
    0

    What a fine tribute to this lady. I never met her but I have enjoyed some of her poems

    ‘And what of the little tailor and his wife
    living in the shanty below the bridge,
    they had better sew themselves new skins
    or take to cutting shrouds’

    from A country at War

    How many ‘little tailors’ we know, sinhalese, tamils, muslims. Small insignificant people, just trying to make end meet. It is they who are engulfed in the flames while the ministers pontificate.

  • 5
    0

    Thanks Harshana for a fine tribute to Jean, poet I admire and love so much although I haven’t met her and other family members. I haven’t read Mr Arasanayagam and Parvathi’s literary works but read most of Jean’s poems. Interviews by Rajiva Wijesinghe ( can’t remember the date, it may be in his website ) and another one appeared in Madras Hindu of 5th sept 2004 ( P V Sivakumar / Gowri Ramnarayan ) & a write up of 10th August 2004 by Deepa Alexander in the same newspaper, and another write up by Mrs C Ekanayake appeared in Sunday Observer of August 2007 reveal many more pages of her deapthness. I possess a copy of Jean’s handwritten short letter of 21st Oct 2008 to a Tamil poet in Colombo whom I knew, in addition to the above three, as a valuable treasure. Thanks again Harshana.

  • 5
    1

    Splendid work Prof. Harshana Rambukwela. All those features that make a learned, cultured, liberal Lankan is so palpable in your rich personal eulogy to a beloved
    friend, neighbour and teacher. But I fear, my friend, you step into the corns of
    many contemporarily politically powerful and influential when you dare write
    “Sri Lanka is a place of many peoples, many cultures and many belongings”
    The Most Worshipful Galagoda Aththe Gnanassara Thera (?) and Co will virulently
    disagree. In their perverted interpretation of history they claim when that great Indian Sage Gauthama Siddhartha, in one of his 3 visits here, bequeathed Lankan Sinhala Buddhists to be the exclusive guardians of the “religion” Whether Buddhists in India, Burma, Thailand and elsewhere have ever heard of this version of history or accept this frivolous claim is another matter. But for the moment the hordes of BBS have hijacked Buddhism. So beware. You might well be the local version of Salman Rushdie – in the eyes of this well-fed Hamuduruwo. More so particularly in a pre-election environment we find ourselves in.

    Kettikarran

  • 3
    1

    Madam Jean, at least you will have eternal peace in heaven without being frightened of day to day existence for the sin of marrying a Tamil.

  • 3
    0

    It is a magnificent tribute to a poet and writer of Sri Lanka by an eminent Professor Harshana. Indian newspaper The Hindu published the sad news and the tribute on the demise of veteran Jean Arasanayagam before any of the Sri Lankan newspapers published. Nevertheless better late than never to give the due respect for her gigantic stature of a great lady. Such noble people are very rare in our country and Jean is indeed a born talent, hence we should give due prominence for people like Jean Arasanayagam as an encouragement for the younger generation. May her soul rest in peace.

  • 3
    7

    Sounds a nice lady who wrote great stories. May she rest in peace. I will look for her books to read. No doubt the  lady’s books give a romanticized version of exclusive life that she felt should belong to all, and sighs in sadness on why it could not be.
    *
    It is seen that she probably belonged to the privileged class that roused up the resentment of the struggling masses.
    *
    For example, the author of this article speaks of her voice booming across bus isles to delve into all aspects of his family life. The boy was embarrassed, but probably in retrospect sees it as an essential and necessary learning challenge of his growing years ( his brain being forced to accept  things that were not natural to his cultural inclinations). Such was the priviledge and confidence of the colonial-descendent lady to act as such.
    *
    Article author also mentions that the husband was high caste Tamil. Now we all know the superiority of the 1-9% Tamil high-caste who wielded on their 91% suffering low-caste masses. Therefore,the two of them  would have had a voracious, jubilant, and exhaulted take on life around them.
    *
    Someone mentioned about them running from the bus (long hair  flying in the wind maybe) to their respective classes. Sad to say that their joie de vivre for life belied the sufferings of the struggling masses.
    *
    No wonder suffering forces of both sides rose up in resentment, which lead to an over 30 year-old deadly war.

    • 4
      0

      RTF
      Your insensitive comments about people whom you do not even know speak volumes about your character.
      There is a lot that people who know can say about her, but not many can match this beautiful tribute to a most dignified female who remained humble even after she won much recognition.

      • 0
        8

        Sigh,…I guess. Sweet innocent lady….innocent couple……but like many of our Burghers and Tamils, they were……Oblivious.

  • 2
    5

    “But the tragic events of Black July and her complex identity as a Burgher woman married to a man from a high caste Tamil Hindu background and how this in turn made her a victim of chauvinist Sinhala nationalist forces….”

    The ” high caste Tamil Hindus” (Vellalars) were discriminating against lower-caste Tamils long before “chauvinist Sinhala nationalist forces” arrived on the scene. One of these lower-caste Tamils was Prabhakaran. By assassinating high-caste leader of the TULF, Amirthalingam, Prabhakaran was able to seize control of the Tamil nationalist movement, propelling the LTTE to full dictatorship status. The Vellalars who controlled the TULF had believed in controlled opposition. They thought they could use the lower-caste “boys” in LTTE, EPRLF, PLOTE, etc. to inflict limited violence on select Sinhalese targets. Obviously, things got out of control after 13 Sinhalese soldiers were killed in 1983. There was no way to control the violence. The Vellalars became victims of their own creations. The LTTE took violence to an entirely new level, and that is why the (Sinhalese) State responded in kind.

    • 5
      0

      Lester,
      Burghers were commonly known as Kerapotha Lansi or Sapathu Parangi or Peethal Parangi by both Sinhalese and Tamils. A “high caste Tamil Hindu” (Vellalar) marrying a Burgher is quite strange. Aunty ramona therese Fernando will explain to you why (in details) even though she feels jealous of the famous Jean Arasanayagam.

      • 0
        6

        Nonsense……the opposite is true. Knowing the Burghers (who were as bad as South Africans Afrikannas), marrying a Tamil was the most shameful thing that could have happened at one time. And how these Tamil fellows came after our fair and pretty Burgher girls! Vellehalas, first in line for they wanted to be fair. Horrified Burgher parents kept mourning the dark-skinned offspring.

        • 5
          0

          Nonsense……the opposite is true. Most of the Burgher parents loved brown skin, they hated being white skinned like a skinned chicken. Most of the “high caste Tamil Hindu” (Vellalar) were already light brown (fair) skinned, example, Sambandan and Wigneswaran (both light brown (fair) skinned high caste Tamil Hindu Vellalar). Horrified Tamil parents kept mourning the boiled chicken skinned Kerapotha Parangi offsprings. Marrying a Parangi was the most shameful thing that could have happened to the high caste Tamil Hindu Vellalar parents. We know that Aunty ramona therese Fernando is a green eyed monster, jealous of famous and successful people like Jean Arasanayagam.

          • 3
            0

            The original South Asian skin colour is Brown (light & dark) and both Sinhalese & Tamils are proud & happy about their brown skin. The Burgher/Parangi skin colour is commonly known as the colour of boiled prawns or skinned chicken. Sinhalese & Tamil parents who are happy with their brown skin will be very unhappy to see their offspring with boiled prawns or skinned chicken coloured skin.

          • 0
            2

            Sambadan and Wigneswaran are fair? Fellows look quite dark-skinned to me. White hair may have lightened them a bit. Burghers on the other hand  were White like their “superior” colonial European ancestors and Tamils especially worshiped them. Burghers of course had no idea what Vellhalas were. They only knew there were weird Tamils who wanted to steal their lovely fair children and stamp potthus on their heads permanently. Oh no, I don’t have your “jealous” Tamil complex that sees things only through caste and affluency, and display any privelege loudly at the expense of fellow struggling humans.

          • 0
            1

            Yeah, wierd looking Tamils (later known as Vellhalas) used to take Burgher children, put potthus on their heads, and worship them as mini-gods. Burgher parents lived in fright. And they were horrified when these very same wierd Tamils came
            in all of their regalia to ask for their fair lovely daughters’ hands. Broomsticks were used to chase them away.

        • 2
          0

          RTF,

          Don’t you know that there are hundreds of Burgher families (nearly 2000) living in the East, particularly in Batticaloa with a blend of Portuguese and Dutch names? Their children study in Tamil medium, they speak fluent Tamil and most of them are intermarried with Batticaloa Tamils. They do not seem to have any issues that you have mentioned here.

          • 0
            1

            E. Guy,
            *
            I am speaking of 50-400 years ago. In this era Tamils forced all to assimilate with them, especially the Burghers. Burghers had no choice because they were a small community. In this era, Tamils created Tamil nationalism (although it was coming up for a longer time), and they started racial tactics of hooting, screaming derogatory terms, and throwing bombs at to other races who they perceived as demeaning and ignoring them. Truth is, if they were comfortable with their own culture, they could have created a better society for themselves without malice.

          • 0
            1

            E. Guy,
            *
            I am speaking of 50-200 years ago. In this era Tamils forced all to assimilate with them, especially the Burghers, as Burghers were a small community. In this era, Tamils created Tamil nationalism (although it was coming up for a longer time), and they started racial tactics of hooting, screaming derogatory terms, and throwing bombs at to other races who they perceived as demeaning and ignoring them. Truth is, if they were comfortable with their own culture, they would have created a better society for themselves without malice.

  • 1
    2

    If he was high caste Wellala as lansi Lester says), he would have never married a Burgher who are considered ‘karapoththas’ by the Vellalar Tamils!

    • 0
      0

      Kerapotha
      The term ‘karapoththa’ is not used by Tamils as muchj as by the urban Sinhalese middle classes.
      Tamils use other less offensive but still derisive terms to refer to Burghers, which I will not give here.
      The complexion of Vellala Tamils is on average darker than that of their Sinhala counterparts. (GGP and Vanniyasingam are among prominennt leaders.) Arasanayagam was not dark though.
      You are perhaps right about the nasty female.
      *
      As for VR’s rather unhealthy comment
      What makes a Vellala (high or low in caste) free of natural instincts. Social pressures deter one from marrying outside the caste. But people do like Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and GGP marring white women. If they were not wealthy, they may have been ostracized.

      • 0
        1

        Hey SJ,
        *
        To get the message across about the struggling masses, one has be delve into the nature of the true situation, and say it as it needs to be said. No use living in oblivion of suffering humans, and then writing accolades about the situation that erupts, in ignorance of why it happened.

        • 2
          0

          Now, what is this nonsense about?
          You never have anything useful to say.
          You are simply NASTY.

          • 1
            1

            Nasty? Nasty was the time 10,000 youth were tortured and killed when the elite refused and relinquish the stolen wealth of the nation. Nasty was the time when 40,000 cast-diminished humans were used as human-shields.

      • 0
        0

        SJ,

        In his writings, Ratnajeevan Hoole said that Ramanathan had a white lady ‘secretary’ who was like a second wife to him. That is probably true. But was GGP ever married to a white woman? I never heard anything like that.

    • 0
      1

      Rasalingam,
      *
      Believe me, in JA’s time, her parents would have been horrified when she married a Tamil. Tamils who used to think they were a big deal in their community, like Vellahala Tamils, used to be spurned by Burgher parents. So they began to come out with all kinds of racial excretions to feel better.

  • 4
    2

    Lester, your thinking is becoming lesser and lesser. If 83 was spontaneous and being a Monday how did the Sinhala goons running around with the list or Tamil homes. Cyril Mathew and his goons were waiting for a chance to start. Vellala view may be true but they never meant violence. Caste system was part of Brahmanism. But how about the later arrival sinhalas and they too have caste system. So Lester, bottom line, you guys are violent by nature being originated from the wild lion. Hope you won’t dare to dispute your very sacred history.

    • 4
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      Nathan, you can deny all you want. But it was the Vellalars who created the LTTE, not the Sinhalese. Vellalars were dominant in Jaffna, they owned 95% of the land, most of the water resources, most of the newspapers, controlled the economy, ran the temples etc. Those from Jaffna who went to university were mostly Vellalars. On this website, Ratnajeevan Hoole has written that he is unable to secure a senior position at the Jaffna U even today, despite being highly qualified. The reason being that he is a Christian. The Vellalars received various privileges from the British, such as cozy jobs in the civil service and easy access to the university, while the majority Sinhalese-Buddhist were discriminated against. This is why they (Vellalars) wanted 50-50 and federalism after 1948, to protect their own privileges and ensure the caste structure remained intact. They were never discriminated against by the Sinhala-Buddhists. Making Sinhalese an official language and using standardization to give rural students access to higher education are not discrimination.

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    Lester, making standardisation on language basis and rural student basis indeed not discrimination to sinhalese but it is discrimination to tamils. You prop up sinhala students at the cost of tamil students. This is not confined to university but to every walks in life. Coming to R.Hoole, well he always bites more than what he could chew. He is not favoured not because of his religion but his big mouth, hasty opinions and warped thinking. He sees ghosts all around him all the time. He is a well known trouble maker and he disturbs the system instead of promoting and thus better option is to avoid him. The so-called Highly educated label does not mean anything, my dear Lester. This is very basic. Education, qualification, knowledge, etc is just useless unless one is intelligent with the ability to think rationally and logically with a searching mind. Hoole runs into hasty conclusions, anyone who jumps into conclusion have their minds shut and no room for thinking further. Lester, in many countries this so-called highly educated kathawa does not hold water and they go by ones ability to think rationally and how one could solve problems logically and sensibly and not by this list of qualifications. These guys with long list are mere theoretical fellows without the ability to analyse. I hope you are one of them who lost the ability to think or learn or understand. Your lob sided argument without focusing on the core issue itself prove what I say. Vellala is a dominant caste and that had been there for thousands and thousands of years and it has plus and minuses. Only the time will decide and already there are social changes so do not jump the gun. Less and less understood Lester, for heaven sake make it clear that ONLY the Sinhala Unfair, Rabid and Violent Racism that led to LTTE.

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      Many countries have policies similar to standardization. In India, it is called “reservation.” Low-caste Dalits are given a certain % of seats in education and politics. In North America, it is called “affirmative action.” Women and minorities are given preference in employment and education. Nothing is wrong with Sinhala-Only. The majority of people in the country, more than 85%, speak Sinhala. There is no reason to make any other language an official language. You are missing the point about caste discrimination. With or without Sinhalese, Prabhakaran would have overthrown the caste system. Killing the Velllala leaders of the TULF (Amirthalingam, Duriappah, etc.) was the first step. These Vellala leaders were not interested in a revolution; they wanted to keep the caste system going and make sure Vellalalas filled civil service positions. That is why they waited till 1976 for the Vaddukodai Resolution. Before 1976, they were only asking for nonsense such as 50-50 and district development council’s (DDC’s). Vellalas wanted a Tamil state with the caste structure intact, run by Vellalalas. VP wanted a Marxist, apartheid Tamil Eelam. VP assassinated the Prime Minister of India as part of his efforts; no Vellala leader would have taken that step.

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        Lester,

        You have got it all wrong. VP never articulated any Marxist ideas. The LTTE killed many serious Marxists among Tamils. He was a Tamil nationalist with a centrist economic mindset. His assassination of RG was based on pure revenge, and perhaps an irrational fear that RG would come back to power and intervene in SL again to destroy the LTTE leadership, but it was not part of some grand game plan.

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    Reading through all these comments reminds me of a flock of vultures feasting on a carcass!The whole point of Prof Harshana Rambukwella’s article was to appreciate and pay his tribute to a gracious lady whose talents were recognized worldwide.Indeed she brought honour to our country.But what do we get? Vultures who use pseudonyms to hide behind to serve their personal agendas.Is it necessary to bring up caste and race issues and worse still make personal disparaging references to Jean’ family?To what low levels can we descend! This is disgraceful. I am ashamed to call you my countrymen.Jean my friend Rest in Peace.

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      Jean Arasanayagam’s writings are based on personal experience. She failed to see the wider picture of our land. She does no honor our country through her lack of understanding for our struggling masses. Prof Rambukwella’s appreciation of her only invokes smug foreign forces intent on dividing us.

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      She does no honor to our country through her lack of understanding for our struggling masses. *

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    For goodness sake Jean was a writer and a poet.As such she could write anything she wanted to and felt strongly about.. Surely you know she was not a journalist who was expected to report accurately

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      Yes, but her writings are being used for the political purpose of making the struggling masses look like the villains. Or another way of keeping the elites in their cozy spots.

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        Little wonder that you are a confused Trump supporter.

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          Agnos,
          *
          No. Not confused at all. Things must be seen in a wider scale. For example, whilst Trump builds the wall, separates children from parents, rounds up illegals, panders to the far-right base, speaks with uncaring, undignified rhetoric (albeit most of it being exaggerated by the Democratics, compared to what previous presidents did), he is yet balancing out the global monetary trade patterns and system in far more far-thinking ways. None of the bombings of other countries by previous admins. are taking place. He is actually communicating and negotiating with the enemy (although the Dems. call that engaging). And all the while he is working with troubled spots of the world like Guatemala and Mexico and actually attempting to fix their broken system.

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    Being an “outsider”, mourning over the loss of a life long friend, I’m appalled to see some of the follow up comments on Mr. Rambukwellas original tribute.

    What a disgraceful way to force yourself into this sad moment. All you can contribute with is your negative bias, even claiming that this is a noble class/cast war, it is not – on the contrary!

    Your biggest assets seems to be that you obviously don’t know anything about Jean Arasanaygams writings – if this is the general basics for your statements – not knowing what you are talking about, silence would be to prefer!

    The world, including your own, will do much better without your shrilling voice.

    Shame on you!

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    Being an “outsider” myself, mourning over the loss of a life long friend, I’m appalled to see some of the follow up comments to Mr. Rambukwellas original tribute.

    What a disgraceful way to force yourself into this sad moment. All you contribute with is negative bias, even trying to make it look, that it is part of a noble class war, it is not – on the contrary!

    Your biggest assets seems to be that you obviously don’t know anything about J. Arasanaygams writings – I presume this is a general picture of your overall statements – not knowing what you are talking about, hence silence would be to prefer!

    The world, including your own, will do much better without your shrilling voice.

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      Michk,
      *
      This is not a memorial service of her peers. This is a public forum open for public commenting. I’ve read her writings briefly, and they are being used to further the elite political cause. My comments are indeed part of the noble class war and this is the very time they should be said, before the sentimentalized olden time of colonial wealth and caste system wealth is recreated at the expense of the struggling masses. Abusive ad hominem towards me the commentator is but mere sourness on your part.

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    A fine tribute to a great Sri Lankan writer and poet. I recall reading her poem ‘Nallur’ in the 1980’s.
    I believe her husband taught English freshmen in the Engineering and Science faculties at Peradeniya.

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