A Pledge Song for Eelam from Tamil Poet Laureate Kannadasan
by Sachi Sri Kantha
[Originally appeared in
the Hot Spring, Jan-Feb.2000]
For millions of Tamils who are over 40, numerous movie lyrics of Tamil poet laureate Kannadasan (1927-1981) provided special delight in times of happiness and solace in times of sorrow. When Kannadasan wrote lyrics for action-oriented movies of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran (MGR; 1917-1987), in 1950s and 1960s, there was undoubtedly an extraordinary ‘punch’ in his lines to provide courage and uplifting spirit to the masses who struggled with daily chores.
in real life had vibrant streaks of friendship and infrequent spats as
well. But both, each blessed with strong individuality, recognized and
respected each one’s talent. Among the dozens of songs which fill my
memories, I have a fondness to the following song which appeared in
MGR’s movie Nadodi. For the movie, MGR lip-synched this song
with a harmonium hanging around his neck. In my opinion, this song of
Kannadasan has unequal merits as the pledge song for Eelam.
Kannadasan’s play on the word ‘Naadu’ (both its noun form
and the verb form) is indeed a beauty.
Peering into the Future
I predict that Eelam will
be a reality in the first quarter of the 21st Century (before
Prabhakaran reaches 70 years). Whether it will happen before the year
2010 or after, depends on multiple geo-political factors. To illustrate
with a chemistry principle, a set of factors functioning as catalysts
can bring out a quick completion of a reaction. In my opinion, the
second and third generation of Tamils who are currently growing up in
the USA, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Australia and other European
nations can (and should) function as catalysts to influence the policies
of their adopted nations.
Let us learn from a page in
the history of the 20th century. Israel became a reality for
Jews in 1948, largely because of the influence wielded by the second and
third generation American Jews (whose parents and grandparents escaped
from the pogroms in European and Russian ghettos). Since the times of
Harry Truman, the Jewish interests (in academic, business, bureaucratic
and Hollywood circles) have made sure that American politicians support
the birth and sustenance of Israel.
Thus, it is the duty of
those who have settled now in affluent nations to instill the message of
Tamil heritage to their offsprings and grandchildren. Of course, there
are many methods to provide such instruction. I wish to propose one song
which can serve as a pledge song for Eelam Tamils in the diaspora.
In the mid 1960s, long
before the struggle for Eelam was in the thoughts of Sri Lankan Tamils,
Kannadasan, the uncrowned poet laureate of Tamils, penned a lyric to one
of MGR’s movies, aptly named Nadodi (The Vagabond). The word Nadodi
itself is an apt one to describe the status of the Tamils who left their
ancestral land, though one need not interpret it in a derisive context.
Kannadasan’s poignant song began with the lines,
Naadu – athai Naadu –
athai naadaa viddaal, ethu Veedu?
In a play on the word Naadu,
which means ‘homeland’ (as a noun) and ‘reach the goal’ (as a
verb), Kannadasan superbly highlighted the folk wisdom that one’s real
heaven (home) is in his or her homeland.
Even when I hum the lines
of this particular lyric, I’m still astounded by Kannadasan’s
mastery of thoughts, words and vision, and he wrote these lines for MGR
to mouth these lines (actually sung by T.M.Soundararajan) in that movie.
The Tamil poet laureate stressed it to us, that ‘even if our homeland
is a desert, let us have boundaries with rock and mountains. There are
rivers which flow into the fields, and lets be proud of our heroic
traditions.’ [The original lines are as follows:]
Paalaivanam enra pothum Nam
Paarai Malai kooda Nam ellai
Aaru Nilam Paainthu
Veera Samuthayame Engal
The next four lines of this
lyric also shows that Kannadasan had anticipated the emergence of Tamil
Tigers, a decade ahead. One can call it as a poet’s flight of fancy
for word play or premonition to things to follow. But, these lines
glitter like gems, and need no further explanation from me.
Pasi enru Varuvoorku
Pahaivar Muham Paarthu
Nilathil Uyir Vaithu Urimai
Ethirthu Varuvorai Urama
The poet has noted, ‘We
will provide food for those who come with hunger; to our adversaries, we
turn into tigers; We will cherish our dear land, and will turn enemies
into fertilizers for our land.’
It is my view that the
brothers and sisters who have stayed in Eelam have been doing their
share in turning the last three lines of Kannadasan’s vision into
reality. Those of us who have left Eelam and living elsewhere should
contribute to make Kannadasan’s line ‘Pasi enru Varuvoorku
Virunthaha Maarum’, a reality.
June 10, 2003