The Worthy Life of D. Sivaram (1959-2005)

by Sachi Sri Kantha

For quantitative evaluation, the creativity of individuals can be scaled under three categories.  These are, (1) ample quantity without quality, (2) ample quality without quantity, and (3) ample quality and quantity. 

In the field of journalism, where Dharmaretnam Sivaram [aka, Taraki by his nom de plume] made his reputation, individuals belonging to the first category – ample quantity without quality - form the majority and I need not mention names.  In the fields of poetry and music, those belonging to the second category – ample quality without quantity - are also represented.  Among those who enriched Tamil literature, one can cite singer S.G.Kittappa (1905? – 1933) and poet Pattukottai Kalyanasundaram (1930-1959) as belonging to this group.  Premature death due to disease, accident, homicide or suicide are the contributing causes for this second category.

Those making their grade in the third category – ample quality and quantity - are the trend-setters who will be remembered by history. 

Where does D.Sivaram - whose untimely, tragic death on April 29, 2005 saddened Sri Lankans - contributions fit in the three categories?  In my evaluation, Sivaram’s journalistic contributions to Tamil welfare in the print media for the past 15 years make him a sure nominee into the third category because he educated the average Tamils on the intricacy of military affairs by his lucid commentaries.  However, his murder also places him in a slot in the second category - of ample quality without quantity -, if one thinks of how much Sivaram could have contributed to electronic journalism and the academic literature on Eelam Tamil history, politics and militancy of the 20th century. 

One of Sivaram’s predecessors among the Tamil literati who belongs to both the second and third categories of the creativity assessment scale was the great poet Subramanya Bharathi (1882-1921).

That Sivaram contributed lucid commentaries representing Eelam Tamil nationalism for the past 15 years is known to all.  But, his only major study [to my knowledge, that is] on Tamil militarism appeared as a lengthy eleven part essay in the now defunct Lanka Guardian journal edited by Mervyn de Silva, from May to November, 1992.  For some reason which I cannot fathom now I have long felt that even that lengthy series was terminated without a proper closure.  Maybe Sivaram was distracted by his other professional commitments.  Maybe, since 1992 was the year when coverage on the Rajiv Gandhi assassination trial was topical, the page space in the Lanka Guardian issues [a slim pages per issue] was at a premium then.  Even if that series by Sivaram came to a premature closure, one should give credit that Mervyn de Silva thought it apt to print Sivaram’s studious analysis on the vibrancy of Tamil militarism.  Here are the individual segments from Sivaram’s lengthy study, as it appeared in the Lanka Guardian issues at that time.

1. Tamil militarism: Origins and dispersion in South India and Sri Lanka, Lanka Guardian, May 1, 1992, pp.7-8 and 11 (with foot notes 1 to 13).

2. Tamil military castes. Lanka Guardian, May 15, 1992, pp.17-19 (with foot notes 14 to 28).

3. The code of suicide. Lanka Guardian, June 1, 1992, pp.13-15 and 24 (with foot notes 1 to 7).

4. Militarism and caste in Jaffna. Lanka Guardian, July 1, 1992, pp.9-10 and 14 (without foot notes).

5. The suppression of Tamil military castes. Lanka Guardian, July 15, 1992, pp.15-16 (without foot notes).

6. Bishop Caldwell and the Tamil Dravidians. Lanka Guardian, August 1, 1992, pp.11-12 and 24 (with one foot note).

7. The Tamil Soldier and the Dravidian Diaspora. Lanka Guardian, August 15, 1992, pp.12-13 and 28 (with 5 foot notes).

8. The Twin Narratives of Tamil Nationalism. Lanka Guardian, September 1, 1992, pp.10-12 (without foot notes).

9. [Subramanya] Bharathy and the Legitimation of Militarism. Lanka Guardian, October 1, 1992, pp.6-8 (with 5 references).

10. Warrior Sons and Mothers. Lanka Guardian, November 1, 1992, pp.17-18 and 20 (with 5 foot notes).

11. The Legend of Cheran Senguttuvan. Lanka Guardian, November 15, 1992, pp.15-16 (without foot notes).

During its six month ‘run’, Sivaram’s analysis also received critical comments from five Lanka Guardian readers, including me.  The correspondents and their critical notes appeared as follows:

1. M.Raja Jogananthan: Militarism & caste. Lanka Guardian, July 15, 1992, p.16.

2. Sachi Sri Kantha: Prabhakaran’s mentors. Lanka Guardian, August 1, 1992, p.2.

3. R.B.Diulweva: Martial Tamils. Lanka Guardian, September 1, 1992, p.24.

4. C.R.A.Hoole: Tamil military caste. Lanka Guardian, September 15, 1992, p.12.

5. T.Vanniasingham: Maravar militarism. Lanka Guardian, October 15, 1992, p.21.

In his foot-notes in the series, Sivaram answered two of his critics, namely Raja Jogananthan and Diulweva.  Though he did not directly answer to my criticism on the omission of M.G.Ramachandran’s (MGR) contributions in the Tamil movies of late 1940s to whole of 1950s, as inspiration for martial talent among young Eelam Tamils in his first three segments of the series, it was evident that Sivaram had accepted and accomodated my criticism and incorporated references to MGR in the published 8th and 11th (and final) segments.  This is a note-worthy skill of a sincere scholar.  In the 11th segment, Sivaram referred to poet Kannadasan’s inspirational lyrics written for MGR in the movie Mannathi Mannan;

Achcham enpathu Madamaiyada – Anjaamai Dravidar Udamaiyada

Aarilum Saavu Noorilum Saavu – Thayakam kaapathu Kadamaiyada

In English translation,

"Cowardice is but foolishness – Courage is a trait of Dravidars

Whether death is at six or hundred – Protecting the motherland is a Duty"

Sivaram has proved in life and in his courageous death that he lived to emulate the words penned by poet Kannadasan.  This is no mean achievement.  To celebrate Sivaram’s worthy life, I’ll shortly prepare his lengthy essay of 1992 and the comments of the five correspondents on this essay, for the electronic record.  He deserves it.

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Posted May 2, 2005