Sunday, 17 March 2013

Porum Valiyum (War and Pain)

Porum Valiyum (War and Pain) - by Savitri Advithanandhan is a collection of short stories, based on real incidents happened during the Sri Lanka - LTTE war which had lasted for almost three decades.

The book's introduction is left blank awaiting completion from the late LTTE leader Prabhakaran. In the place of introduction there is a photo of Prabhakaran with a map of the Tamil Eelam in the background (Unlike the photo in this link, the book shows only the Eelam boundary) with a note 'munnurai ethirparpudan' (introduction expecting). The book also has a foreword with a quote from Kirupanandha Variyar on Prabhakaran and promises that Prabhakaran would resurface alive again like the way he did in 88/89 when there were reports that he was dead.

The book has been published in Tamil Nadu by Cheran - a prominent Tamil movie director. Apparently Cheran was so touched by reading these stories and wanted to publish the book himself, hence started a publishing house. This is the first publication from the house. It is a bit surprising that the book has been published in Tamil Nadu first and not in any of the European countries (where there is a significant Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora) in spite of the author herself being from London. Also surprisingly a book about Sri Lankan Tamils' pain and struggle carries no foreword from any of the Sri Lankan Tamils. Probably the book is targeted at Indian Tamils?

Each chapter in the book starts with a quote from world 'leaders' which includes some of the ruthless dictators like Che, Mao and Prabhakaran himself.  The quotes are of revolutionary theme and advocates struggle for freedom until death.

Though the book is titled as war and pain, it doesn't depict the horrors of the war from a neutral stand. The book is more about the sufferings of the Tamils and glorifies LTTE on every possible opportunity. No story goes without mentioning the sacrifices of the LTTE and their struggle for free Eelam. Even while writing on the July 23rd 1983 attack on the army patrol by LTTE, which eventually triggered a series of atrocities against Tamils, the author plays down LTTE's role by indicating that the attack was used only as an excuse to target Tamils.

In one of the stories, the author narrates emotionally how the Tamils were forced to vacate their homes within a short notice by the Sri Lankan Army, but fails to mention about the 70,000 odd Muslims expelled in a similar way by the LTTE from the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. Similarly other incidents like the massacre of Sri Lankan Police officers and the bombing of Central Bank by LTTE has no mention whatsoever. It appears that these events have been conveniently overlooked. Because of this selective story telling, one can't avoid the feeling that 'Porum Valiyum' is biased and doesn't give the full picture.

Though the stories depict the horrors of the war, a war's effect on civilians and how it has caused irreversible damage for generations to come, the one-sidedness of these stories and the explicit praise for the tigers could make a reader with a neutral stand uncomfortable. Also in every other story, either the protagonist or his/her family member is a LTTE cadre or related to LTTE. If this is indeed true, then it blurs the distinction between Tamil civilians and Tamil armed forces and makes it more difficult to empathize with them, especially when LTTE is proscribed as a terrorist organisation in 32 countries.1

These shortcomings in the stories could prevent the book from reaching a wider audience and limit itself to staunch LTTE supporters and those who are looking for another military solution. For the rest, who are hoping for a relatively peaceful political solution to end this conflict, the book will be only a disappointment.

1.LTTE - Wikipedia

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