31 Oct 2011

Speaking in Tongues: Part 2

Kavyan Writers and Kavyan Writings

It was not until the late 1990’s that the group of Malaysian Indian writers realised that something really has to be done to identify ourselves in the Malaysian literary scene as “Malaysian Indian writers” and “Malaysian writers” – not merely “Non-Malay writers”.

Though several efforts were made since 1995, the group began to solidify only after August 1999 when “Kumpulan Sasterawan Kavyan” (Kavyan Writers’ Group) – better known as “Kavyan” – was founded. Through continuous effort and campaign, Kavyan has made it clear to most people that “Malaysian Indian Writers” are not mere “Non-Malay Writers”.

Today, Malaysian Indian writers have reached another milestone in the history of Bahasa Malaysia literature. Kavyan is vigorously promoting the term “Sasterawan Kavyan” (Kavyan Writers) since July 2004 to refer to Malaysian Indian writers writing in Bahasa Malaysia, and “Sastera Kavyan” (Kavyan Writings) to refer to Bahasa Malaysia works produced by this specific group.

But, then, there would still be Malaysian Indian writers who prefer “Non-Malay Writers” to “Kavyan Writers”, “Sastera Melayu” (Malay Literature) to “Sastera Kavyan” (Kavyan Writings) and “Bahasa Melayu” (Malay Language) to “Bahasa Malaysia”.

Very Much Malaysian

One might think that Kavyan Writers are very much Indian oriented or, worse, not “Malaysian” in culture and ideology. The fact is, Kavyan Writers are very much Malaysian at heart and this reveals itself in Kavyan Writings. Kavyan Writers are perhaps the bridges that connect Malaysians to Malaysians. The “Non-Indian” readers get a chance to understand the Malaysian Indian culture, beliefs etc. Since Kavyan Writings are in Bahasa Malaysia, it can be read – and understood and appreciated – by anyone who understands the language. Not to mention that many young Malaysian Indians are more proficient in Bahasa Malaysia than in, say, Tamil.

A look into stories written by Kavyan Writers would clearly show that these stories provide a platform for readers not only to understand Malaysian Indian culture, but also the multiracial Malaysian culture. Saroja Theavy’s Gemerlapan (Shining) and Keinginan Kecil di Celah Daun (A Small Wish Between the Leaves), and my Orang Dimensi (Dimentional People), Siru Kambam (Small Village), Surat Dari Madras (Letter from Madras), Nayagi (Heroine), Sasterawan Pulau Cinta (The Laureate of the Love Island), Rudra Avatara (The Tenth Incarnation of Lord Shiva) and Kathakali (The Kathakali Dancer) are good examples to show how Kavyan Writers are able to capture and portray “Bangsa Malaysia” (Malaysians) in “Bahasa Malaysia”.

A Handful of Kavyan Writers

There aren’t many Malaysian Indian writers who write in Bahasa Malaysia. Some names have only appeared once or twice in the media. Some write for the fun of it, some solely for contests, some for the money, some for the love of writing, some to become famous, some to show off, and some write because they actually have something to write.

It is also interesting to note that many Kavyan Writers prefer to write “cerpen” (cerita pendek; short stories) compared to novels, poems and articles. Some of the well-known Kavyan Writers are Bathmavathi Krishnan, M. Mahendran, S.G. Prabhawathy, Retna Devi Balan, Saroja Theavy Balakrishnan, V. Siva Rubini, Srivali Seeridaram and Vijayaletchumy Vellasamy.

Bathmavathi writes “cerpen” (short stories), Mahendran writes in Bahasa Malaysia and Tamil, Prabhawathy is an English language teacher who writes stories, poems and articles in Bahasa Malaysia, Retna too writes all three from her new home in Chennai, Saroja is better known as a “cerpenis” (short story writer) though she also wrote poetry and a yet-to-be-published novel, Rubini is more into articles, Srivali used to write “cerpen” and Vijaya writes in Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and English. – To be continued tomorrow [HERE]