The Forgotten Tamils of Sri Lanka
SARANAM by Gopal Gandhi Affiliated East-West Press, Pvt. Ltd, Madras, 1987, 184 pp., 40.00
July-August 1987, volume 11, No 4

My earliest political education was from the poet Subrahmanya Bharati. A line of his that was for ever on my lips as a boy runs, in inadequate translation, thus: ‘You sure have heard, Oh: You wind, The stifled sobs of men and women, weary of limb and of spirit In the tea gardens of Sri Lanka.’
(In the original Tamil, you can actually hear the sobs.) The first few pages of Gandhi’s novel, describing with deadpan precision its locale, the Craigavon Estate of tea and rubber plantations in Southwest Ceylon, brought back to me with a stab of painful memory this long forgotten line: Every morning, after the conch-blown siren call, the lines poured themselves out in the shape of tea-pluckers, pruners, manurers, weed-removers and rubber tappers—the estate’s faceless work force. The estate then became a hive of humming activity….

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