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Cheran Tamil

Cheran, one of the best known and widely influential of Tamil poets, was born in 1960 in the sea-side village of Alaveddy, near Jaffna, in Sri Lanka. His father, T. Rudhramurthy, (1927-71) known widely as 'Mahakavi', the Great Poet, was one of the leading literary figures in modern Tamil writing from Sri Lanka. Cheran grew up with a grounding in the Tamil classics, but from his early years, he also became familiar with the works of the younger, left-leaning poets who frequented their house. He graduated from Jaffna University with a degree in Biological Sciences. These were the years when ethnic conflict and civil unrest in Sri Lanka spread alarmingly. The Tamil people were outraged when Sinhala policemen set fire to the Jaffna Public Library in 1981 destroying over 95,000 books, some of them irreplaceable; but what followed was possibly even worse. In July 1983 one of the worst pogroms against the Tamils began in Colombo and spread all over Sri Lanka. After this there were acts of violence and atrocities which were experienced daily by the Tamils.

In 1984 Cheran joined the staff of the Saturday Review, an English language weekly that was known for its stand on press freedom, and fundamental rights and justice for minorities. As a poet and a political journalist, Cheran refused to align himself with any of the several Tamil militant groups that were active in Jaffna at the time. As a result he was harassed both by the Sri Lankan army and, later, by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). He left for the Netherlands in 1987 where he completed a Masters degree in Development Studies. Returning to Colombo two and a half years later, he helped to start the Tamil newspaper, Sarinihar, published by the Movement for Inter-Racial Justice and Equality. He was advised to leave the country yet again, in 1993. Cheran went to Toronto, Canada where he completed his PhD. He is now an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada. His academic interests focus on the study of ethnicity, identity, migration and international development. Side by side with his academic career, he has continued to write his poetry and to contribute to literary and political journals.

Cheran's early poems, 1975-2000 were collected under the title Nii Ippozhudhu Irangum Aaru (The River into Which You Now Descend) (Nagercoil: Kalcchuvadu, 2000). This was followed by Miindum Kadalukku (Once Again the Sea) (Nagercoil: Kalachuvadu, 2004) and Kaadaatru (Forest-Healing) (Nagercoil: Kalachuvadu, 2011). In addition to these books, he co-edited, along with three others, a landmark anthology of Tamil political poetry, Maranatthul Vaazhvoom (We Will Live Amidst Death) (Coimbatore: Vidiyal, 1985). Some of his most recent academic publications include The Sixth Genre: Memory, History and the Tamil Diaspora Imagination (Colombo: Marga Institute, 2001); History and the Imagination: Tamil Culture in the Global Context, co-edited with Darshan Ambalavanar and Chelva Kanaganayakam (Toronto: TSAR publications, 2007); New Demarcations: Essays in Tamil Studies, co-edited with Darshan Ambalavanar and Chelva Kanaganayakam (Toronto: Canadian Scholars' Press, 2008) and Pathways of Dissent: Tamil Nationalism in Sri Lanka (ed.) (New Delhi: Sage, 2009).