Man of Pakistani origin makes waves as Tamil poet
By Rizwan Khatik - Sat Dec 31, 12:17 pm
Tall and fair with a stubble and betel stained teeth, Razak is every inch a Memon, who no one would associate with Tamil poetry at first glance.
But he has managed to break into a literary circle which has been the close preserve of ethnic Tamils and indigenous Sri Lankan Muslims whose mother tongue is Tamil.
In fact, the 54-year-old Razak has the distinction of being the world`s first and the only Tamil litterateur from the Memon community.
It was trade which took the Memons from Sindh to Gujarat, Mumbai, East Africa and Sri Lanka. Razak`s forefathers, who had migrated from Sindh to Junagadh in Gujarat, finally landed in Colombo to take advantage of the growing trade links between Ceylon and India during British rule.
But while the Memons of Colombo were immersed in commerce, showing little inclination towards scholarship, literature or poetry, school student Razak was a different kettle of fish. He not only loved to read but had a passion for the Tamil language, with a burning ambition to be a revolutionary Tamil poet.
Fittingly known as “Memon Kavi”, Razak has several volumes of poems in free verse to his credit, one of which, Naalayay Nokkiya Inril (Today Looking Towards Tomorrow), had won the Lankan Sahithya Award for the best Tamil poem in free verse in 1990.
“It was the first time that such an award was given. It marked the recognition of free verse in Lankan Tamil literature,” he said, stressing the award`s larger significance.
Memon Kavi had broken through the fussy world of Tamil literature in Sri Lanka, and conservative Tamil Nadu quite early in life.
In 1976, when he was only 19, a leading Chennai publisher, Narmada Padhippaham, had brought out his first book of poems entitled Yuga Raagangal (Ragas of the Age).
Narmada went on to publish his other poetic works Hiroshimavin Herokkal, (Heroes of Hiroshima) in 1982; Iyanthira Sooriyan (The Mechanical Sun) in 1984; and Naalayay Nokkiya Inril in 1990.