“The sparrow though small has all five organs”, goes a Chinese adage and nothing could be truer for Tamil writing in Singapore. The journey of Tamil writing is like traveling on a moving train with its many trails and tracks over time. In this special talk, renowned author and journalist Malaan traces how it has changed over the past 50 years.

Long before Tamil writing arrived at the postmodern landscape, creative migrant voices could be heard in Singapore. Since “Kudirai Pandhya Lavani” (1893), a folk-styled poem on horse racing in Singapore that describes the lively street scenes, Tamil writing in Singapore has been buzzing with portrayal of social actualities. With Singapore becoming a country and was in the midst of being a nation in the mid-sixties, Singapore literati became sensitive to new realities.

Being the minority among the four races in Singapore and a majority among the Indian community, the Tamils enjoy a paradoxical position, but it hardly spills over into their writing. Yet, the journey of Tamil writing in Singapore is like traveling on a moving train. In broad daylight, it presents you with a variety of landscapes, people and their postures (not unlike wandering in the MRT trains that surge through underground tunnels). It chugged off slowly after an initial dilemma, but soon found its way in the seventies, settled with its pace in the eighties, and then picked up a swift momentum from the nineties.


Maalan V. Narayanan is a writer–journalist. He leads the premier Tamil journals India Today (Tamil) Dinamani, Kumudam and Kungumam as Editor, and Sun News Channel of Sun Television network. He is a member of Tamil Advisory Board of Sahitya Akademi (National academy of letters of India). He is a member of Board of Studies for Tamil Literature (PG) of University of Madras. He is a member of Commonwealth Journalists Association and South Asian Literary Association, and editor of Puthiya Thalaimurai, Puthiya Thalaimurai Kalvi, Tamil weeklies and Director of Planning and Development, Puthiya Thalaimurai television channel.

Mahizhnan Arunachalam is Adjunct Professor at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information at the Nanyang Technological University. He is also Deputy Director of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He has been a member of the Board of several arts organisations and served in many government committees on culture, arts and broadcasting. Prior to joining IPS in 1991, he spent 20 years in public and private sectors in senior positions in broadcasting and public communication fields.