Gowri Nithiyanantham (aka Gowri Ananthan) is a renowned Tamil Novelist and a social entrepreneur who aims to develop and encourage youth mainly lives in war-affected areas. After working many years in Singapore as an IT Consultant, she returned to Sri Lanka in 2012 to work with war-affected communities. Tie The Thali had the pleasure of interviewing Gowri for a feature.
Tell us about yourself Gowri
I’m a soul that took a female’s body to study to become an IT professional, then quit to become a model, Author, Social Entrepreneur, Counsellor, Independent researcher, etc, etc, etc. But still, I’m yet to find answers for this question. Below is a short brief of myself, if you find it inspiring.
She has successfully initiated or supported many projects including “Yarl IT Hub”, “Himalaya Creations” which is currently a leading Advertising firm in Jaffna, developing and producing Documentaries, TV Commercials and Feature films; and “Kudil Products” with the aim of promoting and embracing greener lifestyle along with empower women in war-affected areas by providing financial freedom. She also acts as a lecturer and counsellor at the Institute of Mental Health, Sri Lanka and Consultant at The Social Architects on Regional RTI Advocacy Program.
She authored two Tamil novels namely “kanavukalaith thedi” and “peyarili” and edited “mounavalikalin vaakkumoolam”, an anthology of personal stories written by youth from Anuradhapura, Ampara, Killinochchi, Hill Country and Jaffna, which was published by Nakkeeran in India
She presented varies papers overseas including “TRAUMA COUNSELING FOR JOURNALISTS: A Profession in Denial” at World Press Freedom Day 2017 held in Jakarta, Indonesia and NEW TRENDS IN FEMINISM at Department of Tamil in University of Kerala, India. She is also written paper on “Social Innovation in Rebuilding war-affected communities” for the International Conference on Business Management and Social Innovation and the International Journal of Management and Applied Science (IJMAS).
Apart from this, she holds several honorary titles, such as “Ambassador of Peace” and “Consul General Sri Lanka” at Council of Inter-Parliament Organizations IGO, and “Chairperson of Committee on Women and Child Welfare” at International Commission of Diplomatic Relations Human Rights and Peace IGO, USA.
She was a member of Delegation for Geneva for Human Rights (GHR) to the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council which was taken place in Geneva from 25 February to 22 March 2019 and during this time she was also trained in 44th Geneva Training Course for Defenders from the regions entitled ‘Human Rights Council, international human rights and humanitarian law, international procedures and diplomacy’.
She is a graduate from the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka and also a certified Project Management Professional from Project Management Institute, USA. She is a recipient of “Medal of Excellence” award from International Commission of Diplomatic Relations Human Rights and Peace (ICDRHRP) IGO, USA for her community works.
Where were you born and brought up, and where do you live now?
I was born in Jaffna, the northern tip of Sri Lanka, two years before the tragic ’83 riots’ or fifty nights before the ‘burning of south asia’s biggest Jaffna Library’. Thirty years of civil war, compelled us to move from place to place and finally settled in Singapore. After the end of war I returned back to Sri Lanka in 2012, leaving my family members behind. Even tough I travel often across the country and the globe for the past 8 eight years, but I’m yet to find a place where I would say, yes.. I LIVE HERE..
What are some of your most memorable experiences?
Every day and every milli seconds are memorable when you born in a bloodshed land. The day we compelled to leave our ancestral home to save our lives in the middle of heavy fights, the day I ran away from home with only Rs. 2000 in my jeans pocket and survived anonymously for a few days until one of my friend’s uncle caught me and informed my parents, the days I spent in a retention camp just because I was in the age group of their rebel suspects, the moment I got a call informing that I got the job from my first interview in Singapore, the hours I fought miserably to give birth to a beautiful child, the day we bought our first house, the day I quit my job, the days I helped and struggleg with our youngsters to assist in their dreams and to start their own ventures, the days each of my projects were completed successfully. The days I spent on road trips around 5 continents of this tiny world; there are countless memorable moments in each of this. I would probably will write a book for each of this someday.
What are three books you recommend for people as a must-read?
First, The Art of Dying by Osho where explains the Death as not an event but a process, and one that begins with birth. I realised when the life is lived consciously and totally, death need not to be a catastrophe but a joyous climax. Second, “Sivakamiyin Sapatham (The Vow of Sivagami)” written by Kalhi. I loved the way a woman lead character is powerfully portrayed here but for some unknown reason she did not have that much of impact as Poonkuzhali or Kundhavai in Ponniyin Last but not least, “Walking with the Comrades,” a 32-page article by Arundhati Roy. I recommend this not just for it’s content includes a battle over power, land, ideology, mineral riches, rights and ecology, but shows her bravery walks alongside a bunch of armed youth and narrates their testimonies and arguments.
Tell us your favourite Tamil song, and why?
I love all Bharathiyar songs and particularly love these versus energies me every time, I hear. “I have no fear over anything, Even if the whole world is against me I have no fear over anything. Even if everyone thinks bad about me or If I loose all what I wanted, I fear nothing.”
I would say Achcham Achcham Illai written by Vairamuttu for the film ‘Inthira’ is a combination of most of Bharathi’s fearless thoughts. Love the lyrics and music as well as the composition. Kudos to directer Subashini for having this song in her film.
What is your favourite Kollywood film (released within the past 5 years)?
I would say none. If you get a chance to watch movies from other languages, you would see how commercialised yet incompetent the storyline and acting in the Kollywood industry is. But if you consider South Indian film as a whole, I love Malayalam movies, particularly Prithvi’s. Even though he was introduced to Kollywood via “Mozhi”, I became fan of him after watching the movie “Urumi”, later Ennui Nine Moideen which I watched in the theatre that made me cry, then Mumbai Police in a flight during a solo travel. These are my favourites. Later, didn’t get a chance to watch any Malayalam movies for sometime as they don’t show it in theatres in Sri Lanka. Current lockdown period gave me plenty of time to watch them again, online. “Ayyappanum Koshiyum” is one of his best performance recently.
Tell us about your daughter, your relationship with your daughter’s father?
I have a Daughter, her name is Janani, studying P5 in Singapore. She is very talented and creative. We discuss and learn many things from each other, starting from swimming, badminton, art, painting, writing, traveling, and exploring the concept of universe through spirituality and many more. Her father is a good friend of mine, and he still remains a good friend.
How do you manage travelling, maintaining your career, and raising your daughter?
I’m passionate about traveling and would take up jobs which brings me to new places. My daughter is with her father and my mother supports in raising her up. I keep in touch with her via regular texts, emails and video calls. We try our best to spend her school holidays together in a new country or every time.
What is your thoughts on marriage and what is your thoughts on divorce?
I consider marriage as a weapon invented by powerful men to dominate and destroy the abilities of a woman. Talking about a divorce is pointless while I’m already opposing the concept of marriage. Some more, divorce laws in Sri Lanka mostly doesn’t provide a proper solution for the legal mess created by a marriage.
How do you deal with heartbreak, and break ups?
Just move on. I give few months grace period to see if they would come back realising their mistakes, if not, just move on. But once moved on, never turn back. Because by doing so, your respect and honesty will be at sake. If someone doesn’t realise your value, it’s not worth spending your time and emotions on them.
What advice would you give to women in their 20s?
Study hard, concentrate on your career. You can regain love in any forms along the path of life, but very hard to roll-back from a study or career break.
What are your thoughts on traditional upbringings and traditional marriages?
Whatever you call traditional right now has never been a tradition a few centuries ago and not going to be there after couple of decades. Therefore it’s always advisable to get only good things from anything and leave the rest behind. That’s how, so called ‘Tradition’ should evolve.
Women of many cultures suffer in silence. What are your thoughts and comments on this issue especially within the Sri Lankan community.
There are two things kept me going during all my hardships were:
1. Being honest with my feelings
2. Never fear to speak up.
Even tough women as a whole fear to speak up bravely, they are honest compared to men. Further, Sri Lankan women are stronger than women from other neighbouring countries within the region given the many civil war hardships they have gone through.
Where do you see Gowri in 5 years?
My aim was to travel at least 100 countries before I die. Still, the other part of me is longing to live in village and continue to support more and more community initiative projects similar to what I do right now. I identified my life purpose to create a self sufficient eco farming village, which also could sustain balance economically and spiritually. May be not in 5 years, but I would definitely make it happen someday.
To learn more about Gowri and her initiatives, please visit her personal website: www.rasikai.com.