On 30th September 2023, members of the Tamil art scene in Toronto congregated at the Harbourfront Centre to celebrate and support Tamil literary talent. Event host Nedra Rodrigo opened the event with a sit down conversation featuring Priya Guns (author of 'Your Driver is Waiting') and Akil Kumarasamy (author of 'Meet Us by the Roaring Sea'). Rodrigo discussed topics ranging from the writers' writing processes to their motivations when writing.
Spotlighting the political nature of both novels, Nedra comments on the comparison between the Tamil diasporic struggles with the tradition of black radicalism in Kumarasamy's science fiction novel, to which the author responded:
"In my first book, what was important to me and also interesting was having communities and places - and even places across time - kind of in conversation and communication because they were in conversation. Du Bois was talking to Ambedkar. There were these transnational conversations, comparing different struggles together, so I wanted to speak to that internationalism but also use that in a way to talk about how sometimes these movements don't always achieve what they set out to achieve, but just that power, that vision, that imagination to imagine a different world is really radical and just to give space to that."
Rodrigo asked Guns how deliberate her choice to write a novel with a strong political undercurrent was, to which Guns responded:
"Sometimes in activist spaces, … I mean, in the U.K., you have people who have degrees from Oxford and Cambridge talking about what's best for working class people, and if you look at the people in this space, there's nobody there who's… working a 9-5…, working overtime, and sometimes that happens because people are busy and are tired."
"I volunteer at a union of drivers, and trying to get the drivers to organise… to come together is really difficult because 'I have to pick up my kids!', 'I'm tired. I'm driving all day.' So, I really wanted to put that in this book and show through Damani what it's like for people who are organising because she has friends who are drivers who are organising… Because we are all seeing what is happening, and it is about making those choices [between political action and inaction]. I definitely knew what I wanted to say, and it was just about how to go about doing that
The second half of the event was dedicated to the speeches and spoken word poetry of the ‘Emerging Voices’ in the Tamil community.
Brannavy Jeyasundaram - writer and dancer
Marilyn Yogarajah - poet and multi-instrumentalist
Ajith Thangavelautham - writer
Subhanya Sivajothy - writer
and Namitha Rathinapillai - poet
Rodrigos praised the budding young talent of the Tamil community in her closing remarks, ending the event with the promise of future events to engage the Tamil literary community throughout the year.