CREDIT J.M. Sali received the ‘Cultural Medallion 2012,’ from Singapore’s President recently. Syed Muthahar Saqaf
Born in Thanjavur District, J. M. Sali, an international figure in the Tamil literary world, has been awarded the ‘Cultural Medallion 2012’ of the National Arts Council, Singapore. President Tony Tan Keng Yam presented the award at a brief function held at the President’s residence recently.
The Cultural Medallion was instituted in 1979, to recognise individuals who have attained artistic excellence and have contributed to Singapore’s arts and culture.
Sali is a multifaceted personality having excelled for decades as a novelist, print journalist, broadcast journalist, radio and TV playwright, magazine editor, poet and translator. Sali wrote his first short story for a magazine named Kannan published from Chennai, when he was still in school. (1955).
He served as the assistant editor for the Singapore-based Tamil language broadsheet, Tamil Murasu , from 1964 to 1971. In 1971, he served in the same position for a popular Tamil weekly Ananda Vikatan . From 1983 to 2000, Sali worked as a Senior Broadcast Journalist with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (later the Television Corporation of Singapore).
The citation presented on the occasion said that throughout his extensive journalistic career, Sali has been an accomplished and prolific writer, having started writing at the early age of 15. He has developed a wide repertoire of genres – writing 30 novels, 400 short-stories, 80 radio and television plays and 200 articles, some of which have been translated into English, Hindi, Urdu and Sinhalese.
He is a great admirer of Ki.Va. Jagannathan’s writing style. His interest in the themes and plots of the multitude of stories he read, propelled him to write.
As early as 1958, Sali won the first prize in the short story category for ‘Patruk-k-kodu’ from the Muslim Murasu Magazine. In 1963-64, he won the Best Short Story prize for ‘Velicham’ , ‘Tharaiyil Vizhundha Meen’, ‘Makarantham’ and ‘Anulaavin Padagu’ from Ananda Vikatan . He won a writing contest launched by Ananda Vikatan , ‘Muthirai Kathaigal,’ for stories that left an indelible mark in people’s hearts.
His novel ‘Kanaa Kanden Thozhi’ won the best novel award and his book ‘Ariviyal Munnodigal’ (Science Pioneers) won the best Children’s Book prize of the Tamil Nadu Government. In 1996, Sali received the Book Award for his short story collection, ‘Nonbu,’ from the National Book Development Council of Singapore.
His extensive contribution to Tamil literature earned him the Thamizhavel Literary Award from the Association of Singapore Tamil Writers in 2001. Besides his work as a writer, Sali also served as Contributing Editor of Singa from 1987 to 1990 and as a member of the Editorial Team for the Anthology of ASEAN Literature Vol. II and III (Tamil Fiction) in 1988.
Sali has conducted several Tamil short story writing workshops for various organisations including the National Book Development Council of Singapore (1987), the National Arts Council and the National Institute of Education (1997). His works have been prescribed as textbooks in colleges and Universities in Singapore, Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the citation pointed out.
In his acceptance speech, Sali observed that it was his education, which had Tamil as the medium of instruction, that gave him the courage to write short stories in that language, and later become a journalist and a translator. “Early study in the mother tongue will lay a strong foundation for any reputable endeavour,” he added.