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Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Saksharatha Academy"

Kerala Sahitya Academy has a web site in English besides one in Malayalam. I first visited the site sometime in 2007. It was incomplete and I presumed that it was under construction. I visited the site again  in 2008 and in 2009 There was absolutely no progress. The site was being developed by C Dit. Perhaps they had more important work to do like analysing whether the narco tapes of the Sr.Abhaya case were tampered with or not. Or the Academy may not have paid them for the work done. I thought eventually they will restart constructing the site. 

I visited the site again a few days ago. As they say in colloquial Malayalam "The boat is still at Thirunakkara" (വഞ്ചി തിരുനക്കര തന്നെ ) The partially developed site states the following as activities of the Academy:

Encourage or arrange translations of literacy works from Malayalam to other languages and vice versa. 

Organize or sponsor literacy conferences, seminars and symposia. 

Promote cultural and literacy exchanges with other languages and writers.

I had sent an email to the Academy in 2008 pointing out that 'literacy' may not be the apt word and perhaps they meant 'literary'. There was no response and I did not pursue the matter. I was also a bit apprehensive that perhaps a premier organisation like the Academy may not make such errors and the word 'literacy' may have dimensions beyond my understanding. Then I received their publication "Malayalam Literary Survey" for the quarter April-September, 2010. That totally eradicated from my mind any such charitable thoughts. Besides being replete with typographical errors and total absence of any editing, most writers have written English with the underlying thought process in Malayalam. Even Prof. O.N.V.Kurup's article, which is the first one,  is not free from typographical errors. Sri.K.P.Ramanunni, the Convener has apparently checked only the Foreword written by himself.

To be doubly sure, I checked the meaning of 'literacy' once again.

Oxford Dictionary



[mass noun]
  • the ability to read and write.
  • competence or knowledge in a specified area:computer literacy is essential

Cambridge Dictionary

literacy noun 

Click to hear the UK pronunciation of this wordClick to hear the US pronunciation of this word/ˈlɪt.ər.ə.si//ˈlɪt ̬.ɚ-/ [U]
the ability to read and write
Far more resources are needed to improve adult literacy.
knowledge of a particular subject, or a particular type of knowledge
Computer literacy is becoming as essential as the ability to drive a car.

Literacy has traditionally been described as the ability to read and write (Wikepaedia)

 Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary online (

literacy is "the quality or state of being literate."
Literate, according to this same source, derives from Middle English and Latin terms meaning "marked with letters" and "letters, literature." Two definitions are provided:
1) "able to read and write," and 2) "versed in literature or creative writing...having knowledge or competence

 So literacy would then include understanding what complicated messages (which can be understanding of any sort – math, fiction, etc) mean, and how they can be understood in different ways, and the best way to structure and order it so understanding is maximized. That is even more important if you are the writer. 

Should we grant that the Academy had in mind the vastly enlarged meaning detailed in the  link cited above or the second definition in Websters. I think not. I think some of the Academy members can do with a little bit of ' literacy' while they are so busy playing politics and conferring awards after awards on one another. Or perhaps the much publicised 100% literacy of the State may be because a premier institution like the Academy took upon itself the task of promoting literacy! All the while Malayalam 'literature' was being promoted by poets like Ayyappan in the Bevco Madhushalas. 


  1. Unnikrishnan Vappala to me
    show details 7:19 PM (34 minutes ago)
    I think you have missed the link below while searching. If you had, you wouldn't have given the benefit of doubt to the Academy. Literary and literature may have the same origins just as literate/literacy/illiteracy . Sahithyam and Saksharatha are kadalum kadaladiyum; Am I right? . The Academy may not be concerned with Saksharatha though that should have been the one quality(English Literacy) that their members possess.
    You should thank your stars that the web site remains 'under construction'.