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Sunday, 28 June 2009





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Purangana Naganiyo (The sisters of the metropolis):

Remarkable insights into life

Udeni Sarachchandra is a poet of the 70s. His first anthology, Soldaduwa saha Vijithaya (The Soldier and the Kingdom) earned him a name among the famous 70s poets such as Parakrama Kodithuwakku and Buddadasa Gallapaththy which was reprinted last year. His second anthology, Purangana Naganiyo (The Sisters of the Metropolis) provides the readers with complex humanistic insights by revisiting his childhood, adolescence and age of senility. At the same time he addresses broader social issues by portraying the socio-economic life in the twentieth century Sri Lanka.

Those experiences recollected in tranquillity are not mere personal accounts of an era but portrayal of slow -phased life styles especially in villages with a harmonious community against the emergence of a chaotic new order with its cutting- edged competition that left once harmonious community of men and women separated on the lines of ethnicity, race and caste.

In this anthology, poet Udeni Sarachchandra covers a variety of themes; reflecting his life from childhood to retirement, visiting a dying relative in a hospital, reflecting the news of a death of a fiancée while living abroad, visiting a cemetery, reflection of the life passed by on a birthday, examining the life of sex workers in the city, raising a question from a fellow poet whois now domiciled in Australia about his short visits to Sri Lanka and requesting Wimal Dissanayake to publish another anthology of poetry.

The title poem of the anthology "Purangana Naganiyo" shows, above all, sympathetic attitude of the poet on the sex-workers in the city. He considers them as sisters roaming in the city, clad in attractive attire and wearing necklaces as if to project them as office workers.

Mulu Nuwara Balana Sanda Puranganak lesa handina

Dana Kuvera mada kipunu sallala purusha thema

Aya hamba vith pamina ragena gos kutiyakata

Visula dedahasaka kola madinu ata turunukaya"

(After realising her as a maiden having prowled the metropolis

The scandalous rich men after escorting her into a room

Throw two thousand (rupee) notes before her, as he tramples her maiden body)

The poet questions how these sex-workers act as if wild actresses before their clients. The question raisedhere is that why these maidens of the metropolis who usher in limousines and spending their lives in luxurious hotels not becoming aristocratic women with servants at their disposal?

In a poem titled `Thavath Upan Dinayak' (Yet another birthday), the poet revisits his childhood, adolescence and reflects on the present. At the age of sixty two, the poet finds himself with wrinkled skin and doubts whether he would celebrate his next birthday.

There are no longer grand birthday parties as in the past surrounded by friends, food and beverages and full of expensive liquor. Instead an almsgiving is held to invoke merits on the poet's parents.

The poet had a childhood with fun and frolic roaming the village with a group of friends. Then he enters adolescence where he took part in many activities and was always a bright student. He also spent an idyllic life in the university studying under the tutelage of legendary academics such as Professor Ediriweera Sarachchandra. Then he reflects on the present.

Sama Vayase Mithuru kela nomatha daknata

Oun miyade gosini nokiyama kisivakuta

Ma pamini dura diguya ya hakida tava dura

Ath varu nati kaleka jeevitaya thava kumata"

(Friends of the same era are not to be seen

They have all died without a word to anyone

I have come a long way and can I proceed further?

When senility dawns on, what is the use of life any more?)

Those friends who entertained life have all died without even a word and at last, the poet is quite tired of life and questions whether he can carry on further. When senility dawns on him, he questions the very purpose of life.

Though the experiences are unique to him, unwittingly the poet reflects on an bygone era. His childhood was carefree as against the chaotic life that children lead today. They freely roamed the village enjoying the beauty of nature.

Even university life was rich where liberal art, education dominated the day.

The graduates were all absorbed into the Government service and undergraduates had no anxiety about future. For the poet heavily drawn on his life experiences themes such as time, separation, and isolation have become recurrent themes throughout the anthology.

For instance in the poem "Kala Sarpaya" (Serpent of Time), the poet Sarachchandra compares time to a serpent which devours everything. Once again, he scans the entire life up to the present. He could not come to terms with the fact that he has reached sixty. He vividly recollects how he recited the stanzas from `Salalihini Sandeshaya' and the youthful life in the university and his matrimony in a traditional manner.

Atheetaye sonduru mataka

Makeenoyai kisidavasaka

Nodanima divagos atte

Kala sarpaya pamaneki

(The vivid memories of the past

Will not fade away

Unwittingly, it was the serpent of the time

That had run through)

Time has changed everything leaving behind only vivid memories. Udeni Sarachchandra has skilfully converted his experiences in foreign soils into poetry. Poems such as "Sudu Hima" (White Frost), "Samuganna Pera" (Before bidding farewell), "Neka Hangum" (Many feelings), "Parasidu Puravara" (The famous city) describe the experiences the poet had gathered from his travels abroad.

One of the interesting poems in the anthology is "Oba Obamaya" (You're the same one). In this poem, poet relates about his room-mate who subsequently became one of his best friends.

It was the heyday of the University of Peradeniya. Life in the university was far more luxurious and the studies were focused on liberal art, education. Students were also from affluent middle class families. Apart from the robust academic activities such as following lectures, the wholesome climate and panoramic environment in Hantane hills provided a haven for romance. Most of the students found their soul-mates during their stay in the university. The poet's room mate had a passionate love affair with a girl called Nita. However, after the graduation, the affair broke up and his room mate was confronted with conundrums of life. Despite the time lag, poet's friend remains the same, revealing his life's woes.

Kedee bindee bima visirunu

Nitage Premayagena

Obey Gorabim Jeevitaye

Neka domnas

Shoka santapa

Aul viyavul

Prashna ??? "

(About the broken Nita's affair

The rough life


Sorrows and agonies

And problems?)

"Susana Bhumiya "(The cemetery) and "Maranaya" (The Death) are poems on themes of universal value. In the poem "Susana Bhumiya" he evocatively describes his frequent visits to the cemetery to bid farewell to relatives and friends. However, strangely he does not think of his death. Instead he thinks of the next day.

"`Life is like a dew on the blade of grass'

Yes, it is true

Death is definite

Yet whoever dies

I do not think

Of my death ....."

Extremely rich in material, Udeni Sarachchandra portrays his memorable life and the milieu he was born into. Poems appearing in this anthology are diverse and complex in themes.

For each poem, the poet develops appropriate poetic diction. The anthology offers a rich yield of life experiences of a person who have witnessed the change of the milieu.

Fascinating tale of an emerging mini-city

Nugegoda, Glimpses of the Past

By Mervyn P. Herath and Jagath C. Savanadasa

Published by Sarasavi Publishers Ltd

Price Rs. 350,

Reviewed by J. Abeywickrama Former secretary Ministry of Plantation Industries

Readers of this book especially those who have even the slightest connection to Nugegoda will have an irresistible desire to continue reading it non stop to the end.It is simply fascinating and absorbing. "Glimpses of the Past" is not a rambling reach back to a placid era, pure and simple.

On the contrary it is a sequential chronicle of a life of over one hundred years and more captured in motion.

Nugegoda's pace of development itself is a socio-economic phenomenon in the country. If you look at some of the more older and bigger towns, many of them have not shown the dynamism demonstrated by Nugegoda.

"Glimpses of Nugegoda" incorporates the essence of those developments in a lucid form.

It begins with Nugegoda's 500 year old history when it was a part of the Kingdom of Kotte.

The reader may have an insight as to how the name Nugegoda came into being with the decree of the King of Kotte who ordered prisons to be taken to the edge of the forest full of Nuga tress that covered a good part of Nugegoda. He has said "Nugen Egodata Aran Pala" - to be beheaded though the King did not actually mention the beheading, the decree was understood by his soldiers. They of course carried out the gruesome task.

But what impressed me most were the developments during the last hundred years given in the initial pages, which deal with diverse economic and social forces that synthesized to bring Nugegoda to its current predominant position.

Particularly significant in this connection is the way in which the two authors deal with the developments that took place when the country entered the era of trade liberalization.

"Nugegoda - Glimpses of the Past" also rekindles memories and evokes nostalgia of the aftermath of independence - an era of exquisite fragrance during which we as a nation was truly unified. The essence of that era is recalled vividly. Of course the shattering events of 1958 too have been recorded which put an end to ethnic harmony that prevailed in the country for centuries.

Religious institutions have been a part of Sri Lanka's heritage for two and a half millennia.

Nugegoda is replete with Buddhist temples. Hindu Kovils and Christian Churches. All of them have contributed their share to make Nugegoda what it is today. A multi religious town guiding its citizens in the spiritual conduct of life.

Readers will not fail to be impressed by the clever manner in which the two authors have avoided obvious pitfalls relating to politics. Nugegoda, has been subject to frequent testing by politicians in relation to the way the winds blow.

The book though highlighting this fact steers clear of any controversial and debatable comments in this regard.

Though the Book does not do adequate justice to many who have achieved some degrees of prominence in life, it has refereed to some key personalities who lived within the confines of Nugegoda.

Nugegoda, the book reveals had been the home of Stanley Tillekeratne, an unusually fine politician, of recent times. His contribution to the town by way of infrastructure development it underwent during the 1970's has been significant. A grateful public had honoured Stanley by renaming Nugegoda's main street, Stanley Tillekeratne Mawatha. Ananda Samarakoon a notable citizen of Nugegoda the father of the National Anthem was yet another leading product of the town. Personalities like Dr. Senarath Paranavithana, Prof Sunil Ariyaratne and a number of others of note have also been featured in the book.

On reading this splendidly documented history of an ancient town it makes me wonder as to how many undiscovered places of important value to our history lie buried in the sands of time with none being interested in examining their past.I read with deep interest the original construction of the High Level Road way back in the last century which paved the way for inter-connectivity and economic progress of the suburbs of Nugegoda. Similarly the commissioning of the Railways, more than a century ago had been equally instrumental in promoting travel and communication the two principal developments that contributed immensely towards the development of Nugegoda and its environs.

The publication, it is apparent, has been intensively researched. It is not an easy task to identify, dissect and, analyse information which is not only economic but also social and cultural.

It is to the lasting credit of the authors that they have unearthed the origins of temples, churches, Kovils and schools with which Nugegoda had been blessed with aplenty.

Hitherto a very little published information has been made available in respect of the above institutions - though there is a book or two on the Church and its role in Nugegoda.

"Nugegoda Glimpses of the Past" is however, no literary tome but an obvious conclusion one could arrive at that it is an unrivalled mixture of diverse events, institutions and places.

Its authors have also most thoughtfully been able to secure contributions from a few senior citizens of the town and interestingly they have provided insights into specific aspects of its growth-process over the years.

It is important for the relevant authorities of the State and other institutions such as Ministry of Education, the Schools which have been refered to within the area, the local government bodies, like the Kotte Municipal Council and the Dehiwala-Mount Lavinia Municipal Council, the Universities and other higher educational Institutions and the Archives, National Library Services Board and Colombo Municipal Council to purchase a copy of this publication.

It will be valuable reference material for students of history as well.

Nugegoda - Glimpses of the Past is unique in many ways. It is not a glossy high priced book catering to the passing fancies of a few English educated individuals but a serious presentation by two professionals, who have made an impact on their own areas of public life. As such it deserves to be read especially by the more discerning and inquiring reading public.

Powerful opening of a trilogy



Malkanthi Gooneratne

Ratna Poth Prakashakayo, Colombo 10

Price: Rs. 225

Reviewed by R.S. Karunaratne

It is not an easy task for a busy person to read a novel running into 338 pages. However, no one will grudge reading a good novel however long it happens to be.

I started reading Sandalatha with some trepidation because most novels written by local authors are simply unreadable.

The craft of writing a novel is difficult for a number of reasons. In the first place, unlike a short story, a novel cannot be read at one sitting. A novel has to be read over a period of time with regular breaks.

We give up reading a novel half way when it does not have that essential element of suspense. Sandalatha can be read and enjoyed as it sustains suspense at every turn of events.

Suspense alone does not make a good novel. The story must have some substance. In this respect, Sandalatha is rich in substance. For instance, Sandalatha, the protagonist, is portrayed as a poor girl. She is selected to follow a university course, but she decides to work as a housemaid due to her poverty.

We are quite familiar with stories in which such young women fall prey to rich playboys. Although I read the novel from cover to cover, I could not find such a fate befalling the protagonist.

The novelist takes the reader to a rich family where high principles of morality are maintained. The landlady is a kind woman who has not shed her humane qualities. She does not exploit her servants and understands the plight of poverty-stricken people.

As a result, she pays the housemaid more than what she has promised.

In order to make a novel a successful literary work, these flat characters alone won't help.

There should be some conflict in a good novel. In the absence of a conflict, the novel becomes a failure.

The novelist, in this instance, has brought about the conflict by way of a love affair between Sandalatha and Asela, a rich young man.

Sandalatha comes to know that she cannot continue to keep her love affair as a secret. Despite Asela's strongly-worded promises, Sandalatha realises the utter folly of carrying on such a love affair.

We do not know, however, what happened to Sandalatha's love affair. The answer can be found in the author's next novel Sandakvu Eya which is a sequel to Sandalatha.

Those who read Sandalatha will have to wait for Sandakvu Eya which will be followed by another novel completing the trilogy.

Trilogies are rare in Sinhala literature. Therefore, Malkanthi Gooneratne's bold step in writing a trilogy is commendable.

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