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
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
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 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
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
Obey Gorabim Jeevitaye
Prashna ??? "
(About the broken Nita's affair
The rough life
Sorrows and agonies
"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
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
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
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
Powerful opening of a trilogy
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
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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