Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 August 2009





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Bhikkhu walking for alms

The sun smiles
Over the rolling mountains
The village
In the valley below
Also rises to life.

Looking down
From the mountain top
The eye meets
The tea plucking women
Among tea bushes
Shivering in cold.
Customary meditation
Over in the dawn
For meals
I walk
Begging alms
I walk calm
From door to door.

Young ones come
Peep out and creep in
How many words were
Written on their faces
Which they never tell you.
I return to my cell
Finish the morning meal
A roti received as alms.

Following morning too
I walk begging alms
Stop near a hut
Where little fellows wail.

When a child is
Coming out crying
And going in again
I call him to the door
Hand him a biscuit
Brought hidden

In the bowl
I go back to my cell
Though I did not
Have any food
My body doesn't feel it
Only lightness
I feel in my being

Born within heart.
What for the lightness
Born in heart
When it is not
Food for a young one
Crying in hunger
In the valley below.

(Thuruliya Akuru Viya-1998)

* An item of food made out of flour and cooked on a griddle over a fire

The poem is from the anthology of poetry "The Valley Below "by Buddhadasa Galappatty and translated into English by Malini Govinnage. The poet Buddhadasa Galapatty portrays a Bhikkhu walking for alms in the morning following a meditation session. It seems that the monastery is on top of a hill and below in the valley is an impoverished village where the principle occupation of the village folk is plucking tea in the tea estate.

The Bhikkhu notices the women in the valley plucking tea in shivering cold while walking around the village from house to house. The children peep out from the cottages. So many words are written over their faces. Poverty and misery are written over their faces though they do not utter a word. The following day, the Bhikkhu offers a biscuit to a wailing child and returns with empty hands but with light heart.

The Bhikkhu questions the rationale behind being lighthearted while the children are in hunger below the valley.

The poet masterly draws a comparison between abject poverty in the valley below and detached life of a Bhikkhu.

- Indeewara Thilakarathne

Leaving the ancestral home (Mahageyin Nikmila)

The white sand-strewn courtyard
broomed every day
in the pattern of the coconut folio
is today coarsened with dead leaves

The flower-bushes
pervaded fragrance
everywhere have now
shrunken in deep sorrow

The chanting of the Buddhist
stanzas in the morning
and in the night had faded away
The lamp lit everyday
before the statue of Buddha
is extinguished

Even the animals,
always cared for
with abounding love
had become deaf in isolation

There is no more the melodious
notes of the Veena
nor the crackle of laughter
Mother became sick
left the ancestral home!

Translated by Ranga CHANDRARATHNE

In her poem, 'Mahageyin Nikmila' (leaving the ancestral home), Sagarika Dissanayake Jayasinghe portraits, a typical Sri Lankan Buddhist ancestral home which has, over the years, become a nucleus of the extended family. The court yard of a Sinhalese house especially in villages, is often covered with white sand. It is the first chore of the mother to broom the courtyard in order to keep it clean of dead leaves. However, on that day, the courtyard which is every day broomed in the pattern of the coconut folio is left unattended and covered with dead leaves. This is an ominous precursor of mother's absence. In the Asian culture, often women spend their lives at home, attending to diverse household chores and rearing and caring offsprings. So much so, that they become part of the house. The poem expresses the terrible shock of mother's departure from the scene.

Having set the mood on, the poet further elaborates her point by stating that the flower-bushes which always pervade fragrance everywhere have now shrunken in deep sorrow. In fact, the very animating spirit of the home is absent. Though it is not clear from the last line whether the mother has left the ancestral home for good, one can speculate that it would have been a sad departure. By using of powerful visual images, the poet has able to create the atmosphere of a typical Buddhist ancestral home and depart of the mother who has been a part and parcel of the ancestral home. The use of powerful imagery such as pattern of a coconut folio and white sand-strewn courtyard reflects the poet deep understands of the life in rural Sri Lanka. Economy of expressions and effective use of blank verse has seemed to the forte of the poet. - Indeewara Thilakarathne

*'Veena-Veena' is an Indian instrument of music with strings.


When you were a child -
I gave you moments
Of my time and love.
Making you laugh
Keeping you happy
With moments of make-believe.
But now that you are almost a man
Won't you spare me
The same moments
I gave you-
Making me laugh-
Keeping me happy-
Proving we still share
Even with the passage of time-
Happy moments of
Make believe?

'Moment' is a poem by veteran literati Punyakante Wijenaike. The poet evocatively recalls the precious 'moments' time she gave him when he was a child. The 'moments' she gave, are not only the time she spent with him but also the 'moments of make- believe'. However, now he has become 'almost a man' and busy with his life. For him, there is apparently no time to share with her. She asks him whether he would give her 'the same moments'. The poem though brief addresses many issues including the growing generation gap and the changes that have been brought about by the globalisation on individuals with its allied inhumanely mechanised life style where there is little time to share with others. Poet has effectively used blank verse to drive home the fact that those 'moments 'are precious and that everyone needs care and love even in the midst of busy lives.

- Indeeewara Thilakarathne



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