Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 16 June 2013





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Bold and non-bashful attitude to life

The Untold Story My Lover
Author: Sharmila Jayasinghe Niriella
Sooriya Publishers, Colombo 10

At first I was reluctant to take on this review for the simple reason that there is a surfeit of love in our present day literature and teledramas. Being critical of this trend, why should I contribute to it? But the father of the author was so eager to have it reviewed that I gave in. Sharmila is indeed lucky to have a very broadminded papa so interested in her writings, never mind the bedroom scenes and even love trysts on mountain tops that result in babes. (I almost wrote instant babes.)

Why go all the way to mountain tops? And that brings me to another outstanding aspect of the novel. Maybe the orbit of my reading, Lankan creative writing has been too narrow, but this is the first time that I came across a book by a Lankan writer where the whole mesh or mess of events is staged in the tea plantations in the island.

We are almost thorough with the trafficking of slaves to America from Africa but are quite ignorant of the varied aspects of the bringing of South Indian labour to the island and the heartburns that accompanied the migration. Of course, the dimensions of agony were far different, since the inflictions of horror by the ancestors of Human Rights of today just did not touch these short—distance travellers.

There were no heartbreaking family dispersals, no imprisoning the migrants in over-crowded cells before departure, no weighing of the “Slaves”. That oceanic human trafficking was the ultimate in slave trade that was just anathema to the Easterners steeped in compassionate religions.

Social drama

Anyway, listen to this character in the reviewed book, Sinnammma’s husband, a Kangani waxing eloquent on this social drama that took place during the time of British plantation activity. Just hold back your tears. All this time I was under the delusion that the migrants were extremely happy to come across the oceans. It was a delusion fed by legends that I heard when working at Kotagala Sri Pada College, legends to the effect that the South Indian labour force considered it their luck to come over here. They, according to legend called this “The Pichchamal country: ”or Jasmine island and when a babe is born the mothers had cradled the baby with the lullaby” May you end up in the land of Pichchamal”. That is by the way.

Coming back, to balance the overdose of sex in the novel, it contains a wide sociological element. There is a complex mosaic of different segments of population colouring the social scenario to add to the turbulent politics surging. The background could be sizzling with the budding period of the JVP movement, revolutinonary ideas of the youth, pseudo Marxist, infecting the young estate sector too.

Liberty, equality, fraternity, these catchwords seem to affect even Sinnamma who in no way condones her sons foregoing education to become servile humans of the upbeat masters. But her husband, the Kangani is of a different make.

He thinks it a profanity to utter anything against the UNP government then administering the country. In fact he is against any factor that could effect changes in the existing system. His, is a familiar character, not at all foreign to our Sinhala Buddhist society too. They relax in the lap of the existing order in a land of lotus eating, till sets in “the holocaust”. In this aspect the characters in the book are deftly carved, except in some cases.

The holocaust, in this instance happens to be the unexpected adventures the Kangani’s second son faces after he flies high, to win the hands of the daughter of the Sinhala aristocrat living in the vicinity. His mother too “slaves” in the mansion for the sake of social favours. In a maze of events, that are really “mazed” or “Labyrinthed“ the lad ends up in London and then Paris, yet comes back to his love despite the marriage bonds to a European girl. To an equal extent the Lankan girl is mesmerized by the maleness of Shiv, so is she. The “Love triangle” does not stop in a triangle but goes on to bloat into an Atapattama that needs a very sharp mind to sieve out things.

Amorous dose

Perhaps a reader beguiled by the title of the book and who expects an amorous dose from it, is disappointed after the first few pages.

The curtain opens on the streets of Paris, the more seamy streets where flesh selling is the order of the day or more, the night. Creatures of the night pass in and out of the opening pages as the young author nonchalantly presents them. Her acquaintance with the depraved living patterns of European states, especially, “Night Life patterns“ is obvious. She has no holy pretences to the typical Eastern girl who is so chastely ignorant of the ways of the world.

Just read this passage (pg 12):

“Jonathan” Her lips moved in a whisper as she tried in her mind to recall the name of the stranger she bedded the night before. Names never mattered to her and she knows that she would not remember” This is a dinghy apartment in the backwoods of Paris.

Perhaps as the reader settles down to read on more creatures of the night such as this who turn the sacred bed of love to a whorehouse where names are forgotten, he or she is flown to the tea estate area of Ceylon and her fantastic landscapes. Is this area bereft of sex? No. The most bestial kinds of man–woman relationships take place here too, mostly engineered by the sons of the utterly corrupted.

To sum up, the world presented, East or West is one suffused with love, sex, horror and even murder in the hills, an unsavoury dish that many a young authoress would revile.

With her bold and non-bashful attitudes, observation skills and elegant English, Sharmila is poised to end up as one of our better writers.

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