Going back to the roots
Farewell to My Village
Author: Wickrema Ratnayake
A Godage Publication
Wickrema Ratnayake's, Farewell to My Village contains some
reminiscences of his early growing years, in a village called Hewapola
in the Kurunegala district, in the 1940s. Ratnayake is an agriculturist
and environmentalist who, after a successful career in agriculture, has
retired to his property in Kurunegala. It is a sort of coming home.
The book contains many anecdotes of incidents and events in that
village. It also focuses on certain unforgettable characters that
Ratnayake remembers vividly.
A little more detail of the customs, practices and activities in the
village would have enlightened the reader who has no connection with
I used to spend my school holidays during my pre teen and early
teenage years at my grandfather's place at Kuliyapitiya. Over time I
became a part of the village life there.
I can therefore empathise with Ratnayake when he talks with nostalgia
of his early village life in Hewapola. This is an era that is now long
gone and will never return because of the march of development and
There is a very comprehensive glossary of the Sinhala words used in
the text. It covers food, trees, plants, herbs, birds, animals, sports
and games, agricultural tools and farming. I think a glossary at the end
of the book is better than the use of footnotes as practised by some
authors. The book is interspersed with colour illustrations done by the
author himself. This is a book well worth reading.
A record of a bygone era, which this book is about, is very important
in that most of the readers would not have experienced this lifestyle.
Certainly the present generation would find it hard to now find a
village such as Hewapola was then. Time marches on making many changes
in our villages and society in its wake. It is, therefore, important
that the life that was in an age that is past, be available on record
for future generations to be informed of what it was like in the past.
I will end this review with a quote from Terry Pratchett in his A Hat
Full of Sky, “Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you
can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colours. And the
people there see you differently too. Coming back to where you started
is not the same as never leaving.”