Dabbling with mystic themes
Writers of the East do not congratulate themselves enough. For what?
For owning a wider area to draw content material. And that not in the
modern period alone but from ancient times. One massive feeder area for
the domain of Eastern literature is that spawned out of the belief in
rebirth. Fantastic tales of humans getting re-born, better still lisping
their earlier births keep readers spell-bound due to the mystic flavour.
Daya Dissanayake, who won the State award for English novels twice is
slowly on his way to fame as one dabbling with such mystic themes
peculiar only to the Orient.
The healer and the drug
Author -Daya Dissanayake
Publishers - Vijitha Yapa Publications
Price - 450
His book "The healer and the drug pusher" not only is permeated with
the mystique and romance of 10th Century Sri Lanka but can easily fall
into the category of pragmatic literature for it encases a strong
message aligned to human values. Welding of different elements? Wait. He
does it subtly for he is seasoned in the art.The characters in the book
themselves form a patchwork of various segments of humans who walk in
and out of the tale, that follows a novel pattern, in that sense are set
alternately between 10th Century Sri Lanka and modern Sri Lanka. Walking
in and out of the chronicle of the 10th Century is Mitra, a Persian of
Christian faith, washed ashore in the upper North West shores of the
island under strange circumstances. The Easterners are very romantic, so
much so that very few of their stories do not own a young couple in
passionate love. The author too follows this trend, that could be the
book's strength or its weakness. Completely blind on his arrival by a
sudden sickness the young man is given shelter in his home by a Tamil
Adikari, who bothers to take him all the way to an Eye-hospital in
Ruhuna that undertakes eye operations. The daughter of the Adikari who
has fallen in love with the Persian sailor accompanies the blind young
man to Karagama Hospital in Ruhuna after a hasty marriage (very hasty in
that all, including the mother, favour the girls marriage to a blind
stranger!) and when the man's eyesight is restored he finds before him
the prettiest girl in the world. That is hurrah for the setting in a
popular commercial film running to packed crowds.I would have much
preferred if the blind man saw standing before him the ugliest girl in
the world. That could have tested the author's usual and admirable
veering towards philosophising far better. Yet all the world, ancient or
medieval or modern, love a beautiful girl and we will leave it at that,
for they say beauty and love make the world go round. Just forget the
scientists. From the area around an ancient sea port to the streets of
Battaramulla, a sleepy hamlet then now turned to a flourishing suburb of
Colombo and Sri Jayawardenapura is a long way. And here in alternate
chapters are typical up-to-date characters. There is Raju, a Tamil who
turned away from the medical field to become an agent for a pharmeutical
company that goes to work hand in gloves with unscrupulous doctors.
There is his admirable daughter, Bhanu who wages a constant and
praiseworthy battle against her father's activities that victimize many
a patient. Raju's Sinhala friend, Sumanadasa too plays a major role.
Whatever the blurbs may say the book is majorly an eulogy for the
compassionate modes of Eastern treatment and that is the main message as
far as the reviewer can guage. Even the title of the book implies, so
much so that one wishes that the title was not that direct. In our
childhood days we were expected to write hymnal literature on the
coconut trees and the culminating literary depression set in when we
were asked to name the essay, "The coconut tree" and never to go for any
other title. Here the author with all his freedom cages himself.
The damnation of the world of present medicinal practices and the
role played by pharmeutical companies just glares via the literary work.
It is completely vis-a-vis the world of Eastern medicine where God
Mammon (God of money) simply has no place. The patient and the healer
are bonded in love and affection and nothing is more dear to the healer
than the patient. How much is there in your pocket, is not at all the
issue of the typical Eastern healer. The questions that predominate his
mind are can I heal you, how do I heal you and he goes all out to do so
even keeping him as a residential patient. Hospital charges? Nil.
Imagine that kind of thing in the modern setting.
But do we need clever writers like Daya Dissanayake to give such
messages? Yes. We do encased are two entrancing stories about two
families living in entirely different times and claims, that are being
narrated while the message keeps ticking. Third world cannot afford
useless extravaganza. If a book can enthral the reader while teach too,
what is wrong in it? And that is what Daya Dissanayake has done. Eye
surgery had been practised in India at early as 1800 BC. We want more on
the subject. Read the book.
Easter, its traditions and practices
The latest work of Bernard Sri Kantha, the well known Catholic
writer, who has presented many novels, books on Catholic artists,
Catholic Negombo and other Catholic topics is 'Pasku Ha Janasampradaya'.
As the name of the book implies this work deals with Easter and its
traditions and practices.
Although Christmas is celebrated all over the world on a grand scale,
it was not there among the earliest festivals of Christians. It was only
after the Roman Empire embraced Christianity, that the Christians began
to celebrate Christmas.
Pasku Ha Janasampradaya
Author - Bernard Sri Kantha
Publishers - An author publication
Price - Rs. 140
It was fixed for December 25, the day Romans celebrated the feast of
the Sun God. The feast of the Resurrection of Christ was the greatest
festival of Christians all the time. Throughout the death and
resurrection of Christ have been commemorated in the Christian world.
The commemoration of the agony and death of Christ is not confined to
Easter. The Church has set apart 40 days in the Liturgical calendar to
commemorate the agony and suffering Christ underwent for the salvation
of mankind. This period is called the season of Lent. In Sinhala it is
called `Korosme Kalaya' following the Portuguese term `quaresema.'
Accordingly, the book `Pasku Ha Janasampradaya' is not limited to the
Easter but deals with the whole season of Lent. The book gives a vivid
account of the way the Catholics observe the period as a season of
penance and repentance. Gloria and Alleluia are not sung in churches
during the Lent. Catholics avoid weddings and merry-making. It is a time
for prayer, penance and meditation.
The author describes special prayers, meditations and sermons during
the Lent. The sermons are taken from the Nine Sermons of `Dukprapthi
Prasangaya' written by Fr. Jacqme Gonsalvez. These sermons and prayers
like `Mal Uyane Yakgnawa' and `Kayaduskara Prarthanawa' are recited in a
plaintive tone in the chanting style of Sinhala prose. The Way of the
Cross is a meditation on the sufferings of Christ that is divided into
14 stations. The author highlights the significance of each station.
The season of Lent begins on the Ash Wednesday. The author elucidates
the special features of the Ash Wednesday. According to the Christian
belief, Adam the first man on earth was created by God with soil.
It is shown how the priest marks the sign of the cross on the
forehead of the devotees at Mass saying "You are dust and to dust you
return". The author explains that this ash is made burning the Palm
leaves used on Palm Sunday of the previous year.
In the past it was a common sight in Catholic villages along the
Western coastal belt in Sri Lanka, groups singing aloud `Pasan' at
nightfall. It was Fr. Jacome Gonsavez who introduced the chanting of
Pasan. Pasan fall into two categories.
Lamentations coming from the Blessed Virgin Mary on the agony of
Christ is called `Lathoni' and those sung by others on the same is
called Pasan proper. In this book the distinction between the two are
shown illustrating how in different places they have taken a distinct
outlook of their own.
The Easter traditions and practices culminate in the Holy Week. In
this book the importance of each day of the Holy Week is illustrated.
The Holy Week begins on the Palm Sunday where Christians commemorate the
triumphant entry of Christ to Jerusalem when people welcomed him
carrying Olive branches shouting "Hosanna to the Son of David, Blessed
is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest."
Here the author highlights how this event is commemorated in Sri
Lanka with a local outlook using coconut palms.The next important day in
the Holy Week is the Maundy Thursday where the establishment of the Holy
Eucharist is commemorated. On this day at Mass, the priest washes the
feet of twelve people to signify the washing of the feet of disciples by
Christ as an act of humility. After the Mass the Holy Eucharist is
placed on a special tabernacle and groups perform holy hour before it.
In this book all the details of the rituals on the Maundy Thursday are
described. The most important day in the Holy Week is the Good Friday
where Christians commemorate the death of Christ after three hours of
agony on the cross. Here the author vividly portrays how the Catholics
commemorate the event in a penitential atmosphere.
He also highlights that in some places, Passion plays or three hours
of agony of Christ are enacted connected to Good Friday Mass.
In this book special attention is paid to the Easter vigil performed
on the Holy Saturday. All the details of the renewal with blessings of
fire and water are aptly described.
The tradition of children creating fun clad like devils to show that
they have been driven out by Christ from the hell is also disclosed. The
importance of the resurrection of Christ on the Easter Sunday is well
emphasised in the book. The Passion plays that enact the passion and
death of Christ on the cross is a popular feature all over the world. In
this book the origins and development of Passion plays are dealt with.
The famous Passion play at Oberamaugau in Eastern Germany performed once
in ten years is also discussed. The history of Passion plays in Sri
Lanka performed with a combination of statues and human beings - found
only in this country is well described.The author being an actor of the
now defunct Duwa traditional Passion Play, the world famous Duwa Passion
Play is emphasised in the book. He identifies three phases in its
development. The first was the bringing of the statue of crucified
Christ created by the famous sculptor of Cochin - Jokeenu Maistri by
Juwam, Peduru and Domingo, the three sons of Mihindukulasuriya Adrian
Fernando to Duwa in 1838. This had given the Duwa Passion Play and
outstanding statue of crucified Christ not found anywhere else.
The second phase was the recast of the Duwa Passion Play by Fr.
Marcelline Jayakody in 1939 based on Doroty Saeyer's famous work `Born
to be a King'. Since then its fame spread far and wide and it was
considered the greatest Passion show in Asia.
The next phase was in 1970 where it was renewed directed by Clement
Fernando to meet the needs of the time while maintaining the outlook of
Fr. Marcelline Jayakody's play. It is a pity that this traditional Duwa
Passion Play is not enacted now.The book could be on immense value not
only to those who do research on Easter and its traditions and practices
but also to those who are interested on the subject. As usual Bernard
Sri Kantha has presented this book in his inimitable simple language
that provides fascinating reading.
The book is also well illustrated specially with pictures of
Oberamaugau and Duwa Passion Plays and that enhances its value. The book
which provides wealth of material on Easter and its traditions and
practices is moderately priced for only Rs. 140/-
The writer is a former High Court Judge and Vice-President of the
Neman Society Alumini Association.
'Punchi kaete vathure gihin' in Spanish
Speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara,
Professor Kusuma Karunaratne, Professor Sam Karunaratne
along with Mrs. Indrani Ratnasekara are in the picture at
the event of presentation of copies of the original work and
the Spanish translation to the Speaker.
Professor Kusuma Karunaratne's collection of short stories, `Punchi
Kaete Vathure Gihin', based on the theme Tsunami has been translated
into Spanish by Mrs. Indrani Ratnasekara.
A copy of the translation was
presented to the Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara recently at the Parliament
premises.`Punchi Kaete Vathure Gihin' has already reached the English
and the Japanese reading public with its translations published by
Swarnakanthi Rajapaksha and Tadashi Noguchi respectively.
Professor Kusuma Karunaratne hopes that German and Tamil translations of
the book could be published before December 26, the fifth anniversary of
Tsunami disaster which Sri Lanka and several other nations experienced.
The stories in the book creative expressions of sad experiences resulted
in this disaster.
First person narrative of the bygone era
In "Bringing Tony Home stories by Tissa Abeysekara" which was
recently published by North Atlantic Books Barkley, California.
Tissa Abeysekara embarks on a nostalgic journey into the past and
revisits the pastoral human landscape in which he spent his childhood
and adolescent braving the turmoil caused by his family's economic woes.
Apart from revisiting an era gone by, the book bears testimony to the
turbulent past of the writer which would have left emotional scars on
him and defined the salient features of Tissa Abeysekara's personality.
With a keen eye and an ear of a filmmaker, Tissa Abeysekara codifies
his past, socio-economic life of the era, personalities dominated by in
his circle and uneasy ups and downs in the family. Filled with minutest
details and decorated with visual and auditory images, Abeysekara paints
the era with sweet and bitter memories against the backdrop of
post-colonial Sri Lanka.
The anthology makes up of six short stories on diverse themes.
However, a common thread that runs through all of them is the strong
sense of belonging and the nostalgia with which the author travels
through the memory landscape. Tissa Abeysekara's childhood and
adolescence were turbulent. He saw not only the transition of agro-based
economy to a market economy but the inevitable collapse of the old order
from a perspective of a victim in the process.
"Now the old tennis court had been cleared of weeds and a large crowd
had gathered to watch the setting up of the giant wheel there, and it
was the first week of April and exactly one month after we left Depanama
and three weeks after I walked with Tony to our new home in Egodawatta
and I -was being sent back by mother to return some money she had
borrowed from Mrs. Lawrence Perera; the money was put in an envelope and
stitched into my shirt pocket and in it was a note to Mrs. Perera with a
kind request to see that I won't be upto doing something stupid like
Here Tissa Abeysekara juxtapositions the changing plight of his
family which to that point was leading an upper middle class lifestyle
with the collapse of the old order signified by the abandoned tennis
Together with the abandoned court the leisurely life of the upper
middle class gave way to an emerging social order. A giant wheel was set
up in the tennis court.
Abeysekara family moved from Egodawatte to Depanama in an
impoverished state. It was the transition from prosperity to extreme
poverty. Changed of fortune had reduced Abeysekara family to the
despicable state of receiving `food stamps'. In the title story
`Bringing Tony Home', the author recounts the uneasy changes that his
family underwent leading to the abandonment of once faithful god `Tony'.
He grotesquely describes his arduous journey from Egodawatte to Depanama
on foot and how he had been afraid that he had actually lost `food
Apart from a personal account, Tissa Abeysekara with an evocative
diction captures the milieu in which he spent his rather turbulent
childhood and adolescent.
In the short story, `Elsewhere; something like a love story', the
author was able to describe a chance encounter of a teenage sweetheart
as an adult under different circumstances.
She carried a bag full of mangoes For Your Lady. She did not let me
carry it. Now the track we were following sloped down to a lower level
before it turned to cross the stream and go up to the rail track. In a
sudden throwback to adolescence, we held hands and ran down the slope,
breaking to a halt just before we took the turn to go up towards the
rail track. We could not see the rail track anymore and only the tops of
the telegraph poles stood against the grey sky. We kept looking at each
other, laughing like two kids. There was something artificial about that
run, something put on, like we were playing for time holding back what
had been coming inevitably from morning when we looked at each other
near the gate. The train whistled rising in a crescendo to a
heart-rending - a cry almost musical in its sadness, and it was like
waking from a long, healing slumber as I regained my senses, and the
Little Train thundered just above us, unseen but sounding like a
thousand iron wheels on iron.
Here the author employs his skills in manipulating the subtle nuances
of language to achieve the climax of the story which is making love with
the ex-girlfriend on the way back to the railway station. Tissa
Abeysekara dexterously depicts the change of time and circumstances. The
ex-girlfriend has now been a spinster while Abeysekara had already
married for the second time and therefore committed to another woman
'Your Lady'. However, human feelings know no bounds and it was the
sudden rekindling of a longing for each other that sparked into a fiery
force of love which ultimately consumed. Throughout the story,
Abeysekara achieves a remarkable degree of fidelity in creating
incidents and bringing the tension to a logical crescendo with equally
remarkable diction which differs from one story to another and yet has
its own unique identity of style.
"Harking the moaning pond" is another story where author revisits the
past where his grandmother lived and explores that time. The other
stories like 'Story in three movement' and 'Poor Young Man; A Requiem'
also explores the sentiments of a by gone era. 'Bringing Toney Home,
stories by Tissa Abeysekara offers a compelling read that takes the
readers back to the milieu in which life flourished with all its