Redefining women's role in a globalised
'Nisambu Dola' Malraji Wanniarachchi introduces hitherto unknown woman's
character to Sinhala fictional world. Mihiri, the lead role in the
novel, emerges out of poverty into a world of glamour and money and in
the course of her upward social mobility, she conquers not only the
barrier of class but also the world of commence dominated by
cutting-edged competition. However, the story comes to an anti-climax
with Mihiri regretting over her journey.
The story commences with Mihiri's marriage to Darshana, a son from an
aristocratic family. Mihiri, though extremely beautiful, is from a poor
family who lives in a cottage in a land belonging to Dharshana's family.
On the very first day of the marriage, she understands the challenges
she has to face in the household.
"She looked out of the window slightly unwinding the blind. The
lights emanating through the darkness from huge buildings from here and
there in the metropolis looked like a colourful network as a whole. But
beneath this stunning network is darkness. There is a great mystery in
it. Mihiri closed the blind quicker than it was opened."
Through passages like the above, the author is able to capture the
mood of the lead character of the novel, Mihiri and her anxieties about
her marriage and the challenges that are to be faced in leading a life
in an aristocratic set up. The first challenge that the bride faces is
to improve her knowledge of English. It is stated that the language
spoken at home is English.
Although Mihiri is English educated, she is not used to speak in
One of the prominent characteristics of Sri Lankan upper middle class
is their liberal use of English at home. For them English has been a yet
another status symbol rather than a means of communication.
"Those who attended the function had hardly spoken in Sinhala. There
was hardly any space for Sinhala. Mihiri felt that Darshana's mother was
not as humble as she had been on the day of the wedding. Mihiri became
furious as she thought that Darshana's mother seemed to look down on her
parents. She breathed heavily when he learnt without a slightest doubt
that her parents had become an irritation to Darshana's mother."
The author Malraji Wanniarachchi has meticulously developed the
character of Mihiri against her bohemian husband Darshana. It seems that
the author has utilised not only the dialogues but also descriptions to
strike home the changing moods of Mihiri and gradual taking over the
business of the house before she completely controls Darshana's business
empire. Malraji is also clever in creating dramatic situations.
For instance, Mihiri's management skills are manifested in the
hospital scene where she manages the situation admirably. This feature
is also present in her previous works such as in Radha, an anthology of
"Now, Mihiri becomes indispensable for Darshana's mother. When father
returns Mihiri gives him medicine. Mihiri accompanied father when he
visited doctor once a month. She was amazed how she dominated this huge
Although the author has shifted the narrative from the first person
to the third person in the latter part of the novel, this has not helped
increase the vivacity of the character in a significant manner. The
author has also used other minor characters such as Sandra, Darshana's
friends to shed light on Mihiri's role.
Nisambu Dola excels in many areas such as characterisation, creating
dramatic situations, use of descriptions not only to represent changing
moods of the characters but also to create distinct atmospheres typical
to upper middle class vividly portrayed in the novel.
Although Malraji has painstakingly built up a strong feminine
character in Mihiri, the rather tragic end of the novel has, to a
greater extent, diminished otherwise a vividly realised character of
The author states in the last passage of the novel that Mihiri
regrets her heavy involvement in the world of commerce. Here the author,
though unwittingly, tries to reaffirm the conventional role of women
that is confined to rearing the children.
"I thought that we would not have to shed these tears if I had become
the wife and mother as he expected ...I have no strength left even to
utter ... forgives me..."
Gods reveal themselves
Discovery of Gods Unseen
by Somapala Dematapitiya
Published by the author
Available at Sarasavi Bookshop -
Nugegoda and Maharagama
Whether the Gods exist or not is a subject that seems to have led the
mankind into controversy even from the early days of our civilization.
It can be surmised that the whole gamut of human knowledge in this
regard has been gained through our own beliefs, personal and empirical
experiences, contemplations, religious or divine literature and
revelations, folklore and also by way of various experimental
undertakings and speculations of later times. Therefore, it has
intrinsically taken the shape of a complex and more complicated issue
posing before us a difficult problem which is very hard to elucidate and
bringforth a comprehensive and clear solution which can adequately
quench the inquisitive thirst of the interested seekers of the truth
about gods as well as the concept of gods and the rest of it.
At this controversial juncture Somapala Dematapitiya has taken a bold
step forward by publishing a book titled, "Discovery of Gods Unseen"
with a view to unravelling the realities embodied in this problematic
issue. In this book he brings about some authentic revelations about the
whole concept of gods, deities and others of the rank.
This is a handy book of 360 pages printed on white polished paper. In
this book Dematapitiya has made a unique effort to explain the concept
of Gods inevitably basing himself on the Buddhist philosophy without
stepping into the domain of any other religion not inflicting even a
The author explaining his views in the preamble to his book
elaborates on the classification of gods and deities as follows: "The
first category (of gods) consists mainly of Hindu and Greek gods of
mental deification, symbolizing environmental and phenomenal entities.
These gods again could be classified into two subgroups firstly,
conceptual gods who consist personified or deified objects of nature
such as sun, moon, fire, etc. and secondly, conceptual gods who are the
personifications of various concepts such as love or bravery...
The second category of gods, includes the host of those gods
sometimes referred to as thirty three thousands crores of gods who
consist of astral beings that we are aware of at present, who really are
an another category of life form existent in the form of evolution of
whom the Emergent Buddha (Bodhisatta), Sri Vishnu, Skandha Kumara of
Kataragama and Dedimunda of Aluthnuwara who are among the Gods-in-Charge
of World Administration (Loka palana) are some. They are usually called
Maheshakya or highly powerful full-pledged gods and in addition are
those who get to the various lower abodes of heaven ... are called
Alpeshakya or less powerful gods..."
He further categorizes gods Shiva, Maheshvara and Ganapathi together
with Godesses Laxmi and Sarasvathi as conceptual gods and goddesses of
Ven. Egodamulle Amaramoli Thera's article on the Cult of Gods in
Buddhism appearing at the beginning of the book deems to play a
harbinger's role comprehensively bringingforth the essence of the
Buddhistic theory about the existence of gods.
In selection of topics the author gives priority to the geographical
location of the other world and divine groups and the biographical
anecdotes of Bodhisatta Maitra, God Sri Vishnu, God Kataragama, God
Dedimunda of Aluthnuwara, God Sumana Saman, semi God Siddha Suniyam and
Goddess Paththini. He has allocated a chapter for each of the above
topics to elaborate on them with lengthy and admirable narrations.
The most salient characteristic of this book is the author's frank
and solemn exposure of the fact that the vast knowledge on gods acquired
by him was purely through a group of gods whom he was destined to come
across by way of a powerful Anduna or divine screen which belongs to God
Sri Vishnu and manipulated by his subordinate, God Dedimunda of
Aluthnuwara. At first he had been in close association with gods for
some time. As these gods seemed to be compassionate and willing to help
the human race as a whole and here with the sole intention of bestowing
the truth about them to the bewildered human beings enabling them to
communicate with the gods in the most complacent and congenial manner.
The author had suggested to the gods to reveal everything about them.
Thus with the kind approval of the gods he was successful in
compiling this book embodying a considerable share of those revelations
and many other incidental facts and figures which are capable of
capturing the interest of the readers. The rest of revelations will be
presented to the public in a later volume as the author promises.
Narawila Patrick in his introduction to the book gives a positive
answer to the question that to what extent could the readers believe
what author speaks out is nothing but the pure truth. And the author
more forcefully illustrates his focal points seven in number
establishing the credibility of the information he got through the
divine screen (pages 16-20).
Besides those superior gods the author speaks about the other deities
and non humans as well. This category includes astral beings like dryads
(tree deities), devils, demons, fiends (Rakshas), gremlins (prethas),
goblins( pisachas) and hobgoblins (kumbhandas) and so on along with
rites and rituals pertaining to them. The author's personal experiences
and hardships faced by him together with some occult and mysterious
manipulations in sorcery have been discussed in a fascinating way.
The chapter on divine medicines introduces among other details a
divine medicine - a plant called "Rajamantri" which possess a wonderful
healing power to cure many ailments like differences in blood pressure,
diabetes, gastric disorders etc. A photograph of the plant has also been
included in the book. Furthermore you can find in the book a number of
divine prescriptions for the preparation of drugs for various other
prevalent diseases including AIDS.
The author comes out with a number of specific instances regarding
patients who got cured by these divine medicines. Again he distinctively
points out that the divine punishments meted out by gods as corrective
measures are similar in nature to the punitive actions taken by our
The last chapter is an elaborate account explaining the use of divine
offerings and feeds which are considered as facilitating transactions to
promote the goodwill between gods and humans. If these transactions are
affected in anyway by ways of wrong actions of humans, gods are
compelled to punish them accordingly.
The author takes a frankly non agnostic stance and looks at these
phenomena in a challenging and thought-provoking manner taking the
reader on a voyage to a deeper level of understanding.
His artistic craftsmanship shown in writing this book is
The dramatic presentation of incidents with fascinating and conducive
dialogues in narration when he deals with his firsthand experiences
sometimes disclosing the utter cruelty and revengefulness of some
higher-ups and the talents shown in narrating the tales of others full
of hardships and vicissitudes of human life have won him much credit.
As such this is a book that we can read and enjoy like a novel or a
compendium of short stories.
A rare photograph of Bodhisatta Maitra, the Emergent Buddha adorns
the cover design of the book and the author divulges the mysterious way
how he happened to possess this invaluable photograph and discover
indisputable facts behind it.
In conclusion, I have to mention that this is the English version of
his prior publication in Sinhala titled "Ditimi Adisi Deviyan" printed
In profession Dematapitiya is a retired SLAS officer who has held the
post of an Additional Government Agent and two secretary posts in the
North Western Provincial Council. Earlier he was a School principal.
He is the author of many publications in the academic sphere. To his
credit there are Sinhalese novels, translations from English to Sinhala
and English grammar books together with the Dematapitiya Sinhala -
English Dictionary (2006) which is a complete volume of 747 pages.
As the author is well versed both in English and Sinhala, his diction
here is flawless, frank, easy to understand and commendable. As such one
is compelled to go on reading the book at one stretch with unabated
interest and enthusiasm.
As well , the Author House publishers UK have taken steps to publish
this book in near future in order to cater to the foreign readers.
After all this is a book worth reading. If there is anyone who
disagrees with and challenge the contents of the book may criticize and
let the author know about his valuable ideas. There is an open
invitation by the author for us to do so.
His appeal in this respect runs as follows: "If I were to receive my
readers' comments on my book as either a critique or an evaluation it
would be greatly helpful to me to ascertain the validity and credibility
of god's statement."
I am sure this book is an avenue to broaden the horizons of one's
knowledge in many ways.
Treat for language lovers
Godage Publishers, Colombo 10
Matara Janavahara is all about the dialect used by the people living
in the Matara district including Kadawath Sathara, Wellabada Pattuwa,
Kandabada Pattuwa, Weligam Korale and Morawak Korale. Although the
dominant language in these areas is Sinhalese, the dialect is somewhat
different from the one used in the Western Province and some of the
other areas of Sri Lanka. Most of us who have lived in the South do not
have any difficulty with the dialect used in Matara. However, a person
who visits Matara for the first time may experience some difficulty in
understanding the dialect used there.
The dialect used by the Southerner is rich in folk idiom and some of
the expression may not be immediately intelligible even to those who
have studied Sinhala for their degree. Although some of these terms are
fast disappearing with the urbanisation and the migration of the
population to Colombo, the dialect is very much alive in remote areas.
A peep into the education system in these areas in the past may shed
some light to the origin and the expansion of the dialect. A long time
ago the village temple was the seat of learning.
In the absence of schools in villages, children attended the village
temple for elementary education. There were no Montessori schools or
daycare centres to teach elocution or the basics of the langauge. As a
child I too attended the village temple where I learnt books such as
Buddha Gajjaya, Vadan Kavi Potha and Sakaskada. The children had to
memorise all the contents of these books and they did so quite happily.
As a result, they found it easy to learn any language and pronounce any
word in Sinhala, Pali, Sanskrit or English.
The dialect and the idiom used in Matara (the term is used to include
all the adjacent areas) have their roots in the village. The terms such
as sattai, paruvata, avusada, suvalpa, lassana, piriya, and achariya are
some of the terms which have come to stay in the spoken Sinhala even in
other parts of the island. Ordinary village folk never tried to follow
grammar patterns when they said, Mama yanava (I'm going), and Umba
yanava (you're going). However, there are marked differences in
expressions in areas such as Moneragala. For instance, ira bahinava (sun
sets) becomes irgala vetenava in such areas.
The author has collected a number of terms used mainly in the Matara
district. For instance, words such as achchara for apamana, akalvesi for
aniyam vessa, atukos for velana lada kos, adale for bagayen bagaya,
adikoda for avatara, atu aggissa for atuaga are a clear indication that
the dialect is still a living entity in the area.
Some of these terms may give rise to misunderstandings if they are
used outside the Matara district. For instance, Abiyogakaraya is a man
who has lost his mental balance but not someone who challenges you.
Another term of address is Ohe meaning you. It is rather a respectable
way of addressing a person. But Ohe is not a popular term of address in
the Western Province.
Meanwhile, some terms originated in Matara are now freely used in
other parts of the country. Here is a selection of such words: Thambum
hodda, Vambatu, Dharanipata vessa, Del vuna, Nan dodavanava, Pali
gahanava, Pol valla and Yakadura.
When it comes to relationships the terms used in Matara are quite
different. For instance, the term Amma (mother) is coupled with various
other words: Loku amma, Madduma amma, Kudamma, Bala amma, Heen amma,
Hichchi amma, and punchi amma. On the other hand, Appochchi (father) is
coupled with other words: Loku appachchi, Madduma appachchi, Bala
appochchi, Bappa and Hichchi bappa. The same can be said about Aiya
(elder brother), Nangi (younger sister), Malli (younger brother), and
Mama (uncle). The term Appochchi is now giving way to Thaththa, an
endearing term even in the Matara district.
The names of certain fruits and vegetables have different terms in
Matara. Some of them are Jul for Divul (woodapple), Kos for Herali (jak
fruit), and papol for gaslabu (papaya).
Some of the words used in Matara give rise to different meanings: Aka
maka damanava (destroy), Akul helanava (obstruct), Ata denava (help),
Ata panava (beg), Ata mita hinga (poor), Ata mita molavanava (bribe),
Atugadamanava (exterminate), Apavatvenava (die), Amu kala (gone mad),
Ekata eka (tit for tat), Eka deka karanava (exaggerate), Onna menna
(imminent), Kaju kanava vage (very easy), Kara arinava (avoid), Kara
gahanava (take responsibility), Kimbul kandulu (false tears), Kukul
People living in these areas are well-known for their verbal
gymnastics. They say, Kiris kiris gala made yanava, Kekara ganava, Gidi
gidi gala yanava, Gudu gudu gala bonava, Jara baras gala ada vetenava
and Pata pata gala karanava. Some of these terms are not very popular in
other parts of the island.
Taken as a whole, Matara Janavahara is an interesting and useful,
book for the discerning reader. It is a treat to linguists and other
lovers of the langauge.
Critical essays on Conrad's Heart of Darkness
Heart of Darkness
(London & New York: Routledge)
Heart of Darkness was written in 1899, and was based loosely on
Conrad's own experience as a seaman with a commission to sail up the
Congo river in 1890. During the twentieth century it has become a
central text in the discussion of European imperialism, and possibly the
best known of Conrad's works - even though his first commercial success
did not come until much later with the publication of Chance in 1913.
This book looks at the famous novella in detail from the perspective
of the early twenty-first century and offers a series of critical essays
which plot its reception and the establishment of its reputation. It
begins with a long essay by the editor exploring its political, social,
and literary background, offering a defence of Conrad. This is a counter
to the criticisms made by Edward Said and Chinua Achebe which claim that
Conrad, for all his liberalism, cannot conceal a submerged racism and
imperialism from his critical gaze.
D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke even puts in a spirited defence of Conrad as an
even-handed writer in gender terms. I'm afraid he's on something of a
hopeless quest here, as anyone who has read widely in Conrad will know -
particularly his deservedly less well-known short stories.
There's a chapter which traces the critical debate on Heart of
Darkness from its publication to the present day. This allows readers
the opportunity to witness how succeeding generations have interpreted
the text, and it's a refreshing reminder that literary criticism has
fads and fashions which change and even disappear.
The latter half of the book is given over to five extended critical
readings of the text. These represent what are currently perceived as
major schools of literary criticism - neo-Marxist, historicism,
feminism, deconstructionist, and narratological. These will allow the
serious students of literature at whom the book is aimed to sense the
academic climate and see what to aim at in their own work.
The feminist critique takes up the conventional objection that
Conrad's works don't include many female characters, and even includes a
bizarre recipe for those who cannot accept that a writer might not share
"Nina Pelikan Straus concluded that while women readers may find some
way to appreciate the text (she offers a number of reading strategies),
in the end the best that women readers can do is remain detached from
Heart of Darkness and refuse to grant the status of high art to the
There's also an interesting bonus - an appendix in which two film
adaptations of the text are analysed. Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse
Now! (1979) and Nicholas Roeg's Heart of Darkness (1994) are compared
with the original text in a way which casts interesting light on both,
though no mention is made of the 'deleted' scenes on the old French
rubber plantation in Coppola's film which would reinforce the fact that
his work was about imperialism and not just war.
It's a pity even more divergent views are not represented, but maybe
there's just not enough room in one volume. As Douglas Hewitt, one of
the many critics cited in this very scholarly survey observes: "Conrad's
Heart of Darkness has had more critical attention per word than any
other modern prose work".