A story that deserves recognition | Sunday Observer

A story that deserves recognition

‘Hatred does not cease
through hatred
Anywhere at any time
Through love alone do they cease.
This is an eternal law’.

– (Dhp.v.5)

The above stanza from Dhammapada is of special significance in this nuclear era where materialism and power lead to an appalling destructiveness of the world.

Kamala Wijeratne is the winner of Sahityarathna 2019 awarded by the State Literary Advisory Board of the Department of Cultural Affairs.

A veteran teacher, poet and novelist, Kamala Wijeratne tries to bridge the gap between the multiple ethnic and religious groups in Sri Lanka through her creative writing in English and Sinhala, and has reached the pinnacle in publishing her heart rending novel ‘An Untold Story’ highlighting the significance of the above verse.

The story unfolds the saga of Vineetha who had been working hard to be a doctor to appease his mother’s dreams and Mariaseelan, dreaming to be an engineer.

Unfortunately, the aspirations of both were affected by the socio-political climate that prevailed in Sri Lanka in the past three decades – while Vineetha’s mother and his infant brother were mutilated in cold blood by the LTTE militants at Kabithigollawa in the North Central Province, Mariaseelan’s brother, a sea Tiger was killed by the Government forces.

Catastrophes

However, the two victims respond to their catastrophes in two different ways. Vineetha diverted his pain and restored to cultivate metta by becoming a bhikku, thinking that loving-kindness is the ideal response to violence and destruction, while Mariaseelan responded by joining the LTTE movement to take revenge from the Army for killing his brother.

Later the encounter between Vineetha and the heavily wounded Mariaseelan, provides an ideal opportunity for Vineetha to put his Buddhist ideals of brahmavihare into practice.

His tender care of the child physically, mentally and emotionally with the assistance of the native doctor Heen Naide delivers a moral message to the modern reader on the importance of metta.

One day, while Vineetha was meditating Mariaseelan tried to crush Vineethe’s head with a stone because he was brain washed by the LTTE against bhikku. Despite such attempt Vineetha showed him compassion, which emphasises the extent of muditha that Vineetha practised.

When Suwandehamy suggested to hand over the boy to the Army Vineetha refused to do so saying.

“.......This boy has been only an instrument a tool for them to realise their greed and hatred. Let us return hatred with love-..........”

Here the author raises her voice through Vineetha emphasising the main theme of the novel-Nahiverena Verani.

The author attempts to convey mettha through a variety of characters that represent an amalgam of subcultures prevailing in contemporary Sri Lanka – the Sinhala majority, the Tamil minority, the rural and the urban, the haves and the have-nots and various religious groups, such as Buddhists and Catholics.

Vineetha and Mariaseelan represent two ethnic groups, the Sinhalese majority and the Tamil minority. Vineetha’s moral and ethical beliefs compelled him to establish a strong relationship with the wounded Mariaseelan who ultimately becomes a strong devotee of Vineetha sadu.

When Mariaseelan escorted Sugandika and Suraj to Vineetha’s home, he expresses his heartfelt gratitude to Vineetha as follows.

‘He was like a father to me. I would have died if he didn’t find me and care for me ...”

The friendship between Vineetha and Suraj as students too was very strong. Vineetha who came from a remote area to King’s College became a target of merciless teasing and bullying by his snobbish school mates who had been in King’s College from the Kindergarten calling him insulting nicknames, such as pinbatha and pansulpaluwa. However the strong bond between Vineetha who represented the marginalised social groups living in the highly vulnerable areas during the conflict against terrorism and Suraj who represented the rich and sophisticated middle class is vividly shown in the novel.

The author binds the characters representing an amalgam of social milieu, Vineetha, Mariaseelan, Heeen Naide, Suwandehami, Suraj and Sugandika with the thread of loving kindness, compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity.

The novel provides a source of enlightenment to the atrocities of the 30 years of battle against terrorism that claimed the lives of many civilians irrespective of any ethnicity.

The tragic plight of the Sri Lankan soldiers is revealed through Bandare and Sachin who joined the Army in their early twenties for two reasons, to safeguard the villagers and to earn their living. Their childhood was spent in fear of sudden attacks on the villages and the slaughter of civilians in forests.

When Sachin said, “We’ll come in sealed polythene bags,” Bandara agreed declaring,

“It is better than living like the dead... At least, our families will be paid compensation”.

There is very little literature written in English in Sri Lanka highlighting the travails undergone by the Army during the 30 years of battle against terrorism. ‘An Untold story’ is a unique novel that unfolds the story of the hapless, voiceless Sri Lankan soldiers. However, in doing so, the author maintains a wonderful sense of balance.

Her capacity to penetrate into the true nature of things, stripped bare of prejudices is commendable.

The novel expresses the writer’s sensibility of the unsophisticated rural community in Sri Lanka. The sense of hospitality of the Sri Lankan villagers is vividly portrayed by the very warm welcome given by Vineetha’s mother to Suraj when he visits her humble abode. Also, the reliability on indigenous medicine in adverse situations is demonstrated by the way Mariaseelan was treated in the forest with herbal medicine while he was heavily wounded.

The frequent use of indigenous expressions adds a local flavour and authenticity to the novel.

‘An Untold Story’ unfolds a hidden story that deserves recognition and should be read not only by the Sri Lankan reading community but by the international community as well; especially those who have misgivings regarding the Sinhalese community.

Title: An Untold Story
Author: Kamala Wijerathne
Publication: S. Godage & Brothers (Pvt) Ltd.
No of Pages: 160

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