Choice between changing society and adaptability
Author: Amela Boyagoda
Publishers - Godage Brothers, Colombo 10.
CULTURES AT WAR: "We are facing our own extinction," warns
Jayathilaka, before cheering up the villagers with hopefulness. Ridden
of their ancestral land on either side of the ancient Kandyan Kingdom,
these innocent villagers had been worrying about the existence of their
civilisation, and every year, it loomed larger.
They did well at keeping alive their traditions and the dreams of
returning their ancestral land. But many prospects had been making those
dreams fade. The foremost was the imminent dangers posed from the fast
growing population of Indian Tamils. The pace of immigration of Indian
Tamils was picking up and, villagers, already a minority in the estate
sector, may simply be swamped.
Jayathilaka enjoyed command over villager's loyalties, he is asking
not for independence, but merely a genuine economic freedom for
villagers, and further, he prohibits violence.
But the British colonists, having crossed many miles and mountain
passes thousands of feet high, when gazed for the first tie on the hill
climes of Kandy, little knew that they are looking through a window of
Consequently, at the end of the awful trek, stretching over decades,
they mercilessly overran the fertile terrain rich in culture and
For many a writer, in such a backdrop, the hackneyed themes are
heroism, cowardice and betrayal. But, Amela Boyagoda, the author of
Pansa Casi, chooses to go against the grain, and opts out sagacity,
prudence and reunion as her themes.
Amela does not focus more on the harsh and unpleasant side of the
ensuring conflict with colonial invaders, but pays more attention
towards the subsequent social transformation, choice between the
changing society and the adaptability of the rural folk.
In this backdrop, Jayathilaka, a member of the Kandyan elite, and his
wife Punchi Kumarihamy relied more on commonsense than their elitist
obsessions. Jayathilaka was a visionary leader, who rebelled against his
own kith and kin.
He ventured off the beaten track in search of a new path for
survival. As a consequence, the traditional upcountry feudal system has
been subjected to a gradual social transformation.
In search of economic slaves, colonists increased the pace of
migration of Indian labourers. Kandyans were not only ridden of their
own land, but also forced into serfdom.
At the initial stages, Kandyans did not budge and Indian migrant
labourers were encouraged to settle down. Rural folk, led by Jayathilaka,
resisted colonial invasion that had engulfed free Sinhalese people at
the outset, but later made up their minds to adopt into circumstances.
But, under the visionary leadership of Jayathilaka, they were more
organised, and did not succumb into adverse situations. This is where
Amela, the author, comes out with her own innovations.
From there on, Amela's eloquent descriptions of ongoing social,
economic and political changes taking place starts a scintillating
conversation between the characters and the readers.
The social elite lost their privileges and found themselves in equal
footing with the rest of the society. This was unpalatable for an
aristocracy which was parochial in attitude.
The society was thurst into a money economy and many social evils
crept into Kandy. The Kandyans had been learning fast to cope with the
changes, and in the new order of society, they had to resort to
something for their own survival.
Moreover, we should not forget the fact that this is a woman author.
Throughout the pages, Punchi Kumarihamy plays as one of the most
influential, and sometimes mythologist, woman in the novel. She haunts
throughout the novel and influences each and every moment from near or
far. She is a wonderful creation depicting a traditional radala
upcountry wife in grief and agony.
She uses all her womanly influences in the way we expect from a
loving dedicated mother. She helps herhusband in all his endeavours both
physically and spiritually.
Invariably, readers will admire the way she loved Jayathilaka so
patently in adversity. Punchi Kuma was as ambitious as Jayathilaka. As
she grew more confident, she relaxed and charmed many of the rural folk
with her sparkle.
The title, Pansa Casi, conveys the whole spirit of the novel. For the
balancing of Indian Tamils and the Sinhalese and their different ways of
life and of politics is all the title suggests.
It is about the choice between changing society and changing
ourselves, and the gulf between ideals and day-to-day practicalities.
Ask any reader or critic to nominate the most influential characters in
Pansa Casi, and two names will invariably come up.
It is Jayathilaka, the revolutionary and the elitist, and Punchi
Kumarihamy, the wife who supports with blind dedication.
Linked artistically during their lives, their diverse but seminal
contributions towards a changing society always come to attention. They
were complementary personalities. Jayathilaka was a man on a mission,
and Punchi Kumarihamy was the most fervent unquestioning supporter.
Amela displays in Jayathilaka the futility of inherited wealth,
fragility of an elitist's dreams, and the persistent strength of a
family's love. Throughout her work, her Darwinian message was
consistent: "It's not the fittest which survives, but the adaptable."
And, her characters are not invincible. They are seldom that strong.
Law, economy, politics, fate and disaster often overwhelm them.
Novel depicts communicative competence
Amavila Dutu Pipasitaya
Author: Sunanda Mahendra
Fast Publishing (Pvt) Ltd, Colombo 10.
FICTION: It may be possible to break a physical entity into its
constituents and reconstitute it to its original form. But in the case
of a literary products which is already in human circulation,
deconstruction for the sake of breaking it up to its component
parts-characters, events, concepts, linguistic parts, etc., alone would
result in a bizarre ending.
In such a venture whether one likes it or not reconstitution links
with creation, recreation and imagination so that the new product is
innovative, fresh and even different from the original resource
Broadly speaking, the original context and the social environment
might remain unchanged but the text, its form, approach and vision may
reach different levels and the readership could perceive the differences
between the old and the new literary products.
Sunanda Mahendra has made creative use of the text Pujavaliya Ariya
Paryesana Sutraya and Jinaraja Vansaya in which the story of Upaka
Ajivaka is enshrined. The historical context goes back to the days of
The language used in Pujavaliya and that in Amavila Dutu Pipasitaya
(as expected by any reader) is quite different, particularly in
metaphorical use as well as in shades of linguistic and communicative
To know how a word is used is to know the context representation of
that word. In Section 1, Sunanda commences in a narrative style which is
apt to describe the meeting of the Buddha and Ajivaka. The Buddha's rare
features are revealed in clear and simple unambiguous poetic
terminology. He easily shifts to Section 2, where Ajivaka expresses his
feelings about the Buddha.
Here, Sunanda uses the traditional simile and metaphor (p 18). The
conversation between the Buddha and Ajivaka ends in section 3 and the
reader enters a grey area as to why Ajivaka did not become a follower of
the Buddha at the first encounter itself. This situation reminds us the
Buddha's meeting with the Dohna Brahmana.
Section Five to Section 40 cover the life of Ajivaka beginning as a
hermit and his sensual entanglement with a pretty lass (Javi) and
finally becoming disinterested in lay life.
He remembers the meeting with the Buddha and decides to go in search
of Him. In these Sections, Sunanda uses vivid strategies to keep the
attention of the readers. There are conversations, dialogues and
speculations. A psycho-analytic technique is adopted to examine the
working of Upaka the Ajivaka's mind. Introspection and intuition go
Upaka who thought of Javi as an Amavila that could quench his sensual
thirst has become a mirage and he becomes a weak, downtrodden worthless
brute morally and physically.
Javi giving birth to a son creates a suspicion as to the fatherhood
of the son as Upaka knew Javi's secret relationship with her former
lover. Javi's lullabies sung to irritate and demoralise him are quite
effectively and efficiently carved by Sunanda. In Section 21, the author
himself appears to be stepping into the narrative in the first five
This feature is observed in Section 40 at its start. From Section 40
to 43 Sunanda describes how Upaka goes in search of the Buddha, their
second encounter and finally Upaka becomes Upaka Thera. One question has
to be asked. What is the relevance of Section 42? No doubt it presents a
nutshell vision of the Buddhist doctrine, but the entire section is just
a narrative devoid of poetic luminosity.
In the entire composition, Section 41 converges and focuses on the
reality of life. The vision of this creation is enshrined in the few
lines that describe Uapaka self-actualising the reality of life. His
thirst has changed and he has come near the real Amavila. The symbol of
purity, detachment, free from defilements and a life of religious
harmony is the signifier Amavila.
Apart from the collocations, syntactic contexts, semantic contexts
the pragmatic context should be examined and perceived by the
intelligent reader to appreciate Sunanda's Amavila Dutu Pipasitaya.
After the Big Wave
RESEARCH: After the big wave combines the results of two separate
studies conducted by Social and Human Re-source Development Consultants
on the impact the December 2004 tsunami has had on the lives of Sri
Lankan families affected by the loss of either a mother or a father.
The two studies were carried out with the financial support and
encouragement of UNIFEM at two separate junctures of 2006. The first,
'Coping Strategies of Widowers and their Families' was completed in
march 2006 and its results prompted the researchers and UNIFEM to
explore the issue of single parent families further and broaden the
focus to include a study on widows.
'Coping Strategies of Widows and their Families' was therefore
completed in November 2006.
The book compares the two studies and aims to provide in one source
the rich data and analysis of the issues, concerns and possible
solutions which may inform decision/policy makers to bring substantial
differences in the lives of single parents, especially those newly
single parents post-tsunami, and that of their children.
The study highlights a number of issues that should be seriously
taken note of considering the many disasters both natural and man-made
Sri Lanka has experienced so far and may face in future. The uniqueness
of the study is the need to focus on the emerging models of families
that need to be highlighted in policy and planning.
Further, there was a total lack of sensitivity towards a gendered
approach in disaster intervention and it is hoped that the information
presented in this book would add to other existing information in this
Another expectation is that the present lack of family focus in the
intervention to disasters will be addressed in future interventions.
The research team consisted of D.C. Nanayakkara, Anberiya Hanifa and
Annie V. Kurian.
The book is a joint venture by the United Nation Development Fund for
women (UNIFEM) and social and Human Resource Development Consultants (SHRDC)
47 S.D.S. Jayasinghe Mawatha, Kohuwela, Nugegoda, Email email@example.com
Philosophy for the beginner
The Crystal and the Flame - A primer for the young thinker
Author: Delaine Weerakkody
Publisher: Vijitha Yapa Publications, Colombo, July, 2007.
PHILOSOPHY: The Crystal and the Flame, written by Delaine Weerakkody,
is a delightful introduction to philosophy.
The book is meant to be a 'primer for the young thinker' despite its
wide coverage inclusive of the very serious core issues of philosophy
such as Argumentative Fallacies, the Nature of Knowledge and the Nature
This wide coverage of the concepts of philosophy, given through the
use of simple examples should make the book serve as a popular
introduction to the subject and is recommended for compulsory reading.
This need is particularly relevant at a time when the objectives of
the recent education reforms which include the development of generic
skills, such as, 'critical and divergent thinking' (National Education
Commission, Proposals, 2003), and the associated methodologies developed
to realize these objectives, such as School Based Assessment, are
These objectives were amplified in 2004 as Guiding Principles to be
compulsorily observed in Curriculum Renewal/Revision, under the
leadership of persons such as Prof. Rajiva Wijesinghe, particularly by
way of; The treatment of the subject is refreshingly novel and use is
also made of ordinary situations to illustrate the principles of
The coverage is quite comprehensive extending even to applied ethics
in the form of medical ethics, business ethics and environmental ethics
and there are exercises at the end of each chapter which will help the
reader to check whether the topics exposited have been mastered. The
book begins with an indication of the scope of the coverage together
with a time line.
Coverage of philosophies
This way of treating a subject is educationally sound as recommended
by David Ausabel by way of the use of an advance organizer. As regards
the coverage of philosophies and philosophers, the inclusion of
philosophers of the East beginning with the Buddha and extending to
Swami Vivekananda and Ananda Coomaraswamy through Avicenna, Adi Shankara
and Al Gazali is gratifying. But Nagarjuna, founder of the Madyamika
school of philosophy could have been included. Similarly the
contribution of the philosophers of the Zen school, could have further
improved the good treatment already seen.
I would have personally liked a mention of contribution of the
Alexandrian (Hellenic) school, particularly as regards the freezing of
the progress of science and philosophy with its destruction and the
consequent emergence of the Dark Age of Europe within the ancient time
Going through the list of philosophers (not unique to this book) one
may conclude that philosophy is an exclusive masculine pastime. As a
teacher I found that the mention of the brave Hypatia of the Alexandrian
school was able to correct this to some extent.
With regard to 20th. century philosophers, I would have liked to see
the inclusion of Thomas Kuhn of 'the Structure of Scientific
These last remarks are not made with a view to detracting from the
value of the book which is excellent in terms of its purpose, but only
as a suggestion for consideration when new editions of the book are
issued, which should inevitably happen through the demand it should
stimulate and create.
The author quite correctly brings together Socrates and Arahat
Mahinda in expositing what is known as the Socratic method, with an
example from Socrates to evoke new and illuminative ways of looking at a
topic and with the classic example of testing the preparedness of King
Devanampiyatissa to learn the teachings of the Buddha. It is a pity that
politicians are exempted from such tests now!
Need for objectivity
The example from Socrates is used to illustrate very pointedly the
need for objectivity, consistency and relevance in an argument, while
that from Arahat Mahinda illustrates reasoning.
The author exposits the tools of philosophical analysis; concepts,
statements and arguments, together with their use in deductions and
conclusions through the use of situations currently familiar to
students. The author quite correctly devotes several pages to
The section on the Nature of Knowledge is treated in such a simple
manner that one may think that the topic of epistemology, so important
in philosophy, has been omitted through an oversight.
Ms. Weerakkody again quite correctly devotes separate chapters to the
Nature of Science, Methods of Science and Limitations of the Scientific
Method. It is here that I would like to see a reference to Thomas Kuhn
as indicated above.
The time line depicting the evolution of the atomic concept from
Democritus all the way to the current situation is a very good
illustration of adapting our theories to reflect new discoveries
although the discarded theories may have been philosophically sound at
various stages in the development of our knowledge.
Here too I would have liked (may be owed to my own prejudices), a
similar and more illustrative time line in the development of the models
of the universe from the Ptolemaic, through Copernicus , Galileo, Kepler,
Newton to the modern times.
In my view the break from the Ptolemaic through Copernicus and
Galileo was very important. Galileo proved Aristotle completely wrong by
recourse to experiment and not in the way of scholars by recourse to
quotations from authorities.
Application of logic
The inclusion of the application of logic to what comes as data and
statistics, in the Chapter, 'The Tyranny of Numbers - Truth, Lies and
Statistics' is very pertinent when numbers churned out by opinion,
surveys etc. are used to supplement logic in place of complementing
The author quite admirably extends the applications of philosophy, in
a substantial way to very pertinent topics linked to Ethics, Morals and
Values; and Governance, to Ethical issues in Science and to Emotion
versus Reason, by the use of everyday examples. Ms. Weerakkody aptly
concludes the book by adding a chapter devoted to 'a Philosophical
Attitude - an Examined Life'. Here items such as reflection,
retrospection, learning from mistakes, not resorting to stock responses
and self questioning are included.
This is important as mere knowing and knowledge does not
automatically ensure practice; which she correctly concludes as "knowing
what is right does not mean that we will consistently do what is right".
She has been able to weave in quotations from the Buddha, Capra, Yeats
among others, quite creatively to illustrate various points she has
brought forth in the wide coverage of the subject.
By way of an evaluative comment I am pleased to add that I found the
book informative while being pleasantly readable. The book can be
recommended without reservation to all, ranging from those who would
like to obtain a simple introduction to the most fascinating subject of
philosophy to those well versed in the subject, particularly to see how
simple examples can be so creatively used to exposit the subject.
The writer is the former Commissioner of Examinations and Director,
Planning and Research, Ministry of Education.