By A. Jessie Michael

The parcel arrived in a postal van and James’ wife, Doris, put it aside for James to return from work and open it. It was an annual ritual — its arrival and his opening of it. This cardboard box measuring one foot by one foot by ten inches, wrapped in brown paper, with colourful stamps all over the top right hand corner and cross-tied with twine, came all the way from Mathagal, James’ home village in the Jaffna peninsula to the North of Sri Lanka, by sea-mail, to Malacca in Malaysia, and it contained his very own piece of home.

Actually, two similar parcels arrived every year, the other one landing at the house of James’ brother Joseph in Singapore.  Joseph, naturally a little sardonic and less nostalgic about the contents, let his wife Lily open the box. Nevertheless he appreciated the efforts put in by their sister in Mathagal for sending them this parcel, with a whiff of their homeland. He made Lily  list each item in the box so that he would not forget them when he got Lily to write his sister a thank you letter in Tamil. His written Tamil was pretty rusty after near fifty years of disuse.

James came home at about 5.00 pm exhausted from office, saw his parcel and instantly his tiredness lifted. He hastily cut through the twine, tore off the brown paper and pried the box open, a boy-like delight showing on his face. A treasure-box of edible memories — fruits of the earth and sea!

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This anthology of literary voices from Sri Lanka offers a unique “opportunity to know a country and its various cultures in a holistic way,” says Kitaab’s fiction editor Monideepa Sahu

Many roadsMany Roads Through Paradise: An anthology of Sri Lankan Literature

Edited by Shyam Selvadurai

Penguin, India

Rs 499/-

Pp 493

In a war-torn land where people are trying to heal deep wounds in the aftermath of widespread devastation, the anthologist hopes to provide “an opportunity to build bridges across the divided communities.”

This literary bouquet will excite readers everywhere by offering an intricate mosaic depicting Sri Lanka’s peoples and their cultures. Translations from Tamil and Sinhala are also included to give a faithful representation of Sri Lanka’s ethnic and literary diversity.

For Indian readers, this collection shows how similar we are beneath the superficial differences. It also serves as a warning, portraying the dire consequences, the stupendous human toll, that results when neighbouring linguistic and religious communities sharing the same homeland push their differences to the point of fratricide.