I find myself awakened by a sudden jerk and the ratchet of a handbrake. I look around the dark to find my colleagues sound asleep, still, snuggled up in their leather seats serving as make-shift beds. From my periphery, I sense Lakmal’s silhouette navigating his way towards me, past the heaps of camera bags dumped along the narrow aisle, the nimbleness of his feet matching his dexterity on the wheel. Both of us gesture for a smoke. He grins – milky teeth illuminating in the darkness like saltwater pearls.Read more
Tag Archives: Sri Lanka
Dilantha Gunawardana is a molecular biologist by training, yet identifies himself, as a wordsmith, papadum thief, “Best Laksa” seeker, poet of accident and fluke, hoop-addict, a late bloomer on all fronts, ex-quiz-druggy and humour-artist, who is still learning the craft of poetry. Dilantha lives in a chimerical universe of science and poems. His poems have been accepted for publication /published in Heart Wood Literary Magazine, Canary Literary Magazine, Boston Accent Lit, Forage, Kitaab, Creatrix, Eastlit, American Journal of Poetry, Zingara Poetry Review, The Wagon and Ravens Perch, among others. Dilantha has two anthologies of poetry, Kite Dreams (2016) and Driftwood (2017), published by Sarasavi Publishers, and is working on his third poetry collection, The Many Constellations of Home. Dilantha was awarded the prize for “The emerging writer of the year – 2016” in the Godage National Literary Awards, Sri Lanka, while being shortlisted for the poetry prize, in the same awards ceremony.
Dilantha blogs at – https://kite-dreams.com/
Reviewed by Ranga Chandrarathne
Title: Geoffrey Manning BAWA, Decolonising Architecture
Author: Shanti Jayewardene
Publisher: National Trust, Sri Lanka
Price: LKR 4800
In the monograph titled Geoffrey Manning BAWA, Decolonising Architecture, the author, architect and historian, Shanti Jayewardene examines the enduring architectural legacy of Bawa and how he sought to decolonize architecture from within the tradition, incorporating indigenous Sri Lankan motifs and spirit into the existing corpus of western architecture.
It is Bawa’s attempt that culminated in the birth of Sri Lankan modern architecture, which is now also known as tropical architecture. The author emphasizes, in no uncertain terms, that the term ‘decolonizing’ does not mean anti-colonial and that Bawa’s architectural legacy should be looked at from a broader perspective, perhaps, as a part of the process of indigenous knowledge production.
At the very beginning of the book the author points out that the field of architecture and study of architecture, like almost all other subjects, was a colonial legacy and the essential part of ‘colonising the mind’ was to look down on the indigenous knowledge as unscientific and obsolete.
‘The architectural “profession” in Sri Lanka has a colonial lineage. Its birth in the nineteenth century announced and affected a distinction in knowledge through apartheid policies of employment linked with knowledge. Only Western-trained individuals were recognised as architects or engineers. J. G Smither was appointed architect of the Public Works Department (PWD) around 1864. The post was held by Britons until independence. In Colonial institutions indigenous knowledge was officially subordinated to Western or so called modern “scientific” knowledge. Overlap between two systems of knowledge was suppressed in the colonial culture.’
It was obvious that the process of colonization was not confined to conceptual level of architecture. The author observes that one has to understand the process of decolonization from a broader perspective to look back and re-read Bawa’s work. ‘De-colonization is not simple anti-colonialism – it is “the attempt of the previous colonized people to reflectively work out a historical relation with former colonizer, culturally, politically and economically”.’
The study has been carefully divided into several chapters covering Bawa’s birth, the socio-cultural backdrop against which Bawa grew up, his education and his practice in Sri Lanka. Early chapters of the book help readers to learn the myriad of influences of famous architects, diverse architectural traditions, works and books on Bawa and how his Western education shaped his early practice as an architect and how deeply he studied the Sri Lankan age-old architectural legacy, which the author has quite rightly emphasized, was not pan-Sinhalese architecture. In fact it was a tradition which was made up of diverse influences such as ancient Sri Lankan architecture, Dutch, Portuguese, Islam and Tamil architecture.
One of the prominent influences on Bawa was his wide reading over the years. Some of the major influences which shaped his world view were the work of Ananda Coomaraswamy and books such as The Wonder that was India by Arthur Basham and Senake Bandaranayake’s Sinhalese Monastic Architecture (1974).
As observed by the author, a prominent architect who influenced Bawa was Mexican architect Luis Barragán (1902 –1988). Barragán developed his own vision with an inimitable Mexican spirit. The author observes a characteristic influence of Barragán work on Bawa’s creations in areas such as the stairs, courtyards, pools and spaces. However, both architects never met personally but it was obvious that Bawa had read about Barragán’s work featured in I.E Myers seminal work Mexico’s Modern Architecture (1952) that he possessed.
The Amnesty Intentional has published a collection of poems titled ‘ Silenced Shadows’. It’s a collection of 15 poems and translations of the said poems into all three languages, Sinhalese, Tamil and English. Originally, Amnesty International called for poems on enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka and selected 15 poems for publication. Five of the poems were written in Sinhala , five in Tamil and five in English. Now a very powerful collection of poems are available for readers in all the three languages.
The 20th Century generated a genre of poems which are now known as compassionate and resistance poetry. This particular genre of poetry was a response of the creative minds throughout the world to the changed circumstances of the 20th Century which can also be characterised as the most brutalised century in the human history. As the life got more and more inhumane and forms of human cruelty became one of the most shocking experiences of this century, the creative minds responded in reasserted the basic human values and protested against the widespread brutalisation and dehumanisation.
Sri Lanka was no exception to this general trend of decadence, violence and degrading the humanity and the human civilisation itself. Insurgencies And counter-terrorism, both relied on violence in its most extreme forms and the result was a widespread fear that was spread through the entire country. South, and North and the East were all affected by forms of violence which was hitherto unknown in the island. This island which was once known as the paradise of the orient began to manifest many aspects of hell not only for many persons but for the nation as a whole.
Most forceful expression of this situation was the enforced disappearances that took place in large scale in all parts of Sri Lanka. Enforced disappearances had all the characteristics of a perfected violence which combines extreme efficiency in execution of persons on the one hand and on the other, every form of the attempt to erase all evidence so that any attempt to ensure a justice to the victims will be almost impossible. Perfection of efficiency in execution is one of the most prominent aspects of 20th century violence.
Pan Macmillan India will release Chhimi Tenduf-La’s Loyal Stalkers in May.
Edgy yet tender, racy yet warm, these interlinked stories take us into the unfamiliar everyday of Sri Lankan living, where smugglers, waiters, single moms and cheaters cross paths as they attempt to negotiate a web of shock, subterfuge and irony. A collection of infinite brio and charm, this is Chhimi Tenduf-La at his inventive best.
In a private room sheltered from the Colombo riots, a seventeen-year-old girl gives birth to a hatechild. At a city gym, an introverted fitness instructor obsesses over his unattainable client. Inside an untended guest-house room, an adolescent cricket champ is caught unawares by his coach’s violent fury. By a rain-drenched gravesite, a special-needs teacher confides in a stranger.
About the Author:
Half-Tibetan, half-English, Chhimi Tenduf-La manages an international school in Sri Lanka, where he has lived, on and off, for thirty years. As father to two energetic children and husband to an implacable wife, Tenduf-La uses his only time to himself to write. His first two books, The Amazing Racist and Panther, were published in 2015 to wide acclaim.
Military history is something that has been given short shrift in India for decades, though the last few years have seen several well-written books exploring various facets of India’s armed forces, from their role in politics to their involvement in the two world wars.
Army officer-turned-journalist Sushant Singh’s Mission Overseas works well because its confines itself to three missions by the Indian Army on foreign soil. In less than 200 pages, he packs in tremendous detail and explains why these missions were or weren’t a success and what they meant for India’s geo-political standing.
Many Indians would be aware of all three missions – Operation Cactus, the daring 1988 operation to thwart an attempt by mercenaries to oust President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom of the Maldives; Operation Pawan, the disastrous intervention by the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka; and Operation Khukri, which was mounted to rescue more than 200 Indian peacekeepers besieged by rebels in Sierra Leone in 2000. Read more
Source: Hindustan Times
Title: Road to Nandikadal: True Story of Defeating Tamil Tigers; Author: Major General Kamal Gunaratne; Publisher: Not given; Distributed by: Vijitha Yapa Bookshop, Colombo; Pages: 741; Price: Rs 2,500 (SLR)
This is a dense yet gripping account by a decorated Sri Lankan military officer who was in the thick of it all in the long and bloody war that led to the decimation of the LTTE.
Major General Kamal Gunaratne is no ordinary soldier. An infantryman, he led the 53 Division – the most powerful Division in the Sri Lanka Army – that killed the LTTE founder leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, in May 2009, bringing the curtains down on a conflict that at one time looked like it was destined to go on and on.
When the dead Prabhakaran was placed before him, “I closely inspected the body of this fiend lying at my feet like a dog, his eyes wide open. Dressed in the striped camouflage uniform of the LTTE, Prabharkaran had not shaven for a couple of days and a growth of greying stubble covered his face. On his forehead was a deep gash spreading up to his skull, but other than that, not a single scratch was seen on his body. The open eyes displayed shock and terror. Having died only about 30 minutes earlier, it was still bleeding from the wound and his ears.” Read more
Source: Business Standard
By Chandra Ganguly
How do you make sense of life when your friend dies? How do you make sense of life when thousands were washed away by waters in a tsunami or killed ruthlessly in a genocide? How do you make sense of lives lived in pain whether due to atrocities committed by other or genetic mutations that make every day living a study in pain and forbearance? Peter Trachtenberg’s The Book of Calamities examines the meaning of life through these occurrences while asking five questions, “Why me? How do I endure? What is just? What does my suffering say about me and about God? What do I owe those who suffer?”
The book is a compelling first hand account of not just the author’s own suffering due to substance abuse, the death of his friends and his parents but also a first hand account of other people’s pain as he travels to places of strife such as Rwanda and Sri Lanka, follows up with families who lost loved ones on September 11, and interviews those in grief, seeking an answer to his questions.
The beauty of the book lies in the author’s ardent and almost unflinching seeking. He intersperses his travels and experiences with philosophies and religious texts from the Bible and Buddhism mainly but those chapters and paragraphs are like supporting documents, almost theoretical in their references. It is his travels and walks through the trenches of human suffering that pulls the reader in. How many people do we know who have travelled to Rwanda after the genocide or Sri Lanka after the tsunami? How many brave the hostility of these climates to ask questions? Trachtenberg recounts his experiences in such places and interviews people such as the Daley twins who suffered from Epidermolysis Bullosa, a form of affliction that made living in your own skin literally almost possible. The author befriends the people he seeks out in his journey to find a meaning and makes his research into suffering an empathetic and intimate look into lives we read about and normally keep at a distance. By describing his own sufferings, Trachtenberg draws us further into his story and his own search for meaning — “. . . suicide suddenly appealed to me as something I could do . . . I used about fifty Fiorinal and a razor blade that I was too squeamish to do very much with.” ( p. 57)
The Story Of A Brief Marriage
By Anuk Arudpragasam
193 pp. Flatiron Books. $24.99.
War is a constant wellspring of literature, and the best of it looks not for the obvious and sensationally violent, but instead searches for the subtle ways that life unfolds regardless. While Sri Lankans writing in Sinhala and Tamil have long borne nuanced witness to the country’s three decades of civil war, writing in English has been much slower to respond. And too much of it has taken the easy route, giving a foreign readership what it desires: a voyeuristic, and ultimately unengaged, affirmation of what it believes is true of savage peoples in other countries. Read more
2014 Gratiaen shortlisted writer Vihanga Perera talks about his works and the opportunities for writers in Sri Lanka: The Nation
He loves to call himself a writer; someone who writes and rewrites, working with manuscripts all year round. “I have been experimenting with my writing within and between genres for over ten years now since first being published – being lucky and generally, enjoying my work,” Vihanga Perera, 2014 Gratiaen shortlisted writer, said in an interview with The Nation. He is a poet, novelist, short story writer, publisher, political and social commentator, critic, blogger and academic. His shortlisted poetry collection ‘Love and Protest’ was compiled by Paw Print Publishing. The collection contains poems written during October 2013 to November 2014. Read more