Goddess of the Shore of Sunrise by Dilshy Banu

A glimpse into beautiful Batticaloa

Reviewed by Carol Aloysius
“Seated in the corner of the train, Hazel rests her head on the curved edge of the seat. Her eyes pass through the outside vista. But her gaze suggests that she’s pondering over the life’s question. Is this the way that will lead her towards her destiny?

Cheerful voices echoed when the door was opened. The living room was re-designed into a party atmosphere, decorated with all kinds of décor that could be fitted for a party. The only difference… is that it is a private party arranged by a family for one of their beloved member’s birthday.
“Oh I am…” gaped Hazel and before she could talk further her mother hugged her greeting, “Happy Birthday” and put a gold chain with a pendant around Hazel’s neck. “This pendant is the one you wore when you were born,” said Hazel’s mother, while hazel scrutinised the locket pendant on her palm. It bore the design of a half heart and was bearing her name and her parents’ name inside it.
“Excuse me,” a coarse male voice woke up Hazel to the present situation, “Is someone sitting on this seat?” pointing at hazel’s hand luggage lying on the vacant seat next to her.
“The train has finally reached its destination – Batticaloa… With just the hand luggage, out comes the ‘Foreigner’ to explore her Heritage.”

So begins Dilshy Banu’s maiden novel Goddess of the Shore of Sunrise, the realisation of a dream envisioned five years before the novel came out in print, and conceived after an ‘accidental’ visit to Batticaloa. Of that visit she says in retrospect at the beginning of the book, “I found myself living in an adventure that I would never dare to dream, experiencing with exposure to war on ground and the different levels of survival of each society. The beauty of Batticaloa is so alluring that it kept taking me back there... and it’s then that the plot for this story bounced.”
Survival of the people and the beauty of the landscape: These are the two main ingredients that make up her novel – “a story that is both emotional and speaks about Batticaloa.”
In this Eastern coastal town, once known as the ‘Venice of Ceylon,’ it is the intriguing mix of people, their origins and customs that fascinate the author. Drawing on legends and historical facts, she gives detailed glimpses of little known communities such as the Aborigines of Batticaloa (Thimilars) the equivalent of the Southern Veddhas, ‘the people of the wood,’ the Portuguese Burghers, a handful of whom still speak creole and retain their native traditions including dances, the Mukkuvas, supposedly migrating from northern India. Citing D.W. N. Kadramer’s Landmark of Ancient Batticaloa, she discusses the origins of the first settlers to this coastal Eastern town and cites Rev. James Cordiner’s Description of Ceylon (1800) to reinforce her own opinion that, “tranquillity, plenty and contentment reign over them and they feel no desire to leave the spot their were born.”

Her book is also a constant reminder of the utterly beautiful natural vegetation of the district – albeit now scarred from the battle marks of the war.
Both the land and its people are seen through the eyes of Hazel. The Westernised young Lankan woman sporting decorative petals on her manicured nails, wearing nose and toe rings and coloured hair cuts a strange, alien figure in the conservative Eastern Province where women wear sarees or long skirts and blouses with sleeves and cover their faces with veils, as in the case of young Muslim women. Her brother Jason follows her later on the same mission that brought his sister Sri Lanka. Their quest: To figure out whether the parents who they loved rightfully belonged to them, or whether they were adopted.
Travelling to Batticaloa, Hazel’s first impressions are of a land of neglect and poverty. She laments that the once famous landmark she had looked forward to seeing – Punanai, the little village which she had originally intended to go in search of leopards, was now, “a mere tract of empty low grassland encrusted on both sides of the rail track, used as grazing land for cattle.” Soon, however, the natural beauty of the land charms her: Thick casuarinas bushes, palmyrah fences, coconut groves, the myriad waterways, the Kallady bridge constructed in 1924 during the time of the British Governor Sir Henry Manning, the blue waters of the lagoon, the famed Singing Fish. Intrigued by the white sands (silica sand), she notices for the first time while travelling in a ferry (moving road as she calls it) taking her from Panduvankarai – shore of Sunset to Elunvan kara – shore of Sunrise, she notes with regret, “It is unfortunate that no research has been conducted by geologists on the white sand lying ample in Batticaloa to identify its true nature and origin.” She indulges in the fantasy that the sand is perhaps evidence that Batticaloa was once the land of Mermaids.” Could this be the land of some sort of a lost civilisation that is not been inhabited by humans for centuries and thus still enacts the magic of its original beauty never heeded by human visitors?”

It is again, through Hazel’s mind that the reader is allowed to see Hazel’s new relationships blossoming as she develops a special attachment albeit with mixed emotions for Tharan who help her to confront the truth about her parentage, and later with Sambavi, a former LTTE female fighter who repels her and to whom she is irresistibly drawn for some unknown reason, later revealed in the book.
Once she finds out the truth about her true identity, and learns to accept it, the arrival of her parents to the island in search of her, gives a new twist to the story.

The author relies heavily on flashbacks, symbols and a mix of fact and fiction in both characters and incidents, to narrate her story.
While she makes fairly effective use of symbols e.g. the mask worn by Sambavi is symbolic of the ‘dark cloud that covered her world’ and the act of removing it was like facing the “Whole Earth” for the first time, her main weakness is in the way she uses flashbacks to move from the past to the present and vice versa. Often, the transition from the present to the past, and past to the present, instead of being smooth and flowing, leaves the audience speculating. The opening paragraph mentioned at the beginning is one example where the author suddenly jumps several years ahead on time, disrupting the story line, and resulting in the story losing its credibility. She also attempts to pack too many sub themes and ideas into the short space of 250 pages, with the result that the reader is left with too much to absorb at one go.
The strength of the novel perhaps lies in its varied settings. During her short stay in Batticaloa, Hazel and Jason manages to visit a number of interesting places scattered on the East coast, as well as other places in the country. Through their eyes we see the towns and cities of contrasts – the flashy cars and sleek hotels in the city is a far cry from the thatched roofed homes and broken down bullet ridden houses with collapsing walls in the North and East.

On the whole, despite its shortcomings the novel itself makes a good read, while the front cover is both interesting and arresting.
However, a tighter copy with better editing would have produced a neater and more readable work, as grammatical and spelling mistakes abound, although this is perhaps understandable as it is the author’s first effort at creative writing.
After years of being sidelined due to the war, Batticaloa is now regaining its former reputation as a tourists’ paradise. For those interested in visiting Batticaloa, the book could be a useful guide, considering the amount of research that has gone into it.


Raigam Teles

For a night of glitz and glamour

By Sarasi Paranamanna
This year a night of glamour and glitz will be unveiled at the seventh Raigam Teles.
With a new addition to their annual awards ceremony the Raigam Kingdom has once again stepped into the limelight with the announcement of the big night.
The awards ceremony, though it was called Raigam Tele Awards in the previous years, have been named as Raigam Teles this year and this is because the Raigam Kingdom has decided to step beyond the world of teledramas.

This year the stardom will not only be on teledrama celebrities but also on personalities involved in TV programmes as well. The 2010 Raigam Teles will be presenting awards for the best TV programmes, documentaries and comprises in the category of media excellence awards.
Raigam Kingdom which introduced many popular consumer goods to the market and being a national level player in the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) market is sponsoring the awards ceremony to carry out their part of social responsibility.

“We hold this awards ceremony as part of our social responsibility. At the inception of this project we figured that instead of doing usual entertainment projects it will be best to start an awards ceremony as that would encourage our teledrama artistes. Also this was started at a time when we really needed social harmony and the television media is one powerful method to carry this message so we thought of encouraging the artistes, which would ultimately result in quality creations,” explained the Chairman of Raigam Kingdom, Dr. Ravi Liyanage.
Speaking further he noted that the addition this year was to encourage the television media for more good quality programmes. Awards for best children’s programme, best education programme, best sports programme, best male and female compere, best news reporting and many more are to be presented on the special night. For the tele drama category alone 12 awards are inclusive of cash prizes. The Chairman noted that so far they have received 40 entries for the single episode drama category, 68 entries for the performing categories and 402 entries for other categories.

The seventh Raigam Teles will also be having three awards for the most popular category and the winning entries are chosen through the SMS vote. The line 0773 337337 is now open for the audience to vote for their favourite artistes and teledramas.
The most glamorous event of the tele drama and television arena will be held on May 13, 2011 at 6pm at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium. The event will be graced by the Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne and many other dignitaries are to be present at the occasion.


Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato dead at 99

BUENOS AIRES (AFP) – Ernesto Sabato, a prize-winning Argentine novelist and essayist who led a ground-breaking probe into abuses under the country’s military dictatorship, died at his home. He was 99.
Sabato’s best known work, The Tunnel, was a first novel published in 1948 that deals with the existential search for self and identity.
It was followed by two others – On Heroes and Tombs (1962), and The Angel of Darkness (1974) – that also have become part of the cannon of 20th century Latin American literature.
A physicist who trained in the late 1930s at the Institut Curie in Paris and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Sabato later turned away from science to become a writer.
Early essays, such as “Uno y el Universo,” probed the tensions between technology and humanism.
“I write, because otherwise I would have died, to search for the sense of existence,” he said once in an interview.
In Los Angeles, Spanish human rights judge Baltasar Garzon said he was saddened by the news of Sabato’s death.
“Ernesto Sabato is one of the founding fathers in Argentina, not only in the field of literature but for his immense commitment to human rights,” Garzon told AFP at a book fair.
Colombia’s Ministry of Culture said it “regrets today the death of the great Argentine writer Ernesto Sabato, considered one of the most important authors of Latin American literature.”
A political iconoclast, Sabato bucked the country’s authoritarian regimes.
He was forced out of a university teaching job in the 1940s under the dictatorship of Juan Domingo Peron, and was removed as director of a prominent journal under the military regime that took the helm from Peron.
In 1984, he led the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons, which investigated the human rights abuses committed under the military dictatorship during its “dirty war” against the left from 1976 to 1983.
The result was a powerful account, replete with eyewitness testimony, of the country’s descent into barbarism. It was titled “Nunca Mas,” or “Never Again.”
The same year, Sabato was awarded the Cervantes Prize for Literature, the most prestigious in the Spanish-speaking world.
“My father died a few hours ago. I know that all of you share the sadness that is felt by his family. Because my father did not belong to us alone,” said Sabato’s son, filmmaker Mario Sabato.
“With pride, with joy, we know that we share him with many people who loved him and needed him as much as we did.”
He said his father had asked that his wake be held in a neighbourhood club “so that the people of the barrio can accompany me on my final voyage, and I want them to remember me as a neighbour, a curmudgeon at times but basically a good guy.”
Elvira Gonzalez Fraga, the writer’s partner of 30 years, said Sabato had been in failing health for three years and died of a pulmonary ailment.
He was born June 24, 1911 in the city of Rojas, the second youngest of 11 children.


Symphony for a Child

By Shabna Cader
The AIDS Foundation of Lanka (AFL) and Educate a Child Trust (EACT) will be coming together to jointly organise a fund raising event. ‘Symphony for a Child’ will be a charity concert held on May 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Kularatne Hall in Ananda College. A press conference was held at the Park Street Mews on the details of the event as well as the two organisations.
Founder and Chairperson of the EACT Dr. Pramilla Senanayake gave a brief introduction to her Trust that was initiated over 26 years ago in Kalutara. “My son and I were walking along the beach when we noticed two boys there as well. It was the wrong time of the day for them to be lounging about, as they should have been in school. When I called them over and asked why they were not in school they simply said that they did not have the money. I thought it was ridiculous – education is free in Sri Lanka. But I was forgetting a very important factor. Education might be free but families yet have to pull up funds to supply their children with school supplies like books, uniforms, shoes, etc.” She began.
She started off by supporting these two boys at first and in next to no time, she was also supporting 15 others from the very area. Today, the EACT supports over 850 children, as well as a number of families who lost their homes during the Tsunami. A thriving community now provides them with homes, a school, a workplace where women are given employment opportunities and an IT Centre.
“We believe that children are an important part of our lives which is why we are hoping to hold this charity event together with the AFL,” added Dr. Senanayake.
The AIDS Foundation of Lanka was inaugurated two years ago. It was established as a follow-up organisation after the 8th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific was held in August 2007. Today the organization works closely with multiple Government programmes, receive funding from various international organisations including the UNAIDS and ILO. They also work closely with eight NGO’s in Sri Lanka and are supported further by an endowment fund as well.
Needs have no limitations and the needs of children are a fine example of that. Chairman of AFL Dr. Palitha Abeykoon highlighted that 45 children in the country have been identified as HIV positive and over 300 adults are also possibly positive. “There is a reason as to why numbers tend to be inaccurate; most often victims are discriminated in their homes, society and communities and do not come forward for relevant support and aid.
Although HIV can never be eliminated the chances of leading a better and healthy life can be assured with the right support. The AFL also works with other social service organisations, work on mother-child projects in order to improve the quality of life and conditions of HIV positive families, men, women and children around the country,” he added.
The proceeds from the charity concert to be held will be used to build a health clinic in Kalutara at the community built by the EACT. A host of reputed and much loved artistes have agreed to perform on May 20, free of charge, in aid of these two organisations. The line up includes performances by the Lanerolle Brothers, Voiceprint, Ananda Dabare, Ricky Bahar and Suleetha Nanayakkara.
The box plan and tickets are available at the Sri Lanka Medical Association, Wijerama Mawatha, Colombo 7. For further information or details on the ticket pricing contact 011 4 947878 or 011 2 690230.


Revision text on Kinematics

Clitus Perera has authored a handbook for Advanced Level Combined Maths students, especially focussing on Kinematics.
It contains many examination questions and solutions.
It is intended as a revision text covering all types of motion of a particle under gravity for the students who are sitting for the exam in August.
The text is comprised of 93 A4 size pages and prized at Rs.200.


The best of Malini and Namel Weeramuni on Celeb Chat

Thespian couple Malini and Namel Weeramuni share their love for the theatre with host Kumar de Silva on Celeb Chat at 9.30 p.m. on Monday May 9 on CSN (Carlton Sports Network).
Sri Lankan audiences will remember their memorable performances in the 1983
‘Ratagiya Attho’ (Expatriates) whose 26 episodes were much talked about even years later.
The Weeramunis now spend their every breathing moment… nurturing their lifelong dream... ‘The Namel Malini Punchi Theatre.’
All this and more with the Weeramunis on CSN’s Celeb Chat.