serenity to horror
Ehela Ablaze by Shireen Senadhira. Reviewed by Punyakante Wijenaike
Ehela Ablaze is Shireen Senadhira’s first publication, a book of short stories interlaced with poetry. She gives expression to her feelings of the turmoil around her through gentle vision of natural surroundings. To quote:
‘There were other times
When the Ehela was ablaze
With hidden lighting,
Enticing the twinkling stars
I remember a well-kept garden
filled with happy bustle’
Out of her short stories I liked best, The Stone in My Palm for the message of quiet love it carried. To quote:
‘The little white stone was perfectly smooth to my touch except for two lines that ran across it on two sides. One had a curve like the scar I felt on your palm when I caressed your hand. I traced that line as if I’d been tracing the life line on my palm. Finally, I placed my open palm on yours and measured it against it, happy to see that the tops of your fingers were way over mine …..’
The writer’s prose resembles her poetry. Nevertheless she covers disasters like the bomb explosion in Colombo, Central Bank on January 31, 1996 to the bomb explosions in the underground railways and bus in the city of London in July 2006 in Deja Vu. To quote:
‘The days that followed that fateful day, were full of anguish. Many years have passed since then but Amali’s mum’s eyes still fill with tears whenever we meet. …..
I see her hand still shake with emotion when she holds her cup of tea ……
* * *
‘Please Clare what is it? What’s wrong? Clare murmured something but I managed to make sense of her words that day in London. A bomb had exploded in Edgware Road underground station …..’
From disaster Shireen flies for consolation to the serenity of Lake Geneva:
‘The winds blew over
Lake Geneva caressing us
Like the winds that blew long ago
Inspiring witty debate
From Voltaire and Rousseau …’
It is interesting to note that the writer is capable of swishing from serenity and cheer to the bizarre, imaginative world of horror, when she wants to, both in fiction and reality. In a piece of fiction named The Flaw she writes:
‘In confrontation remember, although she is a woman, you are dealing with a master who looks like a dove. She has harnessed the powers of Karate Kim and is a predator. Only when you see a flaw must you seize it, if you wish to win.
* * *
The warm air enclosed them as they stood face to face. ….
‘The flaw, the flaw, find the flaw’ reverberated in his mind.
‘Kalu Kumara!’ She whispered. …..
She leaned forward and whispered in his ear. Startled, he pulled back. In that instant, she locked him in her grip with one arm and deftly and swiftly slit his throat with the other. ……
From the horror of fiction, it is easy to slip into the horror of reality as seen in Ruby red Pomagranate. To quote:
‘When the children of Ehelepola Adikaram
innocent blood spilled forth
appalling the Kandyans
Stunned and grieving
still echoes on moonlit nights
along Bogambara Wewa’ …..
Today’s horror could be an echo from the past as in After the Massacre. To quote:
‘After the Kebithigollawa massacre where a bus load of children, their parents and others were blown to pieces as the bus exploded over claymore mines. ….’
She tries to erase the memory of the tragedy and seek some appeasement with these words:
‘I bring now baskets of araliya
to float in the same waters,
coloured ribbon to tie up my prayers.
I call them by name
But the children are too far away to hear,
They are floating in some other dream,
and as the branches bow in remembrance
a drum beat echoes in my mind.’