canopies of shade
Psychoanalysis is perhaps the strangest of all occupations;
but it does provide a literally inexhaustible storehouse of material
that increases each day. To the writer, it provides an adventure
with much of the romance and much of the practical detail.
Ratnayake is an adept. Her stories have always sought to break down
the fences of mystery; raising the stones under which mind-creatures
lurk; putting us in closer contact with the human mind and what
makes it tick. Suddenly, we realize that there are no priests and
initiates, no confraternities of the saved and unsaved, of the reasoning
Nor are there
human communities of latter day saints or sinners. What we come
face to face with are the raw convolutions of human nature, popping
like stars in a cabalistic firmament which has its own weird, even
There is nothing
really arcane or mystic about it. What she employs is the commonest
instrument of all - her own human self, utilized to the fullest
in an effort to understand all around her.
Her new offering,
"Tales of Shades and Shadow" (Vijitha Yapa Publications,
Colombo, 2003) was short-listed for the 2001 Gratiaen Award, and
the Preface by Rajiva Wijesinha underscores the fact that "(her)
stories... exemplify the development of a talent that is committed
to understanding society at large rather than any particular segment....
(There is) a sure command of theme as well as plot, (exemplifying)
the writer's unusual and compelling skills.
ago, Madhubhashini, in a rare visit, gave me a copy of "Driftwood".
I found the stories in it vastly psychoanalytical and most kept
one on the edge-of-the-seat. "Tales of Shades and Shadow"
is just as in-depth and engrossing and the trick is (as I found
out for myself) to read, then re-read. The self is brought into
question and there is the altogether human aspect - so many characters
with their own hopes and fears, goals and anxieties, prejudices
and pretensions, weaknesses and strengths.
This is the
real heart of the matter - the human mind and how it operates. Every
knee-jerk, every jibe, every pronouncement, every deed, every provocation,
is drawn back finely to the mind and how it works. Every story has
its own subterranean layer. The shadows materialize even beneath
the canopies of shade.
excels in is, simply put, the heart of the matter. The human mind
can be a dark, forbidding place. To delve is to do so at risk, yet
she has not faltered.
To her, it is not expedient to simply formalize the study of humankind
in all its aspects so that it can be understood. She deliberately
leaves many of her stories "open" to endings, finales
that the reader with his or her own mind could conjure. She bases
her stories on human functioning and behaviour but they are not
grounded in the laws of interpersonal communication.
of Shades and Shadow" is a book of many mind-storms. Even Amita,
who wants to kill the cat that shatters the composition of house
and home, has to admit: "I raised my hand, but I couldn't hit
it. Everything I am, everything I learnt, the thousand years of
being human behind me, wouldn't let me bring the broom down upon
it. I couldn't do it!"
And then she
sobbed: "It is evil...."
comes upon Amita so quickly. Is this how swiftly hatred replaces
love? But even when she strikes out, she says:
out only when I was sure of missing it.." Did love persist?
Did that first feeling of love deflect the blow that would make
hate the victor?
We find, in
this progression of stories, that the human mind persists in its
strange, unreasoned way. Today, it is characteristic that machines
execute the many functions of life. We have devices that substitute
for the human hand, the eye, the senses.
It will not
be long before this remarkable animal we call Man will be only an
attendant of the vast products of his invention. But areas still
persist in their independence - understanding, sympathetic comprehension,
intimacy, dark hatred, deep jealousy, frenzies of soul and carnal
prepossession. All our advances in the age of technology are but
forte is in the stripping away of the carapace. She has the undiminishing
gift of reaching through the rock walled defences to grasp the substance
is a lustrously beautiful thing. Oft times, it is a worm-ridden,
ugly crepitation... and every time, it is the mind within - the
"old Adam" perhaps, but the very essence of what makes
us so human.
Take the following
Proposal"- Duleep has asked Sadhana to marry him, but the girl
watches for the mind-flare that must come from the lady of the lawn
in the adjoining garden. "The lady moves slowly towards the
flower beds.... (she) stretches out a hand. But it does not touch
the flowers. The other hand stretches out too.... The breasts come
forward, thrusting upwards. Stretch, stretch.... and the lady widely,
slowly, enormously - yawns.
stares at her for a moment.... Then she looks straight into Duleep's
eyes. 'Oh Duleep, she says. 'The lady yawned. And I am sorry.
I can't marry you."
What was the
connection? The lady told her, in a fiercely-acted mind-message,
that hers would be a life of yawning dreariness, that there could
be no defloration in Duleep's bed, just as her reaching fingers
would not touch the flowers. Wasn't the studious Nalaka the better?
Of course, he was....
going back, the reverse pilgrimage, is what "The Kite"
is all about. A suspicious wife tracks her husband and son to a
little park and there she finds her son, alone under the trees,
making mud pies. Torment turns to disbelief. Her husband was meeting
no "other woman". "He was naked up to the waist..
A brown, prancing, perspiring man, running about everywhere, laughing
with abandon, his eyes on the sky, on the kite with a string at
its heart which held it firmly to earth."
Why would her
husband appropriate his son's kite to be the boy his son was? Was
his job, his marriage, his well-ordered home a cell he had to break
out of every park day? Was he playing truant from being a husband?
I could go
on and on. "Tales of Shades and Shadow" is a collection
that demands to be read - and several times over.This is a book
that gives analytical writing a new unvarnished face.
It is a blend
of psychosis, of the gentler understanding of inner worlds, and
a debunking of conformist trends.
have been on the look-out for a clear, concise, simply written and
entertaining book on 'heart-friendly' living, consider your search
as over. Dr. Shyam Fernando's book is it. And at Rs. 290 it is a
Let me tell
you first what this petite volume is not. It is not yet another
boring collection of homilies or overbearing and paternalistic instructions
for people. Nor is it a book of rules for patients with diseases
such as heart trouble, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity,
although Dr. Fernando deals with the important aspects of these
common maladies in sufficient depth along the way.
You will not
find in his book long, impractical and indigestible tables of food
values and vitamin and mineral contents of hundreds of food items,
that are almost impossible to convert into everyday meals.
as it may sound, Dr. Fernando does not burden readers with even
one quotation from the great and the good that often makes them
feel awfully guilty about the peccadilloes of their past life styles.
He does not weary readers with even a single word of medical jargon,
or attempt to embellish his book with any hard-core stuff (such
as impressive looking references), that are usually intended more
to show the writer's erudition than to help readers.
book tells you what you need to know about heart attacks and their
causes, and how to minimize the chances of your getting one through
sensible eating, physical exercise, stopping or reducing alcohol
consumption and keeping an eye on your blood pressure and blood
glucose. There is also a chapter each devoted to managing stress
and providing answers to common misconceptions.
has a marvellous knack of summarizing and simplifying complex subjects
and apparently contentious issues. To do that sort of thing with
the available mass of medical scientific evidence and then present
the factual and widely accepted core in simple, clear and readable
diction is an extraordinary talent possessed only by a minority
of the very best among scientists, medical or otherwise. Let me
test you a little bit here to support what I have been telling you.
Do you know what the acronym BMI stands for, and what your BMI is?
Do you know
what your maximum pulse rate ought to be during aerobic exercise,
and how to derive that rate? Do you know whether coconut oil is
good or bad for you? Is garlic 'good for cholesterol'? Dr. Fernando's
book gives the clearest, most accurate and most succinct information
and advice that I have read so far regarding the questions I have
posed for you above, and hundreds of other useful things you may
wish to know about healthy living.
given in the book are without exception extremely helpful, easy
to refer and particularly relevant to the Sri Lankan context. Key
points are re-iterated in brief, explicit, well placed and unequivocally
are delightful: their layout is testimony to the care and expertise
that have gone into creating them.
has loads of experience in teaching medical students, nurses, paramedics
and other health care professionals. This experience must have helped
him to write such an attractive book although, disappointingly,
so few medical teachers are also good writers. It is doubly difficult
to write for lay persons on complicated and often controversial
topics without losing accuracy and currency. Dr. Fernando achieves
this with his lucid and uncluttered prose style. His long professional
experience as a popular consultant physician is likely to have helped
him to identify accurately the audience he is addressing, although
so few specialists are known to advise their patients sensitively
and succinctly with evidence - based information.
A few words
about the cover design: I think that it could hardly have been bettered.
One glance at it will impel you to purchase and read the book. So
go ahead and buy it.
As most people
know, yielding to temptations in moderation, provided they are not
illegal, addictive or fattening, is good for the heart. Reading
'Mind Your Heart' is sure to gladden you heart whether it is young
enough to be my grandchild's or as old as mine.
This book won the GR Handy Memorial Award for the Best Publication
in Cardiology for the year 2003, awarded by the Sri Lanka Medical