Little gems sparkle on every page
Although Matthew S. Friedman has chosen a Sri Lankan palette of colours and background to paint his word pictures in In the Shadow of the Tamarind Tree, this story could have easily been set anywhere. It could have been set in any city, town or village, anywhere in the world where people live, think and feel, and still the value of the theme would remain unchanged; the message touching, inspirational and powerful. People are people whether they live in Auckland, Berlin, Calcutta, New York, London, Paris or in Anuradhagama, a village somewhere in Sri Lanka, where this story takes place. And their feelings are subtle and fragile; their tragedies frighteningly personal and isolating.
Tore, a 72- year-old man sits grieving under the tamarind tree, facing the ocean, devastated by the loss of his wife.

Lyla, a little child whose small brother has died joins him on the bench. Tore is shunning the world, his friends and daughter who show concern. From morning till evening he sits under the Tamarind, too apathetic to turn the pages of his favourite poetry book or to walk to the edge of the shore to feel the soothing waves upon his feet.

Can anything take him out of himself, one wonders. What could he be feeling? What guilt and dark sorrow is he hiding in his silent lonely heart? We learn that he never shed a tear for his wife. And he tells Lyla, of course, after much insistence and persistence from the little girl, that “Whatever purpose I once had has long passed. I am old and used up – empty inside. For me, I am waiting for death to come – and when it does, it will be welcomed like a dear friend.”

How familiar that would sound to many a caring soul. We have heard loved ones say this and felt helpless. This story, partly real, partly magical and mythical, with elements of nature and folklore woven in, is about the way simple human contact can heal wounds, both within us and in another person’s heart.

And it is about hope and rejuvenation; about living and savouring every moment; about discovering the miracle of life, again and yet again, regardless of age. The book, though only 108 pages, is a deep mine where each page and paragraph could confront you with yet another gem; another moment of truth. Here’s an example: Little Lyla is impatient about tasting the tamarind fruit. Why not have it now, is her question. Tore says: “The world is always rushing everything. All is perfect at the time that it is. There are moments in life when one should wait and truly savour the best that this earth has to offer. When it comes to the fruit on this tree, the first ripe pod to fall to the ground is the best. So I wait.”

The story is also about overcoming prejudices, confronting our inner fears and believing that goodness, love and gentleness can come into each and every heart, if only we take a risk and give it the chance.

This is the eighth book published by the author. Except for a minor point on the terminology about Kabaragoyas (monitor lizards), many of which appear in the story, all I can say of the book are positive. It makes you think; makes you sit up and ask whether you have made any mistakes; and whether it is not too late to change that. It gives you the courage, and ample reason to change, if you want to change. It reinforces your faith in human goodness, especially if you have been used to doubting its existence.

It reminds you of the Power of One – what a great difference a single person can make in another’s life; and reminds you that the same applies to you too.
As the last word, a great book for the young and the old, valuable to give as a gift, even to those who are not much into reading. They will enjoy this, both for the story and the easy-to-read style!

Showing the way to threaded beauty
By Ayesha Inoon
Transferring the shape of her thoughts and the beauty of nature into exquisite pieces of embroidery, Indumathi Paranavithana’s book, “Ribbon Embroidery Design and Technique” is the first of its kind in Sinhala and will undoubtedly be welcomed by many, especially those in rural areas who do not have easy access to classes on the subject.

Indumathi, who divides her time between her handicrafts, teaching classes on embroidery and other skills, and caring for her three-year-old son, was first drawn to the field soon after her A/Ls. With her parents unwilling to send her out for employment, she had to devise ways to make her time at home productive. She began dabbling in paints, thread, ribbons and canvas, finding herself drawn to the possibilities of what could be created with the right materials and imagination.

When many started admiring her work, she was inspired to begin classes. The response to this was overwhelming, with students coming from as far as Matara, Kandy or Ratnapura to her home in Gampaha.

Where many choose to follow the footsteps of others, Indumathi chooses to carve her own path-rather than reproduce the same designs that appear in books, she opts to fashion her own patterns, often making them up as she goes along. Proficient in a number of methods, such as Ribbon Embroidery, Brazilian Embroidery, Hand Embroidery, Thread Embroidery, Krivel Embroidery, Cross Stitch and more, she combines many schemes in a single work, using whatever best brings out the theme she has in mind. She especially prefers Ribbon Embroidery, as it can be experimented with and moulded to express different things.

For others who are interested in trying out their skills in this avenue, she stresses the importance of keeping up with new trends and methods, and the need for individuality in their work. Although anyone can tackle the physical intricacies involved if they are given the right instructions, she says that it takes a true love for the work as well as inborn creativity to succeed.

Patience is another ingredient, with some creations taking as long as two weeks to complete. She explains that the seemingly high costs of these kind of pieces are due, not to the cost incurred, but rather the painstaking work and time that has gone into them.

Indumathi is regularly featured in Swarnawahini’s “Liya Sevana” programme, and, due to popular demand, hopes to bring her classes to Colombo. She is also planning on hosting an exhibition there within the next three months. She also hopes to publish more books such as “Ribbon Embroidery”, which is a comprehensive work, with colour pictures and detailed instructions, suitable even for beginners. The book is available at all leading book stores.

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