The Sunday TimesPlus

1st Sptember 1996



Standing for the power of women

Book Review:

Mother Divine: Based on Sai Teachings By Sriya Ratnakara

Reviewed By: Roshan Peiris

In Asian history, the woman has been given an honoured place as the person who builds a solid foundation and ethical dimensions to the social structure of a country.

It is a far cry from feminism but it also stands for the power of women, their strength and character in the formulation of social ethics. The moderns no doubt believe in vociferous and often aggressive ways of achieving their ends. In the ancient traditions of Eastern society the woman plays an equally important role but with calmness, patience and religiosity.

It was this type of society that produced Easwaramma Sathy Sai's mother and Putlibhai, Mahatma Gandhi's mother.

They were no feminine militants, but women of quiet virtue who were able to influence the world through their sons.

According to Sai Baba's teachings, it is the wife and mother who give stature, wholesome dimensions to the home, the community and society. If the women of a country are happy, healthy and holy, the men of that country will be hardy, honest and happy. This is how Sathya Sai has clarified the role of women.

The author says that she dedicated this book on November 19 which is declared Ladies' Day.

Sathya Sai is quoted by the author as saying: "If the nation has to prosper, improvements must start with the parents. Without peace and harmony at home, there can be no peace in the nation. This message should be propagated throughout the world on every November 19 by observing it as the Ladies' Day."

It is women, Swamy says who should teach people how to run homes well and how to bring up children on right lines.

Swamy also observes, you must deal calmly and tactfully with the men, if they are not co- operating.

Sriya Ratnakara's slender book of fifty nine pages is an inspiring book which should be read by not only women but young girls on their way to womanhood and above all by men.

Rippling recollections

by Ananda Guruge

Rohini Gooneratne-Cooray is a poet who paints the most exquisite pictures with a fantastic mixture of brightly gleaming and sombre colours. They portray the sun and the rain; the bright and the gloomy; and the passing shadows of her tropical Island home. It is the beauty of her motherland which she recalls over the oceans and which inspires her to be an artist.

She is an artist who, with apt words and expressive imagery, does the same in her beautiful poems. She recollects in them the joys and the sorrows; the pains and the expectations; the noble and the wretched: "oneness, unseen seed of energy"; the "dry variegated floodgates of entangled wildflowers of my thoughts"; and many a facet of life steeped in culture and spirituality.

I have seen her paintings along with hundreds of admiring viewers who were rightly eloquent in their encomia. I have read her poetry in solitude in sole communion with her masterful creativity. I have enjoyed both experiences alike. She excels in both media.

To her the whole world with life itself is a chimerical canvas. "Ignite" she surely does. RIPPLES is a collection of fifty-four poems written in Pittsburgh, the Steel Capital of U.S.A. But the emotions they convey are based on recalled memories of her youthful days in Sri Lanka. She begins her poem "Civilization" conjuring up images of an unforgettable home:

"For eons this island speck
surrounded by vast reading water
the ocean Indian - years!" (No. 23)

If nature's beauty and the pride in a nation's heritage inspired the above lines, the mellowing influence of the Buddha's teachings permeates many a poem.

Each poem is a vignette of experience recalled to memory and enjoyed in varying emotions. You laugh with Rohini on "Teenage Love". You join her starry-eyed and enter:

" a fairy palace of the night
I build it up from my heart of light" (No. 16)

And partake of her joy in watching nine-year old Yanik's boyish pranks and reminiscing on Anya's youthfulness. You share her grief in "Gardenia Bushes." But not for long. Rohini takes you to a happier scene. Now you sit with her in deep contemplation:

" Despair and pity look aghast
Prudence smothers Hope; tends to jeer
The more we live more brief the past." (No. 25)

And you agree with her. Deeper and deeper she leads you in No. 31. It is no textbook recounting of the gist of the Buddha's teachings but the fruit of a poet's sensitive search for answers to imponderable questions in No. 44.

Rohini does have an enormous burden of feelings and grief which she would gladly share with the reader (No. 31). What does she yearn for ? Rohini:

" Calls to silver shadows to lift
these flowers from delicate dreams adrift
Wild and infinite, these intangible delights
the unseen forces of law and justice
that govern life, to end all wars
discriminations, stress and strife."

But she knows, for she admits:

"Being realistic, I seek the impossible."

I have been deeply touched by Rohini's delicate handling of the prevailing violence of a futile "ethnic war" in Sri Lanka. "Assassin's Minute" (No. 38) and "War Widow" are a telling commentary on the rarely voiced pangs of human suffering:

" A fallen berry of green youth
becomes a soldier swan!
A tiny man has fought
an enormous ethnic war." (No. 39)

RIPPLES is a book to be read when one's heart yearns for words to express the innermost thoughts of concern and uncertainty. As an artist turned poet or vice versa, Rohini will take the reader to hope, delight and contemplation. It is bound to be a unique and wonderful experience, for

"sorrows sifting on sands of peach
dainty and light as silk chiffon
ripples crisping on golden beach
dream stretched canvas on soul, can reach!" (No. 54)

Play dares status quo and cries for real peace

by Rajpal Abeynayake

The word was angst. It is a condition that punctuates life in a society such as ours that is unstable in an almost surreal kind of way. Angst mostly afflicts the young and the restless; some knuckle under it, but for others it's a spur.

Throwing all caution to the winds, Kisara Yatiyawela directs an angst - ridden drama that she hopes will challenge the dormant and the passive into doing something useful.

Peace, says a line in the play, has to be earned. Kisara's message in a nutshell is that peace between man and man is the real peace; the other variety that is traded over the negotiating table is ersatz.

In an ambitious production that tackles a deathly serious subject, the director gets a youthful cast from the Young Adults Fellowship to throw in their talent with some veterans from the Sinhala and Tamil theatre.

We do suppose that angst brings out the angst. This drama can sometimes be as brooding as our times; it is certainly not an instant play that looks for a clever plot to elicit oodles of dramatic pathos.

Instead, the play takes the more difficult trajectory of attempting to challenge the viewer with true to life, and not always necessarily dramatic situations.

The artless quest for peace -- the never-ending harangues that accompany the effort, the peace immunity (we have heard enough of tales about its imminent dawn to make us numb to its effects) all form part of the plays dominating theme of ethnic fiasco.

The entire fiasco of the ethnic problem and all its convoluted manifestations can be lost in the media fed frenzy to make sense of the 'situation'. A lot of hypocrisy goes on out there in the peace forums the NGO market for peace, and all the rest of the peace industry.

Kisara takes jabs at these social quirks, but then gets into the serious territory of trying to show that the real peace lies between men and men.

Two handicapped people (played by Sandra Mack and Mahen Suhadevan) are made use of to convey the futility of the strife. Peace, among the innocent is always there, the director almost strains to say.

It is a commendable effort; finally the playwright throws up a formidable challenge. Watch, and be provoked, she says, but whether the deadly serious theme can stir up our dramatic milieu will be a germane question that will be answered in the next few weeks.

It speaks volumes for the strides as made by the Creative Arts Foundation that a play of this nature, with a hugely ambitious but serious theme can now be put on at the Wendt. Hats off also to the principal sponsor Capital Radio which has shown they are comfortable in culture and the arts as equally as they are in the beauty queen business.

Save for the veterans in the cast (Leoni Kotelawala, Andrew David etc.,) the play would definitely be an educating experience for the young cast (Mahen Suhadevan, Nuala Devadasan, Shehara Fernando). You could say this is a play that dares the status quo and cries out for a real peace.

'Those who sow the wind" will be staged at Lionel Wendt on the 6th, 7th and 8th September.

When rhythm and colour held sway!

By Sithara Khan

There are certain things in life that are worth waiting for. The visit of Indian pop sensations Anaida and Mehnaz to this country was eagerly anticipated by Hindi music fans and their concert last Sunday evening at the Sugathadasa Stadium certainly did not dissapoint.

Anaida and Mehnaz In Concert took off around 5.15 pm, with the local band Shakthi making an interesting entrance, carrying and playing their instruments, as they walked towards the stage through the audience.

The show began with Shakthi and local songstress Nirosha Virajini lending her voice to two Tamil hits (Kaadal vaanile and Masthana masthana) and then a number in Sinhala. Singer Athula Adikari and songstress Corrinne then kept the audience entertained till it was time for Aniada to make a grand entrance.

Dressed in a black evening gown trimmed with lace, Anaida walked on stage admist loud applause from the audience. Her first number was the slow ballad 'Killing me softly,' and then the tempo picked up with her original 'fever,' where gher dance trouple with four girls joined her on the star shaped stage.

Her next number was Hanky panky, a Madonna favourite. Then it was time for her super hit Oova Oova and other popular favourites.

The vivacious Mehnaz also made a great impression on the audience as she followed Anaida on stage, singing and dancing with great style. There was no lacking in innovation. When Mehnaz performed her big hit 'Miss India' on stage, she was both crowned and sashed by her dancers!

Then it was time for another medley. This time, it was a mixture of Mehnaz's hit songs which included Joon Joon, to which the dancers gyrated enthusiastically. Knock On Wood was Mehnaz's next number and then came Conga, this time with her dancers joining in. Mehnaz was also able to get an active participation and a loud response from the usually quiet audience. Her act came to a close with another re-mix of old and new songs, a Hindi pop medley with her dancers showering her with flowers as they danced.

The organisers and the presenters had indeed done a fabulous job. The concert was only marred by the inconsistency in the sound which sometimes resulted in the singers voice not being heard.

The choreography was excellent and the performers and their dancers hardly wasted any time when changing into different outfits during the show. The energy and effort put in both by Anaida and Mehnaz and their never-say-tired dancers kept the show moving without a dull moment.

The audience, most of them familiar with their recent Hindi hits were appreciative of the fair dished out by two vivacious singers. Perhaps repetition of certain songs (both Corrinne and Mehnaz performed Congo, and a few other Hindi film hits performed by both Anaida and Mehnaz) could have enhanced their enjoyment.

Both these Indian ladkhis have tremendous stage presence and tons of energy! Their performance was invigorating, with a good sense of rhythm, full of color, non-stop dancing and fun. Even little kids joined them on stage! They also manage to build up an easy rapport with the audience.

Anaida and Mehnaz in Concert was presented by Bandula Jayasekera Promotions and organised by the Trinity College Old Boys Association (Colombo Branch).

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