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The Sunday TimesPlus

2nd March 1997



The hurly-burly of politics is not for me

"I don't need politics to keep me busy. I know the whole gamut of politics. I have been acquainted with it since I was six. I cherish my privacy above all else. But my day is packed.

She likes staying aloof and "watching the eternal drama of life". Unlike her father the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa, his only daughter Dulanjalee Chandraleka is not gregarious. Instead, she says, she is a very private person.Today we talk to Dulanjalee about her day and the values that govern her life.

By Roshan Peiris

"My day is a very private one. I know many think that I spend my day in the vortex of politics, but it is far from it. I plan my day so that I lead my own life and I don't want my life dictated to, by what people want of me."I am by no means an early riser like my father who got up every single day at 4 O'clock in the morning. I get up around six thirty or seven.When my father was alive, every day I had a morning call from him at seven on the dot inquiring about my programme for the day. These are memories I can't help but recall."You see, those days I was active in my husband's company Hue Jay International of which I am still a Director."I do not work any longer. I gave it up when my father died. The shock of him being killed by a suicide bomber was far too much for me and so I retreated into myself."So, today no career responsibilities clutter my daily life. I am proud to say my daily life revolves around my husband. In the morning I attend to breakfast and see that everything he needs is there before he leaves for the office. For my part I eat only fruit for my breakfast and maybe, occasionally a cereal."Don't get me wrong, I do not idle or sleep the rest of the time until lunch. On the contrary I am very busy with this big house which my husband and I had designed for us by Geoffrey Bawa. I do have a staff of servants but I believe that they must be supervised and directed. That does not mean nagging them. It is a daily routine to supervise my home and keep it comfortable so that any flaws I detect, I correct."I don't need politics to keep me busy. I know the whole gamut of politics. I have been acquainted with it since I was six. I cherish my privacy above all else. But my day is packed.I visit Sucharitha daily and clean and organise it. After all, it was my father's much loved home."Then invariably people come to see me seeking my help for their personal troubles. I do what I can to help. Otherwise, I direct them to the right people."One need not be in active politics to help people on a person to person basis. All my life and in my own way I hope to daily help people, less privileged and with troubles of their own.When my father was alive he often invited my husband and me for lunch and it had to be at 11.30 a.m. sharp. I enjoyed my lunch with my father and so did my husband. "At home we have rice and curry and fat-free oil is used together with the third milk for curries. I personally see to this on a daily routine basis."For dinner my husband likes a light diet of string hoppers or a course but I don't have dinner at all. I feel very much better doing so. Of course if we are out, which is not frequently, I do have dinner."After my marriage I did not attend many political functions, only a very few, such as celebrating my father's inauguration or Gam Udawa."As I said earlier, I cherish a private life. But we cannot keep saying 'No' to invitations. It looks rather churlish.We do not entertain on a daily basis either, my house is not a sort of social club. "We have a small band of selected friends, those who stood by us in bad times and good. They understand us and do not obtrude on our privacy."I feel a husband and wife should spend time together every evening, what I call quality time.That is talking over things to build up a close relationship. We both love music classical and modern to which we listen together. We also watch a video together and by 10.30 we are in bed."My daily life may not sound exciting but it is pleasant, often shared with selected friends. I don't mean to be arrogant but this is the truth. One must never make one's home a social meeting place especially on a daily basis."In the course of a day I do spend some time praying to a Higher power. There is no special time in the day for this. "From my point of view my daily life is a happy and fulfilled one. There are also my much loved mother and brother with whom I am in communication daily if we do not visit each other."Do I miss politics? No, the hurly-burly of politics holds no enchantment for me, I in fact have a deep rooted scepticism and I am disillusioned about politics especially after the death of my beloved father."My life is stimulating and happy without politics obtruding into it."

A Word to "Maname" Hitters

by Trelicia Gunawardane

Messrs. Douglas Amarasekara and Hemantha Warnakulasuriya have been hitting at "Maname" for quite a number of years. Alas, to no avail. All they have got are bruised knuckles. They should aim at a less solid target than Sarachchandra's classic drama which has been carrying on for four decades despite such ill-founded onslaughts.

I do not want to defend a play with which I have had an almost umbilical connection. Nor do I wish to dwell upon the extraordinary insensitivity and incomprehension displayed by the two correspondents with respect to Sinhala drama. The rootless character of their thinking has been shown up by Shelagh Goonewardene in a recent issue of "The Lanka Guardian." I have nothing to add to that excellent analysis which comes all the way from Australia.

But the curious Encylo-paedia Britannica fixation evident in the position taken up by Amarasekara and Warnakulasuriya calls for some comment. For them, "EB" the Great Book of All Significant Knowledge, and mention in it is the ultimate testimony to excellence and accomplishment. Nay, greatness.

"My name appears in the Encylopaedia Britannica: therefore I am." No, good sirs, that is not the case at all. Please don't go on enunciating this absurd principle: you will only be laughed at or pitied.

The Encylopaedia Britannica, however well-known, is merely another book of reference intended for a non-specialised readership. It is not a first-hand source or the fount of all wisdom. Furthermore, it is a compilation done in English that sees the world from a Western metropolitan perspective.

I have two suggestions for Messrs. Amarasekara and Warnakulasuriya. One is to form a "National Anti-Maname Front", go to the country and canvass public opinion against the play and its author.

The other is to leave Sinhala drama to those who know and genuinely care about it. I would personally recommend the latter course of action. Otherwise it might turn out to be another case of "Nodanna deyata gihin varige nahageneema."

Book Review

In search of Sinhala Buddhists

Gamana No-Nimeyi

A novel by Gunadasa Liyanage
Publisher: Dayawansa Jayakody & Co.
Price Rs. 180/-

'Gamana No-Nimeyi' (The journey is not over) is a novel written by Gunadasa Liyanage. It is new in its theme as well as in the manner of total experience presented. In this way, it belongs to a new genre of Sinhala novels; a genre which should develop and flourish in the future.

Liyanage bases and sets the novel in the present day society. It is written as if a person is writing a socio-political commentary. The main political events since the third decade of the century until the beginning of the sixth decade are re-told and imaginatively recaptured in it. The characters are all drawn from modern political history. Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Sir John Kotelawala, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, Ven. Henpitagedera Gnanaseeha are a few of them. Around them the political-social history of the times is fascinatingly woven. It is in this skill that Liyanage surpasses most of our present-day Sinhala writers.

We know of Liyanage as a journalist for a long time. It is this journalistic eye and sensitivity that has helped him to look at the political events at the time and relate them, winning the attention of the reader. But Gunadasa Liyanage is more than a journalist. He weaves these incidents into a story with a definite theme. It rises above ordinary reporting and allows us as readers to survey the events as if viewing all this from a rooftop and also see very closely under a microscope. These are created by the skill of the novelist. He helps us to see and feel the events closely, and in an impartial manner. As we read the story, the theme becomes clear and the characters fall into fine relief.

The theme of the novel is set when Ven. Henpitagedera Gnanaseeha begins his social protest at Ratnapura. He was fighting on behalf of the Rodiyas - the under-privileged group of people treated by some as a caste, and by others as a community. This social protest turns to a wider socio-political uprising in search for an identity of the Sinhala Buddhists.

The author has beautifully fused the art of a journalist to that of the skills of a mature novelist. One needs only to look at how he portrays Ven. Henpitagedera Gnanaseeha. At the start of the book, as stated we see him fighting against the caste system in Ratnapura. Then he helps Mr. D.S. Senanayake, but gets disillusioned by Mr. Senanayake's promises. He thereafter selects S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike as the person who could usher in the new social order visualised by him. The manner in which Mr. Bandaranaike was killed, topples all his hopes and shatters his ideal vision of a just socio-political order. The novel ends with this objective not being realised. The Prime Minister's death symbolised this failure. But the flow of the novel suggests that behind this failure the people's efforts rise up like an ever-increasing tide, and the journey so started will not end here. It will go on until the final objective is achieved.

Why did this struggle fail? In the novel, the process leading to this failure is graphically depicted. Liyanage is so close to the events he describes like a journalist. But being a novelist, he interpretes things objectively - viewing them from 'afar,' turning his novelist's eye to the inner meaning in the events.

Somarama the murderer, is a 'golaya' of Buddharakhitha. Murder as a political weapon is now being used. The so-called 'culture of violence' so prevalent today shows its early advent into politics here. Somarama's mind is portrayed especially through the description of external incidents. The author relates the incidents culminating in the Prime Minister's death. One by one the incidents are related; increasing the tempo of the flow, until the climax when the Prime Minister's death is reached. But in relating all these in detail, he does not forget his theme and does not lose his super control of his characters in this situation. This is what most other writers could learn from Gunadasa Liyanage.

Even the language of the novel is unique. At first, it appears like everyday newspaper language - simple and non-ornate. But as words are selected, combined and presented, a certain charm and depth is added to the language. The suggestive meaning of these carefully selected words enable us to see more into incidents portrayed. It is a happy combination of newspaper language with the creative language of a novelist.

Novels of this type are rare in Sinhala. Perhaps Truman Capote and a few others in the United States wrote novels of this nature. Liyanage has gone beyond them in transforming this genre to one of our own.

I can think of only one other Sinhala writer who produced a series of five excellent novels in this direction. That is Gunadasa Amarasekera. His novels written in five volumes are like a social commentary of this century. In these we come across more fictional characters than real people as we find in this book. Amarasekera's charming novels are in a way a contrast to this novel. He occupies himself with more fictional characters, thereby giving attention only to a few real incidents while Gunadasa Liyanage is devoted more to real characters and incidents.

- Prof. Nandasena Ratnapala

Miss Working Girl 1997

It's your chance

The response was overwhelming for the Miss Working Girl contest, as the entries closed on the 1st of March. Hundreds of hopeful contestants from all over the country had sent in their entry forms, with the hope of winning that very prestigious title, Miss Working Girl, 1997.

Over the years, the winners, the runners-up and participants, of the Miss Working Girl pageant have all moved ahead of the rest. They have not only advanced in their professions, but they have also entered competitive fields like acting, modelling and television very successfully.

The contest is not only aimed at beautiful girls. It focuses on intelligent, smart and attractive working girls who have many hidden talents. Over the years, we have seen their talents emerging during and after their grooming sessions for the competition.

This session gives the girls the guidance and confidence to aim at victory" said Mrs. Soma Edirisinghe, the Chairperson of the Lions club of Thimbirigasyaya, District 306 C, the organisers of this contest.

Another positive feature about this contest, is that it is in keeping with the culture and modesty of Sri Lanka. "We do not have a swim suit section. We judge the girls on intelligence, personality, how they carry themselves and their beauty" Mrs. Edirisinghe further said. "It is not purely based on beauty alone" she emphasised.

At a time when the country is fighting a war, the Lions Club has chosen a charitable cause to channel all proceeds of the Miss Working Girl contest funds to the De Soysa hospital for women to buy much needed hospital equipment. "We have always identified and contributed to social and worthy causes in the past and we will continue to do so," the organisers said.The judging to select the participants will be held on March 8. Selected contestants will be announced later. Those chosen stand to gain not only gifts but also the chance to be trained by a veteran like Seneka De Silva.

Their clothes will be designed by another veteran, Lou Ching Wong and the experience and the personal development the girls gain during their training sessions will help them not only in their professional lives, but in many other aspects of life as well.

Continue to Plus page 4 - The Enigmatic Mr.Wilson: Part 1 - Submarine safaris and adventures * Music maker from Iran * Designer Debut

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