Bringing up of a daughter, a lady doctor

Sinhala novel: Yasawardhana Rodrigo's latest Sinhala novel *Sihinaya Bondaviya*, a Dayawansa Jayakody 2006 publication, revolves round the characters of a rural family consisting of three members: the father, the mother, and their daughter, a medical doctor. The parents' sole intention of the life and the struggles is shown as undergoing all the hazards of a short span of life.

The daughter Sagarika later becomes the doctor Sagarika; from the beginning this is shown as a kind of person aloof from the central activities of the family leaving everything to be done by her parents. Her mannerism is moulded in such a manner that she often disengages in family matters to find more time for the concentration of her studies. Her sole commitment to the studies, and the bookishness is her only struggle path to climb the social ladder.

In her outlook, at times, she scorns her parents and anticipates a change in their life style. This struggle culminates in the pawning of their only property - the house and the land - to a trader called Saibu and her father gets seventy-five thousand rupees for her higher education.

The father and the mother's fervent hope is that their daughter would repay the amount later when she becomes a doctor; but ultimately it becomes, as its title *Bondavu Sihinaya *itself suggests, a mere Hazy Dream.

Can this be a common generation gap issue? I don't think so. But Rodrigo has something to say about a certain conflict between the parents and children of a changing society. The reader is made to know the father's struggles, as a small scale manual worker who earns a meager sum of money for the day-to-day needs and the wife makes the fa‡ade of the home neat and tidy, attending to the duties of a good housewife and a mother.

The novel mainly centres round the parents, and a certain amount of village activities to which they are involved making them being honored by the villagers. The struggle of the innocent father is shown as an upstream swim to the point that the both parents are shown as cut off from the daughter's life in the development process.

However on the day the father hears of the daughter's marriage to a Tamil doctor, it comes like a thunder-shock to him. He tries to make up his mind to be as calm as possible in vain, as he is shown as a weak person plunged between two forces: the money taken from the pawning, and the daughter's disillusioned achievements. This reaches a climax when the daughter and her husband visit the parents to pay their customary homage.

The father undergoes a tremendous mental derangement and passes on later. Just a few hours before the death pangs appear, Gunapala, the villager close to them, rushes to the hospital in Colombo looking for Sagarika. With great difficulty though, he finds her and informs her about the last moments of the father.

The daughter's point is that the parents are stubborn and therefore do not change their mannerism. Her only utterance seems to be that she had tried all possible ways to bring them to live with them comfortably in the city. She comes with much difficulty though, having foregone the channel practice of her husband, just to see the father's funeral arrangements.

Sagarika is shown as a so-called 'developed woman' or a 'modern woman' torn between two worlds: the world of her own, and the world of her parents, which to her is just an underdeveloped entity, and nothing else. She invites her mother to join her and live with her in a comfortable manner in this mood.

Rodrigo utilizes three ways of narrating a complex human experience of the so called generation gap, where the victims happen to be, more or less, parents.

The first technique is that he makes the reader feel that the death of the father [Addin Bassunnahe]; this is the result of his dedication to the family matters, where he feels that the daughter had unknowingly betrayed the parents with the inability to fulfill their wishes.

The second technique comes in the second phase where the father's profile is unfolded by the mother from whose side, the narrative envelopes several characters entering into the interaction of the central experience.

This section is the profile of an isolated woman, who makes a struggle to live alone forgetting the fact that she had a helpful daughter born to her. This is the most vibrant and sensitive area of the novel. In her isolation, the writer makes the fantasies and apparitions roam around in the house, in the best manner possible.

The narrative technique as seen in the third phase is the extension of the invitation of the daughter, who pays a visit to her mother and takes her away to live with her with great reluctance on the part of the mother. In this section, the reader sympathizes with the mother for her mental agonies and the loneliness in the city surrounded by noises peculiar to her and by various activities cut off from the life style of her daughter.

The daughter wants to see that the mother is in a happy mood, despite the fact that she is being looked after by a servant. A turn of events enters her life when she is shown as missing from the daughter's house. She is shown as entering into her last moments, but desirous of coming back to rest in the house of her own, and ironically enough no longer hers.

The villagers only see her dead body lying in the compound one morning, and the resultant judgment is that she had paid her last visit to her own place and died in a mysterious manner. Rodrigo however does not conclude the novel in the conventional manner; instead makes the daughter know that the mother had disappeared followed by a series of comments on the part of the villagers, who were with her mother's associates.

The novelist Rodrigo is well equipped with material closely linked with rituals and folklore in a Sinhala village, and blends them sensitively to enrich the narrative, especially when the mother lives alone in the house which was once occupied by her husband and the daughter, frequented by villagers.

As a reader, I felt that the writer had not paid much attention to the development of Sagarika's character that centres around her husband; instead makes her a mere cruel, disobedient and rustic being in her mannerism unfitted for a doctor. Her husband is also a mere member of another race, who has no direct bearing to the total experience. Rodrigo, as a novelist, has a vision as far as the social morals are concerned, and he is conscious of his creative expression.

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