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Focus on Books:

Of teachers, lawyers and ambitions

*************

Book: Dark Clouds Turning Silver

Author: W T A Leslie Fernando

Genre: Novel

Publisher: International Book House (Pvt) Ltd. 2008

Page count: 189

Price: Rs. 650.

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One of the main factors as observed and claimed in a self referential, biographical narrative is the re-recording of actual happenings, in a serialised manner, overshadowing the strengths of creative expression via imagination.

A series of believable happenings may have a certain degree of readability. But it also tends to be monotonous, if expressed devoid of any creative insights. While the recording of true to life happenings of a protagonist named Laksiri Warnakulasuriya is laid down in terms of a series of events on the part of its author Leslie Fernando, a retired High Court Judge, I perceive, that his ability to recreate in terms of insightful creative expression is overshadowed by the same personal flow of events.

The series of events as they unfold, to my mind, are mostly of a chronological order presumably of a series of successful events mounting one by one until the end where the writer weaves a narrative which looks more like a biography rather than an insightful narrative.

Laksiri, the protagonist is suggestive of a bright individual from his childhood days that was spent more bent on studies rather than any other extra activities. He is also nurtured by his father who stands like a honest dedicated politician with a left mindedness. These factors together with other upbringings enable Laksiri to enter the university where he excels. Then once he is graduated from the university he in a sort of self empathy desires to take up legal studies.

His preference to become a lawyer rather than a teacher is somewhat supplemented by his own ambitions. For the reader Laksiri instead of becoming a complling struggler of trials and tribulations, merely faces a certain degree of calamity in his career as a teacher.

He becomes a favourite teacher, as it happens in the case of a good teacher who is dedicated. But I am at a loss to perceive the degree of mental pains he undergoes, for the writer perhaps erases them off from the narrative, for no apparent logic.

The most significant aspect of this narrative is the ascending order of Laksiri from a teacher to a common lawyer and from there to a High Court Judge. But it is portrayed merely as a series of events subjected to the outer layer of expression.

The absence of the inner layer of turbulences in the mind of a Judge, sometimes sandwiched between this actual event and the cross currents that flow beneath it, would have enriched the narrative to elevate it up to a sensitive layer.

It looks as if the signifier judge, the narrator, judges his own situations via the protagonist latent in the narrative. As such the biography of the narrator cum recorder emerges, surging the complexity of the human experiences, desirably needed for the reader. Quite a number of chapters deal with the records of shifting from one place to another on the part of the High Court Judge. These nuances may not look too relevant facts as they could have been summorised more forcefully what finally happens is the main turning point in the work.

The protagonist Laksiri is transferred or more or less manipulated by some others of the same profession to get a transfer to the place named Amba-ara the place where he worked as a teacher.

Though with a sense of reluctance, Laksiri goes to Amba-ara to find that the place (courts) is not at all suitable for his mood. The climax of activities culminate when he and his wife returns from that place in order to take up a foreign trip to Germany and from there to England to attend a seminar on child abuse. Then they hear about a bomb blast that had occurred in Amba-ara during their absence.

The protagonist obtains permission to go to Germany, from the Chief Justice, in keeping with the regulations, despite himself being a High Court Judge. So they go abroad, attend the seminar, proceed to other countries and return to serve their motherland. This is summarised by the writer in the last paragraph of the last chapter in the following words:

“They say that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. However almost all the dark clouds that have come over Laksiri have showered him silver rains. Laksiri feels that in future too he would get silver clouds and he lives in that hope.” (189pp)

As far as the reader is concerned there seems to be no traces of any dark clouds hat prevailed in the life of Laksiri. His was a life full of a series of successes, promotions, with minor pitfalls incomparable to those stark tragedies encountered by a majority of the people in this country. His was (and is until the last chapter) a life full of achievements undisturbed with the power of the so-called knowledge in the legal profession ascending to the heights of a High Court Judge.

This novel by Leslie Fernando is quite readable and full of information for those who need to know facts about places, people and professions particularly the legal profession.

There is a specific period covered in the work, which is suggestive of the period of a person in a particular profession engaged until his retirement. It looks as if the protagonist Laksiri, is attempting to rediscover his place of teaching, Amba-ara, with the new knowledge of a High Court. He makes inquiries as regards his past pupils and colleagues. But most of them are no more.

Then Laksiri contemplates on the need to take up a new turn. In one place he is made to express whether he should take up politics. He looks torn between two worlds. As a reader, I felt that he would have got rid of this plane of creation, for that disturbs the tenor of events. The dilemma that lingers in his mind are captured in the following words.

“Laksiri has now reached the zenith of his career as a High Court Judge and soon he would retire. There is some sort of fear in Laksiri as to his future. When he retires he would not get all the honour, respect and privileges he enjoys now. A retired person would be a non entity in society.” (186pp)

How could this ever happen according to the victorious events recorded?

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