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Buddhadasa Galappatty’s social consciousness

The Valley Below is a slim volume in English of poems written originally in Sinhala written over the years by a well known personality in Lankan literary world. The Sinhala reading public, theatregoers, and the electronic media viewers know him well.

But not known so much to the English and Thamil reading public, although a few of his writing has been known to interested readers in English. He is none other than the versatile Buddhadasa Galappatty.

Thanks to another person of importance for helping us to understand and enjoy the poet’s subtle comments on people, places and events. She is the translator - Malini Govinnage. She has done a good job, I think.

Before we go into the poems, we must also take note of the imaginative creation of yet another artist among the trio - Shantha K Herath, also well known in print medium.

Such a combination assembled in a neatly printed by one of the leading publishers in the country, Sarasavi Publishers is another contributory factor that draws attention to this publication.

There are 45 poems of interest. But they are not mere entertainers in an aesthetic sense. In fact B G’s poems are personal poems with fine nuances and public poems with acute observation of the world around us in Lanka. This statement should be substantiated with illustrations from the selected poems of B G.

What follows is my own selection of a strikingly effective lines in the poems included in the volume. Why I like them is because they show from my point of understanding the poetic expressions one could enjoy.

In the process our readers would be prompted to read them and have their on ‘reading’ and appreciation.

The first poem is a good starter to understand the poet’s social consciousness and awareness of conjugal love measured against the naked reality which draws an analogy from Buddhist philosophy.

Consider the effective lines in the second stanza of the poem titled simply My Love
My Love
How could the few rupees you get
At the end of thirty days
Be enough to save our bond of matrimony
To educate kids, to buy provisions given on ration
How many rupees do we need?
Look at the sarcasm in the following -
Some other lines: swan hidden in breasts…
Returning to her chamber at dawn
Ling down in bed looking into the mirror
Did not she see her true self? (The Model)

A few more lines I liked -

Sky shocked in grief rains the tears;
Where is your justice? …Why didn’t you find out
the reason for breaking the law before you put out
the lamp of my life?
Stealthily the young master stops by her eyes
half closed, his deft hands searching
for those flower buds blooming in her boom…
he searched for the warmth spread within her;
Has the Book of Law ever tried to see
the difference between a woman who lays her body
to put out her burning fire of lust
and a woman who took off dress in order
to feed her little baby?
How could she differ from my own one
when both were born under the same sky?
Oh! Poet why are you idling.
Don’t you have a theme to write, to pen a poem…
Are you not hearing the wail of an infant in hunger
in a far away shack

Surprising rhetoric

The respectful judge questions:
Why were you waiting all alone?
Under the street lamp last night
With eye-brows lips made-up
At the street corner?

Premalatha who was
In the accused’s dock
Sans make-up on eyebrows lips,
Flowers on the sari withered
Answers the most respectful judge thus:
My abode is made
Under a burned street lamp
When I was there all alone
Light from a limousine
Cast upon me

He tie loose around neck,
A cigarette between fingers
With drunken eyes,
He called me softly

Your Honour, I do not have any doubt no uncertainty
No dubiety even a minute as a mustard seed
Were it not you in the car
That halted under the street lamp
Your Honour, please give me evidence.

For me who spent
A dark night in your bed
On a previous night

Sardonic comment
Deadly glass
Munches, swallows it
People coming out
From the restaurant
Feeling the fat stomachs
Letting our burps
Look on dumbfounded
He taking his mid day meal.

Most of B G’s poems are about the down trodden and the helpless lot who have a heart to help others even in adversities. One such poem is “Bhikku walking for alms”

Yet another poem of thinking and caring for the underprivileged is titled Lumbini Theatre and the Weaving Mill.

I also liked the poem University Professor’s Lecture that is amusing and suggests the thin line between fantasy and reality vis -a vis beautiful young women.

One of the best poems in this collection is Montage Poem, an effective presentation of contemporaneity written in 2007. Please read it yourself. I wish to quote the last few w lines in the poem.
We all long to live
Without fear or doubt
In Peasalai, Jaffna
Kaebitgollaewa or Pannipitiya
Allow for one breath
Allow for one breath
Without fear or doubt.

The poet’s posing a question to an artist in one other poem is also a rightly cerebral poem, which I liked.

I must give information about Buddhi, Malini and Shantha as some readers in English might not have heard of them.

Malini Govinnage is a senior bilingual journalist in the country. She worked for a long time at Lake House. I happened to know her when she was in the Features Desk of the Daily News. A translator and literary critic, I learn that she has translated into Sinhala the Italian novelist Ignatio Silone’s famous novel Fontamara.

Che Guevara’s The Bolivian diary had also been translated by her. Malini is also the founding editor of the Daily News Anthology of Short stories. I had the opportunity of sitting with her as a member of the Public Performances Board last year.

Also at the PPB, I shared a seat with Buddhi when he was a senior member last year. Buddhi’s talents spread to poetry, short story writing, lyrics, freelance journalism, column writing, criticism and electronic presentation. He has won several awards. Eight anthologies of poetry, two collections of short stories, besides other co-collections stand to his credit. As a make-up artist for theatre he has contributed significantly.

I had the chance to meet Shantha when I was working for *The Island* and later had met him at *Sunday Standard*. He has published two books of selected cartoons is a political cartoonist, illustrator, copyist of ancient murals and paintings and sculptor.

In conclusion, may I quote a respected bilingual poet and writer- Eva Ranaweera?

Says she: Competing with a host of young aspirants to the creative world of Sri Lanka in poetry and novels, Buddhi has maintained his position as a poet of esteem and sensitivity.

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