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Wednesday, 26 January 2011



Examining psychological and social extremes

“We feed on the pain that has caused us to wake up from the nightmare, but do you not think that having a nightmare is better than having a restful sleep where our worse fears remain dormant? Nightmares wake us up and to be awakened is to let our light shine brightly.” Such is the philosophical posture that Rozaine Cooray takes in her debut novel ‘Colours of the Sun’. Through the novel she relates the heart-wrenching story of a young girl, ‘Mariam’ who is trapped in a nightmarish dilemma torn in between different psychological and social extremes. The story revolves around Mariam; a girl of mixed blood uprooted from Kandy and transplanted to Sydney to escape the escalating ethnic conflict in the late 1990s. Rozaine touches the reader’s heart to the core, as she relates the heartrending story of Mariam living a very displaced and disoriented life battling against her own personal conflicts.

Title: Colours of the Sun

Author: Rozaine Cooray

Genre: Novel

Price: Rs 800

Publisher: Bay Owl Press

‘Colours of the Sun’ is more or less a psychological novel than a social one. Rozaine portrays Mariam as a wretched soul trapped in a complicated web of emotional confusion and trauma. She is traumatized by the rejection, desolation and loneliness. The dilemmas that Mariam faces are almost reminiscent of an adolescent going through the ‘Quarter life Crisis.’

But the depression and the kind of mental torment that Mariam faces, goes beyond that of a young adolescent fighting against the complexities of ‘quarter life crisis’.

Writing to her daughter Mariam says, “She was born on the same day as me; had the same history as me, ate with me, slept with me and did everything with me. She was silhouette in black; my sinister shadow and her name was depression”. The depression and the mental trauma are almost personified the in novel. Throughout the novel, the reader feels the tormenting presence of depression hovering over her soul. The depression is almost a tangible figure, a character in the novel, “my sinister shadow and her name was depression”, Mariam says. Through the novel we feel the eerie presence of this tormenting figure trailing and chasing behind Mariam’s soul. And it is this personification of depression as a character that makes the novel a very absorbing and touching one to read.

As the novel goes on, the depression manifests itself and begins to infect her soul like a plague. Yet it does not mean that Rozaine wants her reader to dwell on the pain or the grief caused by the depression. Instead she turns her book in to a therapeutic agent battling against the mental torment. As the novel goes on not only does she soothes Mariam’s tormented soul, but also the reader himself begins to feel a sense of emancipation or a sense of liberation. The feeling is quite contrasting to the depressing, disturbing scenes that she made the reader experience in the earlier part of the novel.

Mariam is also presented as a rebel who wants to go against the natural order of things. She is a rebel who doesn’t want to conform to her parents or the society’s wishes. “Every Crime you commit against your heart is a prison sentence. The prison time is indefinite and depends on your subsequent actions to rectify and magnify what you have gotten yourself into” Mariam says. However, it is her strong urge to go against the order itself that makes her a figure entrapped in a tormenting personal dilemma.

In a sense it is a story of a young women seeking for redemption and the ultimate happiness in life. Amidst all the turmoil, it is towards the latter part of the novel that she achieves a sense of enlightenment. She writes to her daughter “This is a moment of truth as days blossom to a very important juncture along the journey: the juncture of self forgiveness and self love…. If you have accepted the worthiness of self-love, you then enter another phase.

This is the most beautiful stage where you enter the meditative state of appreciation. You begin to appreciate life for what it is and not for what you expect it to be”. Therefore, in that sense the novel is a very inspirational and enlightening one.

Amalshan Gunerathne



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