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Wednesday, 14 December 2011

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Bright array of reminiscences

The bilingual writer, scholar, administrator, critic and creative writer D B Kuruppu, among other aspects of his career was a teacher who had the chance of kindling a keen interest in literature and creative writing at Ananda College. At the outset I must state that I had the chance of learning under him during the mid fifties. He was more known as a theatre and book reviewer to Sinhala newspaper of the time.

Kuruppu gradually changed his career to undertake professions in the field of administration and management. He also took time for translations and creative writing.

Leaving Sri Lanka he had been living in Australia from where he continued to write books of varying forms. They include biographies, reminiscences, folklore, history and anthropology. In two works he tried to capture some of the most touching episodes from his own experiences in the social structure which had paved the way for his recollections on matters that need expression.

Two books have appeared with pages full of such episodes. The first one appeared under the title: Handavata Payana Hiru (2006) and the companion volume Maga Hondata Notibunat (2011). Both works envelope various episodes of lasting interest which surround areas such as people who mattered, various attitudes and the impact on common lifestyle, of places visited, and revisited, of love affairs in the university, of various journeys undertaken, of domestic life packed with various material encumbrances of comic and tragic incidents. The author is seen with an uninhibited style of expression in some of the episodes which concern some people and their behaviour patterns.

It is said that the dreary and dull times of a person could be overcome only by expressing them to be known by others. This is clearly depicted in the works of the two French writers Andre Gide and Marcel Proust in their works ‘The Counterfeiters’ and ‘Remembering Things of the Past’ respectively.

The expressions may not be specified as fiction or narratives, but could be denoted as narrative expressions of some significance. Kuruppu recalls 60 such episodes from his variety of experiences shuttling from the present to the past, and vice versa.

At one moment of his expression he shows that people attempt to show to the world that they are hail and hearty despite the various ailments like aches and pains in their arms and limbs. Then he recalls some of the responses for his companion volume, which appeared first. As it normally happens in the life of a writer the welcome of garlands is received while the brickbats are evaded or forgotten.

His encounters with friends, relatives and admirers abound the pages. The discussions that ensue are resourceful. As a sensitive rationalist he tries to evade the company of political activities. Nevertheless he gets at times enmeshed in the same. It seems to the reader that the subtext of some of the episodes is much more interesting than the actual recording of the events as they happened. The attention could be drawn to the encounter with political friends I felt that some of the episodes recorded pertaining to the field of communication and journalism contain hitherto unrevealed facts which reveal the conditions and attitudes of communities of varying types. Some of the episodes are fused with humorous dialogues, parables are discourses. The felicitation ceremony to Johnnie is one such example. The author records with a sense of investigative care some of the love episodes of his friends and contemporaries who rose to the levels of celebrities. He also records with intense subtleties some of the frailties of humour who show to the world that they are invincible. But to him some of them are perhaps loose characters.

His pilgrimage to Dambadiva, the holy place, is full of material drawn from various fields such as history, religion, biography, literature, archeology and excavations. The episode is titled as Dambadiva Vandanava - a reader would surely consider this creative travelogue as one of the best pieces written on the subject. I recommend my students to read and reread this episode as a good lesson in investigative feature writing. The writer not only takes the reader to such holy places as Beneras Isipatana and Saranath, but also helps rediscover the hidden significance of those places with comparative notes drawn from other sources. In many ways it is a travelogue interspersed with a human interest. For me as a reader, the entire work happened to be a page mover resourceful in many ways. This is nothing but present day belles lettre, a gift to the new generation of Sinhala readers.

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