Tuesday, February 18, 2014

පරිවර්තන කවි | Torture Camp - [Ajith C Herath | අජිත් සී හේරත්]

Awaiting the next moment
With hopeless dejection
I did not wish
To be the first or the last

There was no escape
From that fearsome blow
However low the head was bent

All conscious thought disappeared
The very first hour inside the torture camp
Sorrowful memories of the past
Pain that pierced the very flesh
Deathly moans
Distorted shapes and bright colours
A terrifying jumble of dreams

The utter helplessness of humanity
Was the one other thing in this nightmare
The only friend here was death
Yet even he showed no mercy

The faint moans were slowly fading
For the third time just before dawn
The young woman brought in last night
Cried out


Death before betrayal
Curses instead of pleadings
I salute you dear sister
With this final teardrop of mine
Soaking into my blindfold
Incentives, bonuses

A cup of yoghurt for dessert
Crushing the cup underfoot
The soldier smacks his lips
As it to ask
Who’s next?

Life has no name or number
Inside the torture camp
Death is a headless corpse
A news without a headline
Unlisted lives drifting towards
Unlisted death

Many are the times I've escaped
In frightening nightmares
Yet I am still here!
The very thought terrifies

As my final testimony
All I can say is that
The many killed here
Had a human face.

[Original Sinhala Poem and Tamil Translation- වධකාගාරයේ සිට]

Ajith C Herath | අජිත් සී හේරත්
පරිවර්තනය - P. K. Sandamali | පී.කේ. සඳමාලි

Monday, February 17, 2014

රහ ඔත්තු | Dharmasiri Bandaranayake's Dhawala Bheeshana to enthral Lankan theatre lovers once more - [ None]

Dharmasiri Bandaranayake’s award-winning theatrical effort, Dhawala Bheeshana (Sri Lankan entry for Bharat Rang Mahotsav New Delhi International Drama Festival, India 2013) will go on the boards of Weerasinghem Hall, Jaffna on 23rd of February, at 4.30 p.m.

Since its maiden performance in 1988, Dhawala Bheeshana has enthralled the local theatre lovers, securing nine coveted awards at the State Drama Festival of 1990, including Best Director, Best Actress, Best supporting actor and Best Lighting. Till 2002, Dhawala Bheeshana succeeded in staging 900 performances successfully. Almost after a decade of ‘silence’, it is coming among the local theatre lovers once more, whilst remembering with gratitude all the artistes who laboured to make its maiden performance a success.

කතන්දර බූන්දි | Rubber - [Isuru Chamara Somaweera | ඉසුරු චාමර සෝමවීර]

My elder brother and my sister Thamara were on a collision course with me. They opposed my idea of cultivating rubber in my share of the land named Dhoonagaha Wattha. They said that I’m a brainless ass. They said either to lease the land or sell it out. Thamara akka said she’ll find out a land broker through Palitha ayya to do that.

"Hey, you fiend! What a wealth are you going to achieve by planting rubber in a quarter acre land? Who’ll going to do tapping? To whom are you going to sell the latex? Nowadays rubber is desolated in this area. You are really crazy…". As my brother reproached me, a tremulous smile beamed on Thilini’s face. It should be none other than her who has called and prodded them to come here.

"Look at this house. It’s like a bat roost. Thilini stands in with this. A woman like me will not live here for a moment… From the money you are going to spend to plant rubber, build a couple of shopping stalls and rent them out or sell them out and do some reparations in the house… "

"Listen akka…he is going to plant rubber by taking the ten months loan from the office." Thilini started as Thamara akka stopped her harangue.

"Are you frenzied? Land will not run away anywhere... Do some colour wash in the house by that money... How neatly our mom and dad had maintained this place at that time…? " Thamara akka heaved a sigh. I remained gawking as a dumb and a deaf. Thamara akka left the house early saying that she has to pick her son from the class.

"Malli, you are not a fool. Don’t squander money on this kind of mockeries. You may think that, since we have sold our shares, we say to sell your share because of our envy. If you are not going to sell the land it may remain there, without wasting money on pointless matters" akka said before she leaves our house.

Before he leaves, my brother went to Kumara’s place down by our house to pluck some ambarella fruits. I saw Thilini wraps up a parcel of two or three banana inflorescences and some lemons for him to carry with. I heard that his wife Kumari akka is pregnant again.

"We searched for young jack fruits ayya, but trees are still fruitless. That’s probably due to the droughty weather. Anyway we’ll find them and come to see you with a young jack fruit ambula" as Thilini said that my brother smiled without saying a word.

"Malli, don’t be a laughingstock by doing ridiculous things and think about the future of your wife and children" said my brother patting the head of my little son as the boy was worshipping him. I didn’t try to say anything. My elder brother’s brand new cherry QQ car has made a change in Thilini and the son.

"Isn’t it fantastic dad…? But the color is brash. When we buy a car we’ll get red colored one with black strips on it" my son said while he was eating chocolate cakes brought by my brother.

"Before that, tell your dad to repair that punctured tire of the motor bike… Cars…? We have to wait till our next life to buy a car son…" Thilini went to the kitchen tossing her body with fret.

At the night I couldn’t sleep for hours. Thilini also fidgeted on the bed without sleep. As I placed my hand upon her body, she shook it off in an unthinkable rapidity.

"Please go away…There’s a finite extent to which I can bear…" she said in an adenoidal voice as if she’d got a head cold. But her voice sounded definitive. She has wept. That wasn’t her usual namby-pamby rejection or slothful, drowsy voice caused by the fatigue. Only on very few occasions I’ve heard she talks in this nasal voice. I turned my self away.

Although that land is called Dhoonagaha Wattha, which means the land with Dhoona trees, there were only rubber trees in it. I didn’t know even if there ever existed a kind of trees called Dhoona. Earlier it was an undivided, sole land of twelve acres. Although there were my father and uncles, all the tasks in the rubber plantation were done according to the wishes of my grandmother. I can clearly remember, when we were very small, uncle Siripala makes swivels for us using rubber seeds. The kites which were flown from the main field, if the cord that tethered became broken, in most of times landed on the branches of the rubber trees on Dhoonagaha Wattha. Uncle Siripala picks those kites by climbing the trees and gives them to us. We decorate those using tissue papers with different colours and fly them again from the main field. The morning light comes through rubber tree branches splitting into wedges. Those wedges of light either gold colored or appeared in a dazzling white colour. That was an amazingly charming scenery. Rubber trees also have various appearances from month to month. In the off season of February trees are naked. They appear as ghostly figures at that time. Dried rubber pods split open exploding and seeds become scattered. In the ground, a layer of dried up leaves is forming into a thickness of three or four inches. That’s the time that women in the village are coming to pick up rubber sticks for firewood. Dried rubber sticks which were fallen from trees are collected as bundles and they carry them tied up with Pora vines. Those tiny sticks burn into ashes rapidly. Therefore they are sufficient only for small culinary works such as frying or preparation of a leafy green mallung. In the off season we go with empty fertilizer sacks to collect rubber seeds. Split rubber pods are collected into a separate sack. Those pods were used like coconut shells as a fuel for cooking. A merchant comes by a mini-truck, buys those rubber seeds measured in kilograms. Still I don’t know what they were doing with those seeds. It is said oil is extracted from the seeds. But I don’t know about the uses of that oil. As Sinhala New Year begins rubber trees are flushed again. Sprouts open out first are in a fiery red colour. Next their colour is converted into a scintillating shade of gray. Then the colour changes into a hue of light green and finally gets the rich, bright green colour. As the defoliation is closing in, leaves become yellow. After few days their colour is orange. At the end of January those orange and yellow coloured leaves are flying in the air. When the sun is rising and setting in an auburn orange colour between rubber branches, a curiously lonesome feeling comes into the heart.

When thinking about Dhoonagaha Wattha, four women come into my mind. Those are my grandmother, Sabeetha Perera, aunt Weere and Malkanthi. My mind evokes the granny, impersonating an old tutelary goddess to the rubber land. I can recollect as it was on today, in cold dew, my granny, dressed in an old long sleeved gent’s shirt, is going for rubber tapping with the bucket and the knife. Sometimes Thamara akka and I also follow her to the rubber land. "Rubber tapping isn’t a task which can be done by anyone. We must love and caress the tree. Otherwise it’ll cease the secretion of the milky fluid…" she says sometimes. We looked enthusiastically at the technique of rubber tapping. But our granny never gave the tapping knife to our hands. When the time comes to apply the treatments to the trees, that process was also done by her. My granny did the rubber tapping until her death. She died, bitten by a viper while she was tapping rubber. Her body was also buried in a corner of Dhoonagaha Wattha. Later that part of the land was owned by uncle Siripala. There were dissents between our parents and them as they sold out that block of land at that time.

After the granny’s death there were disputes among the relations over the resolving of the land. At that time rubber tapping was done by aunt Weere. It is said that she is our distant relation. But I didn’t know what the actual relationship between us is. Even though there were disputes over the sharing of the income that gained from the latex collected by aunt Weere, she did the rubber tapping for a rather long time. Since she was married to uncle Weere, everyone called her aunt Weere.

I can retentively recall one particular incident which included aunt Weere. That memory is provoking in my mind as a cold water content pouring along my spine. That was occurred even before the three month memorial alms giving of my granny. On that noon I went to the rubber land to pluck out some tree lace, the coagulated latex on the tree trunks. We played elle with a ball made by cramping and winding up tree lace. That ball gives a throbbing pain when it hits the body. When I was plucking out tree lace aunt Weere came, clinking the bucket to collect latex. Still I am uncertain whether she’d seen me in that moment. But my heart says that she hadn’t seen me. Aunt Weere began to collect latex from one end. That was a rather overcast day. Aunt Weere was dressed in a white blouse and a chintz cloth with a design of big purple coloured flowers. After collecting latex from two or three trees aunt Weere suddenly squatted down, raising her cloth and peed. The cloth was raised high completely showing her bare bums to me who was in the direction of her back side. I could even hear the patter of her body water on to the grass. The spurt of urine squirted on to the ground heavily and sharply. My throat dried up and I couldn’t even swallow. Although I’ve seen little girls pee, that was the first time I saw a matured woman doing that. Even though I hadn’t had any idea about what’s going on within me, I could sense that my private parts are stimulating. Those few seconds were startling. I felt that I’m going to be fainted down. I hugged a rubber tree and pressed my body on to its trunk. I hid myself behind the tree because I was afraid that aunt Weere would see me. Aunt Weere went from tree to tree collecting latex as if nothing were happened. Suddenly I saw a leech is burrowed into my skin in between two toes. It has swelled by sucking blood. As I dragged it out with a dry rubber leaf, blood squirted from the sore caused by the bite of the leech. I sat right there under the rubber tree. I didn’t know what to do with that invigorated rigidity sustained in my body. My hand moved on to my crotch. That was the very first time I enjoyed that solitary pleasure. As much I was fond of that electrification, it also frightened me a lot. I was obsessed with a guilty feeling of a messy wretchedness in me. I didn’t go to play elle in that evening. I went to the well, down there and bathed by dragging water from the well until my arms began to ache. I rubbed my body with a bunch of coconut coir until my skin becomes red. Again and again, when aunt Weere was tapping rubber I peeped, hidden in somewhere. But I couldn’t see what I was expecting. Sometimes I went to see the spot where aunt Weere urinated and smelled the earth there.

Because of those disputes over the landed property, the Weeres were not much in good terms with the elders of our family. Since there were not much affability between them and us the children also, I was never able to talk with aunt Weere formally. The other thing mattered was that when I met her vis a vis, my mouth and throat became dried up and some strange things happened on me making my knees benumbed. In those moments, what I could do was withdrawal of myself from the place as quick as possible.

After that incident I felt that I’m no more the little one who ran after kites. Aunt Weere came into my bedtime dreams as a wet looking demoness with enormous breasts. That monstrous she devil pressed me on to a trunk of a rubber tree and scotched me. She excruciated me saying "aren’t your elders trying to encroach these lands?" Those were tortures of a very strange kind. Even though those nightmarish dreams scared me a lot and my sarong became wet, I loved to see them again and again. But actually she was an impeccable woman who observes the Eight Percepts on every Poya day. Even her voice also, much more gentle than that of our mother and aunts. But aunt Weere who came into my dreams was bafflingly furious.

Meantime uncle Weere got a job as a care taker in a coconut plantation and their whole family left the village. That departure left an unbearable loneliness behind for me. In the evenings I went to the rubber land and spent hours by looking away aimlessly. I brought rubber leaves with stuck out veins which were decaying on the ground and kept them inside the books. At that period of time I saw various figures such as faces of women, guns, dogs… on the moss grown on the tree trunks. Absence of aunt Weere ceased the rubber tapping for few days. Her succeeder was a hag named Misi Nona. I can remind my mother and elders blame about her ineptness in rubber tapping which made severe cuts on the tree trunks.

The movie called Deveni Gamana came into theatres when we were grade ten students. We watched it by absconding from the school by changing our uniforms into coloured shirts. There’s a scene in the movie which showed actress Sabeetha Perera is laying on her breast in place like a rubber land swaying her legs friskily while chatting with the leading actor Sanath Gunathilaka. The place was identical to our rubber land in the off-season. I watched the movie eight times. I felt extremely implacable towards those bigheaded biddies in the family of the protagonist, because of their harassments to innocent Sabeetha. In those days instead of aunt Weere, Sabeetha came into my dreams. Sabeetha didn’t come in the monstrous way as that aunt Weere did come. Instead she came in an innocent and effeminate manner. She wriggled on the bed of rubber leaves. We played hide and seek among the rubber trees. She peeped from behind of a rubber tree smiling sharply and ran away turning back to look at me again and again while her two braids of hair were swaying. She rubbed my hair while my head was resting on her lap. In the end we laid down right there.

Sabeetha came into my nighttime dreams only till I came across with Malkanthi. (But at a later time Sabeetha began to appear in my dreams again.) That was happened as a coincident. One day at about 6 o clock in the evening I was at the rubber land leaning my back on a tree near the rocky plain, relishing that electrifying pleasure. My eyes were closed. There were no reasons for anyone to come to that area. I heard a crack of a stick which got crushed by somebody’s feet. Malkanthi was there. As our eyes met she ran away swiftly. I felt a deadly shame. I ran away to the home. Even today I can’t take into account the gesture which was on Malkanthi’s face. For many days I was worrying about whether she had mentioned that to anybody. As I couldn’t bear it further, I told that to Nimale while we were playing elle. He laughed at me mockingly.

"Hey man! What a chance you’ve given up. You are a real ass"

After few days I also felt that I’m a real ass. Malkanthi is dark and tall. I think she is one or two years older than me. There was a little goofiness in her teeth. But she isn’t rather ugly. Although can’t be said quite beautiful. I saw Malkanthi again after weeks. She was collecting firewood at the fringe of the rubber land. I was going to buy kerosene from the shop. I tried my best not to look at that direction. But from time to time unintentionally I looked at there. Malkanthi cast a wide smile at me as if she was saying that I know your secret. I went looking away from her.

"H…h… hey" Malkanthi called me after letting me go some distance. My pace became slow.

"I saw the thing that you were doing on that day…" she said with a chuckle. I began walking again without saying anything.

"Shall I tell it to Thamara?" My sister was in her class. A sequence of slang words came on to my tongue, but they didn’t come out. I stood still without knowing what to do.

"For a number of days I saw you were going there to do that. If you come again, call us also. We’ll come" she said easily. That ignited a desire blended with disgust in me. Thereafter we met in the rubber land incessantly. Her perspiration was immense. Drops of sweat begin to scintillate on her forehead and along the upper lip. The other significant thing was her devilish scream. Sometimes I had to pinch her or give a slap on her cheek to stop over that feline shriek. Those days were belonged to an inflamed era. In daytime I swear myself that not to encounter with that filthy, slut again. But in the evenings my feet begin to move on to the rubber land inadvertently. It was later when I came to know that she had intercourses with people like Nimale and Sumith.

Lot of things began to happen sequentially. Malkanthi was killed and burned in our rubber land. There was a rumour that it was done by Sumith’s father concealing as a murder occurred during the riots caused by the rebels of People’s Liberation Front. Lot of other young boys and girls, some of them were unrecognized, were also burned in our rubber land. At that time we also were hidden from view to save our lives. I didn’t go to see Malkanthi’s dead body because I hadn’t courage to do that. In my dreams Malkanthi chased after me baring her fangs and with shining sweat drops on the upper lip. When I was awake, frightened by those nightmares my sarong was wetted with urine. For a long time I couldn’t control the passing urine on the bed. After dark no one went near the rubber land. Everyone said that it’s a haunted place. They said Malkanthi stops vehicles on the road and asks about the way to Colombo. Samantha ayya, another person who was burned to death is asking for fire to light cigarettes. Despite all that rumours I went to the rubber land during the daytime and spent hours looking aimlessly, sitting in a place which can’t be seen by anyone. In those days I heard the sounds of cicadas which I couldn’t hear before. Sometimes I sobbed without a reason. For an infinite number of times I thought to drop a rope on a branch of a rubber tree and hang myself. That’s the time I used to smoke cigarettes. That’s a habit which still I can’t wean.

Right after I was selected to enter the University of Peradeniya, my father died due to a heart failure. Even though I refused to go to Peradeniya, my mother and elder brother insisted that I must go. There was a rubber land-like atmosphere in Peradeniya. Wet grass, sprawled, shady trees. I liked there. I smoked cigarettes sitting under those trees. I didn’t go home frequently. I felt peacefulness in my mind. I started to write poems. Those poems were published on Sunday newspapers. My friends back there in the village who read the poems published on Sunday Silumina paper, wrote me encouraging to write more thought-provokingly. In the letters from my brother he had written not to do outlandish things and go through the exams. Even I didn’t have a girl friend, I wrote longest poems imagining a girl who had broken up with me. Madaa from Bulathsinhala wanted to write the world’s longest novel. His father has been killed, remarking as a People’s Liberation Front rebel. Since his mind was filled with various stuffs, he missed the mark at the exams in most of time. He said the problem is in the educational system. I also hated that educational system which prevented us from reading a book we liked sitting under a tree or writing a poem properly. I met Menu in the third year at the university. She is from Maho and she said there are no rubber plantations in her village. Although Menu and I encountered in the places with rubber land-like atmosphere, she was a very meticulous girl. She had goals in her life. What she wanted to do was teaching in the same university we studied. Her rounded handwritings were excellent. And she had an etched memory about study matters. When I was passing out from the university, she was doing a special degree. All the things were liquidized then. She had lot of work to do and had lot of friends. She hadn’t time as for me, to doodle poems sitting under trees.

When I came home after passing out, rubber trees were eradicated and the land was divided. My mother always said that the portion which was given to us is not enough and the resolving process wasn’t fair. The trunks of the rubber trees, which were on our section of the land, were sold as firewood and a refrigerator was bought for our house from the money gained. My heart became broken by seeing the land with bare red soil. I felt that I’m partially dead. I went near the rubber trees remained in here and there and touched them. Even I wanted to go back to Peradeniya, nobody was waiting there for me. The village was no more the same old village which was known by me. I wasn’t belonged to any of those places. Our portion of the land was divided again into three and Thamara akka married, taking her quarter acre land as the dowry. They sold it out right after their marriage. After my brother left home consequently to his marriage, my mother went to live with my sister. I met Thilini when I worked as a teacher in the school of Thummodara. She taught mathematics and I taught Sinhala. She was from Wellampitiya. Although she didn’t say that there are no rubber plantations in Wellampitiya, I understood it after few days from the start of our relationship. I needed to go near a rubber plantation somewhere in Padukka by motor bike and to talk with her. But what she needed was go for a movie or select sarees in a shop in Hanwella town.

Even after we married, I used to go near a large rubber plantation in Padukka from time to time and sit there for a while. Anyhow that is a different kind of pleasure. I make swivels for my little son using the rubber seeds which were brought back by me from those tours. The boy isn’t much excited by them. He plays with them for a while and puts them away. His passion is for toy cars.

[Link to the original Story - රබර්]

A Painting By: Leslie Cole
Photo Credit: IWM (Imperial War Museums)

Isuru Chamara Somaweera | ඉසුරු චාමර සෝමවීර
පරිවර්තනය - Wojith Karunanayake | වොජිත් කරුණානායක