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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review - From Hikkaduwa to the Carolinas

Memoirs of a Reluctant Expatriate 

“Memory is the treasure-house of the mind”. - Thomas Fuller
Someone famously but anonymously said this:

“The glory of summer is best appreciated, when one is shivering in winter’s cold.”

Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene’s Memoirs, seem to derive directly from an identical situation. The main title of his book is “From Hikkaduwa to the Carolinas”. He adds an elucidatory second title: “Memoirs of a Reluctant Expatriate.”

Ten thousand miles away from the land of his birth, memories from ‘good old Sri Lanka’, kept on flooding his soul. The present volume, represents an expanded version of those fond home-thoughts. His professional sojourn in the distant carolinas, provided him with the proper perspective to adore and esteem the allure and the appeal of the place he always calls home. Recollections gushed forth, from the depth of his being. There was no need to recourse to notes. What remained to be done, was to impose book-form, upon the contents.
Briefly, that is the process that ensured the genesis of this book.
Dr. Lakshman Abeyagunawardene

The pages are crowded with memories of persons and places. He narrates the evolution of certain places in the spirit and the style of a dedicated historian. One could feel a sense of affection coming through those descriptions.

The author hails from Hikkaduwa - a township in the South of Sri Lanka. It is quite a noteworthy “hail”, because Hikkaduwa is replete with a rich lore, centring upon great scholars, affluent families and many who achieved national stature.
Dr. Abeyagunawardene, traces the ramifications of his own family. He, quite modestly, considers himself a residual legatee of the vast achievements of those earlier stalwarts of Hikkaduwa, who shone at various levels of life.

Personally I cherish the author’s narration of the history of the area that is well-known as Manning Town, where, according to the author, he lived a good part of his childhood. Since I am currently resident at Manning Town flats, the author’s detailed descriptions of that area, with a touching sense of intimacy, fascinated me no end. The author’s in-depth recounting of the phases of evolution of Manning Town, is eloquent testimony to his impassioned attachment to his childhood haunts. The key to his close involvement with the life at Manning Town, is his memory of the house numbers, in many instances.

As you continue to progress through his memoirs, you cannot help but be overwhelmed by his phenomenal dexterity to recall the details of the places he had known, while growing up. Recounting his schooling phase, the author takes the reader to his days at Ananda College. His undiminishing loyalty to Ananda is enshrined in his resounding statement: “I found that greatness in a school does not depend on the locality. My Alma mater, would have flourished anywhere on earth as an outstanding seat of learning!”

We meet the author next, as an Assistant Science Teacher, at Talatuoya Central College. It is there he experienced the thrill of earning his first salary. As a dutiful son, he bought a twenty-four-Rupee silk saree for his mother and a fourteen Rupee Hentley Executive shirt for his father, using his first pay.

There were only the minor preliminary steps, towards the entry into a wider world of massive challenges and trying ups and downs.

The latter half of the Memoirs, is, in effect, a chronicle of his main professional career, as a Doctor of Medicine. It records the story of his professional postings both here and abroad. The total “Memoirs”, speak of a gentle, humane practitioner of medicine, deeply engrossed in the way of life of people. The large number of personalities, mentioned by name in this book, makes it a unique work. It is, veritably a “Who’s Who” of people, who flourished in various fields of like, during the decades, this work focuses upon.
For all you know, your name too is likely to figure here, in some context.

The calm restrained style of writing, makes the book eminently readable. Although the work traces the progress of a professional practitioner of medicine, the major and minor events, that the author has had to wade through, make it, strangely enough, as absorbing as a work of fiction. The cliche, that fact is stranger than fiction may be apt here. There is, for instance, the episode in which the author is caught up in a plane crash. This real-life tragedy and the miraculous escape of the author, unscathed, but for a swollen ankle, add a dramatic depth to the whole narration.

Professional travels, took the author to various parts of the world. His narration of these tours, gives the work the feel of a “travelogue’ as well.

The total impression given by the ‘Memoirs’, is that the reader has been given the opportunity to meet a cultured professional, who has an intense love of his mother country and a marked ardour for serene domesticity. In his concluding segment, we come upon the author as a voyager who has reached a calm haven, after tumultuous travails. He nursed the dream, that the day he and his wife will live in retirement, in Sri Lanka. He reinforces this resolve by saying that “my homeland attracted me like a magnet”.

The work comes in an elegant hand-cover version. And, all the author’s experiences are available to the reader at Rs.750. This is indeed a memorable Memoir.
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1 comment:

  1. Having read this book by Lucky, I would recommend it to all of you. It is good read and takes one back on Memory lane