So, last December of the decade, I found myself in Sri Lanka. It was thanks to my parents who took pity on my desolate existence and took me along on one of their trips. And given my proclivity currently for books set in different countries, the only thing I added to the agenda is a tour of bookstores in Colombo.
First off, let me say, Colombo is a beautiful, beautiful city! I wish I could have spent more time there, roamed around more, maybe, gotten into the vibe more than as a tourist…but well. I did manage to squeeze a few bookstores in though, much to mum’s chagrin. And here’s that haul!
Upon a Sleepless Isle by Andrew Fidel Fernando: I was browsing an aisle of Sri Lankan literature in Barefoot; my hands were already bogged down with the first short-list of books, my indecision was gradually taking centre-stage when this man comes up and challenges me to read the first page of this book. What can I say, I couldn’t put it down! Luckily my dad walked in at this juncture before I could take any drastic, pocket-emptying decisions; but, this one survived.
Ravana is the villain of the Indian epic Ramayana. The story goes that he abducts Sita (wife of Ram) in return for defacing his sister (which was actually done by Ram’s brother laxman). Then, follows the war that’s the climax of the epic and the reason for Vishnu’s manifestation on earth as Ram. Lanka (which equates to modern Sri Lanka) was Ravana’s kingdom. While Indian mythology paints him as an erudite villain, Sri Lankans, I had heard, told stories of him from a very different perspective- as subjects of a just and noble warrior-king. I went in search of those stories and this was the only book I could find on the topic, gathering dust in a little bookstore called Bookland. I don’t know if this is what I was looking for, in fact, since I haven’t read it yet; but, I don’t think I’ll regret the buy since anything to do with Indian mythology is gold with me.
The blurb gave the description of a character who’s cynical realism seemed to resonate a lot with me. Also, I want to be well-prepared for imaginary sexual exploits.
A little corner of a huge mall was stuffed with piles of books and managed by a man who gave the impression of having read all of them. I asked him to recommend a book which can give me the taste of Sri Lanka and this was my pick among those recommendations. The blurb makes it sound like a heart-rending story, so, I’m going to pick it up when I’m prepared for a good cry.
This was another find in that little store called Bookland which caught my attention with its wicker gate, wooden name plate and lovely climbers all over. I don’t know why I picked this particular book up though. Probably because it looked old; vintage, aged wine and all that jazz…
In that same Sri Lankan literature aisle, before the kind man came by, this book cover caught my eye, interested me in the blurb, and hooked me with the random page I read. So, I saved it from my dad’s chopping block.
I didn’t buy this- my dad did, for my niece and nephew. But, they’re just babies yet with no interest in anything beyond their own developing milestones. So, I- who has failed at every attempt to read the Bhagavad Gita– stole it in a fit of optimism. Hopefully, I’ll read it before I enter the stage of integrity and despair.
Short stories give me the freedom to close the book whenever I choose to and since, I’ve to read all my books piecemeal thanks to the demands of life, an anthology is always an easy pick. Also, these are tales from the history and folklore of Sri Lanka, probably stories that kids there grew up on; so, what can be a better way of getting the pulse of a country than to tap into some local mythology?
Well, that’s the last of my haul. I had a grand time carrying them through the immigration of two countries and an extra flight home. I had an even grander time rearranging my books to make space for the new ones. I discovered that space is a myth in the process. Either which way, I do really (no sarcasm) feel grand about having some international literature on my shelves and can’t wait to dive into them.
But, exams come first.