18 December 2017

Residual love keeps filling our skies

Udena Wickramasooriya showed me a few lines he wrote.  He had something to say about Clarence Wijewardena, whose twenty first death anniversary fell on Wednesday the 13th of December.  

In the silence since you left
I saw you at your best,
This peace I leave undisturbed,
To enjoy your song as you rest.
As the sun sets
On another year 
Of you going away, 
It’s your own song
That I sing to you

This he posted on Facebook, adding some lines from one of Clarence’s popular songs, ‘සඳ ගිලුනත් හිරු ගිලුනත් මට කමක් නෑ (It matters not if the sun and moon go out),’ the key line being the last, ‘ඔබ මා ළඟ සිටිනවානම් කමක් නෑ කමක් නෑ කමක් නෑ (if you are with me, it’s alright, it’s alright, it’s alright).  

Few spoke of Clarence while he was a alive and one feels he is still quite under-appreciated. But, as Udena says, it’s alright.  Those who were and are touched by what he did, know and appreciate, and that’s all that really matters.

When Udena came to me with this pithy and apt note, I was reminded of a song where Clarence pays tribute to Mahagama Sekera.  It is one of his lesser known songs but is probably the only song about the amazing literary personality.  It was Harith Gunawardena who told me about it.  When he sent me the YouTube link, Harith said that few talk of Clarence in iconic terms and few talk of Sekera.  Clarence did, and that’s something special.  
The lines were penned Chitranganie Rajapaksha, according to K.G. Jinasena, a meticulous collector of things written about Sekera.  A response-song to the popular ‘
මා මළ පසු සොහොන් කොතේ’ written by Sekera for Amaradeva, Chitranganie states that she has indeed done as suggested.  She believes that the soft winds will sing the song and that Sekera will hear the words and the music:

දුක් ගීයක් ලීවෙමි මම සැලෙන ඇඟිලි තුඩු අතරින් 
පලන්ගටි ගී තනුව අනුව සිහිල් පවන එය ගයාවි 
එතකොට ඒ ගී රාවය පාවී ඔබ හට ඇසේවි  

Translatable as 

Thus did I write with trembling fingers a song
The cool winds will sing the grasshopper composition
And then will it soar for you to hear.

It’s a wish.  it is also a tribute.  It is an expression of grief.  

And on this same day of the year, the 13th day of December, twenty five years later, another poet bid goodbye.  Indika Gunawardena spoke often of death in his poetry, indeed as something celebratory.  He laughed off all warnings from well-meaning friends who were concerned about the kind of lifestyle he had adopted or had been forced on him by circumstances.  When Pasan Kodikara, another less-sung literary figure passed away a couple of years ago, Ravisha Thilakawardana, had told Indika that if he doesn’t change his ways he (Indika) would suffer the same fate.  Indika had laughed and said ‘so…that’s good, isn’t it?’

He wrote once: ‘ඉතින් රිසි නම් ඔබට, මතකයේ තබාගන්න මම, ඇවැසිනම්, අමතක කරන්න (So, if it pleases you, remember; or forget if that’s your preference).  

A death-wish, then.  Expressed in many ways.  It was coming, people say now. ‘People’ includes myself.  Not wished for, and not expected.  

Indika was no Sekera, but there’s something so great about him that has forced the Sinhala poetic community to suddenly confront an immense emptiness and silence.  It is hard to figure out why.  But here’s a possible answer.

Thanks to the internet there are dozens of ‘poetry groups’ on facebook.  Many blogs devoted to poetry.  And thousands of ‘poets’.  And yet, we have but a handful of exceptional poets.  Indika was one of them.  A simple, unassuming and soft human being.  Humble to the core.  He made everyone laugh.  He was not afraid to cry.  

A few months ago, he visited me. We spoke of all kinds of things.  As he was leaving he spotted a Grade 11 text book.  He smiled and said ‘I drew that cover’.  There’s so much about him that I never knew and probably never will either.  What’s known is enough. Actually it’s too much.  

He is gone now.  He’s taken all his poetry and scattered words and lines to the winds.  We cannot ever collect them all. We cannot put them all together in ways he would have, even if we did.  What can be gathered will not be arranged as poem.  It will not be him.  We cannot piece him together.  So, in this month where several deaths have converged, even as we remember Clarence and pay homage to Mahagama Sekera, it would not be wrong to let Indika Gunawardena get the last word in.

‘ඔබට හැකි නම් එන්න
මගේ ආදාහනය දා හවසට
දැවී අළුවෙන සිරුරෙහි
කිසිවක් ම ඉතිරි වී නැතිවට
දකියි ඔබ ඉතිරි වූ ප්රේමය
දුම් බටය දිගේ යනු අහසට”

Come, if you can
that eve of my cremation
although there won’t be anything
left in the corporeality turned to ash
this you you will see:
from the chimney to the sky
the residual love 
Pic by Madu V De Silva

This article was first published in the Daily News (December 18, 2017).  Malinda Seneviratne is a freelance writer. malindasenevi@gmail.com.  www.malindawords.blogspot.com.


Anonymous said...

He always did look forward to death, the way one awaits a good friend dropping in for a cuppa tea.