24 October 2012

A journey with Sekera and Prabuddha

‘Prabuddha’ came to me late or perhaps I came to Prabuddha late.  That’s just a simple, ignorable fact.  What is significant is that one day there was an encounter and it was a blessing.  Perhaps, looking back, one could say that encounters take place at auspicious moments, i.e. when two orbits are ready for intersection rather than some dictate flowing from a calculation of relative mass and distance of astral bodies.  I was ready. 

Gossamer.  From beginning to end, that is from one of the best forewords I’ve ever read (written in 1976 by Jothiya Dheerasekera, who later became Rev. Dhammavihari and passed away a few years ago), through the exquisite dedication to mother and father, right up to the final denouement, soft and completing. 

To me, Mahagama Sekera’s ‘Prabhuddha’ is not just a high point in Sinhala literature of the 20th Century, but a  succinct and delightfully elusive (for those who have no clue) layout out of the who-we-are that often seem to confound, complicate, push to error torment, but still happens to be that final resting place of doubt, delusion and bludgeon.  It is a read-again-and-again book and an inspiration to so many writers, thinkers, activists, teachers and ordinary people. 

Six years ago, I met Ravindra Mahagama Sekera.  He had been working in the cubicle next to where my brother-in-law worked for many years.  In all that time, Ravindra had wanted to contact me, but for some reason didn’t know how to.  A chance conversation between the two gave him a number and a location. He said that he had designed a website for/about his father and his work and said that a lot of material on that site was taken from a couple of articles I had written a few years before that.  He wanted me to translate ‘Prabuddha’.  He gave me a book. I tried.  Could not.  I even lost the book.

Over the years I’ve been to many seminars and book launches where lyrics and lyricists, creative writing and writers were felicitated, remembered and honored.  Not being a writer or a critique of Sinhala literature, I mostly listened.  I listened well, so I could learn.  And I learned that there was something that I was not hearing often as I thought I would: the name Mahagama Sekera. 

That thought or ‘learning’ had been learned a long time before by a friend.  Harith Gunawardena told me about ‘Sekera’. He was on the page that is constituted by what I’ve written above.  I told him about Ravindra’s visit and my failed effort.  I told him that I am ready now.  He found ‘Prabuddha’ at the Book Exhibition last month.  He gave it to me. 

I flipped the pages and smelled them, as I would do any new book from the time I first encountered ‘fresh books’ as a five year old getting ready to go to school.  I read again Jothiya Dheerasekera’s foreward.  There was so much silence thereafter. 

And today, I begin. Thus: 

It was like a new lifetime

after a spent lifetime,

he felt;

like a new birth

following death,

he thought.

The white-clad nurses,

white sheets and white walls

and other white things

merged and rolled out

like a curtain, a screen

a veil of mist

to the slowly opening eyes

of awakening consciousness. 

And all the sounds,

within and without the ward

crashed like an ocean

a thunderstorm

and in bits and pieces

as single note and the Holy Ohm

the music of the conscious

he began to hear.

After countless aeons,


frozen and thick,

caught the warmth

of slowly opening eye-light

began to flow

by and by. 

And recollection permeated eyelid

unfolded like a series of stills

upon the white eye screen.

It is not a case of intersecting orbits.  It is now convergence.  I walk, several steps behind and yet together, with a man and his words.  This is the most sacred writing I’ve tasked myself with.   Wish me tenderness and silence. 


h. said...

There are 3 check-boxes under every article of yours as funny, interesting, cool. But something is missing. There should be one saying 'beautiful' for us to check/tick.

Waiting eagerly to read more on this. Wish you tenderness and silence.

SANDIKA said...

i like to wish you tenderness and silence

හෂිත said...

සදාකාලික පැරඩොක්සයක්-උභතෝකෝටිකයක් වන ආධ්‍යාත්මික විමුක්තිය හා ලෞකික විමුක්තිය අතර නොසීහෙන කෙන්ද්‍ර සිහුම් කිරීම බඳු අපහසු ක්‍රියාවක් කවියෙකු අතින් ඉටු විය. ඒ විය යුතුම පරිද්දෙනි. මහගම සේකර ප්‍රබුද්ධ ලියමින් පිළිතුරු සොයන්නේ මේ උභතෝකෝටිකයටයි. ඔහුගේ කලා-කාරියේ [ඩබ් ඒ සිල්වා සිරිමතුන් ගෙන් ණයට ගතිමි] මහේක්ෂ ස්වභාවය, සර්ග, සර්ගිකා, පැදි, පාද, වදන් යන ස්ව-සමාන පැරඩොක්සික රූපකයන් ගෙන් පැහැදිලි කරගැනීමට තැනූ තැත ප්‍රබුද්ධ නමින් ආඛ්‍යාන කාව්‍යයක් වීය.