Wandering through Yesterday Country with Somasiri Devendra

Boys fishing@ Dodanduwa

© Chulie de Silva

Now, this story “Yesterday is another country” has many sides. And I suspect there are many other stories attached to all those sides. And those stories also have many sides.  Are you with me still? That’s a lot of sides to muse about and lots of tracks to wander off as you read the stories. Plus, of course this is a story about a story of the man who wrote it.  Confused?  You won’t be if you read it.

Yesterday is certainly another country that some of us yearn for with a gnawing ulcerating pain at the pit of our stomachs. It’s a life left behind that we try to hang on to through the slender threads of our writings.  Our writings are more a justification to ourselves, of what we are, what we did or didn’t do, what moved us and who left indelible marks in our lives.  In doing so do we bridge that generation gap?  Devendra here, is really a master craftsmen throwing words together like a chef does with condiments  to present to us a mixed platter delicately flavoured at times, strong and spicy at another time.  

To me this at first glance was a disjointed set of stories culled from a life lived with exemplary values.  Not the usual biography.  Certainly not at all a problem as I could read it not from front to back but as I pleased. The journey in the sequence he had arranged begins with the “hat,”  followed by “he is a good boy.”  I am riveted to the book by the time I get to the “Family pot of gold”.   My heart is heavy as I meander around the paths at Pera campus in a poignant stillborn love affair so typical of that era.– I suspect won’t make any sense to teenagers or undergrads now.   We meet his relatives, friends and the unexpected Raven in Hawai — all the time touching raw spots in our conscience.  I wander around the ancient Kandyan kingdom learning about myths that I didn’t know existed. Suffer with Wimal through the pain of being not loved and abandoned and unexpectedly  enjoy a an interesting Internet encounter.

 As side stories go,  I put the book down to recall  the last conversation I had with the Venerable Dodanduwe Dharmasena who called me one day to ask for  help to safeguard the Kumarakande library – “be a true daughter of Hikkaduwa and the South” he said.  Alas! never achieved that status as  I never got around to doing anything for the library — not because I didn’t want to but because I let other family issues dominate my life .  Mingled with this guilt are memories of  happier times at Dodanduwa — how we as kids held our noses as an aunt  who loved the smelly preserved “jadi” fish  rummaged around  giant jars in Dodanduwa.

 There are more side stories to unearth. I call another aunt to check whether she knew the whereabouts of a teacher Miss Dantanarayana who taught me at  “Sri Sumangala Girls’ School” in Panadura.  Here I draw a blank.

The mind wanders off without any help remembering something I read about living today in an instant, just-add-water, push-a-button, microwaveable-in-under-three-minutes, zap-the-remote-control kind of a world now. Not everything about it is good. Realisation also dawns that the journey of life through the ethical conundrums and moral mazes is never an easy one.  Sadly we’ve lost our appreciation for essential natural processes that need to happen slowly. We look for ways to hurry them as farmers do ripening fruits with carbide and  we look for ways to depersonalise the injustices that we can see yet seemingly cannot influence.

But here is Devendra pushing us to look at these issues not forcefully but quietly stating in the typical non assuming, non boastful style of living that was extolled in years past  “Do not expect too much of this collection … you will find no words of wisdom, no messages, no moral…”  

 That I must dispute, although I wished many a times  there were some illustrations or the author had shared the photographs he spoke of. 


Thank you Sir, for this rich tapestry of stories.


Yesterday is Another Country

By Somasiri Devendra

ISBN 978-955-9419-28-0


Author Contact: somasiri@edisrilanka.com




6 thoughts on “Wandering through Yesterday Country with Somasiri Devendra”

  1. Sometimes an autor like Devendra inspires one to higher and higher styles of writing. In reading your review of Yesterday is Another Country you have risen to another very descriptive style to bring out your own inner feelings about your Yesterdays. Great teachers, unwittingly, inspires others. Thank you sir, from me as well.

  2. Nice one. You have the knack of weaving a superb story out of common place incidents which makes the reading all the more enjoyable. Yours is a craftmanship as well.

  3. Lovely, Chulie. I really enjoyed your review – takes me away from this humdrum existence where we blot out so much that is important and precious to us. We are the losers – only we don’t know it as we search for that elusive pot of gold.

  4. Thank you, Chulie, for including me on your site. As I said, I wrote for myself – a self-indulgence – so it’s pleasant to hear others say they like the book, and the thoughts they sparked off in you.
    Ven. Dodanduwe Dharmasena was up at Peradeniya in my time but we shared no common classes and, as he lived in the Sangharama, we never met till Fate brought us together.
    It was unexpected that you had found persons who wanted the book after reading your meanderings: looks like you’ve got a good thing going. Keep going!

  5. You actually make it appear really easy together with your presentation but I find this matter to be actually something which I feel I might by no means understand. It seems too complicated and very large for me. I’m taking a look forward in your next put up, I will try to get the dangle of it!

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