Song of the Sun God by Shankari Chandran
…She turned her face towards the fading light. Nala warned her about her skin getting darker but she had never ceased. She loved the feeling of the sun on her. It was the same sun that kissed her father’s head every morning when he went to work. It was the same sun that was beating down on hundreds of thousands of people trapped on a narrow strip of beach in the far north-east of the island….She looked north and saw the majestic palm trees at the top end of the beach, leaning ever closer to the earth. After thousands of years of being grazed by the wind, they were bending, in supplication to Surya, the Sun God; in defeat….
Nala’s advice along with everything else that she did, was always in the best interest of her own children and Dhara. In 1940s, had she and Rajan known that they would be the “others” in their own country, she would have made different choices. With the lessons learned from The Mahabharata, their memories, their hopes and their disappointments, she and Ranjan moved to Australia. According to Ranjan, “One of the things I like about Australia is that we have the potential to debate without demolishing each other; we might even fight without war….”
For Dhara, the choice had been very clear; while her family moved away to safer lands, she knew she could not leave the land of her parents; call it her karma or her resolve to fight her demons. The Sri Lanka she grew up in was not the one envisaged by many at the time of independence, but she chose to stay.
Ironic that I sit here reviewing Shankari Chandran’s Song of the Sun God, as Sri Lanka celebrates its Independence Day. Sixty nine years ago, the British left Ceylon and the nation celebrated independence; freedom for the Ceylonese- ALL CEYLONESE!
The promise was there, but shades of discontent had been apparent from the early 1900s. These blurred splotches became unfathomably heinous when post-independence divisions were made on the basis of majority, religion and language. And then there was the Civil War.
Spanning eight decades, Shankari Chandran’s debut novel tells a poignant tale of a family torn apart when Sri Lanka bled. Written from the perspective of a Tamil family, it weaves a tale of loss, love, despondency and hope. As each page turns, it brings forth the uncertainty, the horror and the fear, which countless millions would have lived through. Not all is traumatising, as the narrative also exudes optimism based on the universal belief, “Do your duty and leave the rest with God.” Each character connects adeptly and it’s difficult to say who the protagonist is. Shankari’s skillful writing captures everyone’s essence and weaves it delicately into a saga that is both mesmerizing and heart-rending. The detailed descriptions and the exceptional writing make this novel a gratifying read.
Shankari Chandran is definitely a writer to watch out for.
A beautiful story that connects and tugs at the heart!