Burrows shall burn and Bulbuls shall die
A fire so wild they must but die
Their glories unsung and stories unsaid.
Upon their ashes will men sure tread.
Such is the misery of those countless unfortunate stuck in the conflict zones across the world. It is often said that all is fair in love and war. I am not sure if I believe in it anymore. These conflicts, either of ideologies or for identities might or might not end in a clear mandate. But they do without fail, end and expend a lot of innocent lives in the due course. Men, women, children, friends, families, love and a lot more remain buried noiselessly under the noise of machine guns and bombshells.
Almost always,the true story of these lives that were violated in the name of a greater purpose goes unsaid and unheard. There are indeed extensive literature in various languages speaking volumes about war crimes and atrocities in war zones. But most of them are biased and fail to acknowledge the losses suffered on the other side. Some of them go on to glorify the victorious as heroes, sideline these sacrifices and prove that history belongs to the mightiest. Many attempts to narrate the harrowing experiences of these deemed expendables have been mostly shallow, way too weak and shamefully pretentious that they barely do justice to the lives destroyed so mercilessly. Very rarely have I come across a literature that truly and fearlessly tells the world about the real agony of a war and the haunting memories it leaves for its survivors. One such rare piece of literature is Shobasakthi’s book titled ‘Kandi Veeran‘.
The book is a splendid collection of ten short stories written in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan Civil War or the Eelam Wars. The author who goes by the pen name Shobasakthi was associated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for a while, then distanced himself from the organization and had also suffered in the hands of Sri Lankan army. He took refuge in Hong Kong, then in Thailand and finally was granted political asylum in France. Despite being a victim himself and having lost a lot of near and dear ones to this political massacre, the author narrates these stories from a neutral standpoint and leaves it for the reader to decide the right and the wrong. But when he must talk about the militants, the Liberation tigers and the torments meted out to common people, he does it fiercely and fearlessly. His stories feature people from different walks of life who are otherwise considered insignificant amidst the bigger struggles for power. But even in the most tragic of the stories, the author seems to maintain an emotional distance and lets the readers live their own emotions and not that of the writer’s.
The stories do not just bring out the follies of such armed conflicts, but also talk about the conflicts within oneself. What is amazing about his stories is that, although all of them are war based stories, each of them speak of a different subject and an entirely different emotion. And not to mention they unleash a horde of varied emotions within the reader too. The author’s take on love, humanity, right to dignity, forgiveness and fortitude is a lot very unconventional and delightfully refreshing. There is a beautiful blend of irony, reality and black humor in all the stories. I remember laughing out loud many a times, especially during the last story, the title of which became the title of the book. But there are also times, I wished I could walk into the story and comfort those distressed souls. And at times I just wanted to sit with them and cry my heart out.
This is my first read of Shobhasakthi’s writings and I must say this is a great start. I had a wonderful read and if I could ask for more, I would have only asked for more stories in the book. But there is a long list of books authored by him and I can’t wait to get my hands on them.I also hope like a lot of his other books, this too gets translated into other languages so the rest of the world too can cherish his writings.
I felt a striking similarity between Joseph Keller’s Catch -22 and Shobasakthi’s Kandi Veeran. Both were stories based on war and they had black humor, irony and more in common. A little more reading and I learnt that they both belong to what is called as postmodern literature. So if you must learn understand what is post modernism in literature and what are its elements, you have the best in Shobasakthi’s Kandi Veeran.