“Viragaya” is one of the most discussed Sinhala novels by veteran writer Martin Wickramasinghe. But I never got a chance of reading the original Sinhala novel. Instead, I had access to an English translation of Viragaya named “The Way of the Lotus” translated by Professor Ashley Halpe.
The protagonist, Aravinda Jayasena is a self-effacing, unassuming, unambitious and a virtuous character. While he was studying to become a doctor, his father dies. Though Aravinda is a smart student, he gives up studying to become a doctor after seeing pictures of inside organs of the body. Cutting toads and corpses is not his cup of tea. He gives up medicine.
Aravinda is isolated from the society and the way he thinks and behaves is different from the other people of the same age. Aravinda is deeply in love with Sarojini but has no courage to take the risk in eloping with her and waits to see his best friend marrying her. Aravinda goes to a self-imposed exile especially after Sarojini marries someone else.
Aravinda has an elder sister who is sharp-tongued and ambitious. After the death of Aravinda’s father she comes home with her husband and child. She does not mistreat Aravinda but his constant tests with alchemy puts the child in danger and with the resistant from the sister to his lab tests, Aravinda decides to live a lonely life in a small house close to a ricefield elsewhere in the village.
He adopts a girl named Bathie just out of sense of charity and he cares for her like a father. The girl is the daughter of Aravinda’s servant woman. The girl starts calling Aravinda, ‘father’ and he doesn’t resist. The villagers start spreading rumors that Aravinda uses the girl for his sexual exploitations but being a very virtuous man, he disregards the rumors. When Bathee comes of age, Aravinda arranges her marriage with a person whom Bathee is in love and creates a job for him as a driver by buying him a car.
Aravinda falls sick and Sarojini, his former lover coaxes his sister to take Aravinda home but he refuses. Instead, Bathee takes Aravinda to her home and treats him very well. Aravinda dies an untimely death at the end of the story.