Madol Doova – Martin Wickramasinghe (Translated into English by Prof. Ashley Halpe)

Madol Doova Book Cover

Madol Doova Book Cover

“Madol Doova” is a Sinhala children’s novel written by Sri Lankan writer Martin Wickramasinghe. It was first published in 1947. There is some similarity in the approach of the novel to R. K. Narayan’s Swami and Friends which was written prior to this. I read both the Sinhala Modal Doova  and its English translation by Professor Ashley Halpe.

The book tells us about the misadventures and escapades if Upali Giniwelle, a village trader’s son who is motherless and his friends in a southern coastal village. The book is a page turner for the young adolescents. Upali and his friends play a lot of mayhem in the village. One of the mischiefs the group does is dressing up as veddahs (a type of indigenous tribe) and shooting girls with arrows who come to a pond in the corner of the village to fetch water. One girl gets hurt and the boys take her to the nearby jungle and treat her wound with indigenous medicine. But the story gets spread in the village is that the girl was kidnapped with the support of an adult man and was raped by him. Upali’s father thinks that the son will become a good-for-nothing if he stays in the village and he is sent to a headmaster of a school in another village. But Upali’s mischiefs don’t stop there. Without being able to correct Upali, the headmaster asks Uplai’s father to take the boy back to his village.

Upali, with the servant boy of the house, Junna run away from the village and settle in a solitary island called Madol Doova which is believed to be full of snakes and haunted by ghosts. The two start a farm and reap a good harvest as well.

They find out that there is a stranger living in the island and manage to catch him. Later they learn that he is a fugitive and lives in the island due to fear of police. The two parties agree not to disturb each other.

Another man called Punchi Mahaththaya arrives on the isalnd. Though snubbed at first, later he becomes friendly with the boys and learns to help in the farm work.

Meanwhile Upali learns that his father is ill and goes to the village to see him and helps his stepmother and stepbrother and goes back to Madol Doova.

The Way of the Lotus (Viragaya) – Prof. Ashley Halpe (Martin Wickramasinghe)

The Way of the Lotus - Book Cover

The Way of the Lotus – Book Cover

“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.