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…When the doctor arrived with one of the nurses close behind he knelt down next to the tarpaulin without. Word and studied the mangled forearm. There were no surgical instruments in the clinic, no anaesthetics, neither general or local, no painkillers or antibiotics, but from the look on the doctor’s face it was clear that there was no choice but to go on. He motioned the nurse to hold down the boy’s left arm and leg, for Dinesh to hold the head and right shoulder. He raised up the kitchen knife they’d been using for amputations…
Set in war-ridden Sri Lanka, Anup Arundpragasam’s debut novel introduces the reader to Dinesh. Having lost everything, he, like every camp-dweller, lives for the day. Anup’s words bring the mundane to life and the reader is transported to the lifeless and hopeless world of the IDPs. The use of figurative language paints a vivid picture…The clouds, backlit weakly in places, by the sun, had thickened over, and the horizon as a whole had darkened. Without warning, the sky lit up in silvery incandescence. A great bellow sounded down the coast and Dinesh flinched, ducked down into the water. He stayed squat with his hands over his head, his eyes shut, his heart pounding….
Aptly titled, the narrative spans a brief period, precisely 24 hours in Dinesh’s life, and yes he does get married within that day and the marriage is a brief one( you will need to read it to know the reasons). With no shades of politics or drama, the story highlights the daily routine that Dinesh goes through. There are time when he reminiscences about the past. Skillfully, the author lets the readers delve into the deep confines of Dinesh’s mind; thinking with him, moving through the camp with him, seeing the world through his eyes. When not terrorized by the shelling or shocked by their losses, most IDPs move around listless, worrying not about what would happen the next day, but just going through the motions- cooking, burying the dead, cleaning their shelters and looking for useless things in the rubble.
The writing style is mature and the descriptions very detailed( though there were parts which could have been avoided). The story moves slowly, but that could have been a deliberate attempt by the author. A lot has been written about the Sri Lankan conflict, and some of the books have been very impressive. Though Anup Arundpragasam’s debut novel may not be one of my favorites in this genre, his excellence as a writer cannot be dismissed. Though the idea is impressive and I did empathize with Dinesh, there were times when the narrative seemed languorous.
I do look forward to reading Anup’s next!
“Things just happen and we have to accept them. Happiness and sadness are for people who can control what happens to them.”