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Brief Takes: Perhaps Tomorrow by Pooranam Elayathamby with Richard Anderson

This stark tale,  told absolutely without the slightest frill to embellish it, is basically a tale of triumph, of navigating one`s way through all the odds stacked in one`s path and coming through,  banner held aloft.

The `one` here is the co-narrator Pooranam Elayathamby alias Sandy. Born into a poor Sri Lankan Tamil household, any promise of an education or of a normal life, was quickly cut short when her father died on the job and her mother commandeered her sister and Sandy to do manual labour,  in order to keep things afloat. The pattern thus set rarely deviates. She gives up studies, she hefts huge rice sacks to and fro, she grows into adolescence and at sixteen, is immediately married off to `T,` who turns out to be a layabout, rather too fond of wine, women and song. Things go from bad to worse and her indigent circumstances forces her to seek a job as a housemaid in the Gulf countries. Stint after stint follows, in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Sandy discharges her duties diligently and is a dab hand at looking after the kids put in her care. She also learns to take all the slights that come her way without complaint.

The reader feels for her when she discovers that all the money she has been sending home after scrimping and saving, has been squandered by T. He eventually dies, leaving Sandy with three small kids, a mountain of debt and an unfinished dream: to build herself a halfway decent house over the thatched hut they live in.

Sandy goes back to the Gulf for more tenures and actually manages to get that house built. But it doesn’t stop there. Sri Lanka is being torn apart by the war between the government forces and the LTTE,  and of course the Tamils are the hapless lot being churned in this violent mill. Sandy manages to get her adolescent nephew out of Lanka, then her younger sister, and finally her sons. By that time, Providence is finally smiling on her: she meets an American professor quite some years older to her, who takes a shine to her. Richard (Dick) Anderson`s feelings are reciprocated,   and they eventually get married.

The disenchantment, the disenfranchisement of war is a major character in the book. It’s a story that cannot but move the reader but the very  unpolished feel to the language and the style is something of an irritant. Also, the less-than-stringent attention of an editor is clearly felt all through.

Perhaps Tomorrow: Pooranam Elayathamby with Richard Anderson

Publisher: Speaking Tiger

Genre: Memoir

Extent: 245pp

Price: Rs 299

Lankan TamilsmemoirPerhaps TomorrowPooranam Elayathamby with Richard AndersonSpeaking Tiger BooksSri Lankatriumph over travails

Sheila Kumar • December 26, 2019


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