ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, March 11 , 2007
Vol. 41 - No 41

Thank you for telling us a story of courage and honour

In this book Hilary Abeyaratne (HA) has given the readers the story of the life and work of Deshamanya Kamalika Abeyaratne. “The Gift from Giruwa Pattuwa”, Kamalika affectionately called Kami being HA’s brother Michael’s wife.

The book is a WHT publication and has a Foreword by Sunethra Bandaranaike.

What HA has “compiled in awe” is the story of a life well lived in the context of many ups and downs. Like all biographies HA begins his story with Kami’s birth. He writes about the early years, her formation at school, university and Medical College.

From there the author introduces us to Kami’s courtship, the engagement, the wedding and the honeymoon, thus lending the reader to “An Unique Partnership” – the life and work of Kami and Michael, partners in mission.

We are also told about her postgraduate qualifications, the early consultant years; her work in Anuradhapura, in the realms of nutritional research, the Malaria epidemic.

The author then goes on to contextualize Kami’s work telling us about the JVP and 1971.

“Back where they belong” is the title of their return to Colombo. However Kami because of the commitment to real needs and values gets involved with Mahaweli clinics, and the border villages.

At this point in the life story the author introduces us to Kami’s family ties, Aruni the eldest child and her death. To Nilu the second child, Shalini the third and Dayan the youngest and the only boy.

The author in the context of having introduced us to Kami’s family tells us also of the “Tour of Britain”, “The American Trip” both so well organized by the family as a unit, working together as a team.

It is in this reality of the family that the author tells us “what the children think”, each child having a unique understanding of the mother. This leads to Saudi Arabia. With Michael’s retirement he moves to a foreign land.

Then we are told about “the accident’ which is the final turning point in Kami’s life. Hence part II, the story of the aftermath of the accident.

In the “Treatment for the Accident” we are told about the blood transfusion and the HIV infection that Kami had to live with. In “A Tragedy of Pity and Honour” the author tells us the story of what Kami had to endure, the stigma of HIV infection.

This leads to “Facing up to the Truth” the story of the encounter with reality. In the next chapter the author tells us about “A New Commitment at Home and Abroad”, this being the work done in the whole area of HIV.

The final chapter tells us of the story of Kami’s life and work as she moves to her death. This book has within its pages some good photographs, visual aids to see the subject of this book. It also has a selection of Kami’s poems and a good index.

The Prologue and the Epilogue are indeed useful being an introduction and summary of Kami’s life. The author has well chosen quotations from world literature to introduce each chapter, In her Foreword Sunethra Bandaranaike states “Read it and be inspired”.

I have read it cover to cover at one sitting for HA’s book as all that he did at Trinity College, Kandy is well done. So this review is also a thank you to my teacher in the traditional Sri Lankan Guru-Shishya cultural mould.

By Sydney Knight

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.