Gripping journey from Dharavi to Wanathamulla

Shaveen Jeewandara speaks to Lucky de Chickera on his recently released book, “Sarasu… amidst slums of Terror!”

Born into the appalling slums of Dharavi in Bombay, a little girl faces the cruel realities of life. Life in Dharavi itself weaves a tale of tragedy, squandered about by piddling politicians and torn apart by mafia wars – but the tale of Sarasu takes her beyond the dire slums, across the seas, and into a heart-warming journey that will lead her to the truth about her father.

On a breezy afternoon we step into the home of Lucky de Chickera, author of “Sarasu… amidst slums of Terror!” to talk about his third novel released recently. After breaking into the literary scene with “The Tigress of Kilinochchi” and “Poseidon’s Wrath”, Lucky de Chickera took on the challenge of a third book. “I came across the slums of Dharavi on a business visit to India, and the sights I encountered were downright appalling,” says the author. “Children in tattered rags with dishevelled hair and grime covered faces, scrambling for survival, was a sight that struck me.”

Lucky de Chickera. Pic by Nilan Maligaspe

The life of the slum-dwellers is filled with gloom and dire uncertainties, he says, recalling the vivid picture of a million little houses squashed into a few acres of land, dotted by litter as a sewage canal meandered its way right at the heart of the slum. He mentions that strangely a sense of content radiates from the slum-dwellers as they go about their daily lives. “I suppose these people simply took what life gave them,” he adds, “I wanted to bring out this side of human life, in a way that appeals to Sri Lankan readers. This was the notion behind the book.”

The book takes the reader on a gripping journey from life in Dharavi, to the slums of Wanathamulla in Sri Lanka, to the war torn jungles of Mullaitivu. Sarasu, the main character is a little girl who has to come to terms with the tragedies of losing her parents and brother to the 1983 riots and the civil war. She is introduced to the reader as an outspoken, impulsive little girl who matures through the pages into a level headed young woman. Her aim is to find her father who was a RAW agent responsible for training the Tamil Tigers. Menaka, Sarasu’s grandmother, Atul and Ramya her parents, Rajamani and Abdulla – two Mafia leaders and Raju and Jyoti are the other main characters that stride the pages of the novel.

“A lot of research went into this book,” says de Chickera, “I spent a lot of time fine tuning this particular novel but unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances the launch was delayed.” The author had to come to terms with the loss of his mother during the period he was compiling the book. “The loss of my mother was a big blow to me, I faced the ‘writer’s block’ – of which I had no previous experience and it was a challenging phase of my life as I was very close to my mother, who was a source of inspiration,” he says.

The book touches on some sensitive subjects-politics and the war with the character of Sarasu used beautifully to portray the life of a child caught up in the challenges of life, war, and loss. The reader is skilfully taken through different phases of the characters’ lives and left in suspense at different stages of the narration. The explosions, terrors, killings and murders have been infused with an overlying sense of compassion and the burning desire of a child to find her father’s murderer and avenge not only his deathbut those of other fathers who had been silenced by the cruel war.

Lucky de Chickera mentions how people like Capt. Elmo Jayawardena, well known writer and Gratiaen award winner influenced his writing. “Captain Elmo was there for my first book launch, and he encouraged me to continue writing.” New authors are not given sufficient exposure by the publishers, he feels. “The publishers are more or less willing to support the established writers, and budding new authors lose their way amongst the financial complications,” he states. “I suggest the setting up of a new association solely to help out budding new authors – that may be the only way forward.”

Keeping up to his hectic pace of writing and publishing books, Lucky de Chickera envisions the release of his fourth book, ‘Up the pinkies’, by mid 2012. This novel encompasses anecdotes and stories of his flamboyant past as a rugby player.

Priced at Rs. 750, “Sarasu amidst the slums of Terror!” is available at leading book stores. The author can be contacted on 0772-966042 or at

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