Reviewed by Dr. Juanita Perera, Ph.D (University of Rochester, New York): formerly of the University of Heidelberg, Germany
“The war was over. Thirty years of a bitterly fought war had come to an end. The show of strength between Mara and Kali had ended with victory to both. Mara had triumphed, but Kali was not undone. The victor and the vanquished were in reality one and the same. The names whatever be the ones they were called by, be it Kali, Mara, Devil or even God were the same identical power. It was the power of darkness over light. Such was the age of Kali.” (Page 174).
This book is an extraordinary mix of fiction and history. It is a penetrative probe into the entire belief system that animates the country viewed from within what were the most tumultuous years of Sri Lanka’s modern history. The book dares to analyze what pious minds would prefer to pass under a calculated silence. In that sense this ‘novel’ serves as a psycho-therapy for a nation still coming to grips with what transpired between 1971- 2009.
The story begins in the squalid ‘lines’ of a tea plantation of this country. A boy of low caste birth awakens to the irreparable tragedy of his birth and consequent identity. His one and only ambition in life is to rid himself of that heritage. At a precise moment of his life, he sees what appears to be an exit from the labyrinth in which he lives and moves.
The vicissitudes of his destiny bring to his awareness the rumblings of the rebellions that are taking from both in the south and in the north and which are about to shake the nation to its foundation. He dreams of the goddess of destruction, Kali, extending to him her hand promising her help to free him from the life of servitude his identity has imposed on him. The condition she imposes on him is his total commitment and cooperation.
The book is an in-depth scrutiny into how religious creeds could be interpreted and adapted to meet the demands of revolutionists intent on displacing the beneficiaries of the existing social, economic and political system. The book shows how the ‘reign of Kali’ when ushered in, is stronger than the force of order and stability that religions, interpreted traditionally set in place, which serve as pillars of support for the ruling powers.
This book with its realism, power, imagery and its dramatic depiction of the most momentous years of the country’s recent history will leave no reader unmoved.