Opinion

Sarthaka vivahayata maga

Premil Ratnayake

Author: Prematilaka Mapitigama

Distributor: Dayawansa Jayakody & Co.

Printed at: Sridevi Printers (Pvt) Ltd.

Price: Rs. 220/

To a true writer to dwell on a subject like marriage would be a challenging and uphill task like marriage itself, for, the literary result might smack of pedantry. To avoid being pedagogic, the clever writer will have to walk a tight rope, keep off pontificating and conduct himself cautiously much as a pragmatic husband would and that is not easy.

Prematilaka Mapitigama is a fine story-teller. He tackles the subject of marriage like a work of fiction and thus comes through unscathed. It speaks volumes for his creative talent. Very significantly he avoids the pitfalls that any writer dealing with a true portrayal on marriage would be vulnerable to and deals with his subject in a narrative style as though relating an amusing story.

His style and his use of simple, lucid language make "Sarthaka Vivahayata Maga" extremely readable. Itís a book which though the subject matter might appear to be scholarly, if you open even at a random will lure you to keep on reading until you have finished. It is gorgeously interesting and you are persuaded to continue from chapter to chapter as if you are engrossed with a stimulating novel. I donít know how Mapitigama achieved all this, but, I venture to think, the success of his work lies on the characteristic dramatic and fiction-like style he has employed in telling you, or suggesting to you, without sermonising, how a marriage could succeed.

The stories that he uses cleverly to illustrate the morals involved in matrimony are like modern versions of old Jataka tales. Indeed he borrows from the Buddhaís sayings in Pali texts and the Suttas to comment on marriage almost surreptitiously but the reader is not led up the garden path. Also, to his credit is the manner in which he has dwelt on the subject even to get cynics of marriage on to his side of theory.

Marriage, as old as human history, is perhaps one subject on which there can be millions of opinions, true and untrue, because a marriage like life itself has to be lived. And marriage will go on living, making or unmaking couples, long after all of us at the present moment, have finished living and died. Such a subject can be as sensitive as religion. Perhaps that was why they said, "marriages are made in heaven." Surrounded by such a plethora of obstacles Mapitigama has been able to tell his version of how a marriage could succeed in a laymanís language, as it were, without making his endeavour appear a text-book effort.

Mapitigama could write on the subject with authority, for, he has nearly forty years behind him in the public service, having worked in the remote corners of the island, closely acquainted with the ordinary people. His knowledge of people is prodigiously rich. But above all he worked closely with the Marriage and Divorce Commission since it was appointed in October, 1956 until its work ended. Thereafter he did his own research on the two subjects marriage and divorce which itself would have made him fully equipped to write several volumes on these two most compelling aspects of modern human lives.

Of course "Sarthaka Vivahayata Maga" is not a modern day work. The original work was published 41 years ago. The book was an instant best-seller. In a short time of a month or two all copies were sold. Mapitigama who was then busily involved in other work in government service could not afford the time to pursue a second edition.

When the demand for a revised edition of the work grew Mapitigama decided that the best thing to do was to write it all over again. And he began to acquire more knowledge on the subject of marriage culling from writings both in the East and West, from treatises on research work, his own experience in the field for four decades and finally an inward look as he says, into his own forty years of married life. They say that marriage is a gamble. If so, Mapitigama is a good gambler or he has I gambled well. He seems to have led a very contented married life. He is not a man with pretences. He is not smug about his achievement. But he is a picture of a man who is successfully married. No wonder, he has dedicated the book to his wife, Nalini.

Mapitigama has successfully re-written what must arguably be his best work because he has refused to preach. A subject like marriage necessarily will drive you to preach but he has cleverly avoided this snare. He has delved into the ancient customs of marriage both oriental and occidental, the western and eastern rites, the mores in various religions, the aspects of history, the traditions in high and low societies both in Sri Lanka and in other countries, without trying to thrust his views on you. He writes as he has heard or read leaving you to make your own mind.

It is a delectable, detached style, like a Maugham novel. His stories are sympathetic, spiced with wonderful humour. And among them are thrown amusing poems of Kavyasekera by the great bhikku poet, Thotagamuwe Sri Rahula, and jana kavi and pel kavi as sung by our village folk on the vicissitudes of marriage. They are indeed gems of our folk literature. Besides the many things Mapitigama says about marriage or idealmarriage, is the rich Sinhala literature he offers you in the book.

To sum up, the book, is a gentle but pleasingly forceful work on a hackneyed topic that could be read easily without effort even by bachelors and spinsters and many others who are totally opposed to the institution of marriage. This is an extremely readable book. And thatís what a book should be.


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