2021 Apr 11
“I suppose that there are certain things a full-blooded Canadian man will not do, and that includes dancing Baila. I must say I felt a bit sad, seeing him being left out of a part of his heritage. Maybe, one day, he will get the courage to get up and dance Baila at a wedding reception but I have a feeling that I will not live to see that day.”
To spend one’s childhood in Sri Lanka must be truly magical. I say this because I grew up in the Middle East and while that had its own charm, I look back on summer vacations spent on this tropical island with nostalgic fondness. Sunil Tantirige’s “The House of a Thousand Memories” gives a third culture kid like me a glimpse into what it might have been like to grow up on this beautiful paradise island.
Written in simple language, evoking emotion in each page, this novel is a testament to the love the author has for his homeland and his family. The story is written as a gift to his son before the teeth of time loses its grip. The warmth is a constant presence throughout the book, transporting the reader into a wave of islandic-nostalgia. To a younger audience, the story offers insight into what childhood looked like in the sixties. To others, this piece of literary work does an amazing job at moving them back to their early days. I particularly loved how every last sentence of each chapter leaves the reader feeling some kind of emotion to sit and relish before moving on to the next one, because who knows what that might bring? One will have to read the book to know what I mean!
Things take a slightly darker turn with the book’s progress into the seventies. The descend is gradual, with hints of ethnic tensions peppered in between stories of secret love letters and boozy nights on Mount Lavinia beach. An impending sense of doom begins to swirl, but before the book can take a dip into the full-blown 30-year-long civil war, Mr Tantirige specifies:
“This is not the story of the Sinhalese-Tamil conflict. That has been sliced, diced and analysed in hundreds of books, articles, films and other media. I am just writing these stories to remember the incidents that happened years ago and hopefully through these, shine a light on the remarkable man that was my father.”
Reading The House of a Thousand Memories felt like an idyllic vacation. Love, nostalgia and memories weave in and out of each chapter and are contagious. This is what will keep you turning page after page until you reach the last one and then suddenly you are left wishing there was more. This book is written as a gift to Mr Tantirige’s son, but it feels like a gift to third culture kids like me as well, painting a vivid image of the childhood that I feel like I missed out on.
The book is available at all Colombo book stores and can be purchased directly from Perera Hussein Publishers.