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Reviewed by Sudhirendar Sharma
24 May 2013

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xceptional narrative on grief, woven around a stirring tale of personal loss and a moving account of incremental recovery. In few minutes on the early hours of December 26, 2004, Sonali Deraniyagala had lost her proud posessions - her two young sons, her husband and her parents - to the furious wave caused by the devastating tsunami.

It has been on ordeal for the daughter, the wife and the mother in her to survive the bizarre but brutal truth. Had an army of family and relatives not foiled her attempts to kill herself, the world would have been bereft of a stunning memoir that expands the notion of 'what love really means.' When life seems predictable, continuity is assumed.

With continuity of life broken, Sonali wonders if 'she could make murky the life she had with her family'. She crawls back into reality in bits and pieces, reliving each moment of togetherness. The red pen marks rising up the wall in their living room reminds her of the periodic exercise in measuring the boys' heights. She kisses those red marks as if kissing the tops of their heads! This can only make a tearful reading.

Out of unimaginable loss comes a haunting story, a moving account of piecing together a fractured life. 'Maybe yearning for them more freely gives me some relief,' Sonali reflects, 'I see my children's friends often now. They are bubbling over when we meet, I enjoy their sparkle. And they make my boys real, so they are not beyond my field of vision, as they were in those first years'. The strength of her prose lies in her taking the reader along in her journey, of converting streaks of emotions into bundles of courage.

Sonali Deraniyagala grew up in Colombo before she left to pursue a career in economics at the Cambridge, where she met her husband Steve. She teaches at the University of London but is currently visiting research scholar at Columbia University, working on issues of economic development, including post-disaster recovery. Contrary to her training as an economist, Wave holds promise as a work of literature. Sonali is a writer of extraordinary talent, the prose is simple, subtle and yet powerful.

Wave makes compelling reading; the author has narrated her inner turbulations with sincereity and honesty. One begins to feel connected with the author, sharing the depths of her grief as much as her efforts in pulling out of it. Within the pain and anguish are nuggets of deep reflections on the gift called life. She wants to be alone on birthdays and the anniversary of the fateful day. 'Alone, I am close to them, I slip back into life or they slip into mine, undisturbed'.

Written almost a decade after the tragic tsunami, Wave recaptures those dreadful moments frame by frame. Without doubt, it is an unforgettable book which tells us how to gather the threads of life when everything is seemingly lost!

by Sonali Deraniyagala
Alfred A. Knoff, New York
230 pages, US$24

 Other books reviewed by Dr Sudhirendar Sharma
Features > Book Shelf
Spoiling Tibet
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

A Journey in the Future of Water
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Yamuna Manifesto
Posting Date: 28 Feb 2014

Corruption Watch

The bad news is that corruption has not only sustained but has grown in size and stature in the country. With scams being a regular feature, seventy per cent respondents in a survey have rightfully opined that corruption has continued to increase in India. One in every two interviewed admit having paid a bribe for availing public services during last one year. Transparency International's latest survey reveals that the political parties top the chart for the most corrupt public institutions, followed by police force and legislatures. No wonder, India continues to make new records on the global corruption arena!

The shocking revelation is that the health and education sectors haven't remained untouched by this phenomenon. With 5th and 6th positions respectively for these sectors on the public perception chart on corruption, corruption has crept insidiously into these sectors of hope for the masses. With bureaucracy being fourth in the list of corrupt institutions in the country, corruption seems to have been non-formally institutionalized with little hope if public services would ever be effective in the country. With economic growth having literally institutionalized corruption, are we now expecting corrupt to be socially responsible - a different CSR.

Poor. Who?

Not giving 'aid' to India is one thing but calling it 'rich' is quite another. If one in three of the world's malnourished children live in India, what does average daily income of $3 indicate? It perhaps means that there is a relative decline in poverty - people are 'less poor' than what they used to be in the past. But having crossed the World Bank arbitrary threshold of $2 a day does not absolve the 'developed' countries of their obligation to part with 0.7 per cent of their Gross National Income in development aid. Should this three-decade old figure not be revised?  

An interesting debate in UK's House of Commons delved on future of development assistance by the British Government. While prioritizing limited resources has been a concern, there has been no denying the fact that development aid must be guided towards tangible gains over a short period of time to start with. There are difficult choices for elected governments to make - should they invest in long-term primary education or in short-term university scholarships? Which of these will bring gains and trigger long-term transformation in the society. As politicians continue to be divided on the matter, poverty persists!!   

Lead View
People, Partition and the Pain
By Rina Mukherji
15 Aug 2013

Dr Jayanti Basu's book analyzes the complex feelings of hatred and longing for the homeland that have contributed to shaping the personalities of a generation of people who were forced to ..
Book Shelf

Yamuna Manifesto

A Journey in the Future of Water

Spoiling Tibet

On Western Terrorism
Devinder Sharma
Carmen Miranda
Pandurang Hegde
Sudhirendar Sharma
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