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Dhyan Abeyagoonasekera’s ‘Enter the owl and the pussycat’

26 August 2015 04:25 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Dhyan Abeygoonasekara’s previous books have been about planting. To be fair, he has published a novel, too (The of Tom Toms). “Enter the Owl & the Pussycat” is proof that his heart lies with words, not trees, though he spent a good part of his life in the plantations industry.

There’s nothing strange about that title to newspaper readers. “Enter The Owl and the Pussycat” is now a regular column in the Daily Mirror. But it had its inception in the Sunday Island, and subsequently in the Lakbima News, and is now one of those established and seasoned columns that regular readers look forward to. This collection, brought out in book form by S. Godage & Brothers Ltd, contains 43 selected columns, with titles such as ‘The Charge of the Heavy Brigade’, ‘Boorism is in Fashion,’ ‘Psychedelic Appreciations’ and ‘Meet the Most Shameless Hypocrite.’

To go through these columns is to skim through Sri Lanka’s recent history, the highs and the lows. Some of the key characters who had such a hold on our lives - such as Velupillal Prabhakaran - are no longer alive. As such, to read these pages is to relive those nerve-wracking times because memory’s both short and fickle. But there’s no gloom since history is narrated here as interpreted by Ooty and Tommo - the tongue-in-cheek owl and the incorrigible pussycat. Ooty wears sunglasses to boot, as he can’t stand the glare of sunlight. He can gulp down a good amount of beer and without getting knocked silly. Nor are they pious. Once lodged inside a church, the pair got kicked out for literally messing up the place with beer and droppings.

The owl and the pussycat aren’t just commentators rooted to their perches. Nor are they armchair travellers. They walk the talk, getting into private buses to sample what the daily commute’s like for people. These two boon companions have talents which often come in handy during their escapades. For example, Tommo can play guitar and sing, and he can dance like Travolta. Tommo also happens to be, as defined by the owl, “a rat-catching, beer-guzzling Buddhist” who believes in his karma.


“Terrorism of the gory type or the sly democratic type is a sort of  cycle. It’s born and it dies because at some point the affected parties  will retaliate effectively to end the cycle. But terror mongers think  they are invincible like the Gauls in a little village created by  Goscinny and Uderzo during the time of Caesar in Rome. But unlike in  fiction, nothing lasts forever.”


Ooty, on the other hand, is a portrait and still life painter. Though they wouldn’t want to be thought of as intellectuals, they can get into deep discourses about subjects such as rebirth. Much of the time, though they are happy to wander the world, taking a critical look at phenomena ranging from elections to dog shows and income tax dodgers.

“Parking the Mini” is about the woes of anyone looking for parking space in Colombo. “Carry on Doctoring, doc!” looks at the way specialists rip patients off with unnecessary tests. The Wages of Terror” is a discourse on the nature of terrorism between the owl and the pussycat - but terror as a tactic adopted by wives, dogs and terrorists, elevating the subject beyond its usual narrow realm. According to Tommo:

“Terrorism of the gory type or the sly democratic type is a sort of cycle. It’s born and it dies because at some point the affected parties will retaliate effectively to end the cycle. But terror mongers think they are invincible like the Gauls in a little village created by Goscinny and Uderzo during the time of Caesar in Rome. But unlike in fiction, nothing lasts forever.”These rambling conversations require a reader of wide-ranging experience. For example, the title “Carry on doctoring” should ring a bell in those who remember the Carry On series of British comedies of the past, just as the above passage refers to Asterix. This is a book which needs to be enjoyed slowly, taking time off to reflect on other reading and movie pleasures of the past.

The book is illustrated by cartoons by Awantha Atigala, Denver Perera, Wasantha and Nalin Balasuriya.

The book is published and Distributed by: S. Godage & Brothers (Pvt)Ltd.


No: 661 P. de S. Kularatne Mawatha,
Colombo 10
.
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