Monday, March 14, 2016

High Chair

"Sita Kulatunga's fine story ' The High Chair ', which won first prize in the Short Story competition conducted in 1977 by the English Association of Sri Lanka, and was awarded SAARC Women's prize in 1999, has been translated into German by O.Froehling and into Japanese by Tadashi Noguchi.
It focuses on a Sinhalese village girl who has been able, despite her origins, to enter university. Prema is the daughter of a dhobi woman. A highly intelligent young woman, she is humiliatingly aware that she belongs to a cast that is considered inferior to most others according to the rules laid down by the hierarchical social system, which still flourishes, in 'democratic' Sri Lanka.
At home on her first university vacation, she has offered to deputize for her sick mother, wash a bundle of soiled clothes and household linen at the stream, and, the task completed, delivered a bundle of freshly washed and ironed laundry to the home of the Chairman of the Village Council. “Says Prof.Yasmine Goonaratne. ...Dreading an encounter with the Chairman's son Thilak Jayasuriya, her classmate at Peradeniya (though not in the village, where he had attended a superior school), Prema enters his home through the back door.

Luncihami, a servant of the household ' who knew who is who, provides Prema with a small schoolroom chair to sit on when she calls with her bundle of laundry: for a dhobi's daughter, a high backed chair of the dining room at the Chairman's residence -chairs on which she and her kind are not permitted to sit -are out of bounds, representing a way of life that her birth has placed beyond her reach.

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