Why Shehan Karunatilaka makes Booker famous


The book “Chats with the Dead” adorns my bookshelf for last twenty-three months, since Penguin Random House India published it. In August 2022 “Chats with the Dead” rechristened “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” was published in Britain by ‘Sort of Books’, a relatively smaller independent British publishing house. In USA it is published only in November by W.W. Norton.

I will tell a bit later, who Shehan Karunatilaka is? He was made world famous recently when his second novel “Chats with the Dead” ala “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” was shortlisted for 2022 Booker Prize.

The short list

‘American Oprah Daily’ wrote about the shortlist – “Six finalists included: ‘Glory’, by Zimbabwean NoViolet Bulawayo, satire that probed persistent African political struggles; ‘Small Things Like These’, by Irish virtuoso Claire Keegan’, a novel that was shaped and driven by pressing questions of morality; ‘Treacle Walker’ by octogenarian Alan Garner; and works of two veteran American writers, Percival Everett’s ‘Trees’ and Elizabeth Strout’s ‘Oh, William!’”.

Oprah Daily, by design or default, omitted “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” by underdog Sri Lankan as worthy to win Booker. Read

This omission reflected the dominant American bookmakers’ view, it was the Booker moment for “Oh Williams” of the Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout.

But it was not to be.

Getting shortlisted was no mean achievement for the rank outsider Shehan Karunatilaka. Booker judges had 169 novels from authors of varied nationalities to choose from.

But the destiny had destined differently

The Booker

On 17 October, 2022, 47-year-old Sri Lankan Shehan Karunatilaka, and his second novel “Chats with the Dead” in new Avatar “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” walked away with the Booker Prize

Neil MacGregor, this year chair of judges for this Booker, said the novel was chosen because “it’s a book that takes the reader on a rollercoaster journey through life and death right to what the author describes as the dark heart of the world … and there the reader finds, to their surprise, joy, tenderness, love and loyalty,

He continued “It is a metaphysical thriller, an afterlife noir that dissolves boundaries not simply of various genres, however of life and demise, physique, and spirit, east and west. It is an entirely serious philosophical romp that takes the reader to ’the world’s dark heart’ — the murderous horrors of civil war Sri Lanka. And once there, the reader also discovers the tenderness and beauty, the love and loyalty, and the pursuit of an ideal that justify every human life”

What a tribute to a relatively obscure author?

Unsurprisingly then, only on 28 October,  The New York Times and on 1 November, The Washington Post found “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” worthy of book review.

The book “Chats with the Dead” was available on amazon.com for 23 months, but it had to wait to be renamed “The Seven Moons of Mali Almeida” and getting published in the England to get the “Booker Prize”- it was published on 15 August, entering the prize game by a whisker as the 30 September was cut-off for publishers to submit the entry.

Authors of the genre of Shehan Karunatilaka make booker famous

For most readers, Shehan Karunatilaka is new author on the block.

But I say it loudly, he is not- it is not Booker which makes Shehan Karunatilaka famous rather contrary is the truth– “It is authors of the genre of Karunatilaka who make Bookers of the world famous”.

I have reasons galore- despite late discovery of Karunatilaka by the Anglo-Saxon world, and despite that, he has published only two novels, that too largely read in Indian subcontinent, to me, to me Shehan Karunatilaka sits atop the galaxy of  literary world and which is of – Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul (and his An Area of Darkness: His Discovery of India); Gabriel García Márquez (and his “One Hundred Years of Solitude),   Thomas Ruggles Pynchon  (and his The Crying of Lot 49) and Salman Rushdie (and his “Midnight Children”).

I am a rookie book reviewer but a voracious reader who picks his authors and books after proper due diligence. And I am avid Sri Lanka watcher. As a consultant to the Asian Development Bank, I have lived in Colombo during turbulent final years -2006 and 2008- of three-decade old ethnic conflict.

I have extensively researched antecedents and proximate reasons of Tamil-Sinhalese conflict. And, I believe, I am better placed than ordinary mortal to visualize what it was to be in Sri Lanka or being a Sri Lankan, when the country burned.

These possibly put me at a vantage position to dissect the twin works of Shehan karunatilaka- Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew and Chats with the Dead ala The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

And I must do justice to both the books- because I believe the story of Shehan Karunatilaka must be told loudly

Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew

Akhil Vaani Why Shehan Karunatilaka makes Booker famous

Book: Chinaman, written by Shehan Karunatilaka. Image courtesy: Amazon.com

I begin with Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew with a confession- “I was clean bowled on the first ball by the mighty weight, and the class of the debut novel”.

For the uninitiated, Chinaman by a left-arm spinner in cricket, is mirror image of a right-armer’s leg break, a slower ball bowled over the wrist, to fool the batter into thinking it will bounce in opposite direction to one it actually does– ‘’It spins into the right-hand batter and away from the left-hander”.

South African Charlie “Buck” Llewellyn, who played towards end 19th century, claimed to have invented Chinaman. But it is believed to have originated from West Indian- Ellis’s Achong. In 1933 Old Trafford test, left-arm orthodox spinner Achong, first test cricketer of Chinese ancestry, bowled an unexpected wrist-spin delivery that turned from off to leg, and had English batsman Walter Robins stumped. Legend says, Robins, as he walked back to the pavilion, crowed, “Fancy being done by a bloody Chinaman”.

As thus was born Chinaman.

A cricketing novel mostly is a dull creation except to the hardcore cricketing geeks, but the narrator of Chinaman writes early in the book-

“If you’ve never seen a cricket match; if you have and it has made you snore; if you can’t understand why anyone would watch, let alone obsess over this dull game, then this is the book for you.”

And indeed, the book lives to its words.

And I assert, Chinaman is not just cricket- it enmeshes many captivating stories inside. And what a tribute to it by Nicholas Lezard, in The Guardian, London on 12 April, 2012-

“And the style … well, I can hardly believe this is a first novel by someone self-described as a bass-player and advertising copywriter, the dumbest jobs in music and writing. He has with no apparent effort got into the mind of an articulate, wise, but despairing and cynical drunken old hack, and this long, languorous, and winding novel has registers of tragedy, farce, laugh-out-loud humour, and great grace”

Unlike Douglas Stuart, Arundhati Roy and Aravind Adiga, the career of Shehan Karunatilaka was not launched with a Booker. Instead, his masterpiece literary pitch was a hattrick’ brought in the train of his first offering “Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew” in 2010, a year after I returned from a rocky Sri Lankan sojourn where I alternated between the “Abyss of Depression” and the “Splintering Flameout of Mania” amid the most turbulent phase of the war.

When first novel of Shehan Karunatilaka was published he was 35. And when its manuscript won Gratiaen Prize in 2008 he was barely 33.

I begin with a small tale.

It was c. 2008, the manuscript of Chinaman by an unknown 33-year-old had won prestigious Sri Lankan literary award-  2008 Gratiaen Prize. A diehard cricketing fan, I longed to read it and was lent the manuscript version for a night by a Sri Lankan friend (a Jaffna born Tamil lady married to Colombo based Sinhalese). I finished heavy-duty book in one go, without pausing, in the wee hours sitting in the Indian Ocean facing balcony of my room of hotel Taj Samudra facing Galle Face at Colombo.

And I was so bowled over by this superb work of fiction blended with realism of non-fiction that since that day, I am in search of real Pradeep Mathew.

When Chinaman was published in 2010, I purchased, and compulsively read it time and again, to me, Chinaman is a page-turner like Harry Potter and I find book’s detailing of cricket through amazingly, real, riveting and accomplished

I had the fortune to read, first version of Chinaman three years before ‘Chikki Sarkar of Penguin Random House India in 2011’ bought its right and made Karunatilaka edit it, removing nearly 100 pages.

Chinaman had a long-labored birth

When two-year search for a publisher did not yield result (none wanted to publish an unwieldy cricket book from an obscure 33-year-old first time author), Karunatilaka self-published Chinaman in 2010.

Wikipedia reports- “Wife Eranga Tennekoon created book cover, brother Lalith Larunatilaka, created illustrations, friend Deshan Tennekoon did typeset, screenwriter Ruwanthie de Chickera did structural edit, Michael Meyler did line edits and Adam Smyth proof-checked, book was printed by Silverline Graphics and distributed through Perera Hussein.”

What a travesty for an author who will win Booker in a decade. Enigmatically, Chinaman was discovered by British only in 2012 when it became Asia regional winner of Commonwealth Book Prize, and eventually became overall winner of Commonwealth Book Prize in June 2012. In praise of Chinaman Margaret Busby, chair of judges of Commonwealth Book Prize said:

“This fabulously enjoyable read will keep you entertained and rooting for the protagonist until the very end, while delivering startling truths about cricket and about Sri Lanka.”

For past one decade, my bookshelf has both -self-published and Random House published “Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew”, and I must give the book a review before I move to “Chats with the Dead”.

It will help readers understand Shehan better

The setting of Chinaman post 1996 (Sri Lanka won one-day World Cup in 1996 defeating Australia) cricketing hysteria of the cricket crazy island nation. Shehan uses cricket to convey nice and not so nice things about Sri Lanka: a lush, verdant tropical paradise decimated in the ethnic war. Almost.

When its cricket gods resurrected misplaced vanity of Sri Lanka in 1996 World Cup, the occasion gave Karunatilaka perfect launchpad to discover layers beneath drunken ravings of a dying mad about cricket, retired sports journalist who sets out to find what happened to a bowler who disappeared after achieving greatness.

Chinaman abounds in interesting tweetable factoids: “Left-arm spinners cannot teach your children or cure your disease. But once in a while, the very best of them will bowl a ball that will bring an entire nation to its feet. And while there may be no practical use in that, there is most certainly value.”

Interestingly, small, and big cricketing factoids in the book are not only gripping to cricketing geeks- ‘even ordinary mortals without an iota of knowledge and awareness of cricket can easily comprehend Chinaman’.

WG Karunasena, 64-year-old narrator of Chinaman is dying because he persists with drinking daily with breakfast, he tells in the book-“If I could, I would drink in my sleep. Alcohol has enhanced my life and the world I inhabit. It has given me insight, jocularity, and escape. I would not be who I am without it”.

Karunasena loves his wife Sheila and their guitar playing misguided son, Garfield (named after Sir Garfield Sobers), but to him cricket is somehow bigger than life and the family. He says-

“I have been told by members of my own family that there is no use or value in sports. I only agree with the first part…. I may be drunk, but I am not stupid. Of course, there is little point to sports. But, at the risk of depressing you, let me add two more cents. There is little point to anything. In a thousand years, grass will have grown over all our cities. Nothing of anything will matter”

And WG with his friend Ariyaratne Byrd, a maths teacher, and another cricket fanatic, sets out to find the greatest Sri Lankan bowler of all time- Pradeep Sivanathan Mathew (a master of deliveries like chainman, the floater, and even the double bounce), whose identity from the world and the records book has mysteriously been erased.  He wants to make a documentary on Mathew to resurrect the legend.

A decade after I read Chinaman first, I am at loss of words- who was the greatest spin bowler of all time- Muttiah Muralitharan, (Bill)Tiger O’Reilly who died in 1992, Shaun Warne or Pradeep Mathew who during 1980s was Sri Lanka’s most devastating and talented spinner who in mere seven tests, took forty-seven wickets including ‘10 for 51’ against New Zealand, and then mysteriously vanished from the world and cricketing record books?

What led to this fate of Pradeep Mathew?

Conspiracy theories abound- his career got jinxed because he was a half-Tamil born to Sinhala mother and Tamil father; others accused him of underhand dealings including match fixing; for many he simply did not exist. But as WG sums up on page 1 of the book – ‘Wrong place, wrong time, money, and laziness. politics, racism, power cuts and plain bad luck.’

In the ‘Mission Search of Pradeep Mathew’, WG is refreshingly believable. During search, WG meets tough luck, dead-end and obstructions at every possible step, stage and turn- Sri Lankan cricket Board, fellow cricketers, his coaches, family, his once girlfriend Shirali Fernando and even LTTE.

And the story gets murky with twists and turns.

It is apt to say that Chinaman is less of a Pradeep Mathew’s story, it is more tale of the search for Pradeep Mathew’s story — making it as much a tale of Karunasena, of Sri Lanka, and of Sri Lankan cricket.

Karunarasena fails to hunt down Mathews, I too keep looking for real Mathew Pradeep, so seamlessly, facts and fictions are enmeshed in the novel, and such is its realism.

Shashi Tharoor wrote in Chinaman review-

“Karunatilaka’s extraordinary first novel is manifestly a work of genius… one that manages to be about Sri Lanka without being overtly about it and seems to be about cricket but goes well beyond it… Karunatilaka’s writing is astonishingly assured for a debutant novelist, witty, insightful, often clever, and occasionally profound. His style is quirky and original unfolding in short sections with whimsical sub-headings, and is sprinkled with sketches, lists, wry observations, and over-exposed photographs. And yet idiosyncrasies never grate; they inveigle you into the mood of the book…, Chinaman is not a novel you are ever in a hurry to finish. And when you do, it leaves a long, lingering taste in your mind.

What a tribute!

Chinaman indubitably is a great offering -a capacious novel, interspersed with one-liners, plotted in the genre of a good thriller and compulsively readable.

Though cricket is its nerve centre, “Chinaman” tells many more poignant stories – “Tale of a torn nation in late 20th century where ethnic Tamil-Sinhalese conflict kills by hundreds and thousands; a country mired in the abhorrent terrorism, nepotism, and corruption; where humans have turned more savage than animals and where one gets massacred tortuously for being in the wrong place at the wrong time”.

Chinaman is impressive multi-layered piece of art – simultaneously iconic and ironic, hapless, and humorous, touching, sad and grim. And it is more- despite seriousness of the subject, Karunatilaka uses feather-light brush to paint narratives in which he mixes humour and violence with the same deftness with which, the narrator WJ mixes his drinks

It is unsurprising then, in 2012 Chinaman won DSC US $50000 Prize for South Asian Literature.

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida

Akhil Vaani Why Shehan Karunatilaka makes Booker famous

Book: The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, written by Shehan Karunatilaka. Image courtesy: Amazon.com

It is time now to move to the iconic Chats with the Dead aka The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida.

Even before the revised The Seven Moons of the Maali Almeida, arrived on the literary scene, the first cut Chats with the Dead was a compulsively readable dark comedy of life, death, and everything in between. Its deliciously compelling absurdity enthralled me right from the first page to end.

While Chinaman was about cricket interspersed with destructive civil war, the second offering of Karunatilaka – “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is about one of most deadly periods in Tamil- Sinhalese conflict, self-annihilation of Island Nation, narrated through its dead protagonist Mali Almeida, who calls him “photographer, gambler and slut.”

The book opens in Colombo, 1990 when Maali Almeida, the war photographer, gambler, an atheist and unapologetically gay, wakes up dead in what seems like a celestial visa office. His dismembered body is sinking in the serene Beira Lake-a Lake full of dumped bodies-UN Human Rights body later collects 20 skulls from the lake one of which is of Maali.

Maali has no clue who killed him and why at a time when scores are settled in Sri Lanka by death squads, suicide bombers and hired goons making the list of murder suspects depressingly long, as ghouls and ghosts with grudges who cluster round can attest.

In this cacophony of the rule bound bureaucratic afterlife, Maali discovers he has only seven nights or seven moons to solve his murder mystery and to reach his loved ones “Jaki and DD” (it is complicated as Maali’s  supposedly girlfriend Jaki is cousin of his boyfriend DD and before Maali’s death three  shared the house owned by DD’s powerbroker Tamil Minister father Stanley) to help them find his prized cache of war photos  which could potentially punish war criminals and even help end the war.

In the dangerous world of Sri Lankan ethnic war, Maali worked and hustled with all sides, the   diverse members of island’s viciously rivalrous groups. He accepted photography gigs from anybody who would pay — government, army, foreign journalists, human rights organizations, spies, and arms dealers freely snapping pictures no one wanted him to see

Maali an unreliable boyfriend also slept with men unabashedly from throughout conservative Sri Lankan society.

Let me weave my narrative from the beginning where dead Maali in the afterlife in the other world complains

“Lankans cannot queue. Unless you define a queue as an amorphous curve with multiple entry points. This appears to be gathering point for those with questions about their death. There are multiple counters and irate customers clamour over grills to shout abuse at the few behind the bars. Afterlife is a tax office, and everyone wants a rebate” he says 

Now fast forward to the end.

Mali has solved his murder mystery. His murder was the revenge killing by Minister Stanley, father of DD now off now on, lover boy of Maali. Stanley killed him for corrupting his only son. After solving his murder Maali is in philosophical Chat with the dead Leopard who says

“Everybody is trying not to get eaten. I want a break from the food chain… there is no animal more savage than a human.”

This outpour of dead leopard mimics the savage state of Sri Lanka in1980s about which (page 22-24) for the benefit of young American journo Andrew McGowan confused by Lanka’s abbreviations, Maali once made a cheat-sheet which he recycled many times for many visitors for many years

To an outsider Sri Lankan tragedy will appear confusing and irreparable. It need not be either. Here are the main players-

The nation divides into races, races divide into factions and factions turn into each other. Whoever is in opposition will preach multiculturalism and then enforce Sinhala Buddhist dominance in exchange for power

And he elaborates, you are not only outsider here Andy. There are many others as confused as you are.

Maali sums up-

“It is not that complicated my friend. Don’t try and look for the good guys ‘cause there ain’t is none. Everyone is proud and greedy, and no one can resolve things without money changing hands or fists being raised.

Things have escalated beyond what anyone imagined, and they keep getting worse and worse. Stay safe Andy. These wars aren’t worth dying over. None of them are.”

Coming twelve years after his first offering, the epoch making – The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is rip-roaring epic, filled with sharp wit and humour, nail-biting horror and disturbing truths as the novel is set in midst of murderous mayhem of Sri Lanka beset by the civil war. The voice of the novel – a first-person narrative rendered, with an astonishingly light touch, in the second person tales indubitably is unforgettable, with unsentimental rending, alternating between tender and angry, very angry and very funny with extraordinary candour and self-depreciating humour.

And it is a riveting description of an unquiet and unpeaceful afterlife and all that goes there which keeps readers captivated. Karunatilaka has done immense literary artistic justice to an exceptionally terrible period in Sri Lanka’s history.

Even as an onlooker, in the final fatal stage of the war (I was a Colombo resident in 2006 and 2008), I could chillingly feel the incompressible trauma of Sri Lankans in a country that had by then had spiralled into unfathomably deep abyss. United Nations estimates almost 40,000 civilians perished in the final stage (2006-2009) of the war.

Shortly after my leaving Sri Lanka in 2009, the Sri Lankan government declared, the war was won, with majority of its Tamil opposition killed including LTTE supremo Prabhakaran. Those who survived were maimed and silenced for life. The conflict that lasted three decades killed over one lakh and displaced lakhs.

Genesis of war

Sri Lanka inherited Tamil-Sinhalese ethnic conflict from the British colonial rulers. Historians trace the conflict to the colonial era, governorships of Robert Chalmers (1918-1925) and his successor, Hugh Clifford (1925-1927). The discord erupted much before 1948 independence, in 1920s when the national movement for independence led by Ceylon National Congress split into– “the Sinhala Maha Sabha” led by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, and “Tamil Congress”, led by G.G. Ponnambalam.

After that day, Ceylon then and Sri Lanka now has never been the same.

Ceylon- a paradise wasted

In 1956 Sri Lanka witnessed its first post-independence Sinhala-Tamil riots after passage of Official Language Act (No. 33 of 1956) by Prime Minister Solomon West Ridgeway Dias Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (dominated by Sinhala-Buddhists). The Act triggered discontent among Tamils, who found their language, culture, and economic position subjected existential threat.

It disrupted Ceylon and Sri Lanka forever– “and the island nation soon descended in blood thirsty war”

To paraphrase, Lee Kuan Yew, visionary first Singapore Prime Minister, with the decision of S.W.R. D to make Sinhala sole national language began the ‘Unravelling’ of Ceylon’.

Lee Kuan Yew knew better – when in1956 he first visited Ceylon, he was so impressed with Britain’s model commonwealth nation that he weaved dreams to model the development of Singapore after Ceylon

He wanted make Singapore to be a great city like Colombo

The dream city Colombo withered away sooner with the first trigger being organised pogrom against Tamils in 1958. Riots that between 22 to 29 May, killed 1000, mostly Tamils.

From thereon it was the turn of no-hold-bar, man-killing-man in pristine Ceylonese beautiful island inhabiting 20 million. Soon there were more ghosts in the island nation than people on Colombo streets.

Best way to kill the unwanted was imposing curfew.

In 1972, majority Sinhalese changed country’s name to Sri Lanka and made Buddhism its primary religion. As ethnic tension worsened, in 1976, Federal Party passed a resolution calling for a separate state for Tamil called Eelam and renamed it Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF).

Soon LTTE came into being, initially with radical students as its backbone under Velupillai Prabhakaran, who had witnessed 1958 Killings of Tamil. For LTTE end decided the means as it began bloody campaign for Tamil homeland in northern and eastern Sri Lanka.

A long history of disenfranchisement among Tamil, at the hands of Sinhalese led to a civil war in 1980s and the final trigger was “the 1983 Black July” when anti-Tamil riots killed 3000 and burned 10000 homes. The government justification of this orchestrated annihilation of Tamils was LTTE ambushing army convoy, that killed thirteen soldiers. Watchers of bloody war will testify, the LTTE ambush was retaliatory attack as in mid-July 1983, Sri Lankan security forces had mercilessly killed Charles Anton, head of the LTTE military wing.

“3000 innocents’ lives massacred to avenge death of thirteen in uniform- what a Jungle Raj justice.”

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida unravels in the backdrop of the 1983 massacre.

Shehan Karunatilaka was aged eight then.

The New York Times writes in its review “Karunatilaka’s book is supremely confident in its literary heterodoxy, and likewise in offering idiosyncratic particularities of ordinary Sri Lankan life well beyond the serious matters of politics, history, religion and mythology”.

It adds further- “Indeed, ‘The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida’ offers a very palatable combination of literary-political-ethical challenges, enjoyments, and validations to its readers, including a sense of timeliness.” And The Washington Post writes candidly-

The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” followed tortuous route to fame. Its manuscript, then called “Devil Dance,” was shortlisted for a Sri Lankan prize in 2015. Five years later, it was published by Penguin India as “Chats with the Dead.” …., but international publishers balked, worried that the book’s Sri Lankan politics and mythology were too confusing for Western readers”.

And the finale is provided in “The New Yorker” Briefly Noted Books section (November 21, 2022, edition) in one para description of “The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida” –

When Almeida tracks down his murderer, he realizes that “every death is significant, even when every life appears not to be.”

“The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida is an amazingly engaging and absorbing story, a modern contemporary cross-genre novel, that merges the dark realism of Sri Lanka with a light-hearted ghost story and raises its level much above the Bookers of the world.

Shehan Karunatilaka makes Bookers of the world famous.

It is befitting then that despite Maali’s all flaws, (a diehard lover of beautiful boys and gambler of the worst order), Booker judges describe him ‘wonderful company’ and ‘cheerfully unapologetic about what others might see as his failings’

Who does not have failings I say. And who says-failings and flailing are unadulterated disaster. Maali Almeida proves it. Q.E.D.

Towards end of the book, in Maali’s “Chats with Dead Suicides”, fundamental suicide question crops up –

“Why is Sri Lanka number one in suicides. Are we that much sadder or violent than the rest of the world”?

Dead suicides conjecture-it is because we have just  right amount of education to understand that  world is cruel and just enough corruption and inequality to feel powerless against it. Another dead suicide interjects– “and we have easy access to weed killer”

And Maali the ghost ruminates-

“It is difficult to doubt Sri Lanka’s prolific suicide rate, judging by rubble on the hotel roof: the young, the old, the middle aged, the male, the female and all that is in between; the jilted lovers, the bankrupt, farmers, the refugees of botched revolutions,  the casualties of rapes, the students who failed the grade and more than a few closeted  homos. They all float to the edge and take the plunge

Circa 2022

There is a saying there often is “darkness at the end of the tunnel”. In Circa 2022 Sri Lanka has disproved it.

In 2021, Sri Lanka’s Control of Pesticides Act No. 33 of 1980 and its National Policy and Action Plan on Prevention of Suicide of 1997 won the Future Policy Award (considered The Oscar on Best Policies) 2021, awarded by World Future Council in partnership the United Nation Environment Programme

As someone who has worked for last two decades to prevent suicides in India, I dare say, these two Sri Lankan policies have brought most dramatic reduction in suicides in Sri Lanka, 1,00,000 lives saved over 20 years in 20 years outnumbering those killed in the 30 years long Civil War.

This is the proverbial light at the end of the dark tunnel

Sadly, in 2022, India dethroning Sri Lanka sits atop the global suicide table.

Akhileshwar Sahay is a Multidisciplinary Thought Leader and Impact Consultant. Sahay considers him a voracious reader and rookie book reviewer. He resided in Sri Lanka during closing Years of Sri Lanka ethnic conflict. Sahay works as President (Advisory Services) in consultancy firm Barsyl. Views are of the writer and do not represent views of this publication or company where Sahay works

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