‘The Dance of Destiny’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM

This book was originally intended to be a memoir, for the benefit of my extended family. Blood- and marriage-related members of this family live mainly in Malaysia and Singapore; some are, however, to be found in Britain, the USA, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Sri Lanka. However, when 14 readers in 4 countries found Part 1(‘The wheels fell off’) very interesting; and a few others later found Part 2 (‘Falling into holes which were not there’) had deep spiritual implications, I had to publish it. In any event, a clairvoyant foretold its publication (in 2004).

This is a personal story, which is also reflective of the recent history of three modern nations.  It is written in the first person as experiences, thoughts, relationships, and observations. The latter are of life, of society, and of individuals, as well as of psychic phenomena, and of the Cosmos. The story is set in colonial British Malaya (now Malaysia and Singapore) and in White Australia.

The personal story is of a peaceful life being suddenly transformed into disasters, the major ones having been foretold by a yogi from the Himalayas. These events are portrayed as wheels falling off the author’s life-chances cart. Other disasters are represented as falling into holes which were not there, a quaint concept of philosophical import. Suffering and sorrow, trials and tribulations, juxtaposed with a sustained extraordinary effort to survive, and some consequential achievements and joy, lead the author to examine the nature and role of Destiny. This naturally leads to assertions about matters spiritual. Spin-off benefits of this approach are an understanding:  of cosmic cause and effect; of an acceptance of ultimate Reality as an achievable prospect; of the bonds available between fellow humans; and of prospects of a desirable future when Asian values uplift the ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia; and vice versa.

This understanding is relevant to the historical presentation of British colonial arrogance, Japanese brutality during its military occupation of Malaya, as well as the progressive evolution of a cohesive multicultural Malayan people from diverse ethnic origins. This scenario is then contrasted with the author’s experiences of the racism of the White Australia era, and the ongoing sensitivity and some fear by the Anglo-Celt Australian of coloured people from ancient civilisations and their cultures.  A further contrast is the religious tolerance already manifest in pre-war Malaya with the bitter religious contest of post-war Christian Australia. The author experienced both racism and tribalism in his career, being “too black” to be a psychologist, and the Australian worker in the private sector being “not ready to accept a foreign executive, especially a coloured one.”

Part 1 of the book (‘The Wheels Fell Off’) deals predominantly with pre-independence Malaya until 1953, and a brief East-West interlude.  The latter reflects the author’s marriage to, and a brief but interesting life in Singapore with, his Anglo-Australian wife. This part ends with the wife rejecting the husband on a cold winter’s morning at the kerbside of her parental home in Melbourne shortly thereafter. To rejoin her, the author, the abject black sheep of the family, the pariah of the community, had cut off any claim he had to return to his roots.  This left him in limbo, both geographical and societal. The ending to Part 1 is indeed dramatic.

Descriptions of ordinary life under the Japanese (not commonly published) have historical significance, according to a professor of history and politics in Australia.

In about 65,000, words the author has woven a light mesh of geography, history, sociology, politics and philosophy, in which he has embedded the story of his ‘wheels-falling-off’ experiences.  More than a dozen readers in four countries have said that it is an interesting ’read’, and well written.  The three pre-publication endorsements and the professional appraisal confirm this.

Part 2 (‘Of holes which were not there’) is set in Australia, from 1953 to the present. In about 65,000 words, it covers 55 years of the author’s life as a settler in a country he did not choose to live in, commencing with his exposure to the virulence of White Australia. His varied and highly contributory life; the career barriers experienced (including the shifting of goalposts, racist treatment, and the ganging up by some Roman Catholics of a so-called Irish persuasion); personal involvement as a volunteer in education policy, in career protection in the public sector, and (currently) in community health services; and some confusing psychic phenomena, are woven into a coherent whole into this part of the manuscript. As well, relevant aspects of society and community relations are included.

This part also reflects some post-war history of Australia (as evidenced by the first academic endorsement), and the successful integration of immigrants into a maturing and progressively more tolerant multicultural nation. The author, however, offers some strongly critical comment on official policies relating to multiculturalism, ethnic affairs, refugee entry, and citizenship, all based on his in-depth experiences.

The author, however, highlights with warmth the on-going ‘fair-go’ ethos of Australia, and the open-ness and reliability of the self-confident Anglo-Australian worker, whilst expressing concern about the individualism of the immigrant-created nations of the West, in contrast to the time-tested communitarian values of Asia and much of non-Protestant Christian Europe. His conclusion affirms his hope that his country of involuntary adoption will be a politico-societal beacon to neighbouring countries, with both East and West learning from each other’s cultural values.

In his attempts to explain events and behaviour which otherwise make little sense, the author has titled his story ‘The Dance of Destiny.’ Believing that this MS fits into the genres modern literature/memoir and society/philosophy, he offers his inter-cultural experiences and his philosophy (including a belief in one people arising from ethno-cultural diversity) to an intelligent global readership, as well as to those who might simply want to read an interesting and well written story.  The target reader is the genderless Everyman.

 

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