‘The Dance of Destiny’ by Raja Arasa RATNAM – Overview

PART 1  :   THE WHEELS FELL OFF

Chapter  1  –  The upheaval

Covers the attack by the Japanese on Malaya in Dec 1941, the surprising retreat of British and Australian troops, the Japanese military Occupation begun in early 1942, and life under the Japanese until 1945.  Sub-headings are: a casual contact; a speedy withdrawal; avoiding the bombs; life under the Japanese.  This last sub-heading is further broken down to: the early days; the latter days; the final days; a retrospect.

The retrospect highlights the corruption of Christian colonialism, Japanese military brutality, the starvation of the people and, for my family and the surrounding neighbourhood, a reign of terror imposed for a period by a gang of communist anti-Japanese (so they claimed as they carried out some killing of civilians).

Chapter  2  –  Back in time

Describes in detail the peaceful progressive life of an immigrant family from Ceylon in the context of the British administration before the Japanese Occupation.  Sub-headings are: origins; boyhood; the way we lived.  Highlights the religious and cultural tolerance of people of diverse origins, and the way we all lived.

Chapter  3  –  Forward in time

With the defeat of Japan, Malaya became focused on the future, on freedom from foreign rule.  The author’s life, however, falls apart.  Yet, there is a glimmer of light ahead.  After a short flare of hope, the author’s life again appears doomed, when his Anglo-Australian wife rejects him on his return to Australia.  This leaves him in a societal and geographical limbo.  A quotation from the Upanishads indicates the author’s optimism-larded realism. 

Sub-headings are: a new beginning; the descent to doom; keeping afloat; Quo Vadis.  The end is dramatic: the reader, like the author, is left in suspense.

PART  2 :  OF HOLES WHICH WERE NOT THERE

Chapter  1  –  Quo Vadis

The author restates his dilemma, but now within the context of family and tribal origins and background.  He draws together the many strands of Destiny-derived influences.  These suggest that he is to belong to Australia.  Yet, there he was, stranded at a kerbside in the city of Melbourne on a cold winter’s morning in 1953.  Reconciliation with his wife offers a future, but in a nation of white supremacists and colonial arrogance.

Chapter  2  –  Memories of White Australia

As necessary stage-setting background, the author recounts his disastrous life in Australia between 1948 and 1952.  The country and people of Australia, as perceived by the author in that period, are presented as further relevant background.  The insights he has gained, the lessons learned, and his obvious respect for Australia’s ‘fair-go’ ethos ready him for his precarious future.

Chapter  3  –  A failed takeoff

In spite of a tremendous effort, involving a substantial denial of sleep over four years, the author is unable to find appropriate graduate employment.  He is a foreigner, and a coloured one as well, as made clear to him.  He has to move to the national capital (a small town set in a desert) to become a public servant.  Beggars cannot be choosers!

Chapter  4  –  The trek to the new world

The sub-headings ‘The launching’ and ‘Settling in’ describe the author’s multifarious experiences, especially his contributory exposure to a range of significant facets of society in the national capital.  He has an interesting life, being involved in an unusually wide range of societal issues.  With his second wife, he builds his family, and becomes integrated into the nation (as the spirit world might have expected).

Then, having  his career path overtly blocked because (as again made clear to him) he is “not one of us”, he moves on.

Chapter  5  –  The forks in the road

There are 2 forks here, the first highlighting the maturation of Australia through its policies on immigrant settlement (of a diverse intake) and citizenship enhancement, leading to an evolving national identity.

The second fork reflects the widening gulf between the Asian values relating to family and respect for one’s elders, and the individualism of the Ultra-West, those nations created by immigrants.  The author decries the alienation overtaking the nation, essentially through the breakdown of the nuclear family.

The author provides adequate detail on both forks, based upon his knowledge and personal experience.

Chapter  6  –  Ultimate Reality

In this chapter the author gathers together all the threads of his life experiences, and ties them into a spiritually coherent philosophy of human existence.  The path available is clearly upward.

Overview :  The nature, role and impact of Destiny are woven lightly through the whole MS.  In much the same way, a personal narrative is set casually in each chapter in the context of relevant geography, history, sociology, politics and philosophy.  Official policies pertinent to each segment of the narrative give additional depth and some colour.

The embellishments, in a story-telling approach, are not easily compartmentalised within each chapter; instead, they float in and out, often with a glancing touch.

Having completed his responsibilities to family and society, he now awaits, in mental and spiritual peace, his return to that Way Station; there he hopes to expand his learning.

 

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