Diarist turns biographer | Sunday Observer

Diarist turns biographer

23 February, 2020

A Moment in Reckoning
Author: Wazir Sourjah
Pp 113
Available online at www.emars.lk
and at Five Star Melamine Show
room, Colombo 3


“A Moment in Reckoning” is the author’s story of his surprise diagnosis of a kidney cancer, pre-and post-surgery blues, recuperation and the support rendered by family and friends. So, it is essentially an autobiography.

I quite agree with Manjula Sirimane’s assessment of the book carried as a blurb: “Accounts such as these are rare, as Wazir openly and honestly spells out the many challenges that he faced as he grappled with cancer of the kidney. Many of us who have encountered serious challenges to our health are not writers, and revisiting painful memories is not easy. And yet, the book is successful in capturing moments in his life that are iconic; symbolic of the moments that can befall any of us, when we are least expecting them.”

Very few people keep diaries these days. Sourjah who belongs to the old school believes in recording the day’s important events in his diary. He has been inspired by his father who was an inveterate diarist. As I have mentioned in one of my recent columns, those who leave their thoughts in a diary eventually become good writers. Samuel Pepys comes to my mind.

Chapter 2 describes how he was attracted to boxing. Although he played other games he had stumbled upon boxing by chance. He vividly recalls how he had to put up with a class bully who had the bad habit of throwing the blackboard duster at the front row students. One day when he was hit by the duster, he slammed it back on the rogue. Thereafter he was picked for boxing practices. With an illustrious boxing career he entered the adult world by working as a probationary Sub Inspector. He has described many adventures he had faced as a police officer. After a long and eventful career in the Police Department he too became a political victim.

After leaving the Police Department he worked in many private organizations including Aitken Spence, John Keells, LB Finance, MAS Holdings, Glaxo Smith-Kline and the US Embassy in Colombo as a Foreign Service National Investigator. Then came the accidental discovery and diagnosis of cancer in his right kidney. He has recorded the chronology of events from diagnosis to surgery in many chapters.

The author describes his surgery, post-surgery blues, recuperation at home in three short chapters. On Sunday March 1975 he makes the following entry in his diary:

“Alone, alone, all, all alone

Alone on a wide wide sea!

And never a Saint took pity on

My soul in agony.”

S.T. Coleridge (1772 – 1834)

It describes his utter loneliness. The poet in him comes to the surface when he retires. His poem titled, Retirement begins with two evocative lines:

“1976 – A young buck in compulsion, did rush into work life

2016 – So swiftly come to pass retirement presently in rife!”

On 31 October, 2018 he gets a pleasant surprise. A letter sent by the Inspector General of Police confirmed that he had been promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police with effect from December 1, 2000 and promoted to the rank of Superintendent of Police on December 2, in 2008 and retired. It was the greatest news he received 22 years after his premature retirement. It tells a bitter story of political machinations of some unscrupulous senior police officers who unfairly labelled him as a sympathizer of the then opposition party.

In between his interesting narrative, the author gives helpful tips to others who are subject to kidney diseases. In his own words, “My diagnosis of the kidney cancer, my kidney removal and the impairment of the remaining kidney, have exposed me to the various vulnerabilities and it is indeed an unforgettable experience. The adherence and the implementation in regard to medications and food intake will chart out my kidney function and the management of the disease in the days ahead.”

The autobiography ends with a memorable passage. His harrowing experience has transformed his old lifestyle and enlightened his perceptions of life. He has expressed his desire to seek forgiveness, show gratitude, sincerity, engage in charity, connectivity and pray for salvation not only for him and his family but for all believers as well.

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