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nankingOver the last two months, in quick succession I read two books, one the Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang and the second After the Heavy Rain by Sokreaksa S.Himm. Having bought the first book almost a year before and the added interest to know the history of China, fuelled by my recent holiday tour to the country, little did I imagine that the read of this book will set me on a journey ending with that of the second given to me by my writer friend Angeline Koh.

rainWhat astounded me were the stark similarities that the two events bore even though separated by a period of nearly forty years and happened in different parts of the world. These events have been compared to Nazis’ holocaust in Germany during the Second World War for their magnitude and intensity of destruction.

Both the books deal with the basic theme which could be very relevant in today’s context of widespread terrorism; mass execution of human beings by their own kind. The similarities go to show that what prompts people to go on killing rampage, the accompanying madness – the orgy, is irrespective of culture, nationality and transcends all boundaries of religion and nationalities.

In Rape of Nanking, which tells the gory details of an important of part of recent human history which otherwise probably would have never come to light- the Japanese invasion in 1936, on the then Chinese capital of Nanking city. Author has gone into macabre details that are beyond human comprehension- of the mass killing of Chinese the number that nearly touched a million – from fighting soldiers to ordinary and poor Chinese and their city which within days of capture by the Japanese turned, into a massive burial ground. Other than giving details of machinations of the Japanese army towards their actions she describes about the good Samaritans – mostly Westerners who had for many years made this Chinese city their home, in their midst who tried their best to protect the people.

One another aspect that the author deals which begs mention is what would have prompted the Japanese soldiers to act the way they did .She goes on to describe the beginnings of a Japanese Samurai and the circumstances in which a Japanese soldier would find himself while being trained to become a soldier .The sheer toughness and severity of the training that probably explains his molding to become a ruthless killer while facing an enemy .

While the author Iris Chang brings justice to the horrifying details of the relatively unknown part of history she doesn’t deal with the aftermath, in other words how the people left with many of the relatives dead would have faced their lives after the holocaust. What would have meant to them to live with the pain of losing their loved ones while they watched helplessly their fellow citizens being raped or murdered.

After the Heavy Rain exactly brings forth this facet of a person’s life as to what he underwent, psychologically after Khmer rouge in Cambodia in 1975 executed all his family members, his parents and his ten siblings right in front of his eyes. The thirteen-year-old author was also one to fall into the grave that the killers dug for his family but he didn’t die and could walk out of the grave alive. Come out of the grave alive he did- with a deep sorrow of having lost them and a promise to his dead parents and siblings to avenge their killings and save the family’s honour, but the pain that he bore and the extreme emotion of vengeance and hatred for the killers that he harboured in his heart made his life a living hell.

Like a prisoner, he lived in an imprisonment made of his own, unable to move on in his life, until Jesus God guided him to light by his gospel of forgiveness. After twenty years he went back to his village looking for his family’s killers just with one mission of forgiving them. As he embraced them with a hug of forgiveness irrespective of the fact that some of the killers didn’t acknowledge this, he set himself free of the decades of scourge of wrath and pain, to bring message of goodwill and education for the poor masses of his country Cambodia.

While the first book deals with the deep scar that was left by the Japanese on the history of mankind, the second deals with the scar and the wound that they could leave on a person’s psyche, disabling him for the rest of his life.

These books in a way are like eye openers to certain facts that are generally ignored, though commonly understood. Terrorist bombings and killings of ordinary people are very commonly happening in many parts of the world, it is in fact a staple news item in newspapers. It is indeed heartening to learn about the efforts being made to know and understand the psychology of the inflicting source and the steps being taken towards spiritual rehabilitation of terrorists in Singapore and other parts of the world. While the efforts are laudable, probably some listening ear is needed at the receiving end also – the scars or the wounds made on the victims and their loved ones.

After all it is not about just statistics and numbers but it is about ordinary people who aim solely to have a fulfilling personal and working lives till natural causes snuff away life from them. Having to become, in a split second victims of some unknown terrorist’s bombs and cut short their lives’ breaths- could lead to catastrophic damage of the soul, heart and mind. In the after math there could be many Sokreaksas who could be living in a hell unable to move on, waiting to be counseled and guided towards light of hope and optimism.

I needed a good topic to begin my blog and what could be better than to tell about the literary session with famous Indian author Anita Desai that I attended on 23rd August 2008, at the National Library.

All of us may not have started as writers as she did. She wrote everyday even when very young and was named writer by her family members. After marriage and even with four kids all she needed was a pen and paper to create a story for a novel out of the ordinary world around her. Wow, and a few of her novels were nominated for Booker prize.

What an inspiration for all aspiring and budding writers.