Pundit Amaradeva

Pundit Amaradeva – photographed in his home during an interview in December 2012.

Photocredit: Sandra Mack


For schooldesk friends!

Elton John and Kikidee are singing  ‘don’t go breaking my heart’ on BBC Radio Two. I remember sun-filled Saturday mornings with Bevil Palihawadana (bless him) and kikidee’s dungarees and shiny bob – another world protected from the war, protected from political shit and reality, in an old homestead nestling by the coast.

It’s my close friend’s bday today. Her desk and mine were together for many years. I could tell her – and do tell her – anything. We are born just one week apart. Then on facebook I see a post about the loss of someone’s deskfriend. This someone lost another friend to the war possibly and others gunned down senselessly. My friend is alive, God bless her!  I didn’t lose as many as he did. I only lost one unforgettable ‘aiya’ from our village. His father literally went out of his mind.

We are more or less sane but not completely insensitive or divorced from the strange vibes thrown up by the people of the island nation and the other life. We were and are in parallel universes and in our mind will never be just one person ever.

– Despatches from London on a grey overcast morning in late October.


Where does the world begin

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-12-37-37-pmAnd where does it end?

Fragments of a rainy season,

Or big wheel turning,

Earth moving on its axis…

One man struggling while another relaxes.


Does our history breathe in sentiment

Rather than statement?

Sing dirges than waste time

Composing rhymes with reason.


In Now-days ‘Trail’ brings out the freedom cry

And the heartbeat of a

Damaged, yet still human,

Still awesome,

Still weeping,

Still abandoned by political leaders,

Still hopeful,

Still can-do vibe

Of a nation

That breathes in sentiment

And sings in dirges

to us so far away.

A vibe and wavelength here and now.




Tethers that can never be torn or rent away.

– Gaya


Image credits: Rajiva Wijesinha


In Memory of Questions

Rasika Jayakody

This poem was first published in June 2012. A comment by a reader urged me to post it again. I read it this morning…

Today you asked too many questions,

on ailment of love and unguent,

on lingering and moving away,

on promises, broken and to be made.


for which

I did not have many answers.

I forgot,

the pragmatism of leaving,

the knavish art of moving,

the forgetful lessons of passing.


But I tried to weave a smile

with an open bracket and a colon.


You spoke of dramas

that need to be ended,

I spoke of scripts

which are yet to be started.


and, the utterance

“Love me. But don’t express.”


I remembered a glass that seemed empty

because it was full only of pure water.


Then there was a moment…

the moment of moonlight

in angelic eyes,

the moment of silence between

mama yannam and gihin enna.*

*mama yannam, gihin enna are colloquial parting phrases meaning ‘I’ll be going then’ and ‘au revoir or ‘go now and return’ for non Sinhala-speakers.

Rasika Jayakody is a journalist who is presently working at the Ceylon Today newspaper in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He is a poet as well as a political correspondent who has years of experience in journalism. His poetry is more or less based on love, humanity and politics.

A land of kiribath and kitul

සුභ අලුත් අවුරුද්දක් වේවා! இனிய புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்!

Screen shot 2013-03-31 at 9.56.10 AMThe government has announced when to take a bath for the old year and some of our friends are taking a much-deserved break from the heat and stress in Mirissa with the dolphins and up in Jaffna at the Keerimalai Tank—called Keeramale Ponds on FB  incidentally. Walking for a cancer hospital on a Trail south to north, the guys are cycling now around the island for cerebral palsy. Such inspiration! Yes, freedom of movement lives ok.

Screen shot 2016-04-13 at 11.47.34 AMSince 2012 when my Jaffna friend wrote an Avurudu wish from London, a lot has changed in his life on return to Sri Lanka and he evolves in his motherland. Life goes on. An Avurudu or two ago our Muslim Sri Lankan friends did not feel too secure with the racist BBS monks running amok. Since my post on the Avurudu Kumari-in-waiting Savi, desperately in need of a home four years ago, she is safely spending her teen years in a school hostel in Jaffna. She continues her education, has a guardian mother at the hostel and is visited regularly by her grandparents. We can say that her guardianship is well taken care of, considering the alternatives. Will she one day have the agency, the freedom as a human to act in her own interests? Inshallah she will, if all goes well.

The war is over. We refused to count the dead and are just beginning to count the living and take a critical look at our history and the impact of war and other events on the lives of our people. We are ready now as we ever will be, for the people of Sri Lanka democratically removed the former oppressive regime without bloodshed. Freedom of expression lives again? Yes it does.

Screen shot 2016-04-13 at 11.53.50 AMAs the Avurudu dawns, we walk through the fields of Sampur and the North-Western Province where the chronic kidney disease is killing farmers’ families and listen to the misery of the most dispossessed, the people whose predicament appeared to be overlooked for too long by too many.

Sri Lanka is not just Colombo and the ‘megapolis’ – lately trending word- it is about returning to your own land and pongal in a hut on your own land, digging a new toilet, sending your kids to school and having access to fresh clean water.  Let’s take a good long look at what the rest of us take for granted. Are we walking together? Are we taking their cause to the government of our country and asking for a better future for the abandoned Les Miserables?  There’s a space now, the freedom to travel, to express and to mobilize our communities for greater social change and equality among us. It’s upto us how we mobilize our nation and work with the government for a better harvest.

Here’s to a land of kiribath and kitul!

Images credited (in order) to Ambrosia, Natalie Soyza, and Sandya Salgado.

MUST-SEE : ‘STRANDED’ an art exhibition (and so much more) by Sivasubramaniam Kajendran


Stranded 1STRANDED: Listen to a conversation on the forthcoming exhibition by Sivasubramanium Kajendran

Première at  2.30 pm on 28th March at the Art Gallery, University of Fine Arts, Jaffna.

Exhibition dates: 28th March-1st April 2016.

I still hear Siva’s strong voice as he concluded our conversation a little while ago with the words ‘give my regards to your family.’ Bitterly ironic, given what Siva has left to call his own.

[Read more…]

‘I can’t remember my sister’s face’ – the story behind ‘Stranded’ by Sivasubramaniam Kajendran


Stories find you and not the other way around sometimes—Siva Kaja’s story just burst on me without warning. It was not a by-the-book introduction. He sent me a photo of his exhibition STRANDED on FB and I asked him to send me a write-up that I could share with my friends in Sri Lanka.

‘Call me and I will tell you the story behind my exhibition’, he said, and – little realizing that he would find it hard to convey the meaning in written English – I insisted that he write something first.
[Read more…]

Image of the Week – Charmed snakes at Galle Fort

Image of the Week


A Sri Lankan lesson in Free Speech: Kenan Malik’s op-ed in the NYT today

Screen shot 2016-02-22 at 5.33.20 PMGaya’s intro: When I read this op-ed, A Sri Lankan lesson in Free Speech by Kenan Malik today in the New York Times, I remember the struggle, for human liberty and freedom of speech. it was not battled not on the lines of digital and global hashtag campaigns of today thriving on global ‘likes’, but the one in which Richard de Zoysa, Cheran Rudhramoorthy, Neelan Thiruchelvam, Rohan Edirisinha, P.K. Saravanamuttu, and many others both in Sri Lanka and in exile, battled on relentlessly for years and decades, during the war.  It was a struggle, among others, to keep sane, to keep enlightened thought alive, to uphold a high standard of human rights and human dignity, despite the security threat to those who did. I remember the CPA being under security surveillance.

Whatever your position may be on the individual arguments or those who espoused em, largely, Sri Lankans fought hard to voice their opinion containing thoughts that were crafted from liberal thinking, at times not reconciled to a nation at war.

Screen shot 2016-02-22 at 5.36.20 PMIt was a time when Shyam Selvadurai launched Funny Boy in Sri Lanka by speaking from the same venue as Kenan Malik did, when he spoke to Smriti Daniel—The British Council Colombo.

We had our day. We had our leaders and mentors.

We are ready now to defend free speech and call for good governance only because there are many who know what it is about and have paid a high price for hanging on to its shadow in those dark days.


Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.15.12 PMHere is Kenan Malik’s op-ed read in the spirit of quiet pride and optimism in a nation 25 years on from the abduction and brutal murder of Richard de Zoysa—A Sri Lankan Lesson in Free Speech 
Op-ed by Kenan Malik in the New York Times 
February 22, 2016

Interview with Tanuja Turairajah on the making of Project Belonging

Living as a migrant for the first time in Zürich, Tanuja Thurairajah found herself thinking about the narratives that people were exposed to in their daily life.

“When I came here I met other Tamils, but somehow I felt that they reached out to a different narrative and I reached out to a different narrative…”

[Read more…]

In memory of Nandakka!


180072_499196102580_2336557_nA little remembrance on this day for Nandakka.

For some, she might have been a servant, but to us she was family. That’s why we called her Nanda-akka (Nanda-big sister). She carried my dad when he was a baby and she looked after us. Cooked like a demon and was a friend to our late aunty who never married (like herself). Feisty as a chili on fire, but she was a good sort.

KasuniOnce you asked me what I would do if you died. I said ‘I’ll cry so hard’. When I heard that you passed away, I did sit under a tree in the backyard and cried. I miss your funny laugh, you tiny hair bun, and walking to the market holding your hand.

Hope you rest in peace.

Nandakka passed away on 14.02.2011



Gaya’s note: First in a series of posts on undomesticated domestics! In the Wild West, when we say we had domestics, people don’t know what to think. But those relationships just widen your circle of reference as a child, reveal the bold and ugliness of life and the sweet indulgences one takes as the privilege of the Baba in the house. It won’t hold up well through the lens of social science perhaps, or ethics, but where all things raw and beautiful thrived in Sri Lanka, the steps, the back verandahs and rattan chairs where they sat, the mats they laid on and the stories and yarns they spun, with many an advice and sarky retort from a beetle-chewing gum or rasping throaty voice- dulcet tones, they had not. Thank God for them! RIP all!