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.

Inexplicable.

Unrivalled.

Stimulating.

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.

In memory of Nandakka!

KASUNI THEWARAPPERUMA

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!

Happy Independence to Diverse Srilanka!

 

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Maskeliya, Sri Lanka. Image Credits: Deepthi Peiris,

So we got our land back from the British and before that the Dutch and Portuguese. It’s one hell of a land with mind-blowing pics of each strand of sea n foam, pasture and plain, paddyfield and rubber estate, coconut palms to the south and palmyrah to the north, sunrise on white sands in Nilaveli, the gorgeous Arugam Bay and Passekudah, and sunset on Galle Face and golden sands of Mount Lavinia to Bentota.

And we have the blue whales and dolphins and what-not. We’ve got what looks like a rainforest in the middle of a dry zone— if I’ve got it right—by visiting Ritigala, A glimpse of Adam’s Peak which is paradise in the morning mist and the majestic elephants, crocodiles and yes, the birdlife of Kumana.

Nope, that’s not all. We’ve got opportunistic politicians and bloody history and chauvinism and a threat from extremist militant Buddhist monks calling themselves the BBS and yes, enough people who forget how amazing life can be in Sri Lanka.

We’ve got more diversity on this little 68 410 sq. m. (that’s my memory from parisaraya days and Wiki says 65, 610 (snort)) teardrop isle than you can imagine. We’ve got (very broadly speaking) four faiths and four ethnicities and  on a single road a church, a mosque, a temple—at times side by side.  Diversity is no easy game and preservation is going to need a higher sensibility than displayed by many politicians in the past.

 

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Mosque and church on Vivekananda Hill. Image Credits: Vasee

Geography and a divine indulgence gave us this diversity, and deities not unlike the Greek Gods, it appeared, cruel and playful with human life, were determining the fates of humans on this island. But as a non-believer I do not blame the Gods or the British. I blame ourselves, our politically opportunistic, immature, violent and chauvinistic leaders and those who took the cue from them. Simple really.

But today the national anthem was sung in Thamil. Perhaps one of the first steps of national reconciliation along a road well trodden already at the popular level by (extra)ordinary people who are putting the past behind them and moving on with the business of multiethnic coexistence. Why is it important?  Because reconciliation is only of credible value when it is sanctioned by the State.

All the good intentions of the  Sinhalese and Tamils and Muslims are of nought if the State does not lead in national measures and a national process of addressing the past and dealing with memory, trauma and the conflict. A book by that very name was published on the Irish Troubles by Graham Dawson. I think we can do better than Ireland if we demanded this from our Government. Because we have homegrown diversity and this would lend an energy and new interpretation to a new land and a transformation of conflict rather than forget an issue that continues to grow between just two factions.

As Sayed Kashua, an Arab in Israel, author of Second Person Singular and whose uniqueness is writing in Hebrew puts it (quoting from memory)

I am living in a country where I will not be part of the narrative, where the narrative does not have me in it, I have no hope for the Palestinian problem and for my people. I have hope even for Egypt, for Syria, they are making their futures and will make something of their countries in the future even if right now, what they are making of it looks bad. But for us, I have no hope, no hope at all. And this is a great sadness. I wish my country were like others, a normal country, well, what is normal? It’s a country where everyone hates the government and each lives according to his bank account. I wish we were like that. Normal.

I think we, unlike Sayed Kashua can now wish for many things; we have dreams, hopes and desires. We have a government we can afford to criticize and less said of the bank account the better ;). But we were once Sayed Kashua. Let us not forget so easily how much we nearly lost forever. I never thought I would have this wish come true in my lifetime. It has.

Let’s determine to preserve our land, our flora and fauna, our diverse peoples and their diverse aspirations to be treated as equally as others. We have destroyed so much, let us take pride in the Thamil version of the national anthem if it means that it is a step towards preservation of this Diversity.

Yes, that is a wish for independent, diverse Sri Lanka!

These are a few wishes that came in time for this post from a few spots around the world where they live right now. I posted the ones that were sent it without selection. All were born and bred in Sri Lanka and Gary did time by coming home alone to get to know his motherland for a year or so.

I was happy to hear the national anthem sung in Tamil at the end of the official ceremony. I happened to be watching the live telecast on Rupavahini today. When they opened with just the Sinhala rendition, I thought here we go again. But was pleasantly surprised at the end.  Though I wish in future there is less display of military might (MBRLs, really?) and more cultural events.
Vasee, Australia (now holidaying in Sri Lanka)

“Honestly, with singing the national anthem in both Sinhala and Tamil, I feel like my wishes for the day has come true. For the year to come, I hope for more of this, more reaching out, more “eka mavakage dharu kela bavina, yamu yamu vee nopamaa”.
Nushelle, USA

Happy independence day Sri Lanka! You have more that unites you than divides you. The children of your land  have no real, telling differences: nothing that says you are Sinhalese or Tamil, Moors, Malays, Memons, Bohras, Burghers or Eurasian. Each one just as sun-kissed and unruly-haired as the child next to him/her. The squeals of delight, those eyes that twinkle with mischief- they choose no race nor religion to divide. You have more that unites you than divides you
       Iman Hameed, Singapore

My thoughts on Independence Day: Certain Sinhalese and Tamils should change their attitude. They should just see the country as Sri Lanka not just a sinhala country and tamils, not as a separate country in Sri Lanka.  We need justice for the war victims. And yes, I hope in the next few years that religious extremism should be sorted out with zero tolerance . And the people of Sri Lanka should be able to elect super governors in future. We should all explore every part of this little island to love it more. My wish is  just  to see a happy Sri Lanka.
        Arvind, Jaffna

 

Happy Independence Day, Sri Lanka! We’ve had a rough ride. I spend half my life fending off Sinhala Buddhist chauvinism and Tamil aspirational separatism. Alas, I love you like the nationalist fool that I am. We all need a place to call our own. You are mine. Forever and always. xx
Gary, Australia

I’m going to quote..(nearly)… Roosevelt. He said it all… “Here is our country. Cherish these natural wonders. Cherish the natural resources. Cherish the history and romance and the ugly truths as a sacred heritage… for our children and your children’s children. Do not let selfish or greedy interests skin our country of its beauty, its riches or peace.”
Kasuni, London

Was glad with the Anthem sung in Tamil. I wish the majority would give the mandate to the government for proper reconciliation, even at times if they feel they are sacrificing a bit. For example, if they think, singing the National Anthem in Tamil may be a dignity issue for Sinhalese, they can forgo this, just as a compromise, which actually doesn’t cost them anything, but contributes to a national and genuine reconciliation.  The anthem sung in Tamil is not what I mean, the bigger picture needs a lot more understanding, and I hope we all strive for that.
Danny Subramaniam, Jaffna

“Let us look forward to goodness that will prevail over bias for a better tomorrow”
Fazli Sameer, Saudhi Arabia

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Featured Image on slider Credits: Isuri Merenchi Hewage

 

 

 

Soap Opera – Brahmanawatte

I wouldn’t dare introduce Renu. She is a poet who doesn’t give a damn whether you read her poetry or not, a creator of food fusion that follows mood and emotion as one who is in a continuous sensual dance of life, which you may only sense by her writings, not imitate or follow. That is, until she decided to host a blog: Fenugreek from which, if I am good, posts could be shared on iSrilankan, which will touch a chord with many Sri Lankans living on this planet; most of all, with those who live away from where it all began.
 
RENUKA MENDIS
 
“My father is dead. For a few years now his body parts have been educating someone in some medical faculty somewhere.

From time to time when I go to the Tamil shop I buy a certain soap. Not that I make a list and go looking for it. I just see it and my hand reaches out and it follows me home…Read more

Rani soap

2016, We’ve got a few fireworks of our own… Bring it on!

Ok so with that corny header, here’s wishing all iSrilankans and friends of Sri Lankans who read this stuff, a YEAR OF STARBURSTS AND SPARKLERS, whatever lights up your sky!

IMG-20151231-WA0002– twirling a few nilas with the kids,

– hurling a few gundus (politicians eh? Navin Dissanayake already said on his Fb message to the world to expect a few surprises ;))

– multiple get- togethers to organise with the old friends you spent the best years of your life and still greet you with a hug and a cackle,

– daughter’s  (or son’s) graduations to celebrate,

– weddings to plan which family attend from many continents (I will be attending one in December where the Tamil and Sinhala and Burgher Diaspora will be there in flying form in Melbourne as my niece weds her adorable fiancé),

– new initiatives to lead – good luck to GoodKarma, launched by certain citizens of Sri Lanka who are quirky, clever, fun and absolutely the goods when it comes to civic-consciousness and sustainable thinking whats-it.

– Sitting quietly by a lil bonfire in the great outdoors and reflecting on things gone by and more journeys to make ahead…

– commemorating 150 years of the school which grew me into ME, the best school of multi-ethnic multi-faith growing up with no airs and graces, Methodist College Colombo 3 by the sea.

– and more…

Despite the cancelling of public fireworks in Brussels, the police presence in Paris and all the fear and paranoia that Trump would like his minions to mimic, a hotel in Dubai going up in flames and all making the media headlines all over the world…

We will not be cowed, scared and deterred from celebrating this next year. Hey, some of us have emerged from bomb-dodging the best years of our life and never gave up on ourselves. We won’t begin now!

Here’s to our private starbursts and fun fireworks folks! Last night an author from the Diaspora of Tamil ethnicity wished me on email a happy new year! My very close friend from the two schooldesks-together time we shared sent me the above glorious pic of the fireworks in Newcastle, NSW. This morning on whatsApp, my old school friends had already begun their new year and more faithful friends I knew from Italy sent their viber stickers from Japan, Florida and San Jose and am expecting another from Belgium. Yes! we’ve got friends by the bucketful. We are born Sri Lankan and though we don’t always make friends and influence people the right way up, we definitely make friends and keep em for life!

So here’s to whatever 2016 may bring!! We are in good company!

I hope I can get this space going to keep the bonds of Diasporan friendship with local Sri Lankans closer together!

Please send me your thoughts and letters and anecdotes and messages if you have the time to write a short one to share on iSrilankan through this year!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

To have or not to have? Questioning victory day, military parades et al.

BY DAVID BLACKER

For those saying that Victory Day should be retained, and who use VE Day as an example, and also cite the reasoning that we need a day to remember the men who fell in the cause of national unity, let me point out a few things

[Read more…]

Happy (surrogate) Mothers’ Day!

Ok, so it’s Mother’s Day. I’ve duly forwarded the poetic messages I received from my lovely friends to ten other mothers and acknowledged the hot pink  roses and gift stickers on viber that another mum-friend sent me.

alokaya1My own mother passed away a week or so ago. However, when she did pass away, I had to do my duty to another lady and inform her personally of my mother’s passing. She only knew my mother through me. She is my surrogate mother to me and lives on Kinsey Road, where I was boarded as a young lawyer who needed to be close to the courts and counsel’s chambers. The guidance and sharing of those years and the continued connection we have is  something that gives me comfort and tethers me when the world swims around.

It’s just that focusing only on your birth mum may serve to blot out all the motherly love, advice, good kicks under the butt and salvation from absolute damnation we have received along the way from other people’s mums or those who were never biologically created to bring forth. No one probably knows of those relationships and kindnesses as we hardly publish it as we would, our birth mum’s.

On Facebook, -yes, I love it unrepentantly – the tributes are wonderful. But there were two that stood out:

yellow araliyaA friend of mine thanked her sisters for their guidance and love in the absence of her own mum. Very moving as many of us have had that loving guidance from our sisters in the absence of our mum’s presence of mind and foresight in some cases. I did. My sister intervened very early in my life. Her confidence in my brain power and the solutions she found for me to build up my complete lack of self-esteem and transformed me completely and made me aware of what I was capable of achieving. Am eternally grateful to her for this.

The second was a comment by a cousin to an ‘Aunty who is a cousin’s husband’s mum’ as she put it and always showed us motherly attention and was someone we looked up to and could trust unconditionally.

And of course there are those friends’ mums who took us into their home when thrown out (temporarily) out of our own, when we were treated badly or so we believed or when we nearly did something utterly disastrous or had just done, with a member of the opposite sex at a silly stage of life.

So yes, while the emotional and physical burden of a birth mum who had to nurture us with that umbilical pain we caused her is unsurpassed, here’s to our sisters, auntys and grandmothers, etc. who were our surrogate mums in the Sri Lankan cultural kulla or sulagu;  and gave us motherly love and kindness that saved and formed us and add so much to our lives for very little in return.

Happy Surrogate Mother’s Day !

If you have a surrogate mother’s story to share do write in!

 

Images: No copyright infringement intended.

Lionel Wendt theatre 20th Aug 7p.m. ‘Meya thuwakkuwak Nove!’

See Udan Fernando’s review here. I am lucky to be in Sri Lanka to see how differently and courageously a new director makes his debut!

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