Lighting a Bucket Lantern with ‘Uncle’ next door !

GAYA FERNANDO

Today was such a special day when I was a child.

Weeks ahead, the front room of my neighbours,’ the Wijesuriyas’ home, would be gradually filled with Vesak stuff. No last-minute rush or mess was allowed, for Uncle (as we used to call him) did things at a ritualistic pace repeating the activity in precisely the same way down to the last detail, each year in May. I knew the important months when I was a child in which I did something with someone and this was something special joined in by other people in the community as well and so it made that month important like Christmas in December, Palm Sunday, Easter and Avurudu in April, Vesak in May, the temple Perahera in August down the lane and the Church Harvest Festival in October.

Vesak Lantern VI

So in the front room the bucket lanterns and the candles would appear separately in their brown paper packs. As no one slept in this room there was plenty of space on the floor for preparing and lighting the bucket lanterns. [Read more…]

SAHM 800: Notes of a Mother who loves Psalms and doesn’t stay home TOO much


Note: I call these posts SAHM 800 cos Stay At Home Mum is what am doing right now till the next phase, as a mum we seem to be eternally ‘singing’ and 800 is the bloody number i most frequently dial. I dialled it last night to let the Supermarket hotline know that I have been delivered in addition to mine, the entire consignment of another customer Lisa by mistake, and by the looks of it, Lisa suffers from indulgence issues and mild depression and is no way a gourmet cook 😉 ok, ok…. well I had to peek to make sure none of it was mine didn’t I?

Finding LEGO

Photo on 2013-05-07 at 09.24

I started working at 19 though I had a Uni lined up. Uni was far too far away: 2 years seemed like a lifetime thanks to the JVP-GoSL insurgency in the South of Sri Lanka. Instead I joined a pharmaceutical company and became a ‘drug-peddlar’ as my former Principal Ms Shanthi Dias née Thambar critically called me. “You should teach Classics Gayathri” she used to say. Lots of people in my growing up used to tell me what to do, it’s the way we grew up. [Read more…]

For those who pooh-pooh the Colombo protestors at the disrupted vigil

The streets of Colombo have seen worse sights.

dog on beach rapti 2But if we look around and say “oh please, you see the Colombo elite here and facebookers who have turned up and got harrassed by the Police... I am disappointed. I need more Buddhists, more middle class people and I don’t like to see people who worked in NGOs, nor lived overseas nor are in the upper middle class of CMB in this protest cheek by jowl with me and so I would not have lit a candle” we would be as bad as the BBS. It’s saying “I wanna support the Sri Lanka which excludes the types I do not identify with cos I suspect everyone of having an agenda and this will stop my supporting the cause of an inclusive Sri Lanka for all. I need ‘my people’ to support all this !”

Get over it.

The CMB upper middle class has walked the talk in the streets and maybe you are a mite surprised to see your bedfellows? What the Colombo society did and did not do during the war as ambassadors of the peace both at home and abroad getting those much needed investments flowing and foreign investors despite the bombs blasting around deserves kudos if you only knew the extent to which they’ve stood strong. The reasons for many investors standing by Sri Lanka was their friendship and loyalty to the Colombo businessman whose family they knew so very well.

The ‘Colombians’ continued to work and play in a peaceful manner in an inter-ethnic life which has outlived the storm and now are fighting for the multi-ethnic society they love. The society I love. I was born and ‘bred’ there and I know what it’s like to have such a rich life and belonging among diverse faiths and races. Long Live multi-ethnic, multi-faith Sri Lanka !!

Eka mavakage daru kela bewinaa …
yamu yamu vee nopamaa,
prema wada sema bedha durera dhaa …
namo namo matha… !

Gaya’s Vids: iSrilankan is one year old today !

GAYA FERNANDO

 

iSrilankan one year on…! from iSrilankan on Vimeo

I remember hitting the ‘publish’ button on monday night May 26th last year with a sense of unreality and feeling a surge of adrenalin as the likes flooded in from people with whom I had had many conversations in the months before.  I never really publicised the website I think partly due to the fear of pressurising myself to deliver to expectations of which I had no clue. So the first year was an exploratory one and I listened to what resonated with myself most, not with others only; what would make it all worthwhile to myself as well as others in the end.

In this amateur vid I try to express the most important activity that I will sustain and take energy from : grafting on new friendships, new members to my growing iSrilankan family around the world and keeping the conversation and friendship going. That’s it. The process is its own reward.

Living outside the homeland and engaging with local and Diaspora audiences using digital media is a great experience and one that has resulted in skill-acquiring DIY style from my home with only a macbook and an internet connection. This amateur vid will tell you that I am quite a maniac to dare to do stuff like this by myself without help and actually have the guts to post it but then, wtf? Yep, skills make it very worthwhile – you learn the basics, overcome your fear and there is a tutorial for everything else out there.

I’ve thrown in some thoughts from my own experience as a mum of two young kids, managing a home and keeping her grey matter, sense of humour and tolerance going. And if you are engaging with the homeland you may i’ve touched on how I try to maintain balance and perspective ( especially given the status quo). The first and last rule I follow: Don’t take yourself too seriously.

I’ve left out many names cos I didn’t make a list and among them Sulochana Peiris who was the first patient listener to my idea of launching a slow journalism website undaunted by other failed initiatives and Meena Serendib who did an awesome podcast on nonviolent communication for the launch. There are many new people since who are a great support such as Tanuja, Rebecca, Soori, Gillian, Nireka, Gloria, Dileni both in SL and NYC, Len, Koom, Iqbal and others. It’s great to get to know you…

If you may like this website as an independent initiative please post the content you like on your social media with a little note to increase genuine readership among the Sri Lankan audiences home and away.

Thank you and see you around !

Gaya

 

Never Again: IRAQ’s 10 year Regrettable Anniversary and the Still ‘Uncounted’ Dead

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GAYA FERNANDO

It is the 10th Regrettable Anniversary of the Iraq War. The above image is credited to Gio McCluskey

Reading this amazing BBC piece Marwa’s Story, many sentences stood out and among them:

“There are no official figures for the civilian casualties of the war because the Americans and the British didn’t collate them and the Iraqi authorities couldn’t. But one estimate suggests that more than 2,200 Iraqis were killed in the week that Marwa was injured.”

I like the ring of Regrettable Anniversary: it’s a phrase that can be easily relevant to ‘our war’ though we have no date for the declaration of war. [Read more…]

Aiyo, Tissa !!

PR_Challenge Patriarchy_comrades

 

GAYA FERNANDO

There are millions of people who write stuff and say stuff. People shudder, wince and move on. Today,  it’s the speech that moves on in tweet and share, snowballing it’s way over the social media. However, somewhere it first appeared in Print; that’s real bad. Print counted for something once,  was seriously reviewed, edited material at some point.

Tissa Karaliyadda sat up and chirped at me over my first cuppa. “A man should always be the Chairperson.” This is a much-tweeted opinion of  the Minister of Child Development and Women’s Affairs. He has been shared by Frances Harrison as well as my close friends. Aaarrrgh! What was the man thinking ???

[Read more…]

Dangerous Classification of “the lesser human”

GAYA FERNANDO

humanity-uprooted

Image credit: Asudev Humanity Uprooted

Reading two articles on Guantanamo Bay and Australian asylum law black-holes this morning, I scanned these terms with fresh eyes:

“Manipulative Self-Injurious Behaviours”

By May 2011 there had been at least six suicides in Guantánamo that have been reported. During August 2003, there were 23 suicide attempts. The U.S. officials did not say why they had not previously reported the incident.  After this event, the Pentagon reclassified suicides as “manipulative self-injurious behaviors”; camp physicians alleged that detainees do not genuinely wish to end their lives.  Guantanamo Bay officials have reported 41 unsuccessful suicide attempts by 25 detainees since the U.S. began taking prisoners to the base in January 2002. [Read more…]

It’s tedious being Srilankan these days…

If you say what you feel about politics you could be labelled a traitor so I don’t write about politics. Leave that to M A Sumanthiran whom I still have a great deal of respect for, DBS Jeyaraj, Colombo Telegraph (when they don’t post tabloid-style stuff), Malinda Seneviratne (When he is not being facetious)  and  professional news agencies whose business it is to publish political stuff.

If you say what great beaches Sri Lanka has and how an ice cold beer at the Colombo Cafes  is just the thing, you are callous and ignoring the War-crimes. So say no more about the great beaches and new Colombo Cafe attractions ? Leave it to YAMU whose articles are drop-dead delicious and informative to the average Colombo-goer on a number of entertaining themes.

dog on beach rapti1

If you actually go into war-crimes you are raking up a lot of stuff that is best forgotten and you are a shit-stirrer and your friends hate you for spoiling their day on FB. So you avoid the bloodshed and torture that are floating around as digital images? Leave it to your friends who have a legitimate grievance and Frances Harrison whose written a book Counting the Dead and Charlie Havilland and the professional types. They can handle it better than my stomach lining even though I can engage with the issue underlying it.

If you actually engage with the Diaspora of all ethnicities and ask rational questions people who should know where you come from and read you carefully ask you to come out and explain yourself from the point of their victimhood or as a supporter of the victims. So you do not engage with them anymore and unfriend em on FB? Leave those public debates and groups to people who are able to drag others back to square one, to argue about what the insinuations and innuendoes are and even wax abrasive  as is the style on the social media network.

If you post a lovely stupa or temple picture of an ancient philosophy called Buddhism which has enlightened many peeps in many countries you are dangerously siding with the Islamophobic extremists namely the BBS in Sri Lanka. So you forget how amazing the normal temple chants and the smell of incense and the majestic stupas are ? No you don’t.

If you write about the Halal issue you are just giving publication to another conspiracy theory against Sri Lanka and playing into the hands of the Diaspora ? So you just avoid writing about it ? No you don’t.

If you write about the little girl who died in a landmine explosion you are just adding to the misery. So you don’t write about a little girl’s death? Yes you do.

What about the rising cost of living and the Z-score fiasco? Are those no-fire zones? I don’t know.

So, following the golden rule on the internet – do what you do best and leave the rest. So yes, while writing and doing what I can as an ordinary Srilankan to improve the life of those worst-affected in the beloved country, I leave the rest to the Professionals.

We know what kind of society we would like to live in in Sri Lanka; we don’t need to write about it on the internet. Let’s not lose our friends either on FB or off. That is not exactly helping cos we the ordinary people are not out to prove anything to anybody. We should not have to present our credentials.  We need not parade our intentions on the social media in order to be recognised for our humanity by the social media readers.

We need to be accepted as rational-minded people and treated with respect. We owe nothing to anyone. All we owe to ourselves and to those who are outraged which includes a lot of diverse people outraged by a lot of diverse issues, is to be aware of what is going on, not lose our sense of rational judgement and not lose our friends. And that is not hard to do. Not if you have come this far on the long road through the war where people respected each other’s space to some extent -before Facebook and Youtube.  When friendship and solidarity and civil conversations counted for something.

dog on beach rapti 2

Image credits : © Rapti Siriwardane

Shame on you Amal de Chickera !

GAYA FERNANDO

Screen shot 2013-01-24 at 9.06.56 AM

Thursday morning: With fury and disgust I read Amal de Chickera’s critique of two organisations that are empowering young people in the North and South published on Groundviews on 27 Dec titled Racing Tanks with Bicycles: A parable of Reconciliation. I am furious that while he raises valid critiques that we can relate to, he cleverly attempts within those valid critiques to dismiss, scoff and spray graffiti on the efforts and image of two organisations in Sri Lanka. I am shocked at these attempts by Sri Lankans to avoid analysing these orgs for their objectives, to appreciate the leaders of these orgs and to recognise that in the political climate we are in, these efforts go a long way and the alternative is to …DO… Nothing ! [Read more…]

Are you linked to a chain of goodwill that brings hope to a child in 2013 ?

GAYA FERNANDO

 

There are Christmases that have less glitter on them for some little hearts this year. Yet there are paper chains that despite the lack of glitter decorate a Christmas tree, in a home where decorations are not on the priority list of purchases. The links in these chains are a lot less glittery than others, more subtle, but every link in this chain is indispensable.

I have met many links in chains in Sri Lanka. Whenever someone wants to do good, wishes to get children from the North to see the Shri Maha Bodhiya in the Ceasefire of 2002, wished  to help the victims of the Tsunamis of 2004 of all ethnicities (and nationalities) the links held.  They glowed.  And people were fed and given tea and sustainance in the first 48 hours after the Tsunamis.  The aid flowed from city to village to coast that Christmas.

Even now, the effects of war and its wounds are being attended to by many human links in a chain of people who by day are working in regular professional jobs and are fired by a zeal that is Christmas 365 days of their working year.

Madhu, as we will call him for now is a boy from Alaveddy, aged ten who lost his eye in the last stages of the war in 2009.

A young man who likes taking pictures and travelling on the weekend to different parts of the island offered his pictures to his Boss who runs a financial institution in Colombo and the idea for a project sponsoring educational expenses for the kids of the North is begun.

Another dedicated and efficient young man who works for this project that assists the war victims sends a potential sponsor the pics and I reach out to the saddest faces and choose this young boy and another little girl with an angry expression.

The young man at the project tells the sponsor a doctor is needed to check on his eye.   I tell him no expense should be spared. Bring him to the best eye doctor we got over there for a prognosis of what can be done for the eye.  He reaches out to a young nurse working at a hospital in CMB to bear upon the eye doctor that this boy needs an appointment by special request as it turns out that a special transport can be provided to this boy this week to come to CMB from Jaffna and return in comfort.  The nurse was very sympathetic and this evening she will appeal to the doctor to make time somehow.  A friend stands by to give the child accommodation in CMB if they need it.  We stand by to cover the expenses and make sure nothing is spared to try to save the eye and to preserve the good one.

IF you would like to be a link in a chain that brings something good, something essential into the life of a little boy or girl affected by war, you can be that link for the next year.

I am sure you know someone who is running a charity that you can trust.

IF you don’t and if you would like to work with a charity run by people who are 24 Karat gold at heart, then do not hesitate to get in touch with iSrilankan by emailing gaya@iSrilankan.com. I do not run a charity but will direct you to the charity I work with and the people I trust. There are more than one organisation of people of more than one ethnicity involved in the chains.

So this is Christmas ! Merry Christmas … !!