Pundit Amaradeva

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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.

Inexplicable.

Unrivalled.

Stimulating.

Tethers that can never be torn or rent away.

– Gaya

 

Image credits: Rajiva Wijesinha

 

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…]

Image of the Week – Charmed snakes at Galle Fort

Image of the Week

BY ARUMUGANESAN PONNUDURAI [Read more…]

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…]

NOT the national anthem !

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Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls [Read more…]

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

 

 

 

Don’t miss out on Kenan Malik in Galle, Colombo or Jaffna!

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.15.12 PMA must-see, must-hear, writer-lecturer-broadcaster is in town—Kenan Malik— the author of the book I am reading right now and one of the cleverest dudes of our times.

Which town? If you glance to the right you will see the ‘what’s on’ listings of  the three listed events in Galle, Colombo and Jaffna as part of the Galle Literary Festival 2016. For the lazies, the Galle literary dinner is on the 16th January at the Galle Fort Hotel, the talk at the British Council Library with Smriti Daniel is on 20th and the Jaffna Public Library event on the 23rd January. How lucky they are; how jealous I am.

I discovered Kenan Malik right after the Paris attacks. His After Paris post on his blog Pandaemonium was refreshingly lucid and plotted the factors that many jihadi-junkies failed to draw together to create the admittedly-grey none-too-clear map of the nature and unknown multi-cause of radical extremism in Europe, today.

Then there was the analysis of multiculturalism. Clever writers you thank from the depths of your non-racist, shocked-by-Trump, non-convert-to-media-bullshit-awe, Self. Thanks for being clever and actually putting it out there from an angle that comes with a background in neurobiology and philosophy and an interest in ideas, race, immigration, religion, the works.

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 2.13.46 PMI am jealous. Reading The Quest for a Moral Compass, I wished that I had bought a ticket to be there at the GLF to hear Malik on home soil. How amazing Galle is as a backdrop to the arts: the beauty of the snow-white mosque overlooking the coast where the Portuguese named Galle after the proverbial rooster ‘galo’, the Dutch fort reclining on its haunches (claimed by many since), and the crows, rocks, restaurants, peddlar street cafes and sunset waders, all bringing Galle, the southern heel of Sri Lanka, to life.

I wish I were there to hear him. Instead, I am in London. So please do go in my place and read the book if you can lay your hands on it. If not, let me know and I’ll try to bring a copy in April for selected souls who will repay the favour with a nice hopper dinner or crab curry;)  I am sure you will find it stimulating your grey cells, your belief and your desires for your society in this odd phase of human evolution. He wrote others, but right now I am deep in this one, and so you understand.

Screen shot 2016-01-13 at 12.11.15 PMThe GLF as it is known may not have an easy ride—as nothing ever has in Sri Lanka—as the tuk-tuk ride through the years of organised events and exercising discretion, reveals. It takes courage, as ‘Shyam-courage in the time of boycotting’ showed, takes belief and effort and thankless tireless passion and drive. So a vote of thanks to all those who stick their neck out rooster-fashion to crow in another GLF: For a tsunami-flooded, war-battered and post-colonial country, we have another event that brings in the world to a corner of paradise we know so well: Good on you!

 

 

 

 

To Mr. President with love

By Lifeisnotabeach

Dear Mr President,

It is one year since I woke up to an ‘aha!’ moment in my life… A long awaited sense of freedom, not just freedom from terror, but also freedom of speech, freedom of living a life devoid of constant fear of being ‘watched and listened to’,  a violation of basic human rights,  stolen from us for over a decade.  I also woke up to the hope of a clam on ‘excessive corruption’, cronyism, nepotism, lawlessness aScreen shot 2016-01-11 at 5.52.01 PMnd political thuggery, to name a few. Yes Mr President, I jumped out of bed on the 8th of January 2015, realizing that the nightmare was over and it was going to be a fresh start for the country with a rainbow coalition lighting up our land. Many ridiculed me for my wishful thinking. But I am an eternal optimist Mr President, just to let you know. Read more