No poppies by request! Remembering with olu-nelum-manel, ambal-thamarai-alli!

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POPPY DAY? We didn’t have horses who died in battle. We didn’t have bagpipes.

Poppies don’t really mean much to us in Sri Lanka.

But the poppy campaign meant a great deal to the old war veterans when they came to Grants Advertising and asked for a creative poppy campaign, free of charge.

Tikiri de Zoysa wrote an amazing poem ‘Give to those who Gave’  and I remember how proud we were to see creative poppies floating around Colombo in wreaths and singles. Most cars had that wreath, vans too.

We were not remembering, but living it, trying to forget each day for a couple of hours that Sri Lanka, the very name, was loaded with hopelessness, bodies blown apart, shelling and fighting. The year was 1993 and we were in the bloody thick of it. No end in sight. I still can feel the hopelessness as if it were yesterday. Was it yesterday?

Remembering the fallen in our long war, from which we have emerged after decades, with the conviction that war is not the answer. Remembering the war veterans, and the identityless privilegeless members of the forces and the LTTE who are now without power and influence but relegated to poor people in the poorer part of the country once more.

Remembering the relatives who cannot visit a war memorial due to the lack of one both at home and in Canada, UK, Australia, Europe, Singapore, Norway, the list goes on.

Screen shot 2014-11-11 at 10.06.08 PMRemembering the victims of the massacres, the bombings the extorted, the defenseless, the harrassed, the exiled, the victimised and vanquished.

Remembering those who walked away from their childhood homes too far to return and those who walked the last battle and never did return.

Remembering the mothers of the missing and the fathers too. Remembering the children without parents who are in school-hostels today for want of responsible adults in the family to take care of them.

Remembering daughters and sons who left their schoolrooms and teachers and parents for life as a rebel.

Remembering that we can only remember and we can never forget.

Give to those who gave. All who gave. Let us lay an olu, a nelum or manel,  an ambal, thamarai or alli for the fallen.

May peace prevail! அமைதி, சமாதானம் காண்!
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Photocredits: First image is Dev Wijewardhene’s amazing photography on Nil Manel in Kandy, the second and third from seedsofdesign influence website.

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