Hello iSrilankans under the Poya Moon !

Photo on 2013-05-03 at 16.49 #2HELLO  to all my friends made on this website and on FB during the past year or so.  It’s my birthday week and this day is dedicated to kick starting a lapsed engagement: my website has been simmering on the backburner too long and am back stirring the Sri Lankan cauldron and give thanks for a patient readership and friendships with people I write for, whose work I publish and in short, the peeps I love.

Am unapologetic for my absence as in the real life of a mother of two growing children I dedicated myself full-time to nurturing a connection with the getting-opinionated kids, enriching and organising the space of our family life to become more a laboratory of creativity, literature and humour and here’s the icing…I baked a rainbow ribbon cake and iced it for my daughter’s 8th birthday  !!! As a non-cake maker am still reeling from my much-appreciated -by-daughter maiden effort. Amusing to think that the prospective of a simple fondant icing cake can totally freak one out. Having a little party at home with fifteen kids is an annual tradition now and its the fifth party at which I tortured myself (and them) with a treasure hunt for which I had to have Italian clues as we live in Italy.

 

1278126_10152202924653696_288061430_oOurs is a trilingual household English-German-Italian outside the home not forgetting the Sri Lankan culture pervading all as another influence and the digital cultural regime threatening their future adolescence. Therefore, mum here is on the warpath to keep the reading alive, the creativity with tactile stuff like lego, paint, creative games and stuff challenging the reliance on virtual realities and digital entertainment.

May fail, may not, but you can’t blame a brought-up-on kimbulabanis-and-pink-whistle-Blyton-reading Sri Lankan for trying. I temper the reading-creative time with good food – goes hand in hand- but all this needs a LOT of organising and emotional engagement which stole my website time away. What to do?

But my family is not under one roof. Sometimes one can step outside the door and say about one’s community: here, these are My People.  I find that exceedingly hard. My people are all over the world scattered far and wide from one classroom in Methodist College where I grew up, from one island where their parents were born; even my brothers and sisters need a world atlas to be located. In keeping with this reality I scheduled skypes and overseas long calls with my special people this my birthday week as one birthday bash could not include all my beloved in one geo-space. Such is life and we should take the good with the sad and change with change and not let it kill our friendships and community sense.

I was not jolted into action by my own need to blog or write but by others; the patience of those who will read these writings hopefully again, the contributors such as Maryanne Kooda who write amidst the challenges of daily life and whose original writings I am privileged to publish and the fact that I would like to keep this space as it is: independent, diverse and a space for those who write and have a original perspective on Sri Lankan stuff or who live in or are Sri Lankan and have a perspective on the world.

The Lady Who Cried at the Galle Literary Festival is not just a story by a Nigerian living in Sri Lanka writing about Nigerian attacks on humanity; it is much much more. Maryanne Kooda writes “This time I am praying that those who have recognition enough to hold the world attention like Chimamanda Adichie, will tell the tales not only of old wounds created by Biafra, but of the new scars created every day”. While we are emerging in Sri Lanka from an old long conflict with open wounds which have not healed and an outcome which is not agreed upon by all who make up Sri Lanka, five years on we need to steer clear of new religious fanaticism and division by people of any faith or ethnicity dressed up in a different cause .

We too may burst into tears when the old wounds and conflicts are captured  somewhere else in the world perhaps in our eyes insufficiently by another Diasporan daughter or son-writer while the grass in Sri Lanka is in danger of being crushed by new divisions and religious fanaticism, perhaps it will not be so. ‘No harm’ in staying awake to the present-day realities played out in other parts of the world and in our own backyard. May God Bless Sri Lanka and its multi-ethnic peoples of many faiths and may we stay sane and vigilant to the cause of peace and absence of horror and carnage in our Motherland.

1378073_10151615516917581_172369377_nWell, am heading back to Sri Lanka in December and meanwhile I am rolling out stuff on iSrilankan which I hope you will read and contribute to.

As the song which is a favourite of my second brother goes “Today has been my birthday and tonight I should be glad” – tomorrow is my birthday and today I am very very glad to have this friendship and connection in this God-Forsaken world.

Have a good TGIF today as it’s Poya tomorrow in Sri Lanka when the full moon rises over this crazy planet of ours. iSrilankans, stay well under the moon !!

 

Photos: profile of Gaya by iCamera Macbook, cake baked and photo by Gaya, Kimbulbanis baked and photo by Kasuni used with permission.

A space to remember

GAYA FERNANDO

Far away from Sri Lanka I gaze at the swallows with underbellies golden-glazed in the evening sun dip and swirl in abandon. I watch a white giant magnolia unfold.

Screen shot 2013-06-04 at 11.23.58 PMAnd then I think of all that is grief, all that is not now anymore but has gone before and wonder how in a hundred years someone will say what were they doing, thinking saying, all of them around the world who supposedly had lost something to war but had no human courage, largehearted unity and creativity to imagine, create and embrace a memorial space. [Read more…]

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…]

Mothers, Mudhilla and a little more than Marijuana

Hope all of you are having a good week out there ! I am in Sri Lanka for a few weeks till first week August and experiencing a few issues with dongel-connectivity.

However, it’s great to be able to write to you from my home in Moratuwa with high ceilings and paint peeling walls. Sitting right here where I used to sleep as a child, the night air is cool as the wind blows fresh from the sea a 50 yards from our front door. The fan overhead is supplemented with a side fan and the kids and I don’t need air-conditioning. A light rain falls in the morning but not enough.

 

This morning kicked off at 7 and we bought Thora Mudhilla from Piyal the long-shorts clad young fisherman who nodded to me and said he knew me.

Armed with the gossip from Vini the cook “it’s good to see you at work” I replied.

Piyal used to be one of the celebrated drug addicts apparently down our road. Thankfully, Girlie, his mother who was a celebrity-fisherlady of the area threw him into rehab, which they call a ‘kandawura’ in Sinhala same as saying Army camp.

I remember Girlie with her strong browned face and body in redde-hatte walking in that shake your ass way down our road and calling out Maalu Maalooo… Well, she did the right thing and something that not all mothers have been able to achieve; bring her son back from the demons.

“It’s been 8 years now since I came out” he said. Neither of us mentioned the word drugs.As he set off with the traditional fish carrying apparatus carefully balanced over his shoulder, Piyal said he wouldn’t be returning for a couple of days till the seer slices and Thora Muudhilla were consumed.

“I have a daughter who is now 16” were his parting words as he walked down the driveway leaving sixteen crows and 2 little kids, one with a barbie pink heart shaped camera to capture the morning’s encounter.

There was the other story of course. The story of Ashok who went to the village school with me; whose tears on discovering that someone had defaced his new bright red satchel with a ball point pen, I will never forget.

“It took a lot of hard-earned money of my mother to buy me this” he had spat out between his tears. I had been aghast at seeing him cry over the bag, though we were not much better placed in the money department. My bag was a gift from Santa Claus and so I was glad at the time that my mother had not spent money on it. At nine I still believed in Santa. It would have been 1981 and nice goods were not cheap nor freely available. Ashok was quiet; not a big-thug.

Later when eleven I went off to a Colombo School, then on to my CIM classes on weekends and getting off the Colombo-Moratuwa bus  I would only have to approach the three-wheeler stand and Ashok’s brother would pull out of the stand and pull the tuk-tuk lever signalling that I get in. There was not a single word spoken between us but the younger bro always took me home. Ashok did not drive a tryshaw, his two brothers did.

Lunawa Lagoon Sun Set  | Sri Lanka

Many people would stop by the little wooden shack by the Lunawa Lagoon, cars, motorbikes, tuk tuks… they all needed what the Ashok family peddled. The little wooden cabin grew bigger, the garden became prettier with flower pots and better furniture, curtains could be seen at the windows.

Ashok’s mother would be seen sitting in a rattan chair outside in the little yard near the lagoon waters and the tryshaws were bought and regular income was not a problem.

Yet, the mafia were not pleased. Gang-warfare was common in our neighbourhood but only at night and among these types. Drugs, tuk-tuks, hand grenades were flung. One day I heard that Ashok and his younger brother had been killed by another gang in a grenade attack.

I could only think somehow of the day that little boy wept for his red satchel and the savings of a mother who sold fish for a living.

When we used to walk home from that village school three quarters of a kilometer away, a boy Sanjeewa used to walk home with us. He was well-built and would guard the two or three girls who walked with him. Our parents did not bother cos we did not have to cross the road to come home. Down Charles Place, across the bridge where Ashok lived on the lagoon bank, and down to the little junction and around the curb straight on to beach road where we all lived on the same side. No need to cross. We were just ten and Sanjeewa was 11 but had failed one year and so was in our grade.

I just can’t imagine us walking home like that but we did; The only danger we encountered was the half-crazed guy who used to hang around the house called The Retreat and shout unintelligible epithets to all who passed. He was simply called ‘Pissa‘ or mad man.

Twelve or so years later I would be studying for my Attorney-at-Law exams and slept in the study on the other side of the house with all the windows open. There was absolutely no personal danger. My clothes rack and desk were near the open window and one morning I found things pulled around as I awoke. My shoes were gone, some of em and the books had been pulled out in the dark by a hand feeling around for a small valuable.

Annoyed rather I went to the open window and saw the books had been neatly placed beside the shallow, dry terra-cotta drain that ran outside my window and around the entire house. With extreme irritation I noted that the thief had clumsily stuffed a pair of shoes back in the drain- or so he thought- but had in fact made off in a hurry on a dark night with two shoes from two different pairs. Oh well, it was Sanjeewa I knew it; he had felt bad and stuffed one pair of shoes back.

He knew we would never tell on him or corner him about it. No one would get a ‘police-thrashing’there would be no reporting of any kind. All the neighbourhood knew he was a petty thief to buy drugs since he had deserted the Army. The year was 1997.

The morning encounter brought these thoughts and today is dedicated to the determined stoic fisher mums, rehab facilities in developing countries and 1.25 kilos of fresh Thora Mudhilla for 1,070 rupees.