In the Company of Men

Returned to Bolgoda to translate ‘No Return’ with Rajitha, Shyam and Gihan. It was a small bungalow on the edge of a lake with lotus and water-lily fringed banks. In fact, the very first entry of this blog came from my previous visit there, when I captured ‘Just another Lotus from Lake Bolgoda‘.

And this time, I got some more. It’s almost unbelievable that such beauty could bloom and fade within a day, and keep blooming and fading everyday, in hundreds. It is almost unbelievable that world can hold such beauty, in such simple things.

I woke up early in the morning and walked to the edge of the lake. The mist was just lifting off the waters, revealing the blooms to the Good-Morning-kisses from a rising sun. Again, I cannot believe, that this beauty  repeats every dawn. Just how much do we miss each day, in our crazy-busy line-up of meetings and events and projects and pomp?

As if being there surrounded by all this blissful beauty wasn’t enough, I was also blessed with the delightful company of three gentlemen. Men that I am only getting to know, I must admit, but with whom I completely felt at home. Men who did not remind me that I am a woman, someone different from them. I could only feel how much I am like them, passionate about politics and plays, sentimental and soul-searching, light-hearted and at ease. The conversation flowed freely in the true spirit of camaraderie: Rajitha talkative and almost innocent in his honesty; Shyam quiet and deep like the serene lake before us, with the eyes of a wanderer and the smile of a heart-broken; and Gihan, boyish and gentle and happy.

Three Gentle Men.

I felt rewarded more than I deserve.

As I was sipping a brandy in the evening with them, sharing music we loved, I suddenly realised that this is what the Buddha called ‘Kalyana Mittatta’ (beautiful friendship). Ananda, one of Buddha’s best disciples once suggested that kalyana mittatta is the partial realisation of the Goal of the Noble Path. The Buddha replied: ‘Not so. Beautiful friendship is the Goal and the Consummation of the Noble Path’ (Samyukta Nikaya 1.88) The Buddha believed that when human beings care for each other in kalyana mittata they would need neither the gods nor earthly potentates to protect them.

Coming back to Colombo, moving again with the usual crowd, waking up to news on the radio and dailies, driving to work in the traffic jam, I realise this is exactly what we miss so much in our lives. Simple sharing and caring. In all our relationships, be they parents, siblings, lovers, bosses, servants, colleagues and friends. (I would even add strangers.) How much do we genuinely share and care in these relationships and how much of it is obligation, ownership, convenience, exploitation, subordination, possession, choicelessness or simply dead habit?

By no means do I imply that it is simple. Relationships are indeed an intricate mix of all these things. Maybe I am a bit of an Incurable Romantic to expect otherwise. I have no idea, maybe it is difficult for a husband and wife to be good friends. Beautiful friends. Maybe it is difficult to be a kalyana mitraya to your brother or sister or mother or father or your boss. But I don’t see why we shouldn’t give it a try!

I chose to be in the company of these three men over an official obligation. I enjoyed every single moment of being with them and working with them and talking with them and listening with them. It’s what I have missed, having rolled over the world for more than the first half of my twenties like a gypsy, friends with whom I can connect to at a deeper level. Friends who I can support creatively and who can inspire creativity in me in return.Friends whom I don’t have to leave behind and email from the other side of the globe to keep in touch.

Drunk with the beauty of Bolgoda and each others company, we were debating if Sri Lanka is actually the most beautiful country in the world. I don’t remember us coming to an agreement. But I firmly believe that if our people find joy in caring and sharing, in kalyana mittatta instead of benevolent dictatorship (that our  Buddhist clergy advocates so contrary to what the Buddha said), it stands a good chance of becoming the most beautiful island in the world.


The Beauty of Vavuniya

A beauty of vavuniya

the beauty of Vavuniya

In my recent visit to Vavuniya, I visited a women’s self help group in Thekkawatta. They had all come with their children, dressed up for a show. It was good to see how much beauty is there in Vavuniya, despite all the turmoil and sad stories we hear from the camps.