August

The month of August
has brought sudden rain – the heat would have been
unbearable, otherwise – the familiar
tea coloured puddles, like mirrors
of sky water reflecting earth

the school yard is strewn with hopes
this school, that is now our home.

we came here in a flock
wading across a hollowed lagoon
against a shower of a lethal kind
death falling from the sky
like the anger of gods

that was May.

in this classroom
the lessons are muted from life’s unfolding
the blackboard
empty like our immediate futures

the row of plastic toilets
is a part of our lives
like those guava trees
in our garden, or the well
the gutters are overflowing
with donated goods
and the kindness of other people

we wear bands
around our necks, sometimes hips
with keys to those homes
abandoned

like in those power-cut evenings
back in the village
we sit together cracking jokes
as the evenings grow longer
as the jokes run out or begin to repeat
as time refuses to tick

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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.

Love, Politically

I am not sure this new year will bring us the happiness and prosperity that we so wish each other in our frenetic-poetic text messages. Not in Sri Lanka. Maybe not anywhere. But then, I confine myself to this island; and this island is what I give a damn about; and I give a damn because I want to be happy in this little island this year.

image1So here’s something that makes me write on the first day of the year. I don’t care for citizen journalism, but in a situation where all of us sit around and crib about our decedent politics, it was refreshing to see someone walk out there alone; paint some canvas and put it out in front of the Fort Railway Station. Ok, it’s not the mass rally that will topple the government. And this young man, Sanjaya is still shy with his words, but he gave me enough freedom within his paintings and his slogan “Fight for Love; Love Peace” (Direct Translation from Sinhala). I will caption it, MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR!

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I am glad I went there. Apart from discussing about how poorly recieved art is among the masses with these fresh graduates from Haywood, we managed to have a decent conversation about why we should or should not leave out the words “war/peace” from our captions. After all, ‘peace’ is no more the winning horse. It certainly is not, as long as you think that Peace is a round of  talks in Switzerland or a ceasefire.  

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We were not disappointed: a lady walked to us and wanted to know what we mean by ‘all this’? “Are you trying to say that the war we are fighting now is bad?” She just managed to introduce herself as an army doctor, and it was a shame she did not wait for an answer. (Like all supporters of war, they bombard you with questions and fly away…and that question is suppose to haunt you in your dreams: “Traitor!!!!!”)

But what actually haunts me is this: “how do you have a conversation with a person like this good lady army doctor, who thinks that we are an ungrateful bunch of spoilt madmen, who don’t give a frothing penny about what our poor soldiers go through up there!”

Do they really think we hate our boys so much to side with foreign conspirators for whatever the gold we get to utter the Poisonous word Peace! The other day, driving past Ratmalana Airport, the road gets blocked and eight ambulance vehicles whizz past me, surely with body bags, followed by a Rosa bus full of bandaged young men in sanatorium clothes. Eyes plastered, arms in dressing…I know it is not a movie! and I bang at my steering wheel in frustration! CANT WE SEE! CANT WE SEE!! CANT WE SEE!!!

AND YET WE SAY NOTHING!

image8Sorry I have to change topics. I need to cool down…..

So, like Sanjaya, I too choose to talk about love in this situation. And my impression is that Sanjaya too, chose so for similar reasons. It makes little sense to talk of how battles are fought and won between governments and guerrilla groups. Of course you can talk about it for hours, but what is it that we as individuals who are far away from that line of action, who are caught up so much with our mundane battles, begin to realise that there really is a thin red line that connects our personal battles to those big games. How are own personal battles, within us, between those who  are close to us, are also arenas of conflict and violence of varying degrees. How cruel are we in these little battles we fight? between lovers, brothers and sisters, families, colleagues? How unforgiving? How mad do we get once we are out on the streets? How abusive?

No wonder the world is full of thieves, and people who are just about to become thieves.

The real battle is perhaps not the one up there in the north, in that sense…the real battle would be within us…within this society we face every day…to remain kind, loving, uncorrupted, good at heart, and have a conscience. The real battle is to believe in these virtues, in a time that they seem so out of vogue.

Perhaps I am as much a reductionist as Marx when he said that the fundamentals of everything is in economics: but I keep coming back to , no not economics, but love: love is the answer to many of the social deseases of the modern day. Love is a perspective; a practice; it is a process of healing and transofrmation.

Love has the power to transform us in to more honest individuals; kinder and more contemplative; more compassionate. In this mass anesthetized oblivion of our lives, only love can strike a sensitive chord.

And without that sensitivity there would be no Art. Nor Peace.

This is the moral choice we make. And I pray, I do not want blood in our collective conscience.

Inspired by Sanjaya Senevirathne

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Morning Blues

I’m reading a book called Inner Feng Shui and it tells me that I should think positive in the morning. So I woke up this morning and thanked God for the beautiful day; thanks the bounty of the universe for the fact that I am alive and happy and lucky today. I have a loving brother who drives me to work every morning. He faithfully drops me on top of the road, so that I can walk ten steps to the office just so I get some exercise. As I walk in to Siripa Lane, I meet the madman again. He is diggin’ in to the garbage bin next to Sea Lord restaurant and collecting some food for the day. The air becomes pungent with the smell of foul food. I have seen this guy on and off, haunting the area. Yesterday I stood for a moment watching it. Today I choose to walk past, ignoring the annoyed faces of the tuk tuk drivers, who seem to tolerate this daily foul-up of morning air as an obligation to their traditionally Buddhist upbringing that force them to compassion.

I am angry now. How come the world is so cruel to so many people? I know this madman is not the only unfortunate I saw for the week. So I know its not about one individual not doing well in life. Its the system that makes some people overly fortunate and the others deprived! So even if I give this guy money to buy a lunch packet today, it makes no sense. There are so many days more for him to survive and so many others like  him. Very much like when we vote one corrupt leader out of power another will come in who will be even worse. We got rid of President Premadasa, but today many say he’s better than what we’ve had after him.

My collegue and dramatist Rajitha Dissanayaka was in conversation with Dharmasiri Bandaranayake recently. I rememeber watching Dharmasiri’s play ‘Yakshayagamanaya’ as a kid. Its a translation of a Brechtian play – Driving Out the Devil, maybe – I’m not sure. The end of that play is the elimination of the dictator, but it adds: “Don’t rejoice that he is gone. The womb that bore him will bear many more”  

So I guess that what we are suppose to do is to change ‘the womb’; The Evil System. And Gudrun Kramer says, the System has its own inbuilt mechanisms that will protect it from change.

It’s still 7.40 am. It’s too early to be angry. It’s too early to be confused.