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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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.