It’s almost summer here. Almost. Because the rough winds still blow, and rain still comes. When that stops, I know this place will be packed with locals and tourists alike.
Till then, I’ll enjoy the serenity it brings. Just the clear blue sky and the sea.
I long for it. To speak into the distance, of my worries and pains, and happiness too. Perhaps smile.
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When the war ended in May 2009, I had some hope. Here was an opportunity for Sri Lanka – for its regime and its people – to make things right again. But, alas!
I feel that same hope today. An opportunity once again – and I dare say, perhaps for the last time – to make things right. This wouldn’t happen overnight and what it also requires is honesty, loyalty, dedication, respect and so much more like that. But as much as it is the new Government’s task to bring about this change, it is also that of the people, Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims alike. Change is needed at all levels, from attitudes to action. There are no short-cuts to change. Arrogance and power-hunger, can do more harm than good. Here’s to the long, hard, gruelling journey ahead of us. A joruney, I hope, is filled with change for the better, for this tiny island of miracles!
Converted a poem I wrote this evening into this image:
What are walls made of? Brick and cement? Or
A hunger for power, A disgusted desire to
Who toils over them? Who stands on the side? Whose blood, sweat and tears?
To satisfy whose fears?
What does it take to build a wall,
and what does, to break it down, to make it fall?
Whose blood, sweat and tears then? Whose strong will? Whose call?
Walls made of insecurity,
Not for stability.
How many more?
Till no more.
I don’t remember how my twenties started. But, I do remember that it started off with a whole ton of dreams. Dreams of all shapes and sizes, tangible and not-so. Free of structures and rules, this was the age of possibility and opportunity; the age of new love, happiness and magic. Or so I was told. And to cherish every moment of it.
But, then, it was also the age of conflict and struggle. I often found myself, ‘sitting on the fence’, staring into the far distance, wondering where life would take me, unsure of the decisions I had to make and struggling to find purpose and meaning in what I was doing and where I wanted to go in life. I think I often looked for the comfort of structures and rules, some sort of pillar to cling on to. It also didn’t please me that at the start of my twenties I didn’t have the answer to the question that concerned adults posed, “Where do you want to be ten years from now?”
And now, having just turned thirty, I don’t really remember many of these dreams or conflicts of my twenties, to even take stock of them and see how far I’ve come. But, I think I’ve learnt a lesson or two from that age. For instance, I’ve learnt that life has this funny way of revealing itself, that sometimes all you’ve got to do is just dream. I’ve learnt that your dreams will make you grow. I’ve also learnt that it’s ok to sit on the fence and stare into the far distance at those green fields. Just that, if you make an effort to get off the fence – maybe you’ll be stuck in the mud or be stung by a bee – in that distance you will find the green fields; opportunity, purpose and meaning. And in the process, I’ve learnt that if you really want to cling on to a pillar, there will always be one.
At thirty, I am not quite sure if I have found a complete answer to the question of the twenties, “Where I want to be ten years from now?” But, I do know that I am able to answer that question now than I was before and I am confident of my answer. Yet, I am glad that I haven’t found the complete answer, for I can still keep dreaming and hop over fence after fence towards those green fields, across the muddy path. And, in these dreams and struggles, I know I will find answers, opportunity, love, happiness and above all, magic.
This is Seeya. Last week, on June 30, he would have turned 100. He died a few months after he turned 98, just over one and a half years ago. He was born as the first World War was taking shape, and lived through a second, an independence for Sri Lanka, another brutal war and its end.
Seeya was an extraordinary individual. He didn’t have any health problems. He lived a simple life.
He was an artiste in all its forms. A ballroom dancer during his younger days, he was a champion at it, having won a number of trophies. He was a painter and a writer. He wrote beautiful poems and sent a couple to the newspapers. He sang, so well. His favourites included, ‘Home on the Range’, ‘I’m Getting Married in the Morning’, and ‘Old Black Joe’. He was a musician, playing the piano and the violin. He had learnt the violin only much later in life. What’s remarkable is that many of this, he learnt on his own.
But he shared whatever he knew. He is the one who taught all of us – my brothers, my cousins and me – the violin.
At a party, he will relate old tales, fill in during awkward pauses, sing and dance, and keep everyone entertained.
He never owned a mobile phone, he had never travelled the world, but lived his life to the fullest, enjoying all the little things and never complaining. His was a Buddhist, but he hardly went to the temple. Rather, he lived a moderate life, free of too many wants, needs and attachments.
His secret to a long, healthy and happy life – a glass of arrack every evening. He stopped this practice only when he hit 90! And walks, every day, whether it’s on the main road, to the boutique down the lane, or just around the house. Oh also, “catching up with friends”. Seeya had a ton of friends from the neighbourhood. As he grew older, he spent his evenings by the gate, chatting to whoever who stopped by him, and later invited his friends indoors to catch up. Topics of conversations with them included politics and interesting bits and details from the homefront!
As he turned 98, there was a tea party to celebrate his birthday. He was so happy to see a lot of people come. He sang, although he couldn’t quite catch that perfect note.
The thing is, it didn’t matter, for he was always content with what he had, what he had achieved, what came his way, and with what the future held him. And that’s what defined him, that’s what made him extraordinary at the end!
At 100, he has left us a heap of laughter, lessons and love. A simple and humble being, yet extraordinary in the life that he lived.
Here’s to Seeya; a toast and a song!
Nov. 25 marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It also signifies the start of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence campaign.
UNWOMEN states that according to 2013 data, globally 35% of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence, during their lifetime. However, they go on to state that some national violence studies show that up to 70%of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime from an intimate partner.
In addition, statistics indicate that 603 million women live in countries where domestic violence is not yet considered a crime. To put it simply, this number is equal to the populations of Brazil, USA and Egypt, combined.
There are also other issues like child marriages, which leads to early and unwanted pregnancies that pose life-threatening risks for adolescent girls.
Violence against women is not a new phenomenon. And, it doesn’t seem to go away either. The statistics are disturbing. Alarming. And the stories we hear and read of various forms of violence against women are chilling. The fact is, it can happen to any woman, whatever age they are, whatever colour they are, or wherever they may live.
And raising awareness is one way to fight this.
Join the campaign. There is more on Google and on the websites of international, non-governmental and non-profit organizations addresses and work towards this cause.
A few pictures of a mini road-trip. This was some months ago. During the Vesak holidays, to be precise. A long weekend was not to be wasted. Packed and excited, we set off, starting off along the Southern highway and.. oh well.
A double rainbow, or whatever this sort of rainbow is called, following bouts of rain on the Southern highway as we headed towards Unawatuna, our first stop.
Passing Tissa Wewa on the second day as we drove pass Hambantota. The city is booming, it goes without saying
A hurried picture
Somewhere along the route.
The Safari, in Tissamahara, offers a tranquil and scenic respite. If you’re stopping by just in time for lunch, why not pop in? The Sri Lankan buffet here was certainly worth it!
The Ravana Falls, the first waterfall to come into view, as we drove towards hills, thinking Bandarawela will make another good stop.
A breakdown in the air-conditioner at this point was to be the only major collapse we were to face, thankfully.
We spent the last two days in Nuwara Eliya.
Still maintaining that old English charm, the Grand Hotel transports us to a forgotten era.
The morning buffet here – at the Grand Hotel – was quite good and reasonably priced.
It was also nice to drive towards the Ambewela Farm. It can be crowded.