“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 7

The seventh installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).  

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in the United States of America who voiced for equal rights of the African Americans or commonly called ‘blacks’. King was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using non violent civil disobedience. Martin became a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism. He is a leader who could not keep silent and let the world bring injustice to the people. ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’. This is one of the many quotes of Martin. He believed that it was a responsibility of a leader to ensure that justice is established. ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’. Luther King always was a voice against injustice. He knew that keeping silent regarding injustice ensured a safe life. But he was willing to risk his life for the sake of justice.
It is common in many countries that leaders who voice against injustice get threatened. As a result, most leaders who voiced for justice so that they might get personal benefits start being silent. This because of their selfish intentions of self centered motives, instead of cause centered motives. It is sad that only a few leaders genuinely voice for justice for the sake of the society. The leaders who keep silent after being threatened publicly announce various reasons for their silence. Weren’t other world leaders threatened? How did they still manage to stay on their feet and voice for the cause they stood for?

The reason that drove many authentic leaders is that they lived the cause instead of just voicing for it. These leaders knew that they had responsibilities and duties to fulfill. They found the correct path which was a difficult one but chose to remain steadfast on it. As Luther King said when he was going through pain and suffering, ‘As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation; either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course’.

True leaders are not afraid to do what is right. Many leaders crumble when they see danger. A leader needs to courageously stand up for the cause. If the leader is afraid to do what is right, the cause will become useless. Martin Luther once said ‘Never, ever be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our souls when we look the other way’. This quote insists that the well being of the community is much more imperative than selfish intentions.

‘An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.’ As young leaders, we should attempt in understanding the significance of justice being implemented. We might be punished by the society for the cause we stand for. But when the well being of the society is ensured, the reward is peace. When we turn our backs on the issues the community faces, we are self inflicting wounds on our heart and soul. These wounds are hard to be cured; as they will continue to traumatize.

When I said voicing for the cause, it doesn’t mean using violence. Even the participants of violence accept that they cannot have a win-win situation. They know that violence is an open invitation to defeat. As Martin Luther said, ‘The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but must be followed by a sense of futility.’ Luther used non violence in voicing the cause he lived for. He mentioned that, ‘Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude’. When forgiveness becomes an attitude, the person will be able to respond violence with non violence and still generate an even more powerful reaction. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ By loving others, hatred can be washed away.

Usually when we see a sad circumstance we feel compassion and attempt to solve the problem. The common result is a short term resolution to the issue. The roots of the issue are not usually assessed. Problems should be solved by assessing the fundamental causes. ‘True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring’. Through this we can find out that Marin Luther attempted in solving the issues of the communities at whole. He planned on things ahead and identified the parts of society that needed changes.

Martin Luther knew that communication barrier was one of the vital reasons for conflicts. He understood the significance of communication between segregated sectors. He said that, ‘People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other’. We can see the effect of non communication affecting the lives of whole communities.

Marin Luther King Jr. had a clear vision of how he wanted the world to become. He said, ‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their skin but by the content of their character’. This was his vision for the United States of America. We can see now that though discrimination against the ‘blacks’ have not yet been totally wiped out, the level of discrimination had decreased a great deal. We can now see the President of the United States of America being a ‘black’. Martin’s non violence approach impacted many around the nation and the world. It also impacted the ‘whites’ who used to discriminate the ‘blacks’. Thus we can see the impact of non violence approach.


The True Heroes of War Part 4

“Amma,” saying that word pained him.
She looked at him, “ai manika?” Her jewel that was what he was. When her life had shattered into tiny shards, it was Ranju’s existence that had kept her alive. His face that smile that brightened her day. His crooked teeth, lying haphazardly. So like his father, he was.
“I’m going to the stream. For a swim,” he said, a towel in his hand.
“Be careful. May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with you.” Those words. Always said before he left home. Did they protect him? Were those the words that somehow made the bullets miss his heart?
On the way to the stream, a man on a bicycle stopped to talk with him. He was middle aged, most probably a farmer.
“Ah Puthey. Are you alright now?” He must have heard of the ‘episode’ which is what Ranju called his losing of consciousness. Those damn emotions and memories. They kept flashing in his mind and he just couldn’t get rid of them. Just went it seemed like he could, someone or the other would remind him.
“I’m okay Maama. Just the heat and whatnot.”
The man went off and Ranju was back alone with his thoughts.
He remembered Sunil, young, scared, gun in hand. He had wanted to get married. He was in love with a girl who had promised to wait for him. Sunil always carried a picture of her, she was pretty and most of the soldiers envied Sunil. He wrote to her quite often. When they realized the war was ending, that it the government was taking an ‘all or nothing’ approach, Sunil had been unable to hide his excitement. Very few soldiers knew the joy of marrying someone they loved. Some never got married, most got married to someone their families found for them. It was only after marriage that love bloomed.
After victory was in their hands, the soldiers had left for home. Sunil had invited them all for his wedding, although a date was still to be set. A week later, Ranju, who was still in the camp, had received a call from Sunil’s mother.
“Ane puthey, you don’t know what happened na,” it was obvious that she was trying not to cry.
“What, Amme? Is Sunil okay?”
“Aiyo no, Ranju Puthey. That girl, she… was run over by a lorry. Dead, right there. Sunil couldn’t do anything, just stood there. While…”
The silence seemed suffocating. Ranju then asked the question, to which the answer he feared.
“Sunil?” He couldn’t voice his thoughts. Was Sunil alright? Alive?
“He walks around like a ghost. We constantly watch over him. He tried to end it all too. He keeps saying her name.”
So that’s what was in store for Sunil. A man who bravely fought in the war. He had loved that girl unconditionally. And finally, that love had killed him in ways the war couldn’t.
The war had made men out of boys. But it had taken away their souls too. They couldn’t afford to love. Yet, Sunil had loved. And he had lost. What the war couldn’t take from him, a girl had. It all boiled down to death. Whether it was the death of someone you love, or a stranger, death scarred you.
Ranju sat at the edge of the steam, the tiny waves licking his muddy feet. He lit a cigarette. He couldn’t smoke at home, his mother didn’t like it. He thought of his life as the cigarette slowly burned. He winced as he saw his life as if he was flipping through a photograph album.
A chubby baby, a thin nappy pinned around him lower body. A boy, hair combed to the side, a crisp white shirt, and blue shorts, a new school bag on his back. A teenager, slight hints of facial hair, lanky and handsome, in his white school trousers and shirt. A young man in shorts and a tshirt, posing for the camera with friends, hair messy and uncombed. Finally a soldier in uniform, looking ten years older, hair cut short, a determined look on his face.
He threw away the cigarette butt and waded into the water. When it was deep enough he plunged in, and held his breath.
He saw his friends and family, alive and dead. His father, that distant man. His school friends, living their usual boring lives. Friends and brother he met in the line of duty. Some were alive, some were dead. Their blood would forever stain his hands, even if he hadn’t killed them. He had killed, and nothing could convince him otherwise.
He felt the cool water strain against his nostrils. He wanted to breathe in the water, knowing it would kill him. He imagined the pain as the water filled his lungs, as life left his body. Pain reveals. But pain also snatches life from you. And as the pain gathers, there’s less of you. You become less human. As he was about to take that much needed breath, but the image of his mother and her last words, “may the blessings of the triple gem be with you” echoed through his mind. He pushed himself up and let the crisp air of the day fill his lungs.
Yes, True Heroes (which I haven’t named yet) ends here. I felt that there was no use in keeping the story going. There were a few more scenes I had in my mind, but the story needed to end. Its for all the Ranju’s, broken men and women, who were the result of the war. I hope we never see another war again, at least not on our sun-kissed island.

Novella part

(Sivapalan is ready for revenge. This is a continuation from the earlier bit of my novella.)

“I distinctly heard it! No, Kush, get away from me, go…over there!” hissed Sivapalan silently. The ambalama, which had once sheltered pilgrims on the way to the holy site of Nagadipa in the northern peninsula, had now become a killing field of the most brutal kind. Thankfully, the two had reached the place, after getting almost completely soaked to the skin. Kush sneezed again, bellowing the foul contents of his lungs out into the wet soil as he pushed away from Sivapalan.

They had been on a small slope, sheltered by some kumbuk trees and long grasses, some yards away from the rest house. They’d been battling sleep, keeping watch until something actually happened.
Kush, for one, gritted his teeth as he tried to fight the empty rumble in his belly, all the while trying to stay away the obviously anguished Sivapalan.

“Look, maybe we followed a false trail,” he told his companion over the drumming of the rain against their backs, “So we should ideally go back up north, back to Rajarata.”

“Nonsense, that was my father, I know it was! And those men! If anything’s happened, I…keep an eye out for that lot, I’m going in!”

 Sivapalan saw, through his rain-filled eyes, the figure of the killer, and the Sinhalese warrior Sena, leaving with his remaining patrol members. He had overheard all of them.

So these people thought that the Chola forces were too hard to take down, did they? He could barely suppress his smile, but quickly, his mind moved back into reality.
Sivapalan ran stealthily down to the rest house, keeping to the kumbuk grove. However, he was surprised at how easily his feet gave way beneath the wet earth. 
He shouted in surprise.
Kush got up with a start too, and quickly ran down the wet, grassy slope to see what’d happened.
An old hole, probably a shallow old grave that was buried under some very loose soil. His weight pushed the sodden earth down as his feet touched the bottom, and muddy little waterfalls came down, wetting his toes and forming little channels that ran and swirled round his feet. Seeing his companion, however, he cursed silently. He also noticed that it was as dark as midnight, for the cloud cover had increased almost exponentially. Rain was beginning to get into his kilt, making it stick to his body. In fact, maybe that patrol and the assassin had been alerted as well. No! But they were! They’d stopped moving, and Sena’s horse was twitching.

Vikrama, the killer, was stalking the area as Kush crouched down low to the ground, trying to conceal himself as well as he could. He kept his body firmly stuck to the ground, crawling on his elbows and knees, observing the young Vikrama from below. The young assassin’s cloak was wrapped tightly around him, and he clutched it closely as he walked. 
“What’s going on there?” hissed one of the soldiers, guiding his horse slowly towards the boy. 
“I can’t say for sure,” answered the assassin, “but whatever’s out there”-he drew his vicious knife-“I’m ready for it, no doubt about that. But I wish we had some dogs here!” He slowly trudged over to where Kush had hidden himself, and stood for a moment. The soldier cantered off with small steps.
For an instant, he was still, soaking up the night air. The moon broke through the grey clouds with faint, cold streaks of light, lighting up the boy like he was some lean, strong guardian ghost, and ready to spring upon the first trespasser to cross his path.
Kush could sense his footsteps getting closer….
He looked at the sky and cursed silently, then drew his own dagger, a heavy blade that could kill very quickly and easily. He also writhed around a bit to warm up and stretch his cramped legs.
Vikrama was coming…
Kush was ready, dagger in hand…
The silent killer’s footsteps were like thunder to him now, as he crossed over…

Kush pounced.

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 6

It is with great pleasure that we present the sixth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).
Even though I have heard and read the story of Mother Teresa many times, her life never fails to inspire me. I’m sure this brilliant interpretation of her words will touch your soul too. 

Mother Teresa

Mother Teresa was an Albanian-born Indian Roman Catholic nun. She founded the Missionaries of Charity. For over 45 years, she ministered to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while guiding the Missionaries of Charity’s expansion, first throughout India and then in other countries. Mother Teresa spoke a lot on loving, having compassion for others and humility. She lived a humble life claiming ‘If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.’ Leaders around us tend to get proud and start doing things sometimes against their values just so that they will get praised by the people around them. When peoples’ praise starts to drive you, you will lose your identity. You will turn out as a person who is a nominal leader and you will begin to follow the wants of the smaller group that praises you instead of truly addressing the needs of the people. We should always know that people will always give remarks and criticize everyone. A good leader should learn to be humble and continue to do the right cause despite various criticisms.

Being a nun, Mother Teresa always displayed the teaching of Jesus in the Bible. ‘Love to be real, it must hurt-it must empty us of self.’ Mother Teresa gave herself for the cause of helping the orphans, street children, poor and old people who are neglected by their children. For this cause she emptied herself. She knew that the obstacle lying in her path was not placed by someone else but by her own self. And she decided to empty herself so that she can pursue her cause. ‘Live simply so others may simply live’: This quote states Mother Teresa’s reason for living a simple life. She could have chosen to live in a grand manner. But her choice was confident and clear. She had a clear vision as to how she wanted to impact on the cause and she never strayed away from her path. Money and Fame can lead a leader to his or her downfall. Many leaders stray away from their initial cause and end up in some other path. We should constantly remind ourselves that it doesn’t matter who gets the name as long as the cause we stand for is carried out efficiently.

‘It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish’: Through this quote, Mother Teresa tries to bring out the message of living a life such that it doesn’t kill another person’s. We live in a world built up by our wants and wishes. Many people lose track of what is really needed. They follow their wants prioritizing it above the needs of others. This leads to unnecessary loss of lives. Mother Teresa was considerate of this fact, and she lived accordingly. ‘Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger; a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.’ This was Mother Teresa’s opinion. This was what steered her to remain on the cause she had started. We can see from her life that she knew how the people in the streets, the old being neglected by their own children and the poor felt. She understood the pain these people felt. Because of that, she was able to connect with them and work to give them what they lost; their identity. She loved and cared for them as if they were her own relatives.

‘Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies’. Mother Teresa found her strength to continue her cause in the small things such as loving the poor and helpless. ‘May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.’This quote strongly insists that love is a gift that we have received and it should be shared; because love is present for each one of us.

The leaders we see around us are usually self-centered. Though outwardly they may deny it; deep inside, many leaders struggle constantly with their self-centered mentality. What can we do when we see such people? When we attempt to be kind, people may accuse us of having hidden motives. Does it meant that we should stop being kind? As Mother Teresa said, ‘People are often unreasonable and self centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.’ What Mother Teresa said is true. People criticize and point fingers all the time. It doesn’t mean that you deviate from the correct path that you have chosen. It doesn’t mean that you have to follow whatever the world tells you to. We need to stand strong on our values and beliefs. If we as leaders fail to be strong, how can we expect the followers to remain strong on the cause? No matter how good you do something, the society will always find the mistakes and speak of them. What we can achieve is continue doing what we live for no matter what the world throws at you.

When we as leaders stand strong, we move other to get involved in the cause. We stand as examples that others see and willingly join hand with us in the cause. This was what Mother Teresa was good at. She was good at inspiring others to join in the cause. The way she lived the cause made many to follow her footsteps. She knew that she alone could not achieve her vision. She knew that she had to live a life that inspires others to follow; and she lived it. ‘I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples’. Certainly she created many ripples. Now her cause is widespread all over the world. There are numerous workers and volunteers passionate about the cause she stood for and working collaboratively towards larger goals.

‘Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
 Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
 Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
          Life is life, fight for it.’          

Ode to the Sky IV

We realized that the sky is not the limit. For there is something beyond that great, seemingly infinite expanse.  This limitlessness allows our imaginations to run wild and free and this is how we have been able to gather so many words and photographs (and even a painting) of the sky. It is difficult to imagine one thing, the sky, could have many chapters dedicated to it, but here we are. The fourth Ode to the Sky, with many more to come.
He looks at the canvas
A dirty white,
Waiting to be covered in
An infinite number of colors
He dips the paintbrush
In a cup of thick paint
A shiny midnight blue it is
He paints the sky
The blue sheet he has never seen
And closes his eyes trying to picture it all
Slight white traces of paint
The clouds he imagines
And golden yellow stars
The midnight blue
Dries as the sun sets
And the darkness outside thrives
Then he rips the canvas apart
For what he just painted,
What he has never seen
A constant reminder of
The past he doesn’t know
The shreds of painted cloth
Land heavily on the cold stone floor
Of the prisoner’s home
The tiny ray of moonlight
Which creeps through a small invisible crack
Lingers on that midnight blue
If the painter had looked closely
He would have seen
The tomorrow in his painting
But he doesn’t
For he sees nothing
Not the stars that shine
The moon that lights the world
Or the sky that protects it
Poem by: Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Painting: Starry Night, Vincent Van Gogh
In quiet words,
they thank the gods
for the rain
that bathes the earth

hands clasped
they look up

at the clear skies
and thank the lords

silent though, is she
who should be thanked
mother nature some call her
but forgotten she remains

 Poem by: Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by: Ashika Amaratunga
Marching back home quickly like a rushing troubled young soldier late for the parade. It was now sunset. Feeling upset, i had to be there before darkness. Many words making endless sentences in my mind couldn’t form out a melody. I had slipped down the ladder just like in many instances i lost count of. The sad countenance on my face bore the mark of my recent bad experiences.

I couldn’t help making silent heart cries alone. My gaze remained on the clear beautiful sky outlined by a winter background. This day wasn’t fortunate for me but i felt rays of hope emanating from the beautiful sky. I could sense the message left by the unseen finger of God. Its like angels were holding the corners of the page written in the sky. Though i try to act like a boss, I’m always at the mess of these unseen powers. I felt chills on my hands as i drew a deep breathe to revive my strength and kiss this sad day good bye.

Words by: Pascal Tinarwo
Photo by: Pascal Tinarwo
Children of Mother Nature,
All of them were,
Basking in the beauty,
And the colourful majesty,
Of her breathtaking gifts.

A flock of pelicans rose up to the sky,
Stunning them all as they wondered aloud,
“Nature connects us all…”

 Poem by: Rochelle Silva
Photo by: Rochelle Silva

Novella part

(This is a direct continuation from the last novella part…the beginning of Brahmarajan’s end)

“If it’s any consolation to you, I’ve given up believing in everything I once believed in,” interrupted Vikrama. Good. What comfort could religion truly bring? Could the tolling of bells and chanting of tongue-twisting hymns really help you in a life-or-death situation? “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m starting to like you, boy.”
“Likewise,” answered Vikrama, who was busily wrapping himself up in his great cloak. “But don’t expect anything else of me, Chola.”
And they began to chat away, the two of them. Brahmarajan opened out as quickly as a good book, jabbering about this fight and that fight. Vikrama just smiled at him. This made the Chola soldier uneasy, as if his companion was eluding details on purpose. He let this suspicion drift off as well as he drifted off to sleep, happy that someone cared enough to just be there.
Late evening, and the rains had begun again.
An eagle owl sent its terrifying cry piercing through the darkness.
Brahmarajan woke up with a start.
Something was pressed against his side, and everything was suddenly darkened. He felt blinded, not that his eyes were very good to begin with anyway. Claustrophobia swept over him as he sweated in fear. This was it.
However, the thing that was pressed against him, was just Vikrama. He tried to speak, but the boy’s hand was firmly placed on his mouth. The hand was slender, but very strong, and the boy’s legs were straddling the width of Brahmarajan’s body. The knife itself was held against the ex-commander’s neck. He looked up at Vikrama, but the boy’s eyes seemed to tell him to stay down as he pressed closer to the man. He seemed alert, eyes moving wildly.
Slowly, Vikrama crawled outside and lay on the floor of the ambalama. There were some women and a big, middle-aged man walking past. Just normal people, traders perhaps. Or a noble and his harem-or his slaves. The boy was as quiet as he could be, watching them pass by. Brahmarajan himself had gotten out of his cover, and was lying next to the boy on the floor.
“They can’t see us, and anyway, the two of us together would be suspicious. I wouldn’t want that to happen.”
That was queer. However, someone else had arrived as well. This meant that as usual, Brahmarajan had no time to think of the situation. The footsteps of what seemed like a patrol.
They were talking in that coarse, rough manner that some soldiers talk in. One of them had sat down…if only they didn’t notice the horse. Of course, she didn’t know what her human was up to, so she was startled by their appearance. She neighed aloud, and reared up, attempting to break loose of her bonds. The soldiers were startled as well.
“Those devils shouldn’t be here, should they?” one asked in a gruff voice. “Perhaps, Sena, perhaps he’s taken the enemy elsewhere. I don’t know.”
Then another spoke, “You set him up to the task. That boy will come through. He always has managed to. I mean, it’s perfect. We need him now, but he’s just a means in the end. Let our unit pay him what he originally had. He might not have been a noble with eighty thousand gold coins, but flash the same amount he lost, and he’ll do more missions for us until this campaign is over for good.”
“Do you think it will ever end?”
“Not as long as India keeps its mouth shut.”
“Just think,” said the one called Sena, the leader of the patrol apparently, “when the foreigners come to their senses at last, we can all live in peace. Or, else….let me think…I once spoke to a priest in the temple near my village. He told me that he was tired of all the business of war in this country. I mean, how much more damage can one place sustain? Think, if some random fellow from heaven knows where, doesn’t show up, then the invaders will continue ruling us! It’s that thing, that false feeling of ‘this is my land’, ‘I am a man of this country,’ that made Vijayabahu start the Chola wars.”
“Are you saying,” said another, “that the next so-and-so who races out of Rohana might be a…bad king…?”
“Now, that is actually…do you realize you’re completely off topic and going circles round about, eh, Sena?”
 This man seemed to be the joker of the lot, but one who didn’t find him funny, just groaned, “Gamini, please…shut up.”
“What if not all are alike? What if the next one will really be the worst thing for this country? Think,” continued Sena, “think about the fact that some foreigners-and in fact, most-are not cruel plunderers. I’m married to a South Indian, and she’s the kindest wife anyone could dream of. If Rajaraja was a good man, if Rajendra and whoever’s being defeated by our king, are good men, why should we rise up against them? Why?”
Brahmarajan thought hard.
The ambitions of Rajaraja and Rajendra, the greatest father-son duo in the Empire, had brought him here to Lanka, and they’d brought him only suffering. And now, he guessed that they were also talking about Vikrama as well. This boy was an orphan, but his intelligence was what made them take him. They’d hired him to try and rat out escapees from the Chola army. That bit was clear. What kind of man was the Lankan general? The king?
He looked into Vikrama’s large, dark eyes.
“You knew?”
He couldn’t believe it.  “Well,” explained the boy quietly, “I was paid to shut up. I mean, if the public knew of any of your soldiers running around, there’d be general panic and unrest. That’s why the army needs this unit to hunt you down. I’m the one who was supposed to kill you…or let some soldier take you instead.”
The commander was shocked. The two of them had shared the ambalama. He’d admitted to Vikrama everything he’d done. His scars, his battles, his indecisions and victories, all poured out to this young child. Was this the lowly dark side of the Sinhalese army? Then again, he’d ordered plenty of assassinations too; plenty of underhand missions had been carried out swiftly on his orders.
“Look,” he whispered pleadingly, “I’ll take you wherever I go. You needn’t live like this, you’re just a child. Vikram….please, come with me. Together, we can also prove that Sinhalese and Cholas can live together as one…you heard the soldier outside….please spare me, do not sin…”
He shook his head as he drew his knife and laid it against Brahmarajan’s chest. The warrior jerked rapidly and flung the boy onto the ground. The great noise alerted the soldiers outside. Two rushed in with their swords drawn, and suddenly Brahmarajan’s dagger clanged sharply against one of their blades. He swung expertly, dodging and striking in the dark, using merely his ears to determine the position of the enemy. He couldn’t go on for very long, though.  He had to end this, and get out. Maybe kill that damned child if he could, just to satisfy himself.
So, he slashed a number of times.
The dagger went severely chopping and slicing through the Lankan warrior’s hand. He screamed in pain, clutching it as his opponent hacked away in order to escape quickly.
Then the other attacker was whacked in the skull with an iron bar that was lying on the floor of the ambalama. Who’d left it there, he didn’t care, but it took a good number of strikes to cave the Sinhalese warrior’s head in nicely.
“VIKRAMA!!! Quickly, let’s get out of….”
Stabbed…in the back…and quite literally.
“Well done, boy,” said Sena, patting Vikrama on the shoulder. Brahmarajan lay there, fallen, with a rusty, cruel-looking knife protruding out of his back. It’d been driven in with plenty of force. The boy had then fallen upon him, whacking away with the iron bar, finally smashing the warrior’s skull when he was defenseless. The other soldiers themselves had stolen the horse, and had been carving up the man as well. Vikrama’s eyes were surprisingly good in low light, it seemed. He’d completed his task.
“It just…makes my skin crawl,” he told Sena, wrapping his arms around himself, “and I know, I know that you’ll say that there’s one less enemy alien in Lanka, but just…he felt so close to me. I don’t know, I feel bad about killing him.” Sena and the other soldiers looked at the horribly butchered body of Brahmarajan lying there.
Sena sighed. “We don’t like this any more than you do. Nobody does. As long as overreaching, overambitious politicians rule us, we won’t be freed from war. Eternal peace only comes in death. At least war helps us to achieve that, if nothing else. It’s unpleasant business. But we’re only human. For now.” 
And with that, Sena touched Vikrama’s head before leaving.
The young boy just took one long, hard look at his temporary companion.

He didn’t cry. This was, after all, his job, and he’d done it. 

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 5

It is with utmost delight that we present the fifth installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).We’re sure that this soulful article which interprets Mahatma Gandhi’s words would inspire you to a deeper level than you would imagine…

Mohandas Gandhi

Mahatma Gandhi, was the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India. Employing non violent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for non-violence, civil rights and freedom across the world. He is known in India as the Father of the nation. Gandhi’s philosophy was not theoretical but one of pragmatism, that is, practicing his principles in real time. Asked to give a message to the people, he would respond, “My life is my message.”
Gandhi’s life was based on two very important principles and values; one is love and the other is forgiveness. He was considerate of even his enemies. ‘A coward is incapable of exhibiting love; it is the prerogative of the brave’. Gandhi followed the preaching of Lord Buddha, Jesus, Prophet Mohammed and many other teachers. ‘The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.’ We can see that the values of forgiveness and love were driving Gandhi. He believed that ‘An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’ Throughout his lifetime, Gandhi was imprisoned, tortured and tested. But still he did not resolve to violence. He chose non violence above violence. As a result he impacted several others to join him in the cause he stood up for. It takes a lot of courage and presence of mind to forgive someone. We usually find it hard to forgive someone who had done something against us. But Gandhi defines that to be a true leader, you have to forgive and then take the step of reconciliation.
We commonly find injustice triumphing over justice. Sometimes we may even conclude that justice will never prevail. But when we carefully look into that subject, people who seem untouchable having wrong motives finally succumb and they lose all what they had earned so far. ‘When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for some time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, the always fall. Think of it-always’. This quote of Gandhi is true. The world has seen Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, recently Osama Bin Laden and Prabakaran. These leaders resolved to arms instead of negotiation. Maybe they thought that there was no other way in getting their causes voiced. There is always a way to voice the opinion instead of taking arms. Many leaders fail to realize and find that. It is only a few like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa, etc. who understood the futility of war. They knew that violence would not help them achieve their goals.
‘It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom, it is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err’. When we climb the ladder of success, we try to convince ourselves that we are the best. When this attitude starts maturing, we start thinking and acting as if others are inferior. We forget that depending solely on our strength and wisdom can lead to our downfall. When we treat others as inferiors, we start isolating ourselves. We lose valuable man power as well as knowledge. Leaders should know the art of having the people with them at all times, else it will be just a long walk down the beach. ‘Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever’. We should strive to do our best before we die. This will make us be perfect and hyped up to do successful things. We should learn to fulfill our duties even if we were to die tomorrow. Keeping arrears for the next day would increase the stress and workload of the next day. Gandhi practiced finishing the day’s job before retiring to bed.
‘You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.’ Gandhi speaks on the power of the human mind. As leaders we should train our mind and keep it updated. People often prefer a well prepared, intelligent leader. Education opens the mind to the broader world. It shapes one’s perspectives such that the individual will know the difference between the right and wrong. Leaders fall into traps when they do not differentiate the right and the wrong. Thus education is important. Our minds can only be tormented by ourselves. Others cannot torment it. Do we have the ability to think straight even when everything around us seems difficult? Leaders should ask this question. If we, as leaders do not think properly and start acting against our values during the hard times, it will affect the people who follow. Leaders should have a stable mind even in the toughest times. Panicking will make the followers panic and it might lead to violence. Then the leader would have no have control over the people and it would make the situation worse.
Gandhi said ‘Peace is the most powerful weapon of mankind. It takes more courage to take a blow than to give one. It takes more courage to try and talk things than to start a war’. He was always ready for negotiation and open debate with the British. Gandhi could have used the man power he had to throw the Englishmen away. A few hundred Englishmen were ruling a country of millions. But still Gandhi did not resolve to violence. He respected the enemies, even when they had done so many cruel things to him. Do we have the courage to respect our enemies? We should take a minute and think of how we react when someone does something against us. Do we respond aggressively or do we take the effort to talk the problem with the opponent and come to good terms with the individual?
With what kind of a mindset do we approach the negotiation? Do we enter talks with firm holds on some petty issues? Or are we flexible? Has anyone ever tried going to the negotiation table with all give and no take policy? Gandhi believed that ‘All compromise is based on give and take, but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is surrender. For it is all give and no take.’ We should try giving our best to the society without expectations. This is not an easy thing to do. People expect the society to provide them things. It may be material, or fame or any kind. People live expecting something in return for whatever they do. Gandhi teaches us a different approach to community service; to give the best to the society without expecting anything in return.
Many leaders and teachers preach what is right and what is wrong. They talk a lot but we can see many faults in their lives. A leader should set an example to others. ‘An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching’. To be a leader, you should practice your values. What separates an exceptional leader from a nominal leader is the way they practice what they stand for. ‘Be the change you that you wish to see in the world’. This is a famous quote by Gandhi. This quote has changed many people to be the change for tomorrow. Gandhi’s words impacted a large number of youths in India. It still continues to inspire millions around the world to be the difference they want to see in the world. He trusted that though there might be evil people around, humanity is not lost. ‘You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.’ He believed that by impacting the people around him, the cause can have a better foothold. ‘A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.’ Gandhi made sure that the people clearly understood the cause. He motivated them to unite and move towards a better nation.
Gandhi died over 60 years ago, but we still talk about his life and teachings. Why and how was his life special? What were his personal values? Gandhi lived a life for the people. He wanted a social benefit, instead of the personal benefit many leaders vie for. Personal benefit is always found in social work. It is hard to deny this truth, but many social workers do social work for personal benefits. Gandhi used the peoples’ power effectively. He was able to bring together Nehru and Jinnah; two completely different people and provided a platform for these people to work together. We can see Nelson Mandela who could have become the King because the people thought that after all the trauma he had been through, it was the least the country could do. But Mandela denied that post. We can see Mother Teresa who worked for social benefits. These leaders are just a few to be named.
When doing social work, the desire to gain personal benefits always interferes. One should go to the field with a pure heart if you want to do social work for the people. ‘Always aim at complete harmony of thought and word and deed. Always aim at purifying your thoughts and everything will be well.’ Our name becoming popular is not important, nor our work being visible to others. It is the impact of the work we do that matters. Your work shouldn’t be as popular as the work you do. In social work, a single person should not get the credit; the whole team should deserve the credit. Gandhi planned for the long run. His unique personality and the simple life style which he followed attracted millions. Gandhi used the weapon of non violence-‘Ahimsa’ which gave the nation liberation from the British. Though Gandhi was well educated he associated with the poor. Many leaders fail to accomplish this feat. They tend to forget about the poor when they are in power. The leaders feel that it was a waste of effort to meet the needs of the poor because they would not be getting anything in return. We can see the leaders working for personal benefits. This hinders the progress of the nation and affects the whole nation. We as future leaders should all endeavor to live a life such that people would want to follow our lives even after we die. This was how Gandhi thought and lived.
‘Your beliefs become your thoughts,
 Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,           
Your values become your destiny.’