Friendship

The above illustration graces the first page of the grade 5 Mathematics work book in Sri Lanka. It shows four friends cycling along a road with cheerful smiles on their faces. Ameen (the Muslim), Meena(the Tamil), Saman(the Sinhalese) and Rosi(the Burgher) continue to appear side by side in the text book to make Mathematics more appealing to the students.

However, to most of us, such inter-racial harmony is a rare sight. I myself have a majority of Sinhalese friends and sadly, only a handful of others. A great friend of mine says that according to a survey, 70% of Sri Lankan youths do not have friends outside their circle of status, religion, language, ethnicity etc.

While I do appreciate the fact that text books promote friendship between segregated groups, I believe that more could be done. For example, the government has decided not to allow schools to be ethnicity-based in the future.( http://www.ceylontoday.lk/16-34034-news-detail-no-more-ethnicity-based-schools.htmlMinister of Education, Bandula Gunawardane himself says that, “We believe the children of this country should mingle with each other so that they would understand each other better. Therefore, the ministry decided not to allow schools to be divided based on ethnicity and do away with Sinhala, Tamil (Hindu) or Muslim schools”

Indeed, it is practically impossible for us to have everyone as a “friend”, but surely, being “friendly” is possible. It is my sincere wish that that a day would soon arrive when friendships between Ameen, Meena, Saman and Rosi would be a common sight and not looked down by the society.


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8 thoughts on “Friendship”

  1. I think that's what all of us wish. Remember, most of my friends aren't Sinhala, hell, now I have friends who are not even Sri Lankans at all for that matter! In fact, we all need to be able to understand people more, beyond what we see on the surface. It's just strange that most are incapable of it. People never bother to look behind my eccentricities sometimes! Of course they don't get me, they're people, they're damn Homo sapiens, and damn idiots 🙂 but beyond that, some do. You guys 🙂

  2. Thank you Vasika! 🙂 🙂 That’s the beauty of “mutual” understanding!“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” ― Anaïs Nin,

  3. This post is amazing, Rochelle. Short and sweet! I remember all those text books, with Meena, and Ameen and we were showed that these people were different, but they were all the same too. I mean, having gone to a semi-government school (until grade five) where most students were Buddhists, it was at times quite confusing that there were so many racial and religious differences. I mean, our class of 42 had three Christians and one Muslim! But I've always managed to have friends from different ethnic backgrounds, which has helped me understand that my beliefs aren't the only beliefs.This also reminded me of a conversation in one of the WTR forums, how another girl from school and I said we never discussed the ongoing war situation in school. But it wasn't because school discouraged it. It was because we saw no need to discuss our ethnic differences. We didn't see religion and race as something that could and that should divide.

  4. Thank you very much Shailee! It's nice to hear that you remember these characters too! My classes had a majority of Catholics, some Buddhists and only one or two Muslims.Well, I remember that all of us prayed each day at the school assemblies for peace… :)"We didn't see religion and race as something that could and that should divide"- that is a powerful line.

  5. I do remember those prayer times. And one thing I'm thankful for at LC is how we all have separate religious assemblies four days a week. At my previous school, we stayed on in class and said our Gaatha, while the non-Buddhists went to other classes to pray. It some how seems unfair that we were allowed to stay put. I can't even remember what the non-Buddhists did during the after-interval meditation session! I get that it was a majority Buddhist school (irony is that the land was owned by the church next door!) but we should have all had our separate places for worship, instead of the 'minorities' having to move!

  6. @Shailee-It's nice that you had separate religious assemblies at LC. And yes, it seems unfair about having the 'minorities' to move… It's the first time I heard of an "after-interval meditation session":)@Vasika- Now that you mention it, that's too much!

  7. This was a semi-government school where the dusty classes were packed to the brim. 42 students is a huge class and I had to be thankful each year to be in the 'new book' grade, because the grade below me had to use the text books used by us.And yet, while I used to feel so left out at times, I have so many memories of that school. Run and catchers, playing cricket, our Christmas 'play' and concerts.

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