Dedicated to a special group…


Perhaps the cause of reconciliation is more important to one group more than any other- the group of young lovers who come from different races. No matter how intellectually matching they are, the stereotypical attitudes and beliefs of elders forces many of them to strangle their feelings. Maybe it was unwise of those lovers to let feelings develop between them, yet “love is blind” as the saying goes.
This poem is dedicated to all those lovers who go down in the annals of time as war victims- similar to soldiers whose shrapnel wounds hurt them from time to time, their young hearts would ache with yearning long after they are forced to forget a person who was almost their “other half”.
Photo credits: http://dmatxi.com/05/behind-every-love-story-and-broken-heart.html
 “The cloak of insecurity,
Wraps its folds around me,
Shutting out the happy sounds,
Blinding me with tears,
Wiping the pretty smile off my face.
Everything starts to remind me,

Of you,

And all the good times we had.

Carefree were we with time on our hands,

Caressing each other’s minds,

Deep into the night.

Wit and laughter,
Giggling like an idiot,
Blushes spreading from cheeks to ears,
Growing rosy and mellow,
In the dull light of a screen.
Glowing like a star,
Though darkness threatened to overwhelm.
And overwhelm it did,
Not just one day,
But day after day after day,
The bliss that was once there,
A festering wound,
That took ages to heal.
Thousands of poems stored inside me,
Yet no one to understand,
Not even you, my darling,
You who understood me more than anyone.
Years down the lane,
Maybe you’ll be another dull memory,
Of a person I loved.
Towards the light at the end of the tunnel,
I’ll travel alone.”

Raising a Voice

We hoped to publish this yesterday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. However, due to certain reasons we were unable to. While the article that follows deals with violence against women, it is also important to look at what Sri Lankan females went through during the war.

We all know that during those thirty years of conflict, many men lost their lives. Many others were disabled and bedridden. This led to many households where the breadwinner was the mother. And so they went through a lot of abuse and harassment just so their children would not go to bed starving. When there were enough and more teachers and nurses, the women were forced to do what were previously known as jobs for men.

Then there were women who lost their children and families. Even though the years have passed, they still hope to see their families again. They look for familiar faces in the crowd and keep praying and looking at least one listening ear. Their plight, stories and victories are archived at Herstories in hopes that history will stop being the tale of men.

Written for The Nation Fine for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women falls on November 25

The black-eyed woman is rarely questioned. No one stops to ask her how she got that bruise. No one asks if it is her latest gift from her husband. They don’t ask, because they know.
Violence against women is not new to our country. For centuries, women have been the recipients of various types of blows. They are insulted, harassed and abused. Society has made it seem like being born a female is a curse, and thus females grow up fearing and expecting the worst. Amidst all the abuse, the very people who ridicule women for being the weaker sex, also ironically sing praise to their mothers and wives.
November 25 is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, designated by the United Nations General Assembly. It is a day that will make everyone open their eyes to the plight of women, identify the various forms of injustice women face and acknowledge the gravity of the situation. Violence can be in the form of rape, abuse, domestic violence, harassment and many others. While violence is usually defined as physical force, it is important to also look into the mental abuse and emotional scars women suffer.
Cases of rape are reported daily, although the punishment for rape spans from seven to 20 years only. Is this all a woman’s life, dignity and most of all, rights are worth? Everyday, a woman is in some way abused. It could be a hand in the wrong place, offensive language or a beating. Until very recently, marital rape was not recognized by law. Common belief is that the husband owns his wife’s body. He could do what he wants with it and no one has the right to question his behavior.
However, many can ask if only women are harassed. Do we not hear of abusive wives and henpecked husbands? Men too are abused and women can be violent. While this could make gender based violence a mere myth, it is important to note that violence against women is more common, at least in Sri Lanka. Thus it is important to focus on gender-based violence, specifically, against women.
Organizations, campaigns, awareness programs and protests are in abundance. The law is explained to women, and they are encouraged to speak up against violence. Public transport and places are adorned with posters carrying emergency hotlines and words of encouragement. And yet, men still show little fear and their perversions and frustrations get the best of them. And thus violence continues to scare and scar women. They are raped, abused, harassed and when a woman does speak up, she feels all eyes on her, and the victim is treated far worse than the wrong doer himself.
It is said we live in a man’s world. Women, often, have to report the abuse they face to other men. The social stigma that surrounds victims is also another pullback. Before a woman speaks up, she has to think about the repercussions she will face and the shame she will bring her family. It is not easy being a victim, so you can’t blame women for keeping quiet.
This doesn’t mean that nothing should be done about the abuse women face. On Women’s Day we praise and acknowledge how far women have moved forward in society. We recognize the laws and the wars feminists have won over the years. Among all those accomplishments, stories of abuse and injustice have no space. This is why it is important to observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and take steps to achieve what the day stands for. The day a woman faces no abuse may not be a possibility in the near future, and yet, through candle light vigils, walks or other campaigns, the voices of the abused must be heard. We must all fight for justice, and we must all prove to society that women are not the weaker sex, and they are not to be stepped upon.

RAKSHASA-Part 2


Also see at-https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=720430937968397&set=a.227989033879259.69054.100000044923625&type=1&theater

(Continued from where we left off last time)

“Safe….safe,” he hissed as her words stung him again, tenderly but painfully ripping at his ears as the wind howled around him. He looked up and pawed the air. “You made a promise and you broke it when you left me. And I’m supposed to feel good? To still be in debt to you?”

A faint ripple of mirth had finally breathed past his cracked lips.

Soulless sighs washed over him from the entrance of the cave as he saw a slender arm reaching forward. His eyes had gone into a blur, into a shimmy, and he crossed the veil between this world and the next. Or
so he thought. But the shape grew brighter as the hand kept reaching. A slender hand with bruises, a young had but callused from a rough lifestyle,
The same hand that had caressed him unconditionally and gently, sweeping away his misery.

“Why now of all nights? What do you want?”
“Your faith left you,” the pained voice replied, “and so I came back. Besides, you keep on crying about everything. You were stronger as a child than you are as a man.”
Gritting his teeth as best he could, he reached out at the wall as the other hand grabbed him firmly and shifted gently inside. “Really?” came his sarcastic growl as he watched her body stepping lightly into his hellish home.

Moving back, he saw his handiwork.

Still bleeding terribly from her half-stitched, half-torn vulva, she knelt before him.

The hair was now immensely long, matted, flowing down to her buttocks in a hellish cascade with dried blood, mud and oily grime. Pale cheeks, pale but spectacularly beautiful, bore tear stains from crying for years with no hope. Her skin didn’t sag, but it looked deathly, salty white.
Standing painfully, not raising her head, she replied, “Yes my son, that’s pretty much it. You’re still trapped in your memories. There’s a world out there that hates our very being. I never told that wretched place about you but I would expect more knowledge from my child.”
She groped around the cave, looking for a place to lie down. Kicking off her sandals she leaned against the right wall.

“Your child,” he replied tersely, cupping the shifting face in his huge hands, “is still living in the stone shell you made for him years ago. If only you were still here. You had to leave me for all the men in Malayadesha, didn’t you? Or where was it truly you went? And I just want to know why.”

The voice that replied him was a serpentine hiss, but no ordinary snake could sound like she did. It had never failed to rasp at his soul, a steely, jagged, rusted blade that could flay a writhing beast as painfully as possible. He had been among the demons of the night, but what was this? This, this was like facing the mightiest Naga King himself, a dreadful monster with many heads who could kill a thousand men and not even break a sweat.
Even the reptilian eyes, the smooth and slender nude belly and limbs, all screamed, “Snake” at him.

She laughed like she could hear his thoughts.

Silvery but chilling him to the bone. “You have lived so long in the dark pit of your memories.”

“Memories of when you left. But tell me,” he circled her as she spread her legs out vulgarly-making a gush of excitement throb through his organ as she did, “are you really there? Or just my memories here to torment me?”

Tolerance


 Written for the Nation Jeans
We don’t live alone. We live with millions of other people and we share one world with them. Sadly it’s becoming more and more difficult to live with others, and so, the walls are built higher, and the conversations are cut short. However, what makes us distance our selves from fellow man?
No one is a carbon copy of another. There may be similarities, especially in the way we think. However, there will always be disagreements between people. This is mostly due to the various beliefs that coexist in this world. We could have religious or ethnic differences. But we could also disagree on the arts, on science and even history. If you take a math sum, there could only be one solution. However, there are many ways to get to that solution, and there could be disagreements regarding the method. One could say their method is the best, while another will scoff at that method.
While this could lead to a feeling of uneasiness between two people, it can expand to the communities they belong to. When this happens, what was once a battle between two people, becomes a war between two communities. Then the finger-pointing and name-calling begins and before you know it, you are forced to take a side. Entire nations have gone to war against each other due to a lack of one single thing. A thing that could have stopped all conflicts even before they started. This thing is what all religions preach, what all men and women should have. It is tolerance.
To tolerate isn’t to accept or agree with. We can agree with people, we can accept their beliefs. Yet, sometimes we just can’t. And it is better to be honest than be a blind-believer. An atheist cannot agree to the existence of a god, and he can’t accept god’s words. However, he can tolerate theist beliefs. Through tolerance we avoid conflicts and wars. We are able to coexist with people who have different beliefs.
Sadly, we are so used to taking an eye for and eye. All we want is to be proven right. We don’t want to accept that we are wrong or that there are beliefs different from our own. And so we forget tolerance and what we are taught from our very early days.
However, why is tolerance important? Why do we need to be tolerant?
Since we share a world with many others, we need to respect them. And when we respect a person, we respect their beliefs and opinions. With respect comes tolerance, because when we respect beliefs we don’t challenge them and we don’t pounce at people. Thus we need to be tolerant and respectful if we want to live in peace. Look at the world, there are wars going on everywhere. Some are wars for land. However, most are due to a lack of tolerance. Thus if we want to share this world and not kill each other, we need to be tolerant.

Tolerance also says a lot about our own beliefs. Do you believe in a doctrine that doesn’t promote tolerance, or worse, discourages tolerance? If so, you need to rethink your beliefs. This is not a ‘me, myself and I’ world. We need to give room for all beliefs, and thoughts. We can’t mock people just because they believe in something we don’t. And we definitely shouldn’t fight against each other because of disagreements or conflicts.
Non-vegetarians shouldn’t ridicule vegetarians. However, vegetarians too should be tolerant of meat-eaters. There are vegetarians and vegans who don’t allow people to eat meat when near them. However, they need to accept that their beliefs about food are not shared by everyone. And like a non-vegetarian respects a vegetarians eating habits, they too must respect a non-vegetarian’s food preferences.
Go back to that question on what makes us distance ourselves from fellow man. The answer is simple; it is the lack of tolerance that is abundant in today’s world.

RAKSHASA-Part 1

(Six months of drama are finally over, thank the gods. But I’ve just walked into exams, so this small bunch of posts will be a filler for something bigger and cooler.
This is a small story in a series that will be posted here. Don’t know how often, but still. As for that demon mask….I don’t know what possessed me to put it there)

(A rakshasa is a demonic humanoid from Indo-Sri Lankan mythology. It is either malevolent or benevolent, but is almost always depicted as a dark-skinned, fearsome-looking beast with a taste for human flesh. But what if the demon we all feared, was a human with merely the desire to be loved for what he is?)

The memory kept on playing itself a million times over in his mind as he felt the hardened, puckered scar tissues on his left cheek. The crinkled marks stretched down to his mouth, and pulled the slightest bit of skin towards the orifice full of big, powerful teeth. Images kept flashing again, cutting deeply through even his most jovial dreams.
Dreams of a mother.
A mother who was wild, pale and naked, cradling her offspring in her lap. That same cave, over twenty years ago was where she had fled.
That same cave where she wailed and wept into the inky night as her belly grew with him.
That very cave where the only ones who watched her scream with deathly agony were a small family of bats hanging from the left wall of the cave roof, wings obscuring their tiny faces.

He had been right here from the very start.

Warm milk flooded his tiny mouth as she cried again, the moon’s stray beams highlighting the monster she bore in her arms.
Raw, red eyes always half-closed.
No chin, but heavy brow ridges and nose.
Hair matted with blood.
Thickened gray patches of scarred and ridged skin; a strange, inhuman disease no doubt.
A terrifying child who could never be part of the world around him, given to her as a blessing by some infernal god.

But she still wept as only a mother could as the stench between her legs filled the cave. She kissed her bestial son a hundred times, whispering Buddhist prayers into his ear. And as she felt her vulva, caked with blood and membrane, she also heard his tiny heart beating with hers, a drum in that dark and distant night.

“Nothing will happen to you,” she promised him over and over, stroking the rough skin on his torso. “I promise, as long as you are here, I will forever keep you away from evil men.” The moon was at its peak.
Here was the glorious white eye in the sky telling her that it was them month of Vesak, a holy month. But even on the most sacred nights, she knew, some fiends from hell could cast their wretched spells on the weak and unknowing.

(Next part continues later)

In Memory of 30 Years since July 1983

This post originally appeared here on the writers personal blog ‘My Little Pink Notebook’ on the anniversary of July 1983

(This post is dedicated to the memory of those who suffered during Black July and the torturous events that followed) Yesterday marked 30 years since the blackest day in our nations history – we call it Black July. This marked the true beginning in many ways, of an ethnic conflict that leaves our earth soaked in blood, our families ravaged and worst of all – our children hopeless.

 I am one of those children. When I was born – like thousands of others – I would grow up never knowing what peace was. Bombs exploding, people dying, anger and pain were all a part of my day to day life. And I grew up in urban Colombo which was in many ways a hundred times better than anywhere else. I was desensitized to violence, in many ways I still am. Images of Siriya, Iraq etc. that cause the world to avert their eyes – cause the children of Sri Lanka to shrug and carry on. We’ve seen worse. We’ve survived worse. And sometimes – that’s something no one understands, we survived against all odds, so can you blame us for building an arsenal of weapons, like apathy? How else would we have survived?

 But if there is one thing I wish that someone would take away from this post is this – we are survivors. Our parents stayed and fought. Others did the same in ways they knew best. Sometimes from here, sometimes from away – and we survived. And now we need to heal and flourish. But to heal we must forgive, and this I say to the children of Sri Lanka scattered across the globe, their souls rooted in this island. The children of my generation, you were even luckier than I was. You grew up away from the fear and the pain and the de-sensitizing. And you were blessed for that. But when you call us apathetic, I disagree. It’s not that we don’t care – it’s just we see the bigger picture, we’re painting it. We know that we are an imperfect nation, and the pain may never go away. But we are trying, so please try with us. Try to see the good, and celebrate that too.

 Sri Lankan’s we all need to learn to be. Before we are Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher. Before we are Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, or even atheist. The first lesson we need to learn is how to be Sri Lanka – that’s how we move forward together.

 To quote me from earlier this year in ‘Being Sri Lankan’ – “To me – I have never imagined myself as any less Sri Lankan because I was from a minority That was not how I was raised, and that was not how the people around me saw themselves. But what scares me is that as a nation we spend so much time drawing lines around our communities, that we forget the things that bind us together”

Unity Camp 6: Killinochchi – The Experience of a Lifetime

Shortly after graduating from college in a great move by the universe I was invited to be a part of Ekamuthu Orray Makkal Unity Mission Trust (for those confused by the first three words; Ekamuthu’ is Sinhalese for ‘Unity’ and ‘Oray Makkal’ is Tamil for ‘One People’)

The Unity Mission Trust has been in existence since May 2009 and is a non-profit Trust that is dedicated to fostering unity, integration, healing and reconciliation between the teenagers and young adults in the Wanni area and their peers from all over Sri Lanka.

 This October from the 17th to the 20th I joined the crew that piled into 3 buses, 2 vans – as head of the Media and Publicity Team. 500 student leaders aged 15-20, and 40 teachers from 70 schools all the way from Jaffna to Matara gathered at Killinochchi Central College (KCC) for Unity Camp 6. The Camp works on the basis of separating the students from their friends and placing them in groups with others, some of whom don’t even speak the same language. Together they compete in drama, dance, music, art, sports, and speech, overcoming whatever racial barriers that might have separated them before. I am not going to launch into the details of the program etc – you can find out everything you need to know about what the kids did here. What I am going to do is try to articulate the feelings that stir the depths of your soul when you realize that 4 days can change lives, bring people together, that there is hope.

Being a part of the team that undertakes projects of such a scale is another experience in itself. Logistics for nearly 600 people to sleep, eat, and carry out the camp itself in Killinochchi took up much of the teams free time for months. This is an entirely volunteer run organization – not one of us who stayed up, sometimes past midnight organizing, packing, planning, doing files, raising funds – are paid. It’s done for a greater reason upon which no value can be placed. Then comes the day when at 5am we pile into buses and drive to Killinochchi with stops along the way to pick up people, stretch our legs and finally you arrive. No resting – 500 students need to be registered and the hall prepared for the opening ceremony, buses and lorries need to be unloaded, and students need to be prevented from switching groups. The opening ceremony runs with a showcase of talents and then comes the tough part – the students are placed in their groups and the organizing committee does some switching around to ensure they are mixed up as throughly as possible. There are tears and resisting, but we are firm. After the rules are reviewed and the students briefed, dinner is served. The committee has no time to rest – after ensuring dinner is handled, the girls round up the female students and chaperone them to Killinochchi Maha Vidayalaya where their sleeping quarters are. In the meantime the boys check to ensure the dorms and sleeping arrangements at KCC are sorted, and once the students are settled the team sits down for a meeting. Those not staying at either of the schools with the students head off to the army camps, which have been generously offered by the Sri Lankan Army to us. This is usually close upon midnight.

The next day begins at 8.30am after breakfast when everyone gathers back at KCC with a Music Session to get everyone in the mood, headed by our Musical Director Rukshan Perera. Over the next few days team members run non-stop working tirelessly to ensure the smooth running of the numerous activities, challenges and mountains of work that comes with such a project. But through it all the most amazing experience is watching the students slowly form bonds with one another. They turn from the nervous, uncomfortable faced girls and boys that sit – near-silent, awkwardly smiling with one another, to hugging and crying on the fourth day when they are leaving. One has to see this with their own eyes to realize that four days can break barriers, that the youth has a lack of inhibition when it comes to embracing new opportunities and really are the hope of our nation.

The talent that comes from them blows you away. They sing, dance, act, create, speak, excel athletically, – all with just a few hours at most to prepare. Trophies are awarded to the most outstanding group leaders, campers, and based on a points system – a winning group emerges. But nothing touches your heart like the very end of camp. Students who speak about their experiences at the open forum begin to cry, overcome by emotion. They hug their new found friends and have to be nearly forced to board the buses. You realize that human connections are beyond language, race, religion, soci-economic backgrounds, gender, and any of these limitations we place upon ourselves.

You watch the candle ceremony and can’t hold back your tears when you see a sea of light shining back. This light is carried by remarkable young men and women who sing our national anthem with pride and then chant in one voice “Sri Lanka” repeatedly.

You realize that the future of our country has hope, the dream of one people is tangibly close to a reality.

You realize that you are a part of a much bigger picture – but what you can do in your small capacity can make real change. Sometimes we need to step out of our little bubbles and start releasing the potential we harbor.

We can do so much more than just talk, and more than can – we need to. The change we leave behind is the real legacy we leave. Not how popular you were, how much money you made, how big your CV and accomplishments were – but by how many lives you touched and transformed.