The stranger

Rochelle, Vasika and I decided to meet at Dutch Hospital a few months ago. I went there early in order to get some work done, and ordered lunch and a drink. While typing the story I had to complete before the day ended, I heard someone say “excuse me.” I tried to block off the voice, especially since I assumed he was talking to a waiter. However, a second ‘excuse me’ from that direction caught my attention. I turned to see a somewhat rugged looking man looking at me.

He asked if he could join me, and all the warnings about not talking to strangers flooded to my mind. However, I was in need of some company, and the place was safe enough to talk with a stranger. He came over with his cup of coffee and bag, and sat next to me.
I learned that he was from Spain, and was coaching tennis at St Peters College. He told me he was living in Wellawatte, and traveled around. He had been to Negombo and was planning on taking the train to Kandy. He wanted to meditate, and had found a monastery he could spend time in. He was in knee length shorts, a skinny and had slightly long hair. He looked quite the hippie or wanderer.
We discussed cultures and how different people are. We discussed religion and how important it is to have faith but not let it control your life. We talked about Sri Lankan culture and how close we are as people, and Spanish culture where people are more distant. He talked about the time he spent in the US, studying. He told me how he found coaching Sri Lankan students was so much more easier, since they didn’t take out their phones during each break.
He, at one point, took out a little bag and some paper. He was about to roll a joint, and I told him he’ll have to smoke elsewhere. He never took offense and told me he kept looking at me to see if I was feeling uncomfortable. He then put the little bag away and he said he was trying to quit smoking and was happy I was honest about how I felt about smoking.
He asked about our blog, and we told him. He was happy to hear we were writing about a topic many chose to ignore. He was happy to see that people still write, and for a cause too.
We discussed so much more. We talked about a lot of things. His accent made things quite difficult to understand at first, but we got used to it. Finally, all he left behind was his email address. He never asked for our details.
We were strangers who decided to trust each other and have lengthy discussions on various topics. We shook hands knowing we may never see each other again. And yet, it didn’t matter. In many ways, we had crossed borders. We had broken at least one string that held us back.
During interviews, I take down notes and usually record it too. This, however, wasn’t for a story to be published in a newspaper, only to be buried under more important stories. It wasn’t an interview. And it happened some time back. I don’t remember all things we talked about and there could be a few inaccuracies about the details I spoke about here. Forgive me, but my mind doesn’t remember much.
If I meet him again, I may not recognize him at once. However I doubt I will forget him.
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A celebration of love


It’s Valentine’s Day today and a day to celebrate love. We at WFR believe that everyday should be a celebration of love, and our blog posts posted over the course of more than 10 months spoke about love in all its glorious and multitudinous forms. Thus Valentine’s Day belongs to all of us, “for love comes more naturally to the human heart than it’s opposite”(Nelson Mandela). Best wishes and lots of love from the WFR team! 🙂

Novella

(I love posting these up…..it’s the shortest novella post I’ve ever done due to being so busy and lacking time to type these in)

“Why are you doing this? Why would you invite me to a meal after last night?”
“And every other night too? I still have the scars,” she replied simply, “plus I think the nightmares still keep coming back. You”-she got up here-“beat our son almost every night, you’ve scolded him, hurt him so much. Is that how far you would go? You…you would draw the blood of your own wife and child…”
He kept his back turned towards her.
“But,” she continued, “are you willing to explain yourself? Your actions?”
“Actions…Actions are such strange things. The acts you wish to commit, the choices you make in life, sometimes you feel as if everything really matters. But what if it all didn’t in the end? I was told somewhere that we all take our deeds with us, trailing behind us, with a chain of actions peppered with a million desires. Some of us want to burn this chain, or else wish that our chains could just strangle us in our beds to put us to rest at last. Or to swamp our souls and bodies, to have our being disappear forever….actions,” he flirted with the word for a minute or two with a strange glance in his eyes and a smile that looked like he was still  under the effects of drink, “actions are so, so strange.” Laughing drunkenly, he ran his hand through his hair and leered at her. “So what will my next action be? What will yours be? Or our son’s?”
He glanced at her once more quickly.

“You’re abnormal.”

Peace

Such a strange word it is

Pieces of which we are given
During various stages
Of our lives
For the full image
We have to fight
Quite ironic, it is
But isn’t life too like that?
We live to die
This word though
It’s meaning
People argue over
‘It is this’
Says one
‘It is that’
Says another
They fight
First with words
Then with weapon
More deadly
And they go on fighting
Not realizing
Each fight
Each battle
Each war
Drains this word
This created idea
This seemingly nonexistent condition
And yet we seek
Under rock after rock
Through ocean after ocean
Beyond sky after sky
And finally we find it
At the end of the race
When epiphany ends
Sansara’s never ending game
When realization dawns
And life ceases to be

Independence Day


February fourth, for quite a few of us, is just another day. It’s a day to stay at home and enjoy the deafening noise of the air crafts that fly above us. The national flag may be hoisted, almost as if it is enough to prove our patriotism. Yet, in general, it isn’t a day we make too big a deal of.
The fight for independence is something we learn from textbooks. We learn about individuals like Ponnambalam Ramanadan and S Mahinda Thero just because its part of our history syllabus. British colonization and the release from its claws are part of our story. However, it is a chapter we never lived through. For many of us, it’s a time that belongs with the stories about kings, invasions and battles. The years seem so far away, even though we weren’t completely free from the British until 1972, a few decades ago.
Looking at the song Master Sir, it isn’t a song many of us relate to. We never had to bow down to the white-skinned, nor do we have to fear or respect them. While it may not seem so, gone are the days when they were the masters and we were the slaves. And did the British themselves realize it was time to leave and sail back to their lands happily? Did they hand over the nation to its occupants without putting up a fight?
People of all religions, castes and ethnicity stood together and fought for their rights. There was bloodshed, there were heated arguments and wasted words. After years of no complaints, Sri Lankans started rising against the British forces. They said, ‘enough is enough’ and didn’t stop until the British were driven away from the island.
After all this, what do they get? A few faded flags that are hoisted just because we are expected to? People meaninglessly wishing each other through text messages?
We worship our motherland. We respect her. We love her and swear to die for her. Yet, how many fought for her?
Look at the Civil War that is still fresh in our minds. We saw the number of death increase by the hour. We can now visit places where once, thousands were killed, where blood was shed. All the fear, hate, anger we felt just a few years ago, was felt decades ago too. Today, we walk around freely thanks to the soldiers who fought for peace. Decades ago, our parents and grandparents walked around freely thanks to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives for the nation.
One may argue that February 4 wasn’t the day we were able to cut all strings that tied us to the British. However, it isn’t about what day it is, or what month it is. Independence Day is just like Mothers Day or Teachers Day; you can’t limit pride of your nation or how thankful you are for the freedom fighters to just one day. Thus it is not the significance of the day that matters the most, but the significance of what the day stands for.
Finally, Independence Day is a reminder. It reminds us of the history we keep forgetting. Every year, we are told of the fights, the individuals and their dedication. We are reminded that freedom isn’t a gift. It’s not offered for free. We didn’t have to pay the price decades ago. But someone had to. Their names are slowly being forgotten. There are more recent and maybe more important events to remember. However, they deserve to be remembered. We owe it to them.
Thus Independence Day might be insulted or ignored by certain people. However, it will also continue to be a day when we all hold hands and remember that not that long ago, we were ruled by a foreign people. And that if not for those freedom fighters, we wouldn’t be as independent as we are today.

CELEBRATION

He had never wanted to stand all day in the blazing heat of the early-noon sun, but when he was called out he queued up obediently as he  had done all those months ago when he first arrived there. White shirts, clean, crisp and reflecting the burning light into other eyes around him were all crowded up, little soldiers awaiting their turn to fling down their weapons and let loose the doves of peace. Everywhere silence reigned around him, a heavy sheet lifting and dropping onto the crowds.
They even forgot about the blaze above them.
Even forgetting their playmates, their compatriots.

Little flags in the image of the one they all beheld, majestically battling the currents of hot air, were waved by little hands in the crowd.

A maroon center, a snarling lion raising his sword in triumph, having won all the battles his beautiful nation had to go through. He was their champion, their guardian, and his sightless eye put a chill through the minds of all who beheld him.
Fluttering in tune with the chorus of prayers, the flag kept flying. No birds were in that sky this morning. It and its partner would fly unhindered by any of nature’s punishments. The air itself was made today for celebration. Some higher powers that the boy would never understand, had breathed down onto the institution today.

A powerful master.

The prayers were all unto Him.
Four faiths, one master to watch over all that was fading and mortal.

Again the little boy looked at the crowd around him. Prayers to the nation swelling from devoted hearts. Applause from everywhere he stood. Teachers standing sentinel over their little students, chiding occasionally and advising at times whenever something went wrong.
He had never really thought why all this would be necessary. The most oft-repeated words at the gathering were “Freedom”, “God” and “Independence”. What these were, he couldn’t know now. Maybe sometime later.
All he knew was that there was both happiness and sorrow in the vast crowd of thousands. Happiness that once upon a time, the chains of slavery had been melted away to create one land of thinkers, a land of greats who would rise up to any challenge, to extend their claws like a vicious lion on the hunt. But also to draw away and rest like the great cat would at the end of the deadly race, all the while bearing his noble majesty.
This was where he was born. This would be where he would love, learn, fight, play and run, with the countless others that stood beneath the two flags that made them family.
One bearing the lion warrior’s crest.
The other one blue, slashed in black.

You know you are Sri Lankan when…

Our nationality is something to be proud of. Being Sri Lankan isn’t just about what’s on your birth certificate. There are certain characteristics that create the identity of a Sri Lankan.
You know you are Sri Lankan when you will do anything for a bargain or discount. Promotional offers and year- end sales are things that we all dream of. Sometimes, we even buy things we have no real need for just because we are offered a discount.
Tea is a day-starter. Some prefer coffee, but tea is what we truly love. There’s milk tea, plain tea, ginger tea, cinnamon tea and a whole lot more. In fact, a day isn’t complete without at least a cup of tea. What’s even better is when you soak a Tikiri Marie biscuit in a steaming cup of coffee and then eat it.
Watalappan or chocolate biscuit pudding are must have desserts. There is also a curd and milk toffee. Lunch is perfect if its yellow rice, and better if it’s wrapped in a banana leaf. Sri Lankans also need spicy food, and usually the lunu miris, sambol and curries leave you breathing fire.
Sri Lankans love holidays. Besides the 12 Poya holidays a year, and weekends, we also look forward to the other religious and cultural holidays. The New Year, Christmas, Thai Pongal, we don’t even need to celebrate those days, but the holiday is looked forward to by all. In fact all days marked in red in the calendar are worthy of countdowns.

Something that most Sri Lankans do is use words that have lost its real meaning. We end questions and sentences with no or na. Phrases and words like, sin ane, aiyo, it seems (pronounced itsims) and I say are said so frequently they have become Sri Lankan words.
Everyone of your parent’s generation is an aunty or uncle. You do not refer to people as Mr or Mrs. Anyone of your generation but older is akka or aiya and anyone younger is nangi or malli. This is very convenient since remembering the names of your friends, friend’s friends, parent’s friends and so on isn’t quite that easy.
When introducing a friend of the opposite sex to your parents or grandparents, prepare yourself for a thousand and one questions. Make sure you two don’t have any ‘cute moments’ or by the time you blink, you’ll find yourself on a poruwa, being married off to that person. You are better off pretending you have no friends of the opposite sex, since most parents believe all romantic relationships are heterosexual.

Everyone knows each other. If you give them the time, our grandparents could trace our history right to Adam and Eve! Further, there’s no such thing as a distant relative. Everyone is family and our grandparents are ever ready to prove this.

The Police have little work because when a house is broken into, the neighbors will chase the thief, catch him, beat him and tie him up before calling the cops. And how do people prepare for this? By playing Hora-Police all day as kids.

Looking at sports, no Sri Lankan is a ‘real’ Sri Lankan if he or she doesn’t like cricket. Whether we win or lose, cricket will remain an absolute favorite and people don’t even mind staying away from work or school on a day a match is being played.
You are also Sri Lankan if you complain about the crazy driving skills off Sri Lankans, but don’t follow road rules yourself. In fact, while we complain about buses that are just too fast, we also complain about slow buses, which are usually going at the required speed.

Stores and houses are forever decorated. In April, stores bring out their Avurudu decorations. These remain until May, when they are modified to suit Vesak. The two following Poyas also enjoy the lights and lanterns. Then the cleaning up is put of until it’s November, and it makes no sense to take down the decorations since Christmas is just around the corner. And so the Vesak decorations become Christmas decorations and they stay on until April. There are also the in between matches, carnivals and other celebrations which leave the country forever decorated.
Of course, one can write volumes about what it is to be a Sri Lankan. It’s more than our accent and long names. It’s everything that makes us brothers and sisters; what makes millions of people family.

Our nationality is something to be proud of. Being Sri Lankan isn’t just about what’s on your birth certificate. There are certain characteristics that create the identity of a Sri Lankan.
You know you are Sri Lankan when you will do anything for a bargain or discount. Promotional offers and year- end sales are things that we all dream of. Sometimes, we even buy things we have no real need for just because we are offered a discount.
Tea is a day-starter. Some prefer coffee, but tea is what we truly love. There’s milk tea, plain tea, ginger tea, cinnamon tea and a whole lot more. In fact, a day isn’t complete without at least a cup of tea. What’s even better is when you soak a Tikiri Marie biscuit in a steaming cup of coffee and then eat it.
Watalappan or chocolate biscuit pudding are must have desserts. There is also a curd and milk toffee. Lunch is perfect if its yellow rice, and better if it’s wrapped in a banana leaf. Sri Lankans also need spicy food, and usually the lunu miris, sambol and curries leave you breathing fire.
Sri Lankans love holidays. Besides the 12 Poya holidays a year, and weekends, we also look forward to the other religious and cultural holidays. The New Year, Christmas, Thai Pongal, we don’t even need to celebrate those days, but the holiday is looked forward to by all. In fact all days marked in red in the calendar are worthy of countdowns.
Something that most Sri Lankans do is use words that have lost its real meaning. We end questions and sentences with no or na. Phrases and words like, sin ane, aiyo, it seems (pronounced itsims) and I say are said so frequently they have become Sri Lankan words.
Everyone of your parent’s generation is an aunty or uncle. You do not refer to people as Mr or Mrs. Anyone of your generation but older is akka or aiya and anyone younger is nangi or malli. This is very convenient since remembering the names of your friends, friend’s friends, parent’s friends and so on isn’t quite that easy.
When introducing a friend of the opposite sex to your parents or grandparents, prepare yourself for a thousand and one questions. Make sure you two don’t have any ‘cute moments’ or by the time you blink, you’ll find yourself on a poruwa, being married off to that person. You are better off pretending you have no friends of the opposite sex, since most parents believe all romantic relationships are heterosexual.
Everyone knows each other. If you give them the time, our grandparents could trace our history right to Adam and Eve! Further, there’s no such thing as a distant relative. Everyone is family and our grandparents are ever ready to prove this.
The Police have little work because when a house is broken into, the neighbors will chase the thief, catch him, beat him and tie him up before calling the cops. And how do people prepare for this? By playing Hora-Police all day as kids.
Looking at sports, no Sri Lankan is a ‘real’ Sri Lankan if he or she doesn’t like cricket. Whether we win or lose, cricket will remain an absolute favorite and people don’t even mind staying away from work or school on a day a match is being played.
You are also Sri Lankan if you complain about the crazy driving skills off Sri Lankans, but don’t follow road rules yourself. In fact, while we complain about buses that are just too fast, we also complain about slow buses, which are usually going at the required speed.
Stores and houses are forever decorated. In April, stores bring out their Avurudu decorations. These remain until May, when they are modified to suit Vesak. The two following Poyas also enjoy the lights and lanterns. Then the cleaning up is put of until it’s November, and it makes no sense to take down the decorations since Christmas is just around the corner. And so the Vesak decorations become Christmas decorations and they stay on until April. There are also the in between matches, carnivals and other celebrations which leave the country forever decorated.
Of course, one can write volumes about what it is to be a Sri Lankan. It’s more than our accent and long names. It’s everything that makes us brothers and sisters; what makes millions of people family.
– See more at: http://www.nation.lk/edition/lifestyle/item/25353-you-know-you-are-sri-lankan-when.html#sthash.QoOrpOTn.dpuf