Respect is the word

Appeared in Free magazine, Nation newspaper on April 20
We live in a day and age where respect for others, their beliefs and even for one’s self is no more. Perhaps this is one of the major reasons for the decline of our society. 
Do you have an atheist friend or friend who believes in another religion other than yours? Have you ever tried to convince her or him otherwise? What about a friend with a different sexual orientation? What have you felt and have you made any rude remarks? While personally we may feel differently and have opposing views the key for co-existence is respect. We need to respect what they believe in as they respect ours. Humans can never agree on everything but we must heed what the other has got to say and find common ground.
Today people can be shockingly rude. It is not uncommon to hear racist and derogatory remarks in public aimed directly at people who are within earshot. And usually in most cases they are totally uncalled for. People are not tolerant of other religions or another’s traditions which can be seen in a recent spate of incidents in our country and around the world which is upsetting. And if we thought the caste system is no more, then we are mistaken as still many who consider they belong to communities of the upper class do not enter in to marriage with those from lower castes. Superstitions and misconceptions about gypsies exist even today.
Pic by Sakuna Gamage
Is it really difficult to give up a seat in a bus to a member of clergy of another religion other than yours and give them the due respect? Or hand a coin to a beggar who is clearly from another religion? Or to have some reverence at a temple, a church, a kovil or a mosque?  Shockingly, people do not even respect the dead anymore; with news of grave robbing  being commonplace now in society.
Sadly, even respect for the institution of marriage is somewhat lost. Wives and Husbands do not respect each other enough to be faithful to their bond. Children do not respect their parents or teachers anymore. People do not even respect themselves and stoop low for various reasons by accepting or giving bribes, stealing and lying.
The world doesn’t have to be a dreary place as I have made it sound like. All one needs to do is have some respect. 
‘Respect for ourselves guides our morals; respect for others guides our manners’
I can’t agree more with this quote. Respect one another, as we the youth need to ensure wars will not be fought in this beautiful country and racism will not have a place in our society. Be faithful to your partner, and protect the institution called marriage, it is not a whim or fancy you can discard as you please. Respect our parents and teachers as they are our guides in life, they have shaped us in to who we have become today. We owe everything we know to them. Do not steal from others, respect the fact they have worked hard to earn everything they own.
Despite whatever we think there is absolutely no difference between us. So mostly respect one another as humans because beyond all the races, religions, castes, creeds, skin colors and various other differences, we are all the same.

A CELEBRATION OF PLATH

There are many who seem to think of the darkness within them, and all around, as being something of comfort that they can live with. Sometimes they embrace the depths of this darkness so much that it is a part of them. It follows them around like a terrifying shadow which then leads to manic depression and strange episodes which prompt others to believe that these people are losing their minds.
Yet it is no real loss of  the senses. It is merely a newer window into a form of creative genius that most dare not tap into. For when they do, they do not tame and properly reconcile with  their personal demons, this rare chance to finally see the light gives rise to the most disturbing works of literature ever produced.
Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932-September 11, 1963) was a woman who thrived within her blackened shell. She wrote guided by her dark passenger’s hand and thus questioned much of what was possible to say within the poetic circle. This was not the horror of the supernatural that Poe was in love with but a new kind of terrifying subject had found its way into her world. This was the creation of a swirling vortex of the deep, dramatic and disturbing. Death, cruelty and even a form of anti-Nazism found their way into her writings.
Her images may be of the heart, sometimes of God, but they are in no way pleasant.

Today the WFR team brings to you a poet who is considered by most to be the patron saint of self-dramatization and self-pity.

DADDY

       You do not do, you do not do   Any more, black shoeIn which I have lived like a foot   For thirty years, poor and white,   Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.

Daddy, I have had to kill you.   
You died before I had time——
Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,   
Ghastly statue with one gray toe   
Big as a Frisco seal

And a head in the freakish Atlantic   
Where it pours bean green over blue   
In the waters off beautiful Nauset.   
I used to pray to recover you.
Ach, du.

In the German tongue, in the Polish town   
Scraped flat by the roller
Of wars, wars, wars.
But the name of the town is common.   
My Polack friend

Says there are a dozen or two.   
So I never could tell where you   
Put your foot, your root,
I never could talk to you.
The tongue stuck in my jaw.

It stuck in a barb wire snare.   
Ich, ich, ich, ich,
I could hardly speak.
I thought every German was you.   
And the language obscene

An engine, an engine
Chuffing me off like a Jew.
A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.   
I began to talk like a Jew.
I think I may well be a Jew.

The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of Vienna   
Are not very pure or true.
With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luck   
And my Taroc pack and my Taroc pack
I may be a bit of a Jew.

I have always been scared of you,
With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.   
And your neat mustache
And your Aryan eye, bright blue.
Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——

Not God but a swastika
So black no sky could squeak through.   
Every woman adores a Fascist,   
The boot in the face, the brute   
Brute heart of a brute like you.

You stand at the blackboard, daddy,   
In the picture I have of you,
A cleft in your chin instead of your foot   
But no less a devil for that, no not   
Any less the black man who

Bit my pretty red heart in two.
I was ten when they buried you.   
At twenty I tried to die
And get back, back, back to you.
I thought even the bones would do.

But they pulled me out of the sack,   
And they stuck me together with glue.   
And then I knew what to do.
I made a model of you,
A man in black with a Meinkampf look

And a love of the rack and the screw.   
And I said I do, I do.
So daddy, I’m finally through.
The black telephone’s off at the root,   
The voices just can’t worm through.

If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——
The vampire who said he was you   
And drank my blood for a year,
Seven years, if you want to know.
Daddy, you can lie back now.

There’s a stake in your fat black heart   
And the villagers never liked you.
They are dancing and stamping on you.   
They always knew it was you.
Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.


It is thus extremely clear from this narrative work that Plath was deeply resentful of her father for being a Nazi supporter. He was, after all, German, named Otto Plath. He was also over two decades older than her mother Aurelia, which might have meant something to Plath herself. Clearly the narrative, which is full of short, abrupt sentences tells us that she is driving her point into us hard, and dramatically to boot.
The word “black” shows up a number of times. It is obviously a show of personal darkness, and the darkness inside her because of her father. She blames him openly for her suicide attempts. She had done many of these during her episodes of depression. By calling herself a “Jew” she is using a word for the term hatred since she hates him, and it makes him hate her as well.

MIRROR

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful —
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Now I am a lake. A woman bends over me,
Searching my reaches for what she really is.
Then she turns to those liars, the candles or the moon.
I see her back, and reflect it faithfully.
She rewards me with tears and an agitation of hands.
I am important to her. She comes and goes.
Each morning it is her face that replaces the darkness.
In me she has drowned a young girl, and in me an old woman

Rises toward her day after day, like a terrible fish.

Poets do not regularly tackle the subject of aging and the agony that comes out of it, but in this short poetic work, Plath once again is giving us an insight into her mind. She tells us in the first line of the poem that she is “exact”. This and a continuing series of sentences and words that tell us about the “four-cornered” nature of the mirror seem to say that she has been feeling restricted and that is thus driving her insane. No artistic person likes to be restricted, or else they feel paralyzed. Plath however clearly says that a mirror is always truthful. She is growing old and that is all the mirror can tell her.
Yet her views do change within the lost time between the two verses. The word “lake” tells us that she now has a broader mirror, which has stretched out, possibly due to seeing the reality of things. Attempting to deny aging, despite what the mirror told her, was something that she might have tried earlier but not anymore. She had come to realize the all-consuming nature of old age. 
Plath also writes in the first person, and as the reflective surface itself. What really lies behind the mirror? Authors the world over have attempted to answer this question. But what is clear is that when the mirror is personified we see what Plath herself sees inside her soul when she looks into the mirror. 

THE ARRIVAL OF THE BEE-BOX

I ordered this, clean wood box
Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.
I would say it was the coffin of a midget
Or a square baby
Were there not such a din in it.
The box is locked, it is dangerous.
I have to live with it overnight
And I can’t keep away from it.
There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.
There is only a little grid, no exit.
I put my eye to the grid.
It is dark, dark,
With the swarmy feeling of African hands
Minute and shrunk for export,
Black on black, angrily clambering.
How can I let them out?
It is the noise that appalls me most of all,
The unintelligible syllables.
It is like a Roman mob,
Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!
I lay my ear to furious Latin.
I am not a Caesar.
I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.
They can be sent back.
They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.
I wonder how hungry they are.
I wonder if they would forget me
If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.
There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,
And the petticoats of the cherry.
They might ignore me immediately
In my moon suit and funeral veil.
I am no source of honey
So why should they turn on me?
Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.
The box is only temporary.
In our final poem, we have Plath dealing with the concept of death itself. She tells the reader that it is a “wooden box” at first and then we have the image of a coffin. We also have the aural image of thousands of droning, angry bees. Of course nobody would be foolish enough to deal with a box full of bees. A large number, when irritated, can kill you. Therefore bees is a metaphor for death. The box is another means of restraint. Death is kept in restraint until the coup de grace,  the final blow when it attacks you and overtakes you completely. Plath is telling us that she has mixed emotions about dying, about whether or not to open the box. She cannot bear to hear the bees inside the wooden box. The same way she contemplates suicide. However she does say that “The box is only temporary.” 
Does this indicate that she believes in the afterlife, that death is a temporary phase? One cannot yet be sure but perhaps it is. In any case it is one of her most disturbing poems. 

A few thoughts on Easter

About a year ago, a friend suggested that I watch the movie “Facing the Giants”.  One song from this amazingly inspirational movie remains in my “most played” playlist even to this date. To quote a few verses from this song which is titled “Completely”,

Such is the relationship that a Christian expects to have with God; a complete surrender unto Him who created us; an intimate friendship with Him who guides us through the toils and snares of earthly life.
Yet, being human, we falter along the way. Our weaknesses drag us down. Sin enslaves the best of us. Little by little, we distance ourselves from God’s unfailing love.
The season of Lent is a good time to reflect on our lives and turn back towards God. For forty days preceding Easter we engage in prayer, acts of penance, confession, fasting and other rituals to help us in this process. We commemorate “…that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-7)
Today is Easter Sunday, one of the most important days in the liturgical calendar. It is a joyful day for Christians around the world as it marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For Christians and non-Christians alike, it is a beautiful day in spring. As blossoming flowers and twittering birds delight your senses, let today be a day of hope and new beginnings. Let it be a reminder that it’s never too late to start afresh and set things right. On behalf of the “Written for Reconciliation” team, I wish a happy Easter to all believers! May the joy of the Lord be with you all!

NOVELLA

(Another of these…about Ishwari herself now…..)

“So tell me why you dare to cower before the one who turned your spine into an iron rod.”

“Parashakti please! You were never meant to stay back here, I thought you didn’t have to come back here anymore.” Ishwari was weeping bitterly, but she couldn’t look at the abominable apparition that darkened the room. “Mother, you shouldn’t be here, it’s not natural! You’re scaring your grandchild!”
“And it was you who burdened her with something so powerful as a curse!”

Parashakti snarled at her daughter, and reached down to Ishwari’s ankles. The living woman drew back again in terror as her mother started taking on a solid form, something that she knew could touch her. Only her touch made her skin crawl. She locked her eyes, not even daring to scream, and ringing metallic clangs filled the bedroom, an orchestra that chilled the blood to the lowest degree.
Ishwari shut her eyes, but she still saw her mother bending down and tighten the manacle she made specifically for them. She saw Parashakti’s body becoming so solid that the day of her death was clearer now.
Ishwari could even smell the ominous sweetness of camphor, coconut oil and kerosene in the room. Her mother’s screams of madness had turned into roars as she cursed at her disease as it took over her body with terrifying speed. The cries pierced Ishwari’s heart like a knife as she ran out of her mother’s bedroom, and onto the street.
Now there was nowhere to turn, nobody to turn to either. But the flames shot up through the bedroom window, the stately, albeit still maddened woman clutching her burning, oil-stained sari against her body and racing out of their house. “What are you doing? What is this?” shouted the sixteen-year-old in protest as the crawling, clawing bundle of burning humanity tried to reach for her. But she only kept feeding her flames with more oil that she had stored in a tiny bottle.

“I…trained you….to be powerful!…Ishwari…Ishwari Ramakrishna…if you cry I will hunt you down and…kill you….” The disjointed voice was swallowing her up, and it was indeed her mother’s. But this burning monster couldn’t be talking through her murderous yells.
She had been backed into the alley near their house, and some of the beggars there tried to extend their hands to her. But the flaming, tottering monster who had fallen down in a heap at her daughter’s feet was practically Kali incarnate. They were unable to even move in without fearing death at any minute.
“Mother…Para…Parashakti….you,” she tried her best to bite back tears as she hid her face in her blanket, “you…you were the richest devadasi of them all! Why did you have to do this and leave me alone? You are the one who wanted to turn me into a sex-crazed demon like yourself! But this? And in front of me? Why?”
“I wanted you to be strong!! BE STRONG! I live within you!” screamed the devilish voice once more, although it was obvious that the scarred and charred carcass was not the one who was saying it. “We had our nights together, I showed you how it was to dominate any man you met! Look how they’re looking at you now,” the monster kept stabbing her daughter with her words. The alley became as dark as hell to Ishwari.

Soldiers who had been on their nightly city patrol were rushing to the aid of some of the servants who were struggling to make it out of the inferno…

One or two offered to carry Ishwari, but she could only feel their hands as sweaty clamps trying to break into her again and make her shriek in pain…the same way Parashakti watched with cold eyes as her daughter bled out in torrents under the power of the drunk nattuvanar. He had roared maliciously like a raging tiger as he pinned her down and gored her with his manhood, the tearing pain shooting from her legs to her chest as he bore his great weight on her young breasts. Then came the climax.
Sharp teeth and nails caught hold of the drunkard’s neck and he screamed as she used all her strength to attack him, ripping his skin as a vortex of anger, sorrow and pain swelled in her.
“Well done,” was all Parashakti had said, pulling the bleeding man off her horrifically broken daughter, “now you can be stronger than any man you chose to be with. Clean up that blood you young fool, clean it up! Never let him inside you, never let him cross the line when it comes to sex. Women are prayed to, as mothers we are goddesses, we undergo hardship to bring about life, and we continue to suffer as the men around us keep gathering wives like cattle, only to mate with us and enslave us. They might have several men and women in their lives, all to treat as playthings. So remember that…”
“ENOUGH!”
Her scream was ten times more powerful now than it was then.

“MOTHER STOP IT PLEASE!” Yashodha was crying as only frightened children could cry, burying her head in the protective folds of the sheet.

Ishwari’s moans of agony tore above the cries of her poor daughter.

She still shut her eyes and her tears flowed freely down her cheeks. “I strengthened you! Never fall in love if you are to be on top, to be a strong woman! We must always be powerful and beautiful, carry our heads high and beat down whoever male idiots who cross us, let no man be above you, in life or in bed. You’re just an ordinary woman, small before everything more powerful than yourself. Will you jump on a bloody pyre when the father of your brat dies?” Parashakti snapped coldly. “Abandon that other woman of yours! The women of our family were never meant to find true love, and that heartless northern witch will never love you back. She will be the reason for your undoing, Ishwari. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. Why else would we be tied by an iron chain? Every feeling of love you have towards her strengthens it and every time you resent…”
Her daughter lifted her head slowly. “Resent? Resent? I…That’s an understatement, I…I want you to burn in hell!” Ishwari growled. “You were always a monster to me, my sisters and I all hated you, but they were lucky! I had to suffer, I was a girl and the youngest, a double curse upon me.” She straightened her back. “Let me and my daughter find real love! I don’t care if I have to die, but the woman I want shall be mine, and when I’ve lain with her I’ll spit on your grave.”

Happy New Year!

Avurudu, at home, is slightly different this year. I fell sick and couldn’t help with any of the chores and thus didn’t feel part of any of the preparations. There are less sweets this time. Less excitement. This is when it really hit me that avurudu isn’t only about auspicious times, rituals and the sun’s movements. Avurudu isn’t a Buddhist thing or a Hindu thing. It’s a Sri Lankan thing.
You mayn’t believe that certain times are better than the rest. After all, it isn’t the sun’s placing that determines the outcome of our behavior. Our lives aren’t based on nakath and rituals. Maybe you didn’t use a new pot to boil milk this year, maybe you don’t follow any of the rituals. Does this make you less Sri Lankan? Any less human?
Look at reconciliation and the journey to reconciliation. There is a need to be one when trying to be reconciled. This is something the New Year offers. At the auspicious time, thousands of families across the island will be doing the same thing. A fire was lit at the President’s house and a fire was lit in a pol athu palaya. There is uniformity in these rituals, making us one nation, and not divided beings.
Our posts titled An Ode to the Sky speak about how we all share one sky, and how, under the great heavens, we are one. Today, all these Nakath have been calculated by studying the stars. The stars that shine above us all make us follow the same rituals. They make us come together as one.
So today, think about reconciliation. Think about loving your neighbor. Share a plate of kavili with someone, even if they don’t celebrate avurudu. Enjoy the different sweets. Enjoy the day. Make this year one of change. One where we are at least a step closer to being reconciled.

NOVELLA

( Because I can think of nothing else to post!)

Minakshi stopped stirring the food in the pot for a second. She saw the steadily lifting mist, although the city still seemed dark to her, the Temple’s titanic tower like a black behemoth ambling slowly towards her house, only to be concealed from her view once more.
Shutting her eyes she told her maid, “Subadhra, send a message to my brother Vasudev. I want to meet him. And tell him to bring my son with him.”  And she lapsed into silence, with the middle-aged Subadhra flinging her broom aside and rushing off out of the kitchen.

Ishwari was restless. She had been lapsing between sleeping and waking for so long that she was now bathed in sweat, choli and sari sticking to her skin. Fanning a sheaf of dried banana leaves in front of her and her little daughter, she once more lay on the bed with a gasp. The girl was still half-asleep but she stirred anyway, the small size of the room and the throbbing amalgam of feelings welled up in her mother’s heart, crushing the child inside.
“Mother?” /the three-year old questioned innocently as Ishwari fanned the two of them faster. “Are you alright? Please tell me…” Her mother just kept fanning her, but then sat bolt upright, almost pushing the girl off the bed. “How in the world could I be alright…? I….” Looking at the child with a crazed gaze, she crushed the fan in her hand, reducing the dried leaf to nothing. But her expression then softened a degree when she saw her daughter’s wide-eyed look of fear.
“I’m sorry,” she continued, “but I haven’t been myself lately! I don’t know what’s coming over me! It’s like…I met that Minakshi today and she told me her husband walked off. I should be happy to hear that, and yet I feel like it’s crushing me to death, child! Why?” She grabbed the girl firmly, almost shaking her and making her scream.
“Why not? I could have any woman or man I desired, but the one I want the most, is still so far away from me! What’s wrong with you Minakshi, that you must stay forever far away? What makes you tick? What makes you shy away?”
She dashed to her dresser, with her kohl, oils, jewelry and makeup and turned her mirror towards her. Flinging the cosmetics onto her she then looked at herself in the polished surface of the mirror. “Why? Am I not beautiful enough my darling child? Am I not beautiful enough…for her…? Minakshi, Minakshi, what should I be to make you mine at last? It’s like I’m not good enough for you and yet somehow I must be, I’m, I’m supposed to be!” Thrusting the coconut oil away, she just let her hair droop as she lowered her head onto the dresser.
Ishwari was right. She had almost always been an extraordinary beauty, more than her peers. Her Brahman superiors has told her and so had her teachers. Shiny cinnamon skin, firm but soft, and a winsome dancer’s body with a slim waist and inviting hips, almost any sari or any other piece of the South Indian sari costume looked perfect on her. Men had desired her as a young girl and not just as an adult woman. It was only to be expected of course.

And she’d entertained them all.

“Yashodha,” she finally told her daughter, “my child, tell me why she and only she was my enemy!”

“Mother you’re scaring me!”

“That’s what I told her, damn it! She always pushed me down, beat me till I bled, half murdered me when I disagreed with her, she, my mother, she just never let me catch a break at all! Now she’s dead, I…I don’t expect you to know this Yashodha; whatever I, your mother, am going through, just become stronger and never hate me.” Her voice became dreamy as Yashodha nodded meekly, her own large eyes falling on a familiar scene. “It’s almost a reflection, isn’t it?” questioned Ishwari through gritted teeth, leaning against the wall, head in her hands as she sank onto the floor. “ISN’T IT MOTHER? I was the one on the bed, and you…you…”
How long she stared at the ceiling she did not know, but when she saw a hand stretching towards her she saw what it was. “I’m dreaming, I’m dreaming.” She shut her eyes so hard that they teared up, squeezing the salty liquid down her cheeks.
“If you are dreaming, then why am I still in this house?” The voice stung her directly, and she, through her blurry sight saw a huge manacle around her ankle, and holding the manacle was a handsome, stately woman with a sharp nose and hair flowing down her back. She was of dark complexion, slightly darker than Ishwari, but just as beautiful. However her beauty had a fierceness to it, like she was a cruel goddess who thirsted for blood, not just a woman. The sparkle in her eyes was twice as terrifying as an out of control flame up close. She consumed Ishwari just through looking at the other woman.

“Really Ishwari, we both made ourselves powerful through completely dominating all our men during sex, so much that they wanted punishment to be their pleasure. And is this the kind of image you present to your mother? THAT? My dearest….my dearest daughter, please tell me, how is it that this chain seems to become more powerful whenever you…”

Ishwari struggled to hold back her tears.

“SILENCE PARASHAKTI! I don’t want to have anything to do with you and your damned demonic punishments. The years under your roof were torture enough. Why did you build this accursed thing in the first place?”
“Tsk, tsk. I only came to see my daughter and my granddaughter, that’s all. Anyway let’s begin now…” Her voice became dangerously reptilian, taking on the sound of steel scraping against gravel.

And Ishwari felt that she was the gravel.

Happy first year anniversary!

http://www.espncricinfo.com/

 Yesterday seemed to be a day of celebrations. Sri Lankans across the globe rejoiced: our beloved National Cricket team brought home the T20 world cup on Sunday!  More than the game itself, we rejoiced because the team made us realize the power of unity; the unity of a team and of millions of devoted fans which made us world champions.

 Meanwhile, a bunch of young people including me celebrated another event. It was exactly one year since Shailee and Vasika brought “Written for Reconciliation” into existence. Due to the efforts of the amazing people involved in it during the past year (Read more about it in Shailee’s words:http://writtenforreconciliation.blogspot.com/p/blog-page.html) , the stats of the various WFR pages continue to impress. 

Reconciliation is not an easy process, we know. Our hope is that our shared love for words will make a change, no matter how insignificant or unnoticeable this change may be. As we celebrate the first year anniversary of our blog, we would like to thank our dear contributors and readers for sharing this hope with us. We look forward to your valuable support in the journey ahead too.

සංහිඳියාව ලෙහෙසි පහසු කාර්යයක් නොවන බව අපි දනිමු. අපේ බලාපොරොත්තුව වන්නේ අපේ වචනවලින් සුළු හෝ වෙනසක් ඇතිකිරීමයි. අපේ බ්ලොග් අඩවියේ පළමු වර්ෂ පූර්ණය සමරන අවස්ථාවේ, අප සමග මේ බලාපොරොත්තුව බෙදාගත් අපගේ දයාබර දායකයන්ට හා පාඨකයන්ට අපගේ හද පිරි ස්තූතිය පුදකරමු. ඉදිරි ගමනේදීත් ඔබගේ දායකත්වය බෙහෙවින් අගය කරමු!

Image credits:http://dshenai.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/thank-you-message2.png