Label jars, not people

Free editorial on June 22

Stripped of all the clothes we wear to be part of the ethnic communities we ‘belong’ to, we will all look the same. The only way people will be able to label us is by skin color and sex.
However, these people are then introduced to this thing called religion. The funny thing about religion is that while it preaches about unity, it often encourages the opposite. Of course you can disagree and say that the leaders of these religions never laid down these rules and regulations.
All rules are manmade, as are all religions. We decide on what’s good and evil, what’s right and wrong. We decide on what will send us to heaven and what will send us to hell.
With religion comes add-ons to ourselves.  There are the vows and promises to be a better and more religious human being. However, there are other add-ons, the more visible kind.
People are identified as Buddhists if they wear a talisman or pirith nool. The sanga is identified by those robes that range from yellow to maroon. We look for white or red powder or paste on the forehead when identifying a person as a Hindu. We look for a rosary or cross when identifying a person as a Catholic or Christian. And we look for the beards, caps, burqa or shawl when identifying people as Muslim.
So, once those naked people take on the garments and various accessories they feel they should because of their race, religion or culture, they become people who aren’t similar. We are able to create more labels than skin color and sex. We categorize people by their nationality, race, religion, caste, beliefs and culture.
Take a human. They could be male or female. If born in our island, he/she’ll be a Sri Lankan. They could be Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim or Burgher and can believe in Buddhism, Christianity, Islam or Hinduism. He/she could belong to a particular sect of any of these religions.
While we are told to respect all people and all beliefs, we don’t actually do this. We believe that our religion is the best, our ethnicity is the best. Ethnicities claim ownership of countries, cities, neighborhoods, schools, companies and people. And when people belong to a particular religion or ethnicity and they try to force their beliefs on other people, there is conflict. Keep your rules and regulations, definitions of right and wrong, to yourself.
We can attempt to pinpoint where all the trouble started. Who was the first person to be aware of these differences between people? Who raised their voice first? Who is the bad guy?
We can post status updates, we can change our profile pictures, but we need to do much more than this. We need to stop categorizing people. We need to stop discriminating. We need to tell people that we’ve had enough with being different.
Listen. Understand. Accept. Tolerate.
It’s not that difficult to do.

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Before we fight each other…

Before we fight each other
Before we preach and then kill
Before we organize meetings
Before we form armies

We must find solutions
We must be kind
We must learn to love
We must give and give even more

Beggars lie on pavement
Skin clinging to bone
Hands unused to the feeling of coin
Life knowing nothing but pain

Scared, the boy runs away from
Rarely-present-at-home father
The strong smell of cheap liquor
Coating each beating, each abusive word

Her feet fail her
Unable to take her any further
She falls on the hot gravel
Looks back to see if he’s still chasing her

Innocent animal, large wondering eyes
He’s scared and backs away on to a wall
He feels the cool blade slicing through his neck
Blood spills as life leaves him, now a mere chunk of meat

Mosquito flies from man to man
Looking for a sip of blood
Hungry for food she lands on skin
Only to be slapped by man

Whimpering, it howls and cries
Orders and loud voices don’t help it calm down
It yelps when broom hits him
A silent night follows

Status Without Soul


Status Without Soul
Typical Sri Lankan Mother :Putha these are your choices in life. You can become a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or an accountant. Otherwise you will either be a politician or a beggar.
This is the sad but true stereotype of Sri Lanka. Not cool right?I mean there is pressure and then there is that.
Sri Lanka has a lot of problems. Economical, political, social and so on but one major issue is the fact that we are a classist society. It’s a fact that we treat people differently based on their status in society and not their character. You get respect for being educated and how big your wallet is. It doesn’t matter if you’re a jerk and treat people badly because they will treat you like God because that’s our way of thinking. I strongly disagree ( emphasis on ‘  strongly disagree’ ). We should judge a person on their manners, how they treat their inferiors and the character they present. They say, ” manners maketh the man” and this holds true for the nation as well. We may not have the best infrastructure but honestly who cares if we have the best people. The kind of people that have mutual respect for one another and give everyone the respect earned by their soul and not their status!
Why? Basic evolution of psychology. Okay I actually made that up but its kind of true. We feel intimidated by our superiors There is no equality in our society due to class-ism. It is in the mindset of the people. A habitual feeling to respect and treat the rich and powerful better. People who are well connected , rich or have an important job are given better benefits, called ‘ Sir ‘ or ‘ Madam ‘, talked to with hands behind backs and generally are respected more. Do you see a plumber and a lawyer having a drink together ? Maybe if the plumber is a part time barman! So what about the poor guy?
Their ignored or treated like dirt. Do we give a second glance to the people who pump petrol, the Three –Wheeler guys who give us directions or just random laymen? No. The land has racial segregation, religious discrimination and corruption. We talk big about solving these things but how do we expect to go anywhere without respect even within those groups.
Let me give you another newsflash. Slavery people! Its not a myth, its fact and it happens. We have our maids who don’t  even have an official work status and do we treat them right? You may not see it. Most of us reading this live in the capital or are in that upper status. We know all about rights and humanity but a lot of people don’t . Have you realized how many people called these people their servants. They a given horrible treatment, paltry wages and guess what? They have families too .They have hopes and dreams for them and their friends while they sweep the house or do the laundry while we are indulging in uncountable luxury. Some are treated akin to slaves and it needs to stop if we have but a shred of humanity left.
Why can’t the typical Sri Lankan mother learn to accept their children pursuing something they love . Be it fishery or architecture. As long as it makes them happy what does it matter? It’s a misguided social convention that we need a big job to be popular and better beings, that you are a great person if you are rich, influential and powerful.
That’s crap!
We are in the 21st century for god’s sake! We are living I a world that is constantly developing not just in tangible terms but in our mentality as well. Classism is contagious. It sets a bad precedent when people see it being done because then they think it is ok to do so as well. We have to fight it for the soul of the nation. We have to fight it for it is the foundation of equality, discrimination and humanity. We have to rebel against the classist society that is our country and start an era of mutual respect and universal ethics.
We have to destroy the idealism of status without soul!

NOVELLA

(Moar novella!!!)

“Smells just like home.” Govind moved quickly along the paths crisscrossing the area of tightly packed slums and finally arrived beside a small street that partitioned the slum housing complex into two. The scent of the tanneries was like nectar to the noses of the crows and bluebottles which hovered around eagerly. The latter buzzed greedily around the sweaty, naked backs and chests of the tanners who held their breath as they continued their task. They were joined by an ever-growing fleet of slighter, nimbler houseflies which, with eagerness just as great, buzzed in to soak up the stinking soup of perspiration that flowed down the men’s bronze skin, like peasants living off an emperor’s land, Govind thought as he passed.
The last house on the left of the street was no more that a tumbledown shack-a queer sight in the otherwise very well-built city of Thanjavur. Govind saw the mangy dog that had been coming and going out of this area, hoping for even the smallest scraps from the people here.
He couldn’t help smiling at the wretched little creature’s bulging eyes, staring at his soul from its skeletal face. It tottered as it walked out of his way and he let the scent of burning wood fill his nostrils as he walked inside. A tall man, Govind had to bend a bit as he stepped in, only to see the filthy, fly-covered heap of rotting humanity that lay sprawled out on the sooty dirt floor.

A moan came out from behind the pile.
The head that stuck out from it was a Spirit of Death in the body of an ever-smiling and half-man skeletal jester. His single ninety-eight-year old left eye regarded the young man bleakly; the other was dun white with cataracts. The hole in the ceiling made a shaft of sunlight peer inside, washing over the ancient being.

 Govind, who was on the right side of that room, was caught in darkness and shadow.
A few minutes of quietness passed between the men. The own sound of the young servant’s heartbeat terrified him in this unnaturally cold and sweaty room from which rose the mixed staleness of sweat and age-old human waste.
Death spoke.
“Child,” he started, trembling, “when them damned….damned….gods told me I could live a century I never asked for eternal youth! Why did I not? Don’t they all say that a life of a hundred and twenty is a full life? Them…them…bast….bastardsss….” He hissed as he pronounced the words, sharp as a serpent. “Your mother….why is she leaving me to die? Ten damn children with me, my boy, except for yourself and why the hell is she leaving me? And…and why does your accursed face show itself to me? Begone, vision! Begone!”
He cackled and coughed dryly, writhing under his sheets. “Shivan…,” his jaws clenched tightly as he spoke the accursed name. But then a new growl of resilience and stubbornness found itself into his throat and he continued. “Leave my mother out of it! You…you raped her, don’t forget that. This is justice, Shivan, no more. You think that you can do anything because you claim to be so wise. All I want to do is…I…I don’t even know why I am here anymore.”
“When these….these people are asking for Shivan Aruldas Chelvanayagam, they think, oh an old man, a man who has a century’s wisdom!! Damn their souls to the seven hells! Damn them, damn them all! When you are asking those other people…those….those big city people like your whore, those people they don’t, don’t know! They think you are the madman,” the withered old monster told him, “and I told you, you have…have.,…your, your place in this world. Your pretty little whore doesn’t think so, oh no no!! Neither does the other whore, the other…Minakshi! Daughter of Gautam and Shoba Devapala, damned foreign woman! Doesn’t know how our Tamil names are! How the hell does she name her son? His first name is a second name in this city, stupid stupid foreign bitch…cannot speak our language clearly, stupid whore, works in the bloody big temple….stupid….”

“Shut up!”

“You know I am right, child. This rich whore…this…woman named Ishwari, this…this whore, this one….her mother was a demon and sinner, stupid boy.” He ran out of breath. Govind wondered why this horrid old thing was left to even suffer on earth. Why was he not yet dead? What perverted gods held the strings of his life for a few more minutes without cutting them? Turning his back on the living corpse Govind continued, “Ishwari is a good person! Don’t ever talk about her that way! All you people are the damn same! At least she doesn’t think I was born from the feet of God. I’m a man to her, and I….I love her for that, Shivan. Besides, I never came to talk to a decayed worm like you! I want to see my mother.” “Yes, that stupid cow who’s leaving me to rot away in my clothes!” Shivan hawked loudly, spitting a gob of phlegm at the ground.”Go to her! Suck on her nipples for a few more years, young bastard! Go, go! You think she feels anything for you? These…these womenfolk…! Ha, to latch their talons onto an innocent young Chandala man like you, just some pariah dog….”
“I am not….” How could he tell Shivan what he wasn’t when that was how he’d been born? Born with the mark that the cruel person known as God had given him. A species. Chandala.

“The bitch holds you by a chain around your neck, you little fool! Rich folk, these Kshatriya, these Vaishya, these….these peoples do not give a damn! Look at me! What the hell do I need a bloody woman like that for? Put a damn brat in her belly and let her bleed and suffer like that mother of yours is making me suffer!” he screamed at the top of his voice. “The daughter of a sinful woman! Nobody knows who her father is, and who the hell could it be? This Ishwari, this…bloody….she plays with your feelings! You’re a toy in her hands just as the whole world is in the hands of the gods.”

NOVELLA

( I really can think of nothing else to post nowadays)

Govind’s little trip took him down to the little market sandwiched in between two large alleys that opened out onto the main street outside Ishwari’s house. He sighed at first, pausing for a while, uncertainty showing in an old puddle on the ground. Looking again, he spotted the poorer traders who sold their own people simple things, only those that they needed. The skinny little old man on the corner argued noisily with a customer about the price of his brooms. Noticing Govind’s eyes on him he waved, a smile spreading over his cracked lips.
Another man like himself, but younger with a large belly and a curly mustache swore and spat out a red wad of paan, enjoying the intoxicating contents within the leaf. His large shoe and slipper stall was a wooden contraption with a sturdy frame and a canopy of discarded sailcloth. Dutifully he and his assistants hammered away at the broken shoes that customers gave him to be repaired. One of the assistants tried to say something but the fat cobbler cut him off with one wave of his hand.

A beggar woman played with her young puppy as she squatted eagerly under her dusty and torn parasol.

“These are all your people, eh?” quizzed Govind, brushing his long, greasy hair out of the way as he gazed upwards.
 Crossing the street, he saw the old building that’d been converted into a complex of shops. Dark and dusty though these were inside, the outside was welcoming, with strings of flowers and flower petals hung just above the vendors. Any flies that landed on the vegetables would be whisked away briskly with a bunch of horsehair fitted into a hollow wooden handle. Govind wasn’t really interested in buying anything much though. Why would he buy anything from here, from this place of the poor and downtrodden. This was the shudra part of the city, the place of stinking sewers, rubbish and plagues. These were the kings of those scavenging, grave-digging chandala people, those who had been trodden upon by both men and gods for many a long millennium.
“I am not one of you…”
The very though of his unfortunate and accidental ancestry made his tongue feel like sandpaper.Clenching his fists against the rising negativity, he started to imagine the large beds, the enameled jewelry, soft silk attire and carved ivory lamps that Ishwari had shown him…and he ached for her again. Her light footsteps and beautifully tanned complexion always pulled him in her direction. But he remembered how she looked after her bath one night before a major festival. The oil made her freshly scented skin loose and supple; the lithe dancer’s muscles behind her limbs and stomach and the large flare of her welcoming hips and bosom looked like they belonged on a goddess.
And she had smiled gently and invitingly at this poor young fellow off the streets…
But he had seen the dark shadow against the wall. A huge and shapeless mass lifting itself in the manner of a horrid vetala rising from its grave. He looked at her in fear as the shape seemed to consume her. The vetala consumed human flesh and blood, that he knew. But Ishwari smiled at him in confidence as she walked delicately towards her sari and bodice. Still the shadow remained…his voice could barely say it…”Mistress…Ishwari…” and then he sank to the ground.
She had looked at him confusedly, but then his fear grew and he backed away from her as she came towards him. “What’s wrong with you?” she questioned, puzzled. He had lost all feeling in his throat…and earlier that day she had been screaming at some nonexistent thing…

“Govind! Oi, Govind!”

The rough voice was music to him, cutting the memory out of his head.
The two sunburned men waved to him with large smiles and he promptly went over to the roadside eating-house where they were seated. “How’s everything eh? Rich people! Give you the works eh? Eh Hari?” The first man’s rough hand slammed into the back of the other. The vendor smiled bleakly but kindly at the two shudra workmen. Looking down at his feet, Govind pursed his lips.
“So how’s it all, eh?” the happier of the shudra continued to jabber while ripping off a piece of his chapati.

 Govind had other things to worry about…

He finally walked on till he had to navigate through a very old part of the city, closest to the walls. He moved along the narrow path that lay in between the multitude of small, tightly packed, flat-roofed houses. His nostrils encountered a tender familiarity of sorts which tugged the strings of his heart forward. Running water was distributed throughout the city, that he knew. At least his people had that here.