Category Archives: forgiveness

NOVELLA

(I continue this…then comes trouble.)


The warrior who came into view was a slightly older man than Harihar, with a luxuriant beard. Handsome, calm and strong, he controlled his horse effectively with his lean fingers and shapely feet. “Oh Kesari, please don’t frighten me like that! What are you doing here though?”
Kesari smiled, his teeth looking like pearls in the torchlight of his four companions. “I’m sorry, Lieutenant,” he replied calmly. “But I was on patrol duty tonight”-as Harihar turned he too followed, close on his friend’s trail-“why did you go for a row to the mainland in this weather? And with no moon out? Sinhalese guerrillas are common around here, you know. Why”-
“I needed to clear my head. I was…distracted. Thinking about home. About my fiancée.”
He halted briefly and his horse stood close to where the waves cooled its hooves. It whinnied in pleasure, and tried to wander further in. but Harihar strongly ordered it back out.
“Rukmini is lucky to have a boyfriend like you. I wish you would have a love marriage, you know. You’re a man with a great deal of passion, my friend. But still, she is lucky. Although why did you let that boy go? Weren’t you going to take him in? That was rather unusual of you, Harihar.”
“I have my reasons,” he replied gravely. “Not everyone saw that child the way I saw him.”
“And how did you see him?” He halted his horse, pulling sharply on the reins. Harihar too stopped. A moment of silence passed between the two men, but it was broken by a large wave crashing against a nearby rock.
“I always thought that he would…be part of a family that loved him. A family that could give him comfort and love every day. Rukmini would understand, she’s just like me when it comes to these accursed caste issues. But not the rest. We Brahmans are a strange race, you know. I think it’s foolish that we always think of these little issues.”
He spurred his horse forward.
“Sometimes,” he continued, “you just have to let go of it all. After all, we are all made equal by our mortality.”
With a slow nod if his head, Kesari galloped on towards the harbor. Harihar merely sighed, his heart still bearing the image of the exotic youth, walking like a loyal dog, blindly, by his side for the whole of that painful week.
He pulled out a small scrap of parchment from his sash, and tried to discern the writing on it. The moon’s ghostly light suddenly shone on the piece of paper and he saw, in perfect Tamil:
Yodha Wewa.
Beside the old reservoir. If you ever need someone to talk to, there I am, brother.
Yasa.
He held it against his chest, heart beating in joy. “Thank you, Lord, for this chance. I can still do some good in my lifetime.”
Sri Lanka, Chola conquest
Mahiyangana
1029 A.D. -Year of the Buddha, 1573
RUDRAN
“I must get home,” Rudran prayed as he looked deep into the eyes of the ivory statue in the little Hindu shrine he found on the side of the road.
The paint slathered across the broken-down altar was starting to peel as smoke from his incense sticks and lamps wafted through that tiny space. He wondered if Vishnu was being suffocated inside. It was early morning, and he had decided to take a walk along the worn cart track leading away from the Buddharaja estate. The dawn chorus of birds and cicadas attacked his ears, but he felt calmer as he prayed.
“I can’t live here like a damned refugee. I have a home, I have a father who loves me dearly and wants me back.”
Tears welled up in his eyes as another offering of crimson ashoka flowers passed into the shelter of the altar for the god to watch over. “Lord Vishnu, Preserver, Lord of the Thousand Names! Him whose three places that are filled with sweetness, imperishable, joy as it may list them: Who verily alone upholds the threefold, the earth, the heaven, and all living creatures. I need to get back to Madurai safely, to live as I please. I want to live away from all this war, this strife and this cruelty. My world has been torn apart. My city is no longer my own. But this is place is worse!”
A slight gust of wind blew in his direction.
He looked up at the sky, where pastel shades of pink and faded baby blue mingled and swirled in an eternal dance.
The great whitewashed hulk of the Mahiyangana dagoba loomed up ahead, all eighty cubits of the ancient monument, its spire glowing even though no sunlight was available. He sighed loudly as he gazed up at the old Buddhist temple and down again at the little roadside altar where his god lived.
He wiped away his tears. “No matter what we call you, Lord, you’re just one and the same, aren’t you?” A small group of bhikkus walked slowly past as he stood in prayer and respect. One of them looked curiously at him, but diverted his attention back towards the cart track, probably looking out for the large ants that could at any moment, attack his bare feet.
A deathlike silence passed over Rudran’s world as the titanic form of a moving cloud enveloped the sky, adding a grey tint to once-vibrant colors. He knew that it would quickly start raining. Even the priests who passed him had umbrellas, after all.
Rudran walked down the road, hoping not to run into anyone else. His thoughts were directed to his hometown of kovils and perfect streets, to his own house in the inner city where a bearded old man, slightly fat and with a wrinkly forehead, waited for his return. An old man who wept and prayed for his only son’s return, hoping that his wishes and prayers would be answered at last by a knock on the front door…the man who would fling his now-aged and weakened arms out and embrace his pride and joy.
Those two square hands would surely be callused, lines and rough, but would never work in the forges again.
Leaves rustled softly in the wind as they blew out of Rudran’s path. His pace turned into a jog, his blood pumping with each movement of his pectoral and abdominal muscles. The short change of speed energized him, and he pulled up his dhoti to ease his movements. But with his dreams of Madurai, glowing in the sunlight, the nightmare began again.
Ravenous jaws, scaly and powerful, were around him as the huge form of the water beast grew clearer to him.
He was once again drowning in that red ocean of blood and forgotten dreams, gasping for air as he struggled to the surface. The makara was closing in as he tried to fight his fear of the deep, a childhood memory rushing through his mind once more. His soft twelve-year-old body had, at the time, been falling deeper as he tried to struggle against the cruel, still waters of the reservoir. Powerful, invisible hands had been pulling him inside, deeper into the maw of the terrible beast.
Something large had been moving purposefully past the flurry of bubbles that drifted upwards from his mouth and nose.
The water was dark, but he could still, by some miracle, see the deep black outline circling around him.
He tried to scream, but he could not and by rights, should not. He felt the water growing colder as the dark shape of the makara-his young mind was convinced that it was the fabled monster-grew nearer…
Rudran’s nerves snapped and he felt disoriented.
The ghosts of the past were hungry for his blood, and their whispers grew louder as his pace increased.
He began looking around him wildly, feeling the air as a chill descended upon his soul. His sight became less clear as he broke into a run, teeth gritted.
He halted suddenly, almost colliding with a man in a creaky old bullock cart, carrying a delivery of timber. The cart driver yelled in surprise, and the ox drawing it bellowed as well, tossing his head and brandishing fearsome horns. “Look out, you stupid Tamil!” snapped the carter, hitting his ox to calm it down again.
He muttered, “Damned fools these days! You never look where you’re going, do you?” He hawked and spat viciously at the soldier. But this skinny little man meant him no real harm, so he merely wiped the spittle off and rushed away.
“Forgive me!” Rudran shouted in reply, half out of breath as the rain started to fall. Within just forty minutes he was drenched to the skin, dhoti firmly resting against his thighs and organ. Yet he saw the house and the estate as he rushed up the road. Those beautiful groves of coconut and jak trees in the vicinity filled his heart with an as-yet unknown rush of warmth and happiness as he leaned against the trunk of one of them, panting and wet.
Rudran spotted the familiar figure of Vishaka, battling the rain with an umbrella as she stood by the door.
He cursed silently as the wind blew the end of her sari, allowing him to see her slim, perfect body. It was a thin, near- transparent drape, and the skin of her long legs glowed in his eyes, lighting up the grey world.
“Madurai is my home. You, you…” His teeth ground against each other as he angrily forced himself to turn away from her. “You will never be mine. I don’t care how you feel about me, but I will never love you, you infidel whore. You have a husband who loves you. I know, because I’ve seen him, wasting away to nothing in that prison in Manthotam. He still prays for you and your sons to be well and happy for as long as you both shall live. I’ve heard his voice too, he…I know he loves you dearly!”

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Being Peter Pan

I spoke on the topic “Lessons from my kids” for the preliminary and semi-final rounds of the Speech Olympiad at my university. Before the reader makes any wrong assumptions, my “kids” are simply the students I’ve come across during my teaching ventures. One “lesson” from them is apt to be shared on this blog- the lesson of “genuine outbursts of affection”.

http://www.pinterest.com/pin/55591376622271351/

My kids are experts at this. For example, one of my youngest kids said “I go mad with love when I see you teacher!”, and then there was another who declared “you are my angel.” They teach us that anytime is a good time to show that we care.

When you were a kid, remember how people asked you how much you love them? Then you would stretch out your hands as wide as you can and say, “I love you this much!” To kids, expressing affection is a natural occurrence. Once upon a time, you and I were kids too. We were quick to love and forgive. I believe that all of us have this spirit of childhood dwelling inside us. It maybe be hidden under layers of formality, but it’s certainly there.

Of course, being Peter Pan in public could be risky. I do agree. However, think for a moment. When do you show affection to your family members? Do you wait for special events like a birthday or New Year to lavish gifts upon them? Leave gifts aside, a simple hug or a word of appreciation could mean so much to them. As Mother Theresa said, “Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families.”

LABELS




Photo is property of http://yayaartpop.deviantart.com/ and was used with his permission. It will not be reproduced without the artist’s consent

(This is for the people about whom opinions are so strong that they can’t be shaken off…so strong that they are tortured everyday just thinking of what people will say next…it is not our fault…it never was…)

LABELS

Sitting in a soot-stained dragon’s maw;
Awaiting the flame that will lick me clean…

Burning rods across my chest,
Calling me what I’m not;
Burning irons molten-red,
Scorching my soul again.
See my face, but not my eyes,
Never stare into the windows to find the truth…
But sit in Court, declare me guilty,
Not wanting to see
The reality inside.

Taped across my whole being
Are seals, poisoned stamps.
You tell me “It’s all you” and I tell say “It’s really not”.
To have to read to understand,
Thus is the virtue of Man.
But Man is yet an animal;
Burning down what he does not believe.

This label you stuck on me,
This price upon my head,
Stings me now like it always did,
Telling the world a seeming truth.

He pulled us out as crystals
From our darkened wombs,
With light dancing off us.
Man the Kaleidoscope walks this earth,
Rotating lights shining as a hall of mirrors
In this blackened carnival of dirt.
The aura shone off every of my facets,
But with this new label was the glow
All lost.

And with this carving that you etched,
There ebbed away another shaft
Of perfect crystal light.

Damned to the depths you shall be
If ever a label again you stick onto me!
Where is the room?
How many prices can one good have?
You engraved it into my skin;
I screamed and prayed,
It would not go.
Wounds will heal, but scars won’t fade,
Like this brand they stay.

If another is put on us all,
The blood on the mirror might just be real.

RAKSHASA-Part 3

(The story of the misunderstood man continues.. ..)

“I’m here, always here,” she slurred with a rasping hiss, shifting and ghosting out of her son’s firm and powerful grasp.
He grunted as he sat down heavily, looking at her with an accusatory glance. “Reassuring,” he grumbled, “but right now I want you out. I’m going for a walk.” Standing up, the man sighed heavily as he padded out of the cave. The rock he was on, was no more than a little inselberg, an isolated mountain cut off from one of the major chains. It was one of many in the center of Lanka, the vast expanse of the untamed Malayadesha wilderness.
No mighty hero kings ruled here. It was the hellish heart of a paradise isle, with thick forests as far as the southeast, as far as the distant Galha Nadee and the mighty peak of the sacred Samanala Kanda.

In short, no man’s land.

This green carpet cloaked the highest mountains as far as he could see, and right now he was walking right through it. He and his mother had fought predators from leeches to leopards, and he knew this terrain like the veins on the back of his hand. Coarse, impenetrable, waiting to burst out under hard stress. Pushing angrily through the close-growing vegetation, he never let it brush his terrifying face. But every now and then, he felt his mother’s whispers surrounding him, tearing away at whatever humanity remained in his mind.
He halted for an instant beneath a huge, ancient jak tree.
What if he could finally admit to himself that he should lose whatever made him a MAN? What a feeling it would be to strip away his dirty sackcloth tunic, his rusted, twisted bracelet, and the bead necklace which he used to count the number of days and months he had before dying, and just allow the wild to really grow on him.
To lose his collection of stolen Sanskrit scriptures-rotting as they were-his inkwells and styluses, and turn manly speech into bestial obscurity would be a perfect salvation. The slippery rocks were in his path. Under his mother he had slipped away into the stream of violent beastliness, but now…

A memory once more.
He hated these.
They carpet of  his conscience rose suddenly, and no matter how many times he attempted to sweep the dirt of his sinful past beneath it, it kept clawing its way upwards. It was a memory that could be awakened by the grunts of a wandering herd.

Cattle in the forest.
With a farmer, singing hoarse songs to the spirits as he trudged down the leaf-littered paths.

The soft touch of his mother chilled him again. “What are you waiting for my darling?” she whispered, clinging to his body, stroking his hard back and chest softly. “Go on, show me what I have taught you.”

His muscles tensed at the sound of this, as his footfalls became as soft as a cat’s…

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.”

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.