Category Archives: friendship

NOVELLA

(Once more, this time during a power cut)

All thoughts of politics and war threw themselves out into the mud of the swamp as Rudran’s eyes bore into the steel body of his sword. He grunted in pain as he continued his trek. His hands instinctively reached for overhanging branches and vines as his incisors gnashed in anger, leg muscles screaming in protest at having to move. His heart beat with every thudding step in the muck and tangled weeds.
He had moved a fair distance along the shore, when he finally saw a small sandbank between two rocky outcrops. The sun’s face hid as he tilted his head upwards. The cooler, more bearable part of the afternoon was coming over the world.

The waterway was no more a mere canal.

It had the depth and width of a large river, and he knew that he was somewhere around a very famous settlement.
Mahinyangana as the locals called it.

The monotone drone of the cicadas and the raucous cries of avian fishermen stung his ears. “Let’s cover our bases,” he gasped, “I’m injured. Plus the people of this country are on slightly better terms with a Pandyan from Madurai than with someone on the Chola side. At least I speak…Tamil…a little Pali and Sanskrit…Sinhala, bits and pieces of it at least…” He stopped himself, still hard in thought. That last language was a noble tongue, spoken by a select few only. “As long as I find some nobles I should be fine. A few uneducated villagers would be too suspicious of me and my cover would be blown. But of course, what’s to stop even another kshatriya from buying my story? I’ll have to come up with something…”

The details poured out of him as meticulously as the details of a hard siege.

Rudran crouched as he ran his fore and index fingers across his fingers to relieve a passing headache. A nerve in his forehead spasmed and he fought to swallow back the vomit rising in his throat. Dizziness attempted to grip his senses once more but gritting his teeth, he snarled, “Not this time! No weaknesses!”

His fist closed even tighter around the hilt of his sword.

The chorus of shouts-probably from young people in the area-was too clear now to be simply dismissed as an auditory illusion.

*********************************************************************************

The rock formation on the left bank sloped downwards away from the river, cutting into the thick forest. Jayampati panted as he picked up his heels and arrived at the spot, laughing delightedly at the prospect of a swim. His thick hair was slick with sweat as he paused by an old tree stump to catch his breath. His fingers brushed through his curls as he tried to crack a smile.
“Don’t you dare leave me here! Or any of us for that matter!”
The cry teetered on the edge between annoyance and amusement as his companions came closer.
Jayampati chuckled.
“You’ll have to catch me first!” He stood up, deftly wiping the river of perspiration on his brow as he took off again. His eyes literally sparkled devilishly as he arrived at the knotted, gnarly roots of the ancient banyan that spread its branches over the rock-face.

At the top, he whacked his dagger firmly into the trunk of the massive tree.

Sitting down, he peered down at the sandbank. The water beyond it was deep enough, and this was a wide channel, after all. After all, he was born and bred here, on the outskirts of the ancient city of Mahiyangana. The canal had intersected with a branch of the great River Mahavaluka here, but jumping in from his perch of forty feet would be suicide.
Yet his heart knew that this victory was required. The egrets were no more than minute specks of white against the verdant crowns of the trees on the further side of the tributary. There was no way he could inspect his reflection, of course-this was no puddle but the largest river in Lanka. Jayampati sat cross-legged, seeming to the world, as he breathed in and out like a mockery of a mendicant sage. Unintentional of course.
The white thread around his wrist told of his faith. Yet the little amulet whose head rested against his upper arm was too precious to lose. Working away at the knot, he loosened it and hung it from the hilt of his dagger.

His young head was filled with a rushing mass of thoughts as he gazed down at his feet.

That was the cause of all that pain. A little bit of mimosa had stabbed him nicely in the little toe. Harmless, to be sure, but a nuisance.

A nuisance.

“What a damn bother.”

But he bit his lower lip, his face darkening instantaneously.
“Who am I to be thinking about nuisances and trifle grievances when I don’t even know if you are all alive?”
A small rivulet of blood dripped from his lip to the cleft of his smooth shaven chin.

Just like half his family not being home to help his mother and he in their daily work.

A huge estate was not going to look after itself, plus his relatives…what if…”No, the Upagupta family won’t try taking over anything. I hope. Oh by the gods, this damned war isn’t going to end itself just like that, is it? Pandu, Abhaya, Themiya…I need all of you back alive, my brothers.” He felt a tear tracing its way down his cheek. “I need all of you back with father. Your own families want you back so badly. Abhaya”-he laughed, left hand briefly covering his full feminine lips-I have to say, Sundari misses you so much, and so do your boys…I can’t take their place if you die. None of us can. They want their father so much. Same goes to you Pandu. Khema loves you dearly, even if she doesn’t show it often…”
He stood up, leaning back against the banyan.
Three sunbeams tore through the ashy barrier of clouds as Jayampati’s thoughts too darkened. Surya’s life-giving power had no hold over the loving youth of a country torn apart by alien invaders.
Jayampati merely paced up and down restlessly, still in waiting, but no longer happy.

“Where are you Jayampati?” The shouts continued to ring from the forest. The boy’s mind felt heavier than it had been earlier.
That other problem gnawed at him as his muscles tensed.

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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.

An ode to the sky VIII


“When we look up, it widens our horizons.  We see what a little speck we are in the universe, so insignificant, and we all take ourselves so seriously, but in the sky, there are no boundaries.  No differences of caste or religion or race.”  ~Julia Gregson

The WFR team never expected that “an ode to the sky” could widen our horizons so much (literally!). Teammate Shailee said it best: “I was just thinking that, how we never took much time to notice the sky before. But now, the shades, the colors, the beauty of it; we see it all.”

We’re grateful to our friends who are as besotted with the sky as we are, for providing an awesome array of photographs and captions. For the first time ever, we have poems written in Sinhala as captions(and we wish we had Tamil ones too). Those poems reminded us once more of Nelson Mandela’s quote that “

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

 
Let the results speak for themselves…

You don’t need to be a Christian
To love the silence of a church
You don’t need to be a Buddhist
To love the calmness of a temple

You don’t need to be someone
To love something
You can be anyone
And love anything
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya 
Photo by Rochelle Silva @ Galle

The sky must be looking the same over there,

 Where I used to look out from the balcony.
Summer must be raging still somewhere,
 To the tune of a forgotten symphony.
Funny, I never felt the sky was different,
As I often looked up from the lawn:
 “But it wasn’t YOUR country,” most go on to moan..
 “It’s NOT?” I ask them…
HOW could it not be mine?
Spreading across a Delhi Summer,
 trust me it all was the same, and MINE.


Poem by Priyangwada Perera

Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

Beyond the dark leaves,
Branches and their shadows
Beyond the blue skies
So blue, they seem black
Beyond the clouds,
Beyond it all
Lies nothing
And lies everything
There, you are who you are
You are nothing but a person
And your thoughts, your opinions
Your beliefs,
They don’t matter,
And beyond the blue skies,
People love,
People accept
And
People tolerate
Beyond the skies,
There is nothing
And there is everything
And there is peace
Poem and photo by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya @ Panadura

Born in the darkness
Raised with a soul
Seen by the world
As a faint blur
No one to guide through
This pitch darkness
It seems to be like
Witching hour is up

Through the dark clouds
Something could be seen
It is a ray of light
Beaming on the world
The darkness is banished
The world happy again
Thank you Almighty God
For listening to our prayers
Poem by : Vijini Mallawaarachchi
 The photograph is the property of UmbraDeNoapte-Stock(http://umbradenoapte-stock.deviantart.com/art/Stock-209-390240138) and has been used with his direct permission.

Galle: a beautiful city of cobbled streets and ancient buildings bordered by the crystal clear Indian ocean. It is also home to this Sri Lankan flag fluttering in the breeze atop a rampart that has withstood the test of time. True, it IS a Dutch fort, but we mustn’t forget all the heroes who made this sight possible. Gaining independence in 1948 was a result of the combined efforts of Sinhalese leaders such as D.S.Senanayake and Anagarika Dharmapala, Tamil leaders such as Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Sir Ponnambalam Arunachalam and Muslim leaders such as M.C.Siddhi Lebbe and T.B. Jaya. To me, it was an instance when the segregated communities of Sri Lanka came forward to work for the same goal; an incident that we can emulate.
Caption and photo by Rochelle Silva @ Galle

In forgotten oceans
And greying skies
Lies the truth
All humans seek
But we are too busy
And so look away
From the crashing waves
That the heavens
Peek through the clouds
Allowing a glimpse of
The promised paradise
We don’t notice
Instead of looking
We walk away
And as unhuman
As they are
It is the dog, bird, animal
That chooses to stay
For their eyes,
They seek no color
Instead the truth
The skies offer
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Ayodhya Karunaratne @ Negombo



The spotted dove or the “Kobeiya” is not always considered beautiful, due to its dull color. This is especially so, when the spotted dove is compared to the white dove, the symbol of peace. We tend to always assume the symbol is the only thing with beauty, that the utopia we all keep looking for is full of white doves. Yet, sometimes, there is beauty in the absence of complete peace. Sri Lanka may not have white doves flying around, yet, the spotted dove, with its quiet existence, does make our island beautiful.
Caption and photo by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya @ Panadura

The sinking sun
Marks the end of day
But night is yet to come
As the sky impersonates
An artist’s canvas
We all say a silent prayer
For with darkness
Comes out the evil forces
Of hate, lust and anger
Yet, the eeriness
The night brings out
Is pushed away
By that smile you
Hadn’t seen
For months
It is the love of parent,
Sibling or friend
It is love
In its purest form
Full of innocence
That makes the night safer
And as the sun sets,
We can all worry less
For goodness prevails
Or so we can believe
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Sharuka Wickrama Adittiya @ Marine Drive, Colombo

අහසක් එක සේ ඇත අප සැමටම
එත් එය දෙස බලා එකමුතු කම
දැකිය නොහැක අද අපට
අපගේ වෙනස් කම්
සුලු වුවද බොහෝ
ඒවා නිසා
අප අතර ඇත්තේ
සුලු පටු දුරක් නොව
එක් කෙනෙකු
අනෙකුට කරන්නේ
නරකකි
සහෝදර සහෝදරියෝ
එසේද ආදරය
පෙන්වන්නේ?
අත්ලට අත්ල තබා
සමාව දිය යුතුය
අනෙකාට
එසේය නැවතත් අහසේ
එකමුතුකම දැකිය හැක්කේ
අප අතර
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya 
Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

The moon was once there
No matter how dark was my world
The clouds of pain didn’t dare
Enter the love’s fold
No doubt it was a starless sky
But trust me,
it wasn’t scary or shy:
The gloom, the dark, I didn’t care,
In my sky, the moon was there

Poem by Priyangwada Perera
Photo by Kevin Fernando



අහස කියයි රහසක් පොළොවට,
“මම නුඹට ආදරෙයි,
 සැම දේටමත් වඩා,
 නුඹ වෙනුවෙන් කරන්නට බැරි දෙයක්,
 නැත්තේය මට කිසිමදා.”
                                                                  
වැසි වැටී පොළොව තෙත් කර,
 ගම් නියම් ගම් සරුසාර කර,
 නැවත යයි උඩුගුවන දෙසටම,
 වැටෙනු වස් පොළොවට සැනෙකින්,
නොවද මෙය චක්‍රයක්?
 මහ පුදුම ආදරයක්?


අහස පොළොවට කියූ වදන්ම,
කියයි නුඹ මට ආදරෙන්,
නමුත්,
අහස හා පොලොව සේ සබඳ,
අපි දුරයි ජාතියෙන්,
අපි දුරයි ආගමෙන්,
හදවතින් අපි එක්වුන මුත්…

Poem by: Anonymous

Photo by Areeba Haroon @ Udawalave

නොදන්නා අයෙක්
අපගේ මිතුරකු වන්නේ
ජාතිය හෝ
අගම හෝ කුලය
නිසා නොව
ඔහුගේ ගුණ යහපත් කම
නිසාය
මිනිසා විසින් සාදා ගෙන ඇති
හේතුවක්, තේරුමක් නැති
භේධ නිසා
කී දෙනෙක්
මිතුරන් නොවී
සතුරන් බවට
පත්වෙන්නට ඇත්ද?
අපට අහස දෙස බලා
“ඔය එක් ජාතියකට
අයත් සඳය,
ඔය එක් ආගමකට
අයත් වලා කුලුය”
යයි කිව නොහැකිය
එසේම,
මිතුරුකමකට
ජාතියක්, ආගමක්
දිය නොහැක
දිය යුතුද නැත
Poem by Shailendree Wickrama Adittiya
Photo by Rochelle Silva @ Colombo

Friendship II

The culture most of us are brought up in gives us the opportunity to mingle with those from various ethnic communities. Sadly, many tend to let cultural and other beliefs decide who one could be friends with. While our beliefs do say a lot about who we are, they should not be a barrier to the various relationships we form in life. Instead, it should help us be more tolerant and accepting of beliefs that vary from our own. This is the foundation of friendship; acceptance and tolerance. No two people are alike, this is what makes us all unique. However, if we are unwilling to accept the differences in others, we cannot maintain friendships.

NOVELLA

(For a bloodthirsty avenger, Sivapalan was a seriously cute kid)

“Brahmarajan…Brahmarajan, at least talk to me, my love,” she whispered. “just tell me how you feel. You told me everyday that you always loved me, but tell me why you’re so closed now. Is it the situation in Lanka? Or”-she drew back, sadly, twirling her hair with her finger-“did I do it?” Once again she moved away, slumping down onto the bed and gazing up at the stream of memories.
Her Brahmarajan, her perfect Brahmarajan. Minakshi smiled a bit and let her world spin out of focus as she let her hands explore her curvaceous frame, drawing them across her body as she hugged herself tightly, arms folded across her chest as she ventured down to her soft, gently swollen stomach. Soon, rush of heat sped in between her legs as she imagined a young man bending down, kissing her lovingly as he stroked her, moving his lips from her neck to her breasts.
This man had a rather moody but strong and rather square-jawed face with a chin dimple and warm eyes, and was built like a martial artist or a wrestler, with powerfully muscled shoulders and huge, bulging chest. But his hands were so gentle that she felt like a fawn being handled by a velvet-pawed tiger before he went for the killing blow. Yet the power of his heart was immense, so she remembered. Her beautiful, perfect warrior, her Brahmarajan. Minakshi was loosing herself again. She turned around on the bed, loving the amazing image in front of her, only to see him crumbling as he kissed her again, whispering upon the gods that he always loved her.
But she broke back into reality.
The image had now shifted away, and finally, she found herself once more, in the bedroom. “I must see him tonight,” she decided. But stopped. Was she the woman to crawl after her husband and then follow up with a dramatic breakup or death after crying endlessly for the whole night and praying for safety in a cruel world? Was she the woman who would even crawl behind anybody at all? No. She was proud, after all, truly, truly proud.
But her Brahmarajan…
And where was her pride, she mused, when he had entered her so many nights back, and blessed her with Sivapalan? Could a woman’s pride, could her pride, allow her this? Or was her true pride, the true pride of a woman, the pride at being a mother at last? Minakshi questioned herself again, then rose, straightening herself up, as she walked out, and began to search out her husband.
Or would he be her husband again?
The noises of the night around her, the gentle purring songs of crickets; the crying of a newborn baby in the neighbor’s house; the snoring of the old couple in the cozy little house parallel to theirs and the attempts of a sleepless fishmonger to restock his stall, the curses and groans in Tamil as he hefted an albacore as big as himself onto his bench, all seemed to be otherworldly and out of tangent to her now. Nothing seemed to muffle her steps as she felt the world growing misty again. The staircase with the one improperly nailed step, the rough banister, the burnt brick walls that were painted on by Sivapalan and his magical piece of charcoal, all seemed to be an alternate reality now.
“Brahmarajan?” No answer. “Are you there, Brahmarajan? Please answer me!” Minakshi suddenly felt a cold chill overtake her as a strange wind spread through the house, even rustling-or so she imagined-the palm leaf books that lay scattered around the little round table beside the entrance of her special room. Hers and hers alone, but not today, it seemed. Something was definitely in, she knew, as she pressed her ear to the door and listened intently. Curiously, she knocked, and the sound stopped.
It had been the sound of a harp, a huge, rather creaky periyazh, being twanged about.
“How in the world…must be a rat…or not,” she wondered aloud as she reached for the keys she always strung around her waist, tucked snugly into her sari. Tentatively, she opened the heavy, carved wooden door, and peeked inside.   
This room had one window, curtained like almost all the rooms in her house, and had a smooth, tiled floor. The moon showed beautifully in the sky, casting a soft glow into the room.
This made the creamy tiles shine, almost, but as she looked further in, began to smile. “Sivapalan! And I thought you were a rat!” For sure enough, seated in the centre of the room with what remained of her best periyazh, was a small child, small even for his age, with slightly darkish skin, and huge, dark eyes that almost filled up his face.  He looked nervous at first, but then a smile began growing on his face as two massive dimples appeared on his cheeks and his chin.
The excited Sivapalan ran towards his mother, hugging her legs as she laughed gently at him.

Friendship

The above illustration graces the first page of the grade 5 Mathematics work book in Sri Lanka. It shows four friends cycling along a road with cheerful smiles on their faces. Ameen (the Muslim), Meena(the Tamil), Saman(the Sinhalese) and Rosi(the Burgher) continue to appear side by side in the text book to make Mathematics more appealing to the students.

However, to most of us, such inter-racial harmony is a rare sight. I myself have a majority of Sinhalese friends and sadly, only a handful of others. A great friend of mine says that according to a survey, 70% of Sri Lankan youths do not have friends outside their circle of status, religion, language, ethnicity etc.

While I do appreciate the fact that text books promote friendship between segregated groups, I believe that more could be done. For example, the government has decided not to allow schools to be ethnicity-based in the future.( http://www.ceylontoday.lk/16-34034-news-detail-no-more-ethnicity-based-schools.htmlMinister of Education, Bandula Gunawardane himself says that, “We believe the children of this country should mingle with each other so that they would understand each other better. Therefore, the ministry decided not to allow schools to be divided based on ethnicity and do away with Sinhala, Tamil (Hindu) or Muslim schools”

Indeed, it is practically impossible for us to have everyone as a “friend”, but surely, being “friendly” is possible. It is my sincere wish that that a day would soon arrive when friendships between Ameen, Meena, Saman and Rosi would be a common sight and not looked down by the society.