Category Archives: mutual understanding

Ode to the Sky IX

A series which began as a tribute to the sky that unites us all, has now ended. Yes, what started as a one-time thing has become a long-running series that defines our work. We may never know what shades and hues the sky will take next. Thus it is beautiful in all its great mysteries. In our final Ode, we explore the skies in their long journey, with pics from the depths of time to the farthest reaches of space.
Yes, outer space indeed.
So let’s call this one an “Ode to the Stars” as a special. Of course we do have one from the Earth’s own history as well, so we haven’t exactly been highly um….consistent with this short, fast ode.
The message of peace is universal, and transcends the very continuum of time and space. Nobody craves war, or misunderstanding.

All artworks here are courtesy of myself-http://vasix.deviantart.com/ and will not be used without my prior permission.

They are all digital pics done with Photoshop, a very old-as-crap version, but I’m a poor man after all  :).

Poem by: Rochelle Silva

The Star
Burning bright, ever so bright,
It loomed ahead in the darkest night.
Ruling the skies; a feast to the eyes,
A frenzy of thoughts did arise.
A radiant star, beckoning from afar,
Guided kings and shepherds alike.
A star did nestle, close to a crescent,
Being a symbol to the faithful worldwide.
Sacred it is, if with six points apiece,
Meaning “Shakthi” and “Shiva” in peace.
And yet to another, fate does it usher,
Deciding whether one enjoys or suffers.
Burning bright, ever so bright,
Oh little star, if only you knew,
How precious thou art, no matter our caste,
A beacon of hope to our troubled hearts!

Poem by: Shailee Wick

He hides from the world

In his rank smelling tower
High up in the mountains
As close to the skies as he can get
He looks through the glass
Beyond clouds and skies
At the great abyss of darkness
Brightened by stars galore
And he smiles as his eyes
Follow one blinking star after another
And he whispers slowly
“The end is here”
In the yellow journal, notes of his life
Hide one prediction, worthy of being written in gold
“I look at the stars and I know it is here
An end to this hatred, wars and fear.
Soon like the faraway clouds of dust
The world will once more know how to love”

Quote by: Vindya Jayasinghe

“Whenever I look up the sky, I feel I’m free and open, I may never reach it, but I will always look up and see the beauty, believe in it and try to follow where it leads…”

Poem by: Vijini Mallawaarachchi
Stellar Thought

Gazing above the airspace
In the hours of darkness
Expecting a shooting star
To make a wish for good

As midnight rises
Imagination comes to life
Wondering what would be there
Which is not known to us

Stars that twinkle above
Painting the darkness in vivid colours
Making up figures of myths
That we name as constellations

Some are newborn white dwarfs
Some are dying neutron stars
Just like us, they have a life
Which will end in a supernova

Through the dust and gas
Among interstellar spaces
Floating across nebulae
Destiny can be glimpsed

The mind can travel
Imagining the undiscovered
With the wish for a star-gate
To dial across the universe



Poem by: Priyangwada Perera
The sky is like life….
 Spreading long and wide… 
With a glimmer here and there,
 Glistening at sunrise. 
Beyond the horizon, to a limitless land
 Across the sands of time.
 Star secrets, clouds of dreams;
 In a flashing comet
 Comes a heavenly gleam…
We have explored the heavens, and now it;s time to take the clock back a few tens of millions of years, and put ourselves back on Terra Firma.

Poem by: Vasika Udurawane

ANGEL
 Beneath the angel’s wind-swift wings,
The thunder of a restless earth;
Beneath a host of heavenly saviors,
A world ever-shifting.
Imperfect to its core, to be purged at final salvation,
To be kissed by breaths from miles above
To be saved from damnation.
Fires blaze below, roaring sinners burn;
But no such sinners see I in your sky.
In the storm of tossing clouds is flame,
The blaze from heaven that lights up all mortal eyes.
Flight of angels, so far above me,
If only you could feel us,
Our breath, our cries, our tortures,
Our birth-cries, and death-mourns;
The screams of the shifting ground,
A cruel, forsaken goddess.
Angel, perfect light in glowing sky,
Guide us through an endless night.



Thus ends our work for the time being. Maybe catch us later on during the rest of the festive season. Wish you all a merry Christmas, and a happy New Year!






RAKSHASA-Part 1

(Six months of drama are finally over, thank the gods. But I’ve just walked into exams, so this small bunch of posts will be a filler for something bigger and cooler.
This is a small story in a series that will be posted here. Don’t know how often, but still. As for that demon mask….I don’t know what possessed me to put it there)

(A rakshasa is a demonic humanoid from Indo-Sri Lankan mythology. It is either malevolent or benevolent, but is almost always depicted as a dark-skinned, fearsome-looking beast with a taste for human flesh. But what if the demon we all feared, was a human with merely the desire to be loved for what he is?)

The memory kept on playing itself a million times over in his mind as he felt the hardened, puckered scar tissues on his left cheek. The crinkled marks stretched down to his mouth, and pulled the slightest bit of skin towards the orifice full of big, powerful teeth. Images kept flashing again, cutting deeply through even his most jovial dreams.
Dreams of a mother.
A mother who was wild, pale and naked, cradling her offspring in her lap. That same cave, over twenty years ago was where she had fled.
That same cave where she wailed and wept into the inky night as her belly grew with him.
That very cave where the only ones who watched her scream with deathly agony were a small family of bats hanging from the left wall of the cave roof, wings obscuring their tiny faces.

He had been right here from the very start.

Warm milk flooded his tiny mouth as she cried again, the moon’s stray beams highlighting the monster she bore in her arms.
Raw, red eyes always half-closed.
No chin, but heavy brow ridges and nose.
Hair matted with blood.
Thickened gray patches of scarred and ridged skin; a strange, inhuman disease no doubt.
A terrifying child who could never be part of the world around him, given to her as a blessing by some infernal god.

But she still wept as only a mother could as the stench between her legs filled the cave. She kissed her bestial son a hundred times, whispering Buddhist prayers into his ear. And as she felt her vulva, caked with blood and membrane, she also heard his tiny heart beating with hers, a drum in that dark and distant night.

“Nothing will happen to you,” she promised him over and over, stroking the rough skin on his torso. “I promise, as long as you are here, I will forever keep you away from evil men.” The moon was at its peak.
Here was the glorious white eye in the sky telling her that it was them month of Vesak, a holy month. But even on the most sacred nights, she knew, some fiends from hell could cast their wretched spells on the weak and unknowing.

(Next part continues later)

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.

“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 11

The eleventh installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation). 

MUTUAL UNDERSTANDING

Mutual understanding among diverse and segregated groups or individuals is necessary. Many groups of people grow up believing that one group, preferably theirs, is better than the other. This implies to religious groups as well. However, this is not true. What we should try to achieve is to make the groups realize that the desire to live in peace and harmony is a major teaching in each and every religion. But how can we make the divided groups realize the truth? We should ensure that a safe and open learning environment is established. When this is completed, the individuals will be able to share their perspectives and stories. When this is done, both parties will realize the negative stereotypes that have been dominating their life. The participants will develop trust with others, broaden understanding of the range of personal characteristics including the term diversity, enhance appreciation and respect for the diversity of different cultural backgrounds and examine how cultural differences and group identities affect conflict and communication. When the participants understand the above, mutual understanding comes into play.
The new friendships that are built will shape the individuals and prevent them from following the stereotypic life of the past. The terms ethnicity and race are identification marks placed on individuals by the society. This is wrongly interpreted as one’s own free will decision. The society in which we live in, does not allow much interaction between diverse groups. The society’s mentality is that different groups should stay apart. This can be a root of the various conflicts that have devastated the island. Segregated parties should make efforts to live and work together. It is no use pointing fingers at one another at this junction. The damage to the country and its citizens has been done. What we can hope to achieve is prevent further damage. To prevent another conflict from rising, the groups that have issues should negotiate. Respecting other religious doctrines is vital as we are living in a diverse island. All religions preach about peace and non violence. It is the misinterpretation by the radicals that provide grounds for conflicts to rise up.
Sri Lanka is a small island, but is filled with diversity from religious groups to ethnic groups. The tiny island comprises of religions followed by millions around the world. But the nation is still struggling to find its balance and mutual understanding between the religious groups. It is the responsibility of the religious leaders to guide the followers in the correct path of their religious doctrines. Many religious leaders fail in this responsibility as they try to manipulate the people for their own personal benefits. But the responsibility does not solely lie in the hands of the leaders. It is also the responsibility of the followers to not just follow blindly but to investigate the truth hidden in the doctrine and create awareness on the truth. This will curtail any motives of using religious groups for personal benefits.
The term diversity can be compared to an ice berg. The portion that is visible is only a minor part. The major part is hidden. For example dress, heroes, traditions, behaviours, symbols, customs and artifacts are visible in an individual; while assumptions, values, beliefs, perceptions, world views and attitudes lie hidden in an individual. The society and the people in it will always judge a person based on the obvious visible part. This is dangerous as we mostly tend to judge people wrongly resulting in conflicts. Mutual understanding arises when one learns to respect others as equal human beings with equal rights and privileges.