Poignant lament of a nation’s soul: The regime’s insensitivity to the melancholy of the ordinary

Vishnuguptha | Published on August 23, 2013 at 10:28 pm

“My grief lies all within, and these external manners of lament are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured soul”

~William Shakespeare

Mending roofs

Darmasena wakes up  to the haunting melody of the cuckoo’s morning call. Bare- bodied and in his only pair of shorts ragged with wear he gets off the rattan mat spread across the cow-dung floor of his parents’ shack of a home. The overnight’s rain kept him awake most of the evening as he had to help his father with the mending of the thatched roof over his head to keep the falling rain drops off his body; the leaks were right above his sleeping area until the leaks were fixed which was well past midnight.

Barefoot and a high school drop out

He hit the hay after eating half a meal-rice and kiri hodi- and woke up to the cuckoo’s call. His mother was a drop-out of high school, barely getting through 8th standard in the village school to which she had to trudge more than three miles daily on barefoot on an uneven gravel path lined with shrubs and wild flowers. And his father, like his mother had no real education to boast about, leaving school to help his parents to buttress their incomes by plucking coconuts in the surrounding plots that belonged to an absentee-landlord. The life of Darmasena begins almost every day in the same monotonous routine way. Life is hard for Darmasena, sometimes beyond the limits of patience and endurance yet a flicker of hope and a shadow of dream have kept him breathing and dreaming for a better and more just tomorrow to dawn.

Routine and more routine

No, my friends, I’m not writing a tale of fiction this time. It’s factual and true. It may sound more fictitious than a third-rate, melodramatic novel of yesteryear. Yet Darmasena’s sad saga of life is being lived by hundreds of thousands of young boys and girls in this country, the land the race, and the faith’ (Desa, Bhasa, Resa). His parents’ lives too happen to be going through the monotony of waking up in the wee hours of the morning, leaving the abode looking for some gainful work, getting back home with the twilight’s last luster and finding the only comfort that is truly theirs- deep slumber in a cadjan hut of a dwelling, still breathing to wake up the next day and continue with the same routine, which he and his family know as life and living.

Hoodwinked by the powerful

Hundreds of thousands of families like that of Darmasena and his parents have been repeatedly hoodwinked by politicians; their livelihoods have been most cruelly exploited by the henchmen of the same politicians, their dwellings have been destroyed and turned to dust and ashes by the long arm of the law because these habitats were supposed to have been built without proper authorization and declared illegal and unauthorized by the pen-pushers, deal-makers and bribe-takers in the Kachcheri. Yet, Darmasena’s father, Sirineris always wonders as to why it is so and as to why when election time approaches, he is being showered with all the attention that eluded his family and him all the while. But since of late, realization has dawned on him that it is the norm, not the exception. He does not have the education nor the fine-tuned perception of mind to discern and scrutinize the idiosyncrasies of those who dwell on higher podiums of society.

Up in the North they are called Tamils

So Sirineris is inadvertently drawn into the emotional drama of a nation under siege by an imaginary enemy and that enemy is your brother and sister who happen to live in another part of your own country- up in the North and they are called ‘Tamils’. The panorama of the ‘great injustices’ done unto the Sinhalese race being painted before the trusting eyes and ears of villagers is spellbinding; its narrative is absorbing and emotive and its articulation by the governing politicians and ineffectively counterbalanced to a credible degree by the Opposition is astounding. All the nuances and side-bars are beyond the comprehension level of Sirineris; but the embellishing cosmetics are inviting and blood-curdling.

Sirineris votes with the flow

The ferocious speeches delivered by Parliamentarians, Ministers and local henchmen on platforms erected by the deal-makers in the village, whose material wealth has been fattened and been overflowing via the proximities to the local and national politicos sustained by these henchmen, have convinced Sirineris that there is no alternative to the present lot despite the immense hardships placed on his aging shoulders and an apology of life that his daily routine has entailed. On Election Day, Sirineris opts to vote with the flow. He decides that, in the absence of a viable and trustworthy alternative, he should continue to play ‘puja’ to the local representatives who have managed to persuade him that his lot would improve for a better tomorrow.

Slave island and the island of slaves

This moving drama of folk life is being enacted on every corner of this Island of ours, day in and day out. Actors and actresses would change and costumes may vary, depending on the local culture and tradition and the location would be different for each episode. Yet, whether it’s an inaccessible hamlet in Moneragala or a crowded colony in Nuwara Eliya or a distant village in Galenbindunuwewa or a swarming street-corner in Slave Island and whether it’s in up North in Velanai under the scorching heat of an unmerciful sun or amidst torrential rains in the heart of Galpatha, a docile village in the Kalutara district and whether the color of skin is yellow, fair, brown or black, whether dialect is of the ‘Vanni’ drawl or Southern or ‘Kandyan’ enunciation, the basic premise and the core substance of the drama do not vary, they do not deviate from the central theme- that of a poignant lament of a nation’s soul, parched lips of a nation’s face, cascading teardrops of a mother’s wail, softening any hard yet tender heart.

Politicians and their Ferraris

The whole nation cries out for help but the cries don’t seem to reach the ears of those who need to hear them. A voice of a whole people has been stilled and muted by an unruly set of political hooligans who are attired in white and pretend to be people’s representatives and the country’s coffers are drained of all tangible assets while the rulers and their kith and kin are gallivanting in Ferraris and Lamborghinis. Sons of politicos are brandishing their fathers’ powers and tormenting innocent lives of teachers, professionals and ordinary folks while justice is being denied and delayed to the very needy. The security forces are being unleashed against a peaceful demonstration while the ‘head of state’ is sullen and silent. The ‘teardrop of the Indian Ocean’ is lamenting; its soft cries have just begun and when they reach their crescendo, the wail would overwhelm the upper echelons and drown them in that very wailing. But it will take time for the cries to reach their climax or their anti-climax.

Sirineris’ legacy

Darmasena will live on until he reaches the ripe-old age of adulthood. He may find some gainful employment and sometime he may not. And whatever the case be, his upbringing would still keep him within the bounds of decency and civility that the present politicians, both in government and opposition are noticeably bereft of. That is Sirineris’s legacy to Darmasena- decency and civility, the rudimentary and uncomplicated elements of a civilized people.


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Poignant lament of a nation’s soul: The regime’s insensitivity to the melancholy of the ordinary

“My grief lies all within, and these external manners of lament are merely shadows to the unseen grief that swells with silence in the tortured ...