Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Way it used to be

"The way it used to be"

By Captain Elmo Jayawardena:

This is no Englebert Humperdink love song - it is a matter with much more meaning.

The gram sellers at Galle Face Green sold their 'kadala gottu' (gram cones) topped with 'isso wade' (shrimp donut), for twenty-five cents. The moviegoers at Savoy cinema came out; couples went to Aleric's for ice cream and families miserly budgeted for Chinese fried rice at Golden Gate. Gunawardena opened batting for the Tamil Union and Sunderalingam kept wickets for the Sinhalese Sports Club. This was once nostalgic Sri Lanka on easy street sans the raging war and the terrible turmoil; 'The way it used to be'.

The 'Yal Devi' took the Madhu pilgrims and the 'Ruhunu Kumari' carried the Kataragama clan. Marawila fishermen fished at Mullativu with the monsoon change and Lever's and Reckitt's Sales Reps sold toothpaste in Jaffna and drank 'Tal Raa' whilst bathing in the Keeramalai tank.

The Vel cart used to come down Wellawatte and the waiters worked double time at the Sarasvati Lodge. The differences were there from the North to the South, but who cared? Nobody killed anyone. There was a life, simple and in peace.

Bala Tampoe took the CMU out on strike every year and the Parliament changed colors every five years with mythological promises. That was acceptable. The queues got long at the CWE to buy "Jumping Fish" and the bread prices leapt like high jumpers. Those were our big problems.

The smiles were there too, affordable to the all and sundry, beat shows and big matches, sports meets and school carnivals, all within a ten-rupee budget. Fashion-wise, the pinnacle was the CR-Havies rugby game at Longdon Place; the Suzettes and Claudettes were there, dazzling in mini skirts, making their best attempts to get partnered to go to the Coconut Grove and jingo and jive to the Jetliners. Some made it to “Akasa Kade” (cafe in the sky) too, to eat egg hoppers and hold hands and become more naughty whilst pretending to be watching the ship lights at the Colombo habor. There was peace; it was a long long time ago. That was before the Morris Minor taxi cabs changed their English alphabet number plates.

Then came the carnage. Who's to blame? Don't waste time, that's kicking the moon and corralling clouds. We all know better. We are all to be blamed, some for cheering and others for their silence. It has always been 'our soldiers' - but it is their war.

The guns are silent now and the talks go on and hope seeps slow like a weed-clogged wave. If the Gods are kind, we'll have peace. Let it lie there. North and East must be separate 'Don't give this', 'can't have that', 'autonomy? What nonsense?' Such passionate phrases bellow from borrowed patriotism. 'My son has to study', 'No no, not to join the Air Force', 'Army? Are you mad?' The same voices add the contradictions. 'We must continue to fight at any cost'. Brave words, quite cheap too when rights and wrongs are just "whys" sprouting out from empty opinions on even emptier forums. Try telling all that to mothers who buried their sons or children who pray for their missing fathers. Voice it to a legless 'Boy' from Velvettiturai or a sightless soldier from Devundara. Or maybe to a lover who lights a candle for some forgotten fighter buried under swollen earth, too poor even for a memorial. What does it matter to which side they belonged? They paid the price, we didn't. They shed the tears, we didn't.

Let us then wish, nay, that's not enough, let us pray, to all the Gods in creation for "The way it used to be" to return. Or.... let us be silent. We owe that much to those who died nameless. The writer is the president of AFLAC (The Association for Lighting a Candle) doing yeoman service in helping deprived sections of society to improve their lot in life.

From: Ned's Nook http://www.acneuro.com/

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