How blue was my sea@Hikkaduwa

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Four years after the tsunami the trek back to Siriniwasa is filled with poignant flashbacks.  Sadly, the memory is as sharp as ever, the pain a trifle dulled by a stoic acceptance, but the eyes  still have a mind of its open and fill with tears.

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The road just before Peraliya, where the train got swept away is now repaired.

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but the road sides are dotted with the graves of lost ones.

I think the young hip crowd call Hikkaduwa, Hix and thay are the ones now taking over Hix. Walking across from our house to the smart little cafe, I asked the lass there how people are faring after the tsunami.  “Oh, they are waiting for another tsunami — all the poor made money, and only the better off were losers.”  A pointed reminder that everyone has built back better, except us.

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Across the street I see Lily,  my mother’s loyal friend, in the traditional “kabakurutthu” worn in the South and reflected in the glass behind her was the reflection of our house now occupied by the Coast Conservation.

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Behind our house divers were pushing off for a dive.

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The sea was azure, clear and the water inviting.

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Oh, how  I miss thee Siriniwasa.

If  you haven’t read: Ashes of thoughts what the tsunami took away is my story of the 2004.

And the brother I lost in the tsunami:

Tsunami 3 years on: Remembering Prasanna Kirtisinghe

All Photographs© Chulie de Silva

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To Ranil Aravinda with love

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trouble with birthday cards is not that I forget to buy them but I never get around to posting them.    birthdays are a good time to get mushy take another look at the baby snapshots, go down memory lane and wonder where did  all those wonder years and your babies go …

35 years to this day, almost to the time of writing,  there was a quick change of evening plans.  My first love and I decided it was best to head to the McCarthy nursing home than the Hitchcock horror movie at the cinema.   But the VIP after an initial brief announcement of arrival decided to stay where he was and delayed the screaming for another day. 

Father-in-law read the horoscope again and declared confidently he will cut off his right ear if it was another boy.  The first born pranced around quite oblivious that his supreme status as the heir to the family throne will get a  little shake from the soon to arrive spare and the domestics were placing their bets on whether it was a boy or girl.  I reminded the first love that he had to send roses — better a reminder than be disappointed!!!

Next day,  the first love was outside the hospital room pacing the floor wondering whether I’ll do the honours before Noon to enable him to attend a lunch meeting with the Bank that is the World types.  I did oblige — and certainly there were no conditionality that three decades later I would be happily slaving away for this very same Bank.  

To go back to the events on 3 August — “It’s a baby born in in the caul” ( inside the amniotic sac), shouted the matron —  There were lots of “Oohs and Aghh’s” and exclamations that this was a lucky baby, a rare occurence apparently.  A few others rushed into the room to see this show but when I tried to get up Dr. Aunty growled “lie back and be a good girl. ”  Thus was I shut out from my very own production of a lifetime.  Back in Nugegoda, in the “Ranjana” house named after the first love, Father-in-law was pouring over the ancient almanacs trying to find a loop hole not to be the chief guest at the “Ear cutting ceremony.”

 Legend has it that babies born in caul never drown,  but we didn’t take any chances.  Here you are Ranil with your brother and your Grandfather Benny or “Hikkduwa Seeya” as you called him, sea bathing behind Siri Niwasa.

 

 

 

 During this holiday “Hikkduwa Seeya, ”  taught Ranil three magic words — Thank you, Please and Sorry.  Back in our house in Penang, Ranil all of 2 years pulled a table cloth, dropped a whole jug of water and ran out of the kitchen.  Wagging my finger at him I called out What do you say, where’s the magic word — Ranil  tuned back and said “Thank you.”

Yes, Ranil, thank you  for the memories and Many, Many Happy and Healthy Returns of the Day.

 

 

 

  Bedtime was “Three Billy’s Goats Gruff” story over and over and over and the ubiquitous bottle of milk

 

 

 

 With Nugegoda Seeya, (M.W. R. de Silva) roots of the name Ranil came from his name Ranadeva and your father’s Ranjith — Ran also is gold:-)(note his right ear is intact) at “Ranjana”, 39 Chapel Road, Nugegoda.

 

 

 

 

 

 Ranil left wth his father (Prof. M.W.R.N. de Silva) and his brother Suren at 2, Solok Glugor House, Penang

 

And being a mother 34 years ago. in Solok Glugor, Penang

Wandering through Yesterday Country with Somasiri Devendra

Boys fishing@ Dodanduwa

© Chulie de Silva

Now, this story “Yesterday is another country” has many sides. And I suspect there are many other stories attached to all those sides. And those stories also have many sides.  Are you with me still? That’s a lot of sides to muse about and lots of tracks to wander off as you read the stories. Plus, of course this is a story about a story of the man who wrote it.  Confused?  You won’t be if you read it.

Yesterday is certainly another country that some of us yearn for with a gnawing ulcerating pain at the pit of our stomachs. It’s a life left behind that we try to hang on to through the slender threads of our writings.  Our writings are more a justification to ourselves, of what we are, what we did or didn’t do, what moved us and who left indelible marks in our lives.  In doing so do we bridge that generation gap?  Devendra here, is really a master craftsmen throwing words together like a chef does with condiments  to present to us a mixed platter delicately flavoured at times, strong and spicy at another time.  

To me this at first glance was a disjointed set of stories culled from a life lived with exemplary values.  Not the usual biography.  Certainly not at all a problem as I could read it not from front to back but as I pleased. The journey in the sequence he had arranged begins with the “hat,”  followed by “he is a good boy.”  I am riveted to the book by the time I get to the “Family pot of gold”.   My heart is heavy as I meander around the paths at Pera campus in a poignant stillborn love affair so typical of that era.– I suspect won’t make any sense to teenagers or undergrads now.   We meet his relatives, friends and the unexpected Raven in Hawai — all the time touching raw spots in our conscience.  I wander around the ancient Kandyan kingdom learning about myths that I didn’t know existed. Suffer with Wimal through the pain of being not loved and abandoned and unexpectedly  enjoy a an interesting Internet encounter.

 As side stories go,  I put the book down to recall  the last conversation I had with the Venerable Dodanduwe Dharmasena who called me one day to ask for  help to safeguard the Kumarakande library – “be a true daughter of Hikkaduwa and the South” he said.  Alas! never achieved that status as  I never got around to doing anything for the library — not because I didn’t want to but because I let other family issues dominate my life .  Mingled with this guilt are memories of  happier times at Dodanduwa — how we as kids held our noses as an aunt  who loved the smelly preserved “jadi” fish  rummaged around  giant jars in Dodanduwa.

 There are more side stories to unearth. I call another aunt to check whether she knew the whereabouts of a teacher Miss Dantanarayana who taught me at  “Sri Sumangala Girls’ School” in Panadura.  Here I draw a blank.

The mind wanders off without any help remembering something I read about living today in an instant, just-add-water, push-a-button, microwaveable-in-under-three-minutes, zap-the-remote-control kind of a world now. Not everything about it is good. Realisation also dawns that the journey of life through the ethical conundrums and moral mazes is never an easy one.  Sadly we’ve lost our appreciation for essential natural processes that need to happen slowly. We look for ways to hurry them as farmers do ripening fruits with carbide and  we look for ways to depersonalise the injustices that we can see yet seemingly cannot influence.

But here is Devendra pushing us to look at these issues not forcefully but quietly stating in the typical non assuming, non boastful style of living that was extolled in years past  “Do not expect too much of this collection … you will find no words of wisdom, no messages, no moral…”  

 That I must dispute, although I wished many a times  there were some illustrations or the author had shared the photographs he spoke of. 

 

Thank you Sir, for this rich tapestry of stories.

 

Yesterday is Another Country

By Somasiri Devendra

ISBN 978-955-9419-28-0

 

Author Contact: somasiri@edisrilanka.com

 

 

Marriage Fatigue and the Taboo Divorce

  Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet and so are you….
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“Please can you have a boring life this year,” said Mohini my friend, after she heard about the private bus that slammed into my car two days before Christmas. 

The question I often ask myself is: Where would I be if every action of mine was impeccable, that I had been right about absolutely everything and had never made a dubious choice in my life and lived a life as “Visakha” practising norms learned from childhood, religion etc…   Would I be happy now?  I doubt it. I would be bored and, worse, I would be boring!

Well, it has been dodgy living the past few years. If I took stock from 2004, there was the tsunami, followed by the  flash floods with my little suburban hut going under 2 feet of water in 2006.  Then there was the time that I nearly set my house on fire last year when a candle in a glass holder burst and set on fire my aromatherapy oils which was supposed to energize me!!

Life is certainly different after the divorce, not just having to cope with disasters on your own. … The really unexpected discovery was how close friends and to a lesser degree family reacted.  My father’s comment was extreme.  True to his nature he said,”You don’t need a divorce, you should get a knife and do a Bobbitt on him.”  .  My aunt was dumb struck and my sister-in-law, broke up into hysterical laughter. Didn’t earn Thatha much favour with my Amma too. She apparently moaned silently for the loss of her favourite son-in-law, but I think she secretly envies my independence. 

I soon discovered that invitations to dinners, lunches with friends were few and far between.  And when they did they made sure that I was seated among the old ladies – no loose  cannon among the men, no interesting conversations on the political goings on .  Conversation was often limited to backaches, cholestrol levels,  lack of good domestics to slave for you — and of course the inevitable gossip of the chattering classes. 

On one occasion, the portly society matron peered over the spectacles and asked “What’s your name again dearie?”  “Chulie.”   “Oh! Chulie who?”  Now I was in the midst of an upcountry Kandyan clan, and once I uttered “De Silva”  I am sure she began to wonder what caste I belonged to. We were interrupted by my hostess’s sister who summarized my life history by saying ” She was married to a nice man but is now divorced. ….” 

The dinner last week was slightly different but equally stigmatizing. In the company of ex-spouses’ school mates -the conversation commenced with how on the way to an important meeting before the dinner this couple were caught in a shower-all because the husband didn’t think the pair of shoes his wife was wearing matched her saree. He actually went in to a shop in the rain and brought her a pair to match as well as another pair she liked.

From such an orthodox Sri Lankan husband concerned about the image his wife projected, it was inevitable that the I would hear comments like “How could I go astray and divorce his friend?”  “you couldn’t have found a better man,” “marriage is forever”  and the million dollar question ‘Would you like to get back together?”.   Ahhh… he had found a noble mission to accomplish among his Lion’s Club tasks.  So commenced the debate-“Why did you marry in the first place? – if he wanted the answer to be romantic love – he didn’t get it although yes that was so and there were all the ingredients – the sea, the beach, the swaying palms at Hikkaduwa.  

However, this straight-laced friend of my ex-spouse didn’t fall of the chair when I said the reason I married was for “Sex.”  I was no doubt trying to shock this man and stop him in his tracks.   If it did, he didn’t show it — except that he refilled his glass.  So we argued about  the pros and cons, weaving in and out between expected norms, unexpected and unaccepted behaviours like mine.

Reflecting on that memorable debate on the whys and wherefore’s of marriages, I hunted for this article on “metal fatigue” so neatly presented in the Wikipedia.  Replacing Metal with marriage and a few other words ( I have kept the original links which are interestingly refreshing) we now have:

In life marriage fatigue is the progressive and localised structural damage that occurs when a marriage is subjected to cyclic loading. The maximum stress values are less than the ultimate tensile stress limit, and may be below the yield stress limit of the material.

  • The process starts with dislocation movements ( like wife becoming too assertive, moving up in her career, empty nest syndrome, working apart in different countries) eventually forming persistent slip bands that nucleate short cracks.
  • Fatigue is a stochastic process, often showing considerable scatter even in controlled environments.
  • The greater the applied stress, the shorter the life.
  • Fatigue life scatter tends to increase for longer fatigue lives.
  • Damage is cumulative. Marriages do not recover when rested.
  • Fatigue life is influenced by a variety of factors, such as age, in-laws, presence of oxidizing or inert friends and relations, residual stresses, contacts, etc.
  • Some marriages (e.g., some needing to maintain status quo) exhibit a theoretical fatigue limit below which continued loading does not lead to failure.

We are human beings. We thrive on complication – and we love the illusion that change is always for the good. Divorce is a school of hard knocks, there are lunch breaks and vacations. The reason we all get time out from the suffering is so that we have some memory of greater happiness to torment us when we return to a state of discomfort. Nothing is difficult forever!!!