Letters From my Father Bennie: Travels with Rati

Chuls Bits & Pics

In an era where there was no email and when even an international telephone conversations had to go through an operator the letters from my father- Bennie (Bhasura) Kirtisinghe–were my umbilical cord to the family. I used to get 3 letters a week in the period 1966-1969 from my father.They kept home sickness at bay and I would carry the last letter with me in my bag and take it out and read on the long bus journey to work in Liverpool.

Sadly, most of the letters from this period are lost but some remain from the time when we lived in Penang and then Kuala Lumpur and later in Brunei Darussalam.

The letters are a rich chronicle of family life that has faded from my memory, but to read again his scrawling hand writing is to relive the past.

The box not only contained letter from him, but there…

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Return to Hikkaduwa 7 years after tsunami

Chuls Bits & Pics

Unlike many of the other tsunami anniversaries my heart is lighter this year.  We have moved past a threshold of pain.  Maybe we are propelled by a natural release of energy that they say happens every seven years
, which encourages you to move forward and make changes. Seven years after the tsunami of December 2004, the Kirtisinghe family seems to have found this energy to move back to their much loved home Siriniwasa.  Built a century ago in 1911, by my paternal grandfather Kaluappuwa Hennidige Bastian de Silva the main house had stood the wrath of the tsunami.  However, the tsunami had taken away the last Kirtisinghe son born in that house, my beloved brother Prasanna.

Today when I spoke to my younger brother Pradeep, there is a very positive lilt to his voice.  They are out shopping for the almsgiving for the seventh death anniversary and the first to…

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Out of the womb of sightless night – bring out the word of healing strong

Chuls Bits & Pics

“There is a space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment that may only be traversed by his longing.”

Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Everyday before I drifted off to sleep, in the waking hours as I moved into consciousness, rumbling along in a rickshaw in dusty Dhaka and often bored at office meetings, my thoughts would be on this this reunion and return to Siriniwasa.

The need to see the house had become a permanent gnawing ache, a longing, an avatar that travelled with me from the time I heard it had been restored.  In my minds eye every door of the house opened on to a memory – voices, faces, laughter, tears, friends and foes, all floated by – a kaleidoscope that I never tired of.  When I traversed it in my dreams, stuck in Dhaka, the nights more than paid for my hopeless longing in the…

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First posted on Chuls Bits & Pics

Chuls Bits & Pics

 

Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.

Prasanna, my mother’s first born son was aptly named by her. The bonny ever smiling baby boy coming after two daughters and specially after grumpy difficult me was what my mother wanted. He was a beautiful baby, huge eyes with long curly lashes, blessed with a happy disposition as his name  he was an instant hit and my amma spoilt him shamelessly. Prasanna  did realize this early advantage and his special position. I did moan and protest at the unfairness but it was impossible not to love Prasanna.  Life and responsibilities rested lightly on him and we all adored him.

My sister Yasoja can recall the day he was born.  Apparently we were sent next door to Dr…

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Happy New Year, Many Happy Returns and the story begins with love. …

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The phones started ringing, sms beeps came fast one after another, and the New Year dawned in a cacophony of bursting firecrackers in Colombo. First to call was Anjie all the way from Sydney, Australia but I was fast sleep and by the time I reached for the phone  I lost the connection. There was not much point going back to sleep – most of Colombo was out partying and thought there were no sane/boring folks like me who wanted to sleep. They were stepping out of the dinners, parties, and nightclub hopping to call and sms me.    

January 1 is a double whammy for me  – as it happens it is my birthday too.  Not that I ever grumbled about my birthday being the first day of the year.  I grew up feeling special to have a birthday on the brand new day the year started. I felt no different today.  Squirrels were already up and squealing their lungs out, the birds were holding their cabinet meeting under the barren avocado tree, Shoe flowers on my one and only flowering bush were opening out and the arecanut palm tree was casting shadows on my neighbour’s wall.  Blue skies a lovely morning, no complains.

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 The view from my bedroom

Being Buddhists, there was never a problem of low cash after Christmas revelries for birthday gifts.  Gifts arrived by post, telegrams instead of sms and I was lucky to get hampers in woven reed baskets from my maternal great grandmother/grand mother with all the yummy sweets I liked. There was always a new party dress from my seamstress aunt and story books from my school teacher aunt.  

Most 31 December evenings we’d sit on the beach and watch the last sunset – a fiery orange red ball that slowly disappeared below the horizon.  Then the focus would shift to the fisherman pulling their outrigger catamarans to sea and wait to see the row of lights near the horizon come on like a belt as the lamps got lit one by one on the boats. Hikkaduwa was a sleepy fishing village then – no hotels, no tourists,  no glass bottom boats –just a wide beach, a sea full of live coral, little rock pools with slimy green seaweeds and a myriad of coloured fish evading our attempts to catch them. 

My father never got tired of telling me that as all good things my life story began with love and a pair of loving genes. On that memorable day for him, the train from Colombo decided to move into express gear at Hikkaduwa railway station. Inside was the midwife that my father was waiting impatiently to meet. His panic was assuaged by a clerk who found him a new nurse and his Dr. brother,  Richie, practicing in the next town stepped into manage the delivery.  Uncle Richie who lived well into his nineties would always remind me rather gleefully “I was the one who pulled you out.”  Apparently “I saw the light of the evening without much trouble,” and his brother’s comment “it’s another daughter,” had little damping effect on my father as the soothsayers said I was a Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) who would bring luck to the family.  So Lakshmi became my middle name. Many years later even when things went wrong at Hikkaduwa I’d get this plea from my father “can you please come home for a couple of days even?.”