By Grusha Andrews –
Ahimsa, I write to you, not because I am an authority on loss, but because I too am a daughter.
Not because any living human can offer words of true solace to a daughter whose father has been murdered in broad daylight in a high security zone.
The indecency of a brutal death is that it envelopes, like a dark cloud, every aspect of the lives of those who remain. That act of brutality may be one of many for the murderer. But it is inflicted on the one father that a daughter has.
The cruelty of that murder follows us like a shadow and erases the smiles, mid-smile; erases laughter mid-laughter. That horror and sorrow traverses the skin and penetrates the flesh and sleeps in the bones. It seeps in to our blood and breath and finally sleeps in our souls like an ugly monster. It does not leave, and there is no sutra to disentangle from that shadow.
No matter how many times the shadow is shooed away by our small stampings of the feet, that mammoth shadow remains laughing at our faces, defeating us.
Every day when you wake up to this sorrow. A hundred times, in the midst of going through a mundane day, it is this sorrow that you think of.
Then the sorrow is embodied.
In the faint lines of our faces, in the hoods of the eyes, in the sad and permanent twist of the lips. This sorrow starts to define us, our relationships. We become walking, throbbing, living masses of cells, plasma, nerves, guts, bones of pain.
And then we bleed on those who didn’t wound us.
Loves are lost, lovers leave us, friendships break and parts of our lives are lost, because this sorrow is just too much for others to take. We burn bridges with those who advise us to heal. If we heal and move on, is that not betrayal? So this sorrow becomes our friend, ally, lover, partner and our soul mate. Because this sorrow alone knows us, defines us, drives us, breaks us, and makes us.
Ahimsa, I write to you, not because I’m an authority on loss, but I am, on sorrow.
I have tasted the real taste of stale blood of failure every step of the way in the dual with state corruption. You feel like the proverbial mother squirrel from the ‘Jathakas’ who tried to sponge away the ocean with her tail to empty it. Those efforts are endless. Luckless. Exhausting. Soul draining.
During these battles, you realize, that those who champion your cause have fallen off to the laps of the murderers along the way. They have collected perks from the perpetrators and capitalized on the crime to gain positions, recognition, pity and victimhood. They now feed on their victimhood like vultures, and the injustice not avenged is their bread and butter.
You feel that you are pretty much alone in your battle.
But do not forget. You father Lasantha Wickrematunge is a symbol. The poorer, less privileged, darker, lankier, lesser known, less stellar journalists slain do not emblemize injustice like your father does.
Behind the prince-like, shy smiled, gentle and gorgeous face of your father are hundreds of less remembered faces. Their children are not the Ahimsas, the Aadeshes and the Avinashes of Sri Lanka. They don’t create an image in our mind. Ahimsa, you are forever to me a turned face covered in silky shoulder length hair, face not quite showing besides the dead body of Lasantha. Your brothers who looked like sad angels, so perfect in their features, are etched in my mind. But I’m sure they have grown now and perhaps look different. But the children of the nameless, faceless journalists, buried or cremated in the east, west, south and the north, whose families probably starve, whose children who will never know their father, nor have too many pictures of them to touch, are silently lined behind the face of Lasantha. And you. And Avinash. And Aadesh.
Today we commemorate a decade, not only of the murder of Lasantha, but a decade of defeat and desolate pain of children who, unlike you, Aadesh and Avinash, do not “have a name”. Justice for Lasantha would be a nomination of their pain.
About a month ago, in an undeclared place in this world, I sat down to translate the letter you wrote to President Sirisena upon the transfer of Nishantha Silva, the most crucial officer of the murder investigation of Lasantha out of his station. Few paragraphs in to the translation, your resonant heartbreak seeped through the keyboard of my laptop in to the bones of my fingers. ‘Be free of this pain, Ahimsa’, I said to you in my heart, from thousands of miles afar.
All religions and scriptures preach to us the importance of forgiveness. But none spell out the steps of forgiveness. They glorify the act of forgiveness and often say that it is a liberation, not to the perpetrator but to ourselves. They say that forgiveness is for the solace of the victim, even if not to the criminal. That forgiveness makes us the better person. That it will take us to greater freedoms, greater peace.
But how does one forgive and let go of the people who stole one’s beautiful, happy, funny, tender, warm father? Our fathers are our final refuge, the mat of our soul, the balm on our lives’ wounds.
How can one forgive? What is it that one forgives?
When this long drawn, harrowing journey ends with a verdict in the courts, at the end of investigations, I gently suggest to you Ahimsa that you forgive.
I think you cannot forgive the murder of Lasantha. Only Lasantha, from some celestial abode, can forgive his own death. I think you can only forgive the wrong that was done to you. For cruelly stealing your father away from you. For the loss of decades of love. The hugs. The kisses. The love. The love.
This forgiveness may take few more years to come. Not till the murderers are brought to justice. But that day will come. When that day comes, forgive yourself for laughing again. For living while he lays dead in a cold lonely place under the earth. Forgive yourself for tasting life. Love your life, so precious, so symbolic, so fragile, salted with tears, yet so beautiful.
Love your beautiful life.
One day, hopefully not so many days from now, Ahmisa, become his daughter that you would have been had he lived to love you one more day. Inside this darkness lies his seed of love, laughter, hope, bravery, imagination, beauty.
Your long battle is the battle of the children of the ‘not- so- fabulous’ ‘not-so-spoken-of’ journalists who lay sleeping in cold places, under the earth just like Lasantha.
You have fought bravely, you have fought well. You will continue to fight for some more years.
But when it’s finally over, be his daughter of love and laughter. Be his daughter of vitality, mischief, humor and life. If you achieve that, you go from this world one day, with him, alive. Live, Ahimsa, live.
Be free my girl.