By Malinda Seneviratne –
Meanwhile In A Parallel Universe
‘We have to do something about it,’ Psychosothy Paranamuttu started things off at Celery Café, Colombo 3 where some hardcore HR hawks had gathered to obtain comfort of companionship in trying times.
‘Yes, since we are not nationalists, we have to show nationalists and everyone else that we are internationalists,’ J.C. Galamuna opined.
‘I agree. We are beyond narrow identities. We don’t do identity politics. We do identifying politics. We are not racists. We are human racists.’ That was Bimalka Ferdinando.
‘I second that!’ Mohan Edirmanne, on a short visit home from Nepal, chipped in.
‘Hey Mohan, long time no see. Where were you hiding, man?’ Johanne Perera was curious.
‘Doing this and that men, don’t you know?’
‘Did you order?’ Sankajaya Hattotuwegama was interested in getting on with the business at hand.
‘Your favorites, brother!’ Paranamuttu calmed the young man down.
‘I know I am not exactly an HR man, but we are all in this together, and I hope you don’t mind me tossing in my two pennies worth,’ Charlie Hadaland cautiously wanted inclusion.
‘By all means buddy, go ahead and give us the low down!’ Bimalka said graciously.
‘Ok. Thanks. Here goes. Judges at the European Court of Human Rights, that’s ECHR folks, have upheld France’s burqa ban, claiming that the ban encouraged citizens to live together.’
‘Three cheers for the liberal attitude of the French towards relationships and sex!’ Maurice Gonzales of the International Centre for Ethnic Cleansing didn’t hide his jubilation.
‘Er….Mo…I don’t think that’s what it’s about, is it Charlie?’ Psychosothy tried to keep things sober.
‘Yes. This is about a law introduced in 2010 which made it illegal for anyone to cover their face in a public place. While it also covers balaclavas and hoods, the ban has been criticized as targeting Muslim women,’ Hadaland explained.
‘Are you sure Charlie? It sounds like something that can only come from the Sinhala Buddhist State, certainly not France,’ Bimalka wasn’t convinced.
‘It’s France alright,’ Charles assured her and added, ‘the question is, since we are not nationalists and since our ideology is not contained by national boundaries, we can’t be twiddling our thumbs over this issue.’
‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,’ Gonzales showed off his sloganeering skills.
‘Charlie, you are right,’ Paranamuttu ignored Maurice, ‘we have talked so religiously about religious freedoms that we just can’t let this pass without comment.’
‘But we have not uttered a word about the lack of religious freedoms in Arab countries,’ Galamuna broke his silence, making people squirm in their chairs, despite long-standing growth of layers and layers on selectivity-tissue on their self righteous bums.
‘That’s different Machang,’ Sankajaya brought in nuance, ‘because there are places where we can do things and places where we can’t.’
‘Yes, where soft religions are strong, there’s room for us to talk about religious freedoms and in its name defend all kinds of intrusions that would not be allowed in countries where intruding religions are dominant,’ Johanne Perera made a careful intervention to support Hattotuwegama.
‘But this is France,’ Paranamuttu reminded everyone of the matter at hand.
‘Let’s go there, let’s go there!’ Sankajaya was excited.
‘Let’s not be hasty, after all the French would not see us as human rights activists but a bunch of brownies who are trying to teach them how to run their affairs,’ Mohan was cold sober.
‘No, they won’t. They give us money and tell us how to teach Sri Lankans how to live their lives. It’s all in the spirit of cooperation, common human values and so on. That’s what we’ve learnt from all the workshops we’ve attended, remember?’ Bimalka was optimistic.
‘You can’t be serious!’ Johanne said.
‘Come on Bimalka, we can rant and rave about the BBS, but we won’t utter one word about the clashes in Kalmunai where two Muslim sects are fighting it out, do you even wonder why we don’t?’ Mohan put Bimalka on the spot.
‘We are moving away from the topic,’ Paranamuttu tried to keep the peace.
‘Hey guys, it’s getting late,’ Sankajaya looked at his watch.
‘True, true, let’s meet again and put together a project proposal to organize 1000 workshops all over Sri Lanka where we will debate whether or not we should go to France!’ Galamuna said.
‘Who is picking up the bill?’ Johanne was always particular about such thing.
‘I will,’ Paranamuttu said, adding with a grin, ‘we will put it down to transport costs!’
Everyone laughed but in the midst of all that gaiety Bimalka had the presence of mind to whisper into Charlie’s ear, ‘Don’t you write about it!’
‘Hey, I am a friend, a beneficiary and I know what I am supposed to do and when to play deaf and dumb!’ Hadaland said reassuringly.
‘As long as Colombo Telegraph doesn’t get to know about it!’ Paranamuttu hissed.
As they trooped out of Celery Café, Mohan was struck by a thought. He turned around and asked, ‘Hey J.C., how come you still go with the name Galamuna?’
The man was embarrassed. He stammered out, ‘I know, I know, I’ve been busy, but don’t worry, I am going to change it to Kalmunai very soon.’
‘Good,’ said Mohan as he turned back, almost knocking down a woman in a burqa, to whom he quickly apologized, ‘Sorry Ma’am, please be assured, I am not a supporter of living together!’
The woman, obviously not making head or tail of it, gathered herself and walked away, entering the safe precincts of Celery Café.
*Malinda Seneviratne is the Chief Editor of ‘The Nation’ and his articles can be found at www.malindawords.blogspot.com