By Vishwamithra –
“The most glorious moments in your life are not the so-called days of success, but rather those days when out of dejection and despair you feel rise in you a challenge to life, and the promise of future accomplishments.” ~ Gustave Flaubert
A ravaged countryside is waiting to greet you. Its desolate stretches are hardly a welcoming sight. Even the usual harmonious humming of birds of rare species, how melancholy it may sound, has forsaken the landscape. Gloomy skies and a forlorn cloud cover are hanging like a shroud over an earth dying of thirst; infrequency of rain is more predictable than the irregularity of clouds turning dark as a precursor of torrents to come down to drench the soil making it ready and willing to produce and reproduce many shoots of plants, pastoral or otherwise. When that day will be, we don’t know.
A peasant community whose demands are confined merely to timely rains, judicious supply of fertilizer and nothing else, is now left to the unkind impulses of shrewd mill owners. Feeders of a nation are wailing for want of the most basic of basics – fertilizer. Policies of conversion to organic farming have caused the collapse of the very livelihood of the most deep-rooted community in the country. They could have had no reason for bitterness had the fate that befell their livelihood to a stagnating occupation been a natural occurrence such as a drought or floods. Natural disasters do have a reasonable place in the nature of things. But manmade disasters as that imposed cosmetic paradigms on their generation-old occupation of farming should not go either unnoticed or disregarded.
The three-wheeler owners had their share of grief too. Scarcity of petrol and diesel has prompted them to put their main life-implement on logs. Those who depended on daily hires and monthly commitments to transport schoolchildren to and from schools are deprived of their incomes, however meager or satisfactory they were. Prices of all household essentials are soaring and falling sick at a time like this is no option for those whose daily or weekly demands on medicines cannot be sacrificed for lack of cash.
Credit card debts are rising and the vicious cycle of reusing debts is feeding on itself. Wherever they look, what waits is no relief or reason for apathy. The country’s macroeconomic picture is not one that’s pleasing to the eye, nor reprieve to the consumer. The urban sector is reeling beyond redemption and the demand on its sacrifice for the sake of a tomorrow that never promises any respite or recovery has no merit.
On the contrary, those who ask a coiling population to forego luxuries and comforts that were taken for granted have abdicated that right to ask for such uncommon discomfort from a whirling generation. Politicians as one single community of rulers who pronounce policies and principles of balanced and fair governance and deliverers of economic equality do not show any signs of retreat either from their debunked theories or broken promises.
Each and every discernible segment of the population wants quick and immediate solutions. Issues that confront them on a daily basis are multiplying and the day that these issues get resolved is receding far away from the possibility of being fixed. When every hope is dashed and every dream comes crashing down, the possibility of the combination of all these grievances engulfing the entire population and stifling them is one probability that no person would dare challenge.
The youth of today is fast losing their opportunity of sharing wonderful memories of innocent romance and playful days. A village damsel waiting patiently for her lover to arrive in the vicinity for them to get together and share those unique moments of youth’s wonders now seems to be daydreaming. She is too busy helping her parents to make ends meet at home. Her wish of finding government employment is receding with each passing day. The talk in town is that if the government succeeds in securing the International Monetary Fund (IMF) assistance, there shall be too many limits on government recruitment- and there goes her opportunity. If she fails to secure a government job, she needs to look elsewhere and those opportunities are dwindling with each passing day.
The country’s ability to cope with the unkind economic hardships is becoming increasingly difficult and as a result the first to appear at the front of the first line of sufferance are the youth of the country. They have burnt midnight oil in studying and entering the university and obtaining a degree the subjects of which are hardly used in the prospective employment they seek. The obsolete education policy and its implementation have taken their final toll. Hundreds of thousands of degree holders are rotting at home for want of employment and successive governments have failed time and again to offer significant changes to the prevailing education system.
A grieving population has no probable alternative other than to get to the streets and demonstrate their anger, frustration and rage about the fate that the governing parties have willy nilly imposed on them. Those who have not passed the mandatory examinations even to minimally qualify to be a KKS (Karyala Karya Sadhaka – peon) are Ministers, State Ministers and Parliamentarians. The emotions and feelings of sheer envy are strangling this young generation of today. They could be appeased if and when they see emergence of a plausible policy change. But such dreams will, as in the past, continue to reside in that gloomy abode of the impossible.
But the well-to-do families are still enjoying the luxuries, gallivanting around the five star hotels, munching the savories and mini-sandwiches and paying tens of thousands of rupees for their ‘high-tea’. Such indulgences cannot be exaggerated and their frequencies are exceeding the number of meals some families could afford a week. The invisible criterion of an expanding gulf between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ might not catch the eye of an educated economist, but in real life such differences between incomes are a society-killer.
Loss of fun time for a young man and a woman cannot be retrieved, nor can it be relived. Time, the equalizer of all change, fundamentally as a concept and practically as a measure of dawn and twilight, is challenging the entire nation today.
Those politicos, who never tire of making more money on a daily basis from their newly acquired cohorts and ventures launched into thanks to their close proximity to power and powerbrokers, internally laugh at those who suffer at the bottom of the social ladder. A society that is increasingly getting accustomed to measuring all success with dollars and cents is blindly following the acknowledged religious rituals and each holiday season make their annual pilgrimage to visit their unseen gods of this religion or that faith. Devoid of spiritual purity, yet remarkably attired in a bogus veneer of religiosity, men, women and children are snaking down a lane at the end of which is nothing but nothingness and sociocultural abyss. Squid the Russell wrote a poem that is reverberating in my ears: ‘I wish I had arms, To reach down, With a pair Of gleaming scissors, To cut my tether, I wish I had a voice, To tell them what I want, What I think, Because they won’t listen, Won’t pay attention, To my relentless fight, To my constant struggle, Against the confines of my rope, Won’t someone set me free? Can’t somebody help me? To become an untethered kite’?
All of us, all Sri Lankans who call Lanka home, have reached a nadir in our collective life. Fear of the unknown seems to be greater and more overwhelming than the one we are leaving behind. The gushing of life’s waters and the potentiality of a far too challenging fall could be stunning, yet it is a challenge one has to embrace; suffer the temporary hardships whichever way that unpredictable gush is taking us all. The unknown devil eventually might still be preferable to the rut that we seem to have settled into.
That unknown abyss might be far more inviting and pleasant than the current mess that we have created ourselves. There is no need or necessity to hurl criticism or insult at our political leaders anymore. It was we who created them, nurtured them and nourished them with our own meager earnings as bribes or our unwise judgments as votes. Democracy, they say, is the best of all bad systems of government man has invented. In that long line of evolution, man has generally reposed faith, time and energy in these politicians who come before us and pontificate from atop their platforms and pledge allegiance to the constitution, laws and political correctness.
But what have achieved as a nation? Our last President is a fugitive, on a voyage of discovery-he’s trying to discover his new land of comfort, luxury and refuge. In other words, we have elected a President who is not trusted by his own voters and not welcomed by others in the international arena. Gotabaya’s voyage is not a matter for laugh and derision. It is an outright insult to our own intelligence and collective judgment. Such a fate might well be awaiting the present man who is another imposter. Ranil Wickremesinghe is no pious man. His undoing might just be around the corner.
It’s time to untether the kite! But do we have the courage and eagerness to challenge the unchallengeable and go flying like an untethered kite?
*The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org