26 September, 2020

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Somewhere Deep Down Inside Of Me I Hear An Ancestral Cry

By Natale Dankotuwage

Natale Dankotuwage

Natale Dankotuwage

I picked up the pail and flipped it over my head. The cold water rushed down my face. Nearby a cat scrolled along the tall walls that surrounded the Maha Gedera. A crow flew by while the mango tree’s long arms stretched out above me.

It was a sunny day on the outskirts of Colombo. One of those beautiful days that made all your worries subside. It was one of those days that made me want to bathe outdoors, donning a sarong around my body.

Once more, I ran the pail through a larger bucket of water. I raised the small bucket above my head and flipped it over letting the water fall over my head and down my face. Next door I could hear the neighbour running water and the splash of cloth against a flat surface. Someone was doing their laundry.

My mind ran off to stories of my mother’s childhood in this neighbourhood. When she had grown up here there’d been no running water. Rather, they’d have to venture off to the nearest river to bathe or wash their clothes. On odd days, government trucks arrived with tanks of water to distribute to the houses. People would rush to the trucks with their large buckets.

Sri LankaMy mother and father have simple beginnings. Both raised in large families of nine siblings by parents with a limited income. When they lived on the Island, river or outdoor baths by a well were a common occurrence.

When I visit, I relish these little things that they once did and do no more because wealth has gifted them with other facilities.

They’d gone West in search of material pleasures unfulfilled on their tropical Island. And, in many ways, they succeeded in appeasing their thirst and the journey was well worth it. Yet, sometimes, I find myself judging otherwise, especially on those days I bathe outdoors with the sun against my back.

There are literally some things that money cannot buy. And what’s most astonishing is that often those moments are far more fulfilling than all the material luxury the West has blessed us with…

The West has given them many comforts this Island couldn’t provide. But the simple warmth this Island provides is surely irreplaceable. As I spend my summers here and when I discover a simple pleasure of no monetary value, I always think – they must miss this. Because somewhere deep down inside of me I hear an ancestral cry – I missed this.

Maha Gedera – the home of your grand parents, parent and their siblings

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Latest comments

  • 12
    0

    Paradise it could have been.

    Oh motherland or horrors.

    ‘Where every prospect pleases, man alone is vile’ (Reginald Heber – 1783 to 1826).

  • 10
    10

    Beautifully said!

  • 14
    9

    Natale,
    Why don’t you think something NEW, instead of getting the same old common emotions of your parents while spending a short holiday in SL…. You mentioned very popular but misguiding saying that money can’t buy everything.. What “No Money” give to poor people in general? There is more tendency for poorer people to become angry, rough, lying.. perhaps for Rs/1000 one poor might do really ugly thing to another poor man.. Gandhi said “Poverty is the worst form of violence”.. So working hard, being successful, being able to save some money for rainy days would help people to become more softer and gentle in nature. Why don’t we talk about this side?

    If you get time, go to a hospital and spend some time there. See how cruel some of our nurses treat our sick patients who indirectly pay their salaries. Doctors talk to you like you are an utter fools, know nothing about our bodies. Zero respect?? Have you even been hospitalized in the West? Have you felt the respect & care you get from nurses, doctors as you are another human being in the West?
    Rosy pictures and those pleasant feelings you mentioned are real for a short trip and also if you have “Maha Gedara” in cool outer suburbs, and non of your parents sibling in SL fighting fiercely for the ownership of “Maha Gedara” and “Pol Watta”… Sorry for putting these ugly side of your parents country…

    • 10
      12

      Alahakoon

      A very negative comment in response to a beautiful , heart warming piece of writing .
      I recently admitted a patient suspected of having dengue to Kalubowila Hospital . I was completely overwhelmed by the level of kindness and care shown to the hundreds of ‘ordinary’ people by nurses and doctors alike . They work with the very basic facilities and in trying conditions. When the patient was discharged a few days later, no bill was produced – all free of charge , and this is supposed to be a “third world” country !
      Get a life elsewhere Alahakoon , Sri Lanka can do without you .

      • 14
        6

        Moron pity you have not traveled.
        Lanka is not the only 3rd world country that offers free medicine at a time of emergency.
        Casual white workers from UK arrive at Lanka get upset tummies and the taxi driver just barges in jumps the long winding queue because his customer is loaded with ££. Nothing is charged;)
        The bloke arrives in the UK and says the colony is still are under our rule.

        When a well dressed lankan with $$ enters a 5 star hotel the door boy does not see him. But when a shabbily dressed white man enters the b boy almost bends and opens door and greets. GAMYATA MAGIC.

        While the English are known to only praise themselves effortlessly and they are very confident.-
        it’s the stupid culture of Hegel eggheads because when you are barely you kiss the feet of Eggheads that rule you and are their slaves.

      • 12
        6

        “”in response to a beautiful , heart warming piece of writing .” jam and butter- would she come down and comment ? She never has because it’s the style in the manger

        What this woman says is Eeda malli satdayak baila kiyyana(sing a song for 10p)…. And she is known to make money in TV chat shows. But what does she do for the land?? Reminds me of Tubular Bells.

        Get a life elsewhere Alahakoon , Sri Lanka can do without you .
        He (S/T) lives down under and is desperate for a cheap home at Lanka in his retirement.

        The world is my oyster and I never turn back.
        Cheerio.

  • 4
    3

    I can feel for you Natalie. I guess I am bit like you. But I try to resist the temptation. Time travels only in one direction. I am changed, people I knew 30 years ago have changed, Sri Lanka has changed. By not trying to relive my life 30 years ago, I preserve that does not need to change. That is my memory of My Lanka.

  • 11
    11

    Thank you, Natale Dankotuwage, for a really pretty and heart-felt piece of writing to which so many of us returned expatriates can relate despite the viciousness of the xenophobes who would deny such a right to anyone seemingly not “Sinhala Buddhist.”
    In closing, I think you also need to be cognizant of the fact that your sense of balance in matters material and spiritual has perhaps survived because you have not been subjected to the avalanche of racist hatred that the media, unfortunately, provides publicity to in this country.
    Thank you, again, and I look forward to more writing of this kind from you and people of like mind.

    • 0
      8

      Emil,

      Th only xenophobe here is you. The ones who used to rule the native sinhala buddhists when british was there lost their hegemonic rule once SL got independent and its power went to the hands of its real owners.

      It is this loss of hegemony that makes you angry and scream against the native people in SL the sinhala buddhits.

      //hich so many of us returned expatriates can relate despite the viciousness of the xenophobes who would deny such a right to anyone seemingly not “Sinhala Buddhist.”///

      where have the SBs ever shown viciousness to expatriates? If you dont like here and hate the ORIGINAL people here leave and go to some white man’s country.

      The only xenophobe is you

      • 5
        0

        sachooooooooooooooo the stupid II

        “The only xenophobe is you”

        Is it because you are a bigot, stupid, racist, ………… the one who sits on her brain, …. and a descendant of Kallathonie from South India.

        We need more xenophobe like him.

        Are you trying to tire these sane people out simply because they say things that you stupid people don’t want to hear nor understand?

        We need more xenophobe to drive racists out of this island. Please go.

  • 4
    1

    The West has given them many comforts this Island couldn’t provide. But the simple warmth this Island provides is surely irreplaceable.

    when you get old, you would understand what west gave was an illusion. They may have money. But, they did not those natural environment, naturally organic food, emotional bond with the people, relatives and the village that you could not get in the west. If Sri lanka, also destroyed many things including the family values, family etc., etc., Sri lanka would give you both money and Cancer from the polluted water, environment, food, and from peoples’ hearts.

    A Woman’s contribution to the society is neglected in Asia. But, you have to come to the west to get a dollar value to her services to the husband, to the family and to the country. Just one example.

    • 0
      0

      [Edited out]

  • 6
    6

    Natale, you have written a simple, elegant, almost a-poem-like write up, that gives a feeling of nostalgia to all the CT readers irrespective of their hate game towards MR/Gota/or Sinhala Buddhist existence in SL. Or even, supporting to formation of a separate state for Tamils in the name of federalism. :-) Please keep writing.

  • 14
    0

    Natalie,

    You are a settled one not a nomad like me who has traveled beyond your imagination.
    So when I read this I wonder why you dare not write where you go to ease yourself and how you folk do it.

    Jane Jacobs could never influence USA so she had to settle down in a new underpopulated Canada and write her stuff about the populated urban sprawl and why it should be retained for its romance.

    The greatest happiness is in the movement of the bowels whether you like it or not.

    In today’s world we are all talking of green clean etc. or is life still like ambude where the west laughs and offers you a prize for letting them laugh at you.

    • 3
      13

      Stungun:
      Did you attempt suicide (unsuccessfully, obviously) with your pseudonym? Jane Jacobs didn’t migrate to a “new underpopulated Canada,” she moved to and wrote in Toronoto, Canada’s largest city.
      If “easing one’s bowels” provides the greatest pleasure of all, do you think you could spare us your “pleasure” by not splattering the results all over CT?

      • 1
        0

        [Edited out]

        • 4
          0

          “new underpopulated Canada,”

          Canada density per kilo M Sq- 4
          USA density per KiloM Sq -35

          its not about Durian that Sumane kicks you for.

          http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/

          What I have not researched I shall never comment.
          I know not just Toronto and Montreal but travel there regularly-p
          But don’t associate with Lankans immigrants or refugees because we are established long before the Lankan influx.

          Never put all your eggs in one basket and start kicking dust on others face.

      • 0
        0

        [Edited out]

      • 10
        1

        “Did you attempt suicide (unsuccessfully, obviously) with your pseudonym? Jane Jacobs didn’t migrate to a “new underpopulated Canada,” she moved to and wrote in Toronoto, Canada’s largest city.”

        Because CT gives you space they edit the truth- go read her biography on the web – she had to escape USA
        Her hubby was an Architect therefore she wrote- have you read her books?
        I doubt? Have you read economy of cities? I doubt CT has too.
        Don’t comment about matters you are clueless since youn are close to CT.

        About the greatest hapiness _ I have said it several times and the first time I said it on CT was comenting to Vibshuna and we did have a laugh because he is intelligent to understand the issues.

        CT you must allow others to comment when insulted by your own crowd please.

  • 7
    3

    In as much as you reminisce your mums actions of bathing in the village river I too think about my College days. We had in the class a blend of all communities and how close we were together as friends. We never ever thought of each other as Tamils,Muslims Burghers and Sinhalese but just good friends in humanity.Of course we had certain jibes at each other where we used to shout “Ado paanamkotte” to our Tamil friends as Jaffna their homeland was the bearer of the Panamkotte seed,or Sinhalaya Modaya Kavun Kande Yodaya,when the Sinhalese were picked out,or the baila” Kiri thai sa thay Thambi Kaddey”for our Muslim friends or for the Burghers “Burgher buggers became beggars by drinking Brandy bottles, But such remarks were very very rare and DID NOT CARRY ANY MALICE. It was only directed as a measure of annoyance and humour and we never had any hatred in our hearts. For that matter we loved each class mate irrespective of the community they belonged to and several years later that love persists.
    If ever we travel abroad there is one of those pals eagerly awaiting to host us and his ethncity just plays no part. It was just love of each human being with the College tie binding us together.
    But it is sad to note going by posts on Social Media such bonds of friendship now seem broken amongst the later generation.There is venom being spat at communities who by fate were destined to belong to some other community.

    Sri Lanka can only progress if all communities put their shoulder to the wheel and if they want a practical example it is the land called Singapore.There is no other way out.
    So lets all resolve and make an effort in this direction as we owe it to our future generation.

    • 3
      0

      Colin,
      your dream boat is like a Rip Van Winkle/Alice in wonder land.

      Both Choo and LKY werefirst class merit students from Cambridge- who understood the effects of racism and had a feeling for human affairs.

      LKY had no alternative but to rule with a knuckle duster as he put it because that is what the Chinese understood. (now you understand how the Brits ruled by keeping the Eggheads in their holes)

      SINGAPORE IS NOT MEANT FOR LANKA (sorry but you are like indian- can have only indian style ) Try to read how much Choo and LKY suffered to win Freedom and share that freedom with their people.

      I have said this on many a previous occasion: that had the mix in Singapore been different, had it been 75% Indians, 15% Malays and the rest Chinese, it would not have worked. Because they believe in the politics of contention, of opposition. But because the culture was such that the populace sought a practical way out of their difficulties, therefore it has worked.
      . President’s Address, Debate on President’s Address, Parliament of Singapore (March 01, 1985). Retrieved on January 16 2015.

  • 6
    0

    Nice piece Natale.

    I come across many children of ex-Lankans, born in other countries, and they all long for a place to belong to. It’s a curse we have such a beautiful country we can’t live in.

    I envy people of countries who don’t have to “leave.”

    • 4
      0

      “I envy people of countries who don’t have to “leave.” “

      “born in other countries,”

      Those school boy days of telling tales…Tikiri tikiri tikiri liya….

      LIFE IS A PARADOX even for the ones who don’t have to leave.

  • 2
    0

    Dear Natalie

    It has been a bitter-sweet pleasure to read your beautifully crafted piece. You are not alone for there are thousands like you, born in another land but pulled by some invisible force to the land their parents were born in. That unseen thread will keep you with us all your life. Don’t deny it, just honour it. Experiences and reflection will help understand the reasons why they left this paradise for other climes but please try not ever to ask them why, for the answer will probably only make someone or both cry. For what profiteth a man if he has around him all the delights of Paradise, yet not peace of mind?

    I once met a close relative on my mine who returned, and his first words as we greeted each other was that it was “six hours, twenty days, five months and fourteen years since he left, and not a day went by without him thinking of this land of his birth and the happy carefree days he spent”. Then he looked away with a faraway nostalgic glaze in his eyes.

    In my good fortune, I have travelled to large parts of this delightful planet. Sri Lanka can match the best of them in the simple pleasures that leave lasting memories; and most of the thousands who have left after experiencing our innumerable delights will recall with nostalgic longing what was for them their ‘good old days’. It is inevitable that in our dense claustrophobic island there would be those who needed to escape. We cannot change that human condition.

    But you dear Natalie should know this; that the pull of the land that you were born in will have its hold on you too, and after all the happy days you spend here, you will most likely want to return to that piece of mother earth that binds you to it. Go in peace, and feel free to come back any time.

  • 2
    0

    Natale, My dear Child,

    Your parents had a choice. Being Tamil, I was not able to give my children a choice but leave a burnt down house and leave. Yet, I too yearn for what you miss. My children do not. They do not know what life could have been.

    But, like countless other Tamil expatriate children, they now study in Western schools and universities. What a talent pool Sri Lanka has lost. Its own children are mired in the Mahavamsa cult, unable to emerge into any modernity. The elite Sinhalese cheat them by feeding them intolerance while their own children are able to study in the West with the corrupt and stolen wealth of the people of Sri Lanka.

    I am glad that you are able to go back to your Maha Gedera. Ours is probably under army occupation. We have not even bothered to find out. The possibility of our return is extremely remote. The wind from the seas around Jaffna are unlikely to caress my fading old cheeks.

    Without any rancor, I bless you Natale that you should enjoy the land of your birth and bring it the wisdom and tolerance you enjoy in the West.

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