By Basil Fernando –
I had the good fortune of attending a meeting organized by civil society organizations which worked to oust the Rajapaksa regime and helped bring the present government into power. It was held at the auditorium of the public library on 21 June 2016 and was well attended. It demonstrated that people had and are having great expectations from the government but were anxious about the slow pace at which the government was moving It showed lot of soul searching was going on as to how to get the great expectations come true.
On return I wrote this poem
You roasted my soul
You roasted my soul
By placing me as a log
In a senseless milieu
Burning out in violence
For long years,
And then one day declared,
Democracy has arrived
“you are free’ ,
But who is to free my roasted soul,
You did not tell me.
Trying to depict the predicament of today’s Sri Lankans is a rather difficult task. In fact it is so difficult that none is attempting even to do it. But I thought I will try to do it. As it is also impossible to write it in prose, I thought I will write a poem about it. That is how the poem you see above came about.
The context in which we live is expressed in the words, ‘Burning out in violence, for long years’ How long were the long years? In my assessment it was over forty years. That calendar begins, in my view in 1971 and has that ended or when it will end? I do not know.
“And then declared, the democracy has arrived’. This of course refers to Jan 2015. The word ‘declared ‘ is deliberately chosen. It does not refer to a fact, but only the fact of a declaration made by someone else. Did it really happen in the way the declaration said, it to have happened? I really do not know.
However, the really important issue is , what does such a declaration mean to a person whose soul has been roasted for over forty years. The reference is not the body that has been roasted, as it happened in very large numbers. For this declaration means nothing, they are no longer alive.
For the roasted souls, it is another matter. To those who are alive with the roasted souls inside them, it is another matter. Can they really be free? How to free a roasted soul, so as to make democracy something really true and genuine? That is the heart of the matter. ‘But who is to free my roasted soul,
you did not tell me.’
Forty years of repression, is deeply inside every heart, every soul. There has been no healing touch. Instead, attempt is to ignore the fact of having been roasted. An election does not have a healing power. Replacement of one government by another is only a political fact. What that political fact means in terms of the interior of the human beings whose souls has been burned like logs, is a far more deep emotional and spiritual affair. That requires to be a physician of suffering, if we are to go by our own LO Weda Sagarawa, which refers to Buddha as the’ Dukatas Wedanan’
Duka of having roasted souls is indeed a great suffering. Political declarations, however grand they may be, cannot alleviate such a suffering. Such declarations are just ‘words, words, words.’ If that be so, what follows is that talk of arrival as a democracy is just superficial talk.
Least that can be done is to begin to understand the deep impact of over 40 years repression at the depth of every individual living in this society. To put it within the perspective of Viktor Franfl , author of the great book, ranked among the 10 books published in the twentieth century ‘ Man’s search for meaning”, we need to discover the meaning of our great suffering .
This is no easy task and naturally that cannot be left in the hands of politicians. The challenge must the met by collective efforts, of soul searching.