There are songs that make you feel good and then there are those that hit you deep down and bring tears to your eyes, leaving a mark indelible.

In Sinhala, we call it බොක්කටම වැදුනා (stuck my gut).

The first time I listened to Visharada Nanda Malini’s legendary Yadhamin Bande sung by a young man strumming a guitar at the current protests going on against the President at the Galle Face Green, it struck a deep chord within. It went through to your heart like a knife and stayed there.

That song, defiant yet the determined call of a mother who questions why a nation that shackled her son for seeking a new world of equality and justice, needs the judiciary and the law, is a clarion call for us all.

Her song, as many of her other songs, sums up the current mood of the nation. In fact, when she came in person to the protest site and sang her iconic lyrics with a massive audience joining in, it was indeed a defining moment.

For all of us.

A vision in white, dignified and unhurried, she sings the dirge of a nation that’s been too long under the ruthless political clout of thugs and thieves. Nanda Malini has always been a legendary and defiant icon, pouring into song the struggles and pain of a nation in subjugation for so long that many thought it could not, did not have the will to rise up – some day.

That day came not too long ago.

It came when Sri Lankans felt the burden too much to bear. The fuel that never came, the gas that never was enough, the power that was cut for hours on end and the food that was increasingly becoming too expensive to eat ; the price of dhal skyrocketed beyond the reach of the average household.

It came first to Mirihana, my own neighbourhood. And no, the angry young men who marched towards the President’s house did not burn buses or attack the police. They were after work, angry at having to face power cuts and no fuel. Their cry was for justice. They wanted their lives back.

Their protest was however diluted with sinister elements introduced to the crowd to set fire to buses and cause mayhem. After all, explain to me why the armed police and STF watched while the man calmly set fire to the bus.

The drama that went on the entire night – our neighbourhood turned into a war zone while armed police and STF chased unarmed protestors, men and women, down lanes, firing tear gas and bludgeoning them as they ran to escape the tear gas.

It ended with over 50 young men being taken to a camp where the Special Task Force, once a respected elite unit of Police Commandos, assaulted and tortured them mercilessly before handing over to police. They were kept overnight with serious injuries in the police station at Mirihana. The lawyers who came early morning to see the young men were initially refused access ; there were plans to file charges against the young men under the Sri Lanka’s dreaded PTA. But all of it fizzled out, as most of their ill conceived strategies would do in the next few days.

In the end, as the young men, bloodied and injured but not broken, defiant against manufactured state terror, emerged at the courts to witness a true heroes’ welcome – hundreds of lawyers stood there on their behalf. For the first time in Sri Lankan history, a sea of black coated lawyers clapped and welcomed the heroes. Outside, normal everyday Sri Lankans welcomed them with open arms and relief.

They could have so easily been killed.

It was the kind of hero’s welcome no politician or a leader has ever received. It came from the heart of everyone present.

Nanda Malini’s song of defiance defined the first volley that was fired against a corrupt and a mismanaged Government – with the Mirihana protest.

The lyrics- power packed against the purile, empty and barbaric attempts of a state machinery operating under the curse of defiling a nation, touched me deep within.

Every time I listen to those lyrics, tears well up for the mothers who have lost their sons throughout our history.

යදමින් බැඳ විලංගුලා – මගේ පුතා රැගෙන යන්
ඉදිකටු ඇන ඇඟිලි තලා – දෙතිස්වදය පමුනුවන්
අළුත් ලොවක් ගැන සිතීම – දඩුවම් දෙන වරද නම්
කුමට එරට අධිකරනය – නීතිය සහ විනිසුරන්.

Take my son shackled and chained his fingers pierced with needles…tortured with 32 methods of torture

If thinking of a new world is a crime to be punished for, why do we need the judiciary, the law and the courts?

Those words had never rung more true or more apt for the people’s struggle that unfolded from that powerful moment of truth for us all.

Those words sank deep into my psyche – as the mother of a 24 year old son myself.

They stayed within me, turning into tears that poured for every son who dared to defy.

Her cry didn’t just embody the tortured young men at Mirihana who inspired a nation to come out against the corrupt Government – it also captivated the tears and cry of thousands of Tamil and Sinhala mothers who for years, have had to live with the ache in their hearts that come from losing a son – or a daughter.

The song ends with the mother saying that thousands more sons will come forward to take her son’s cause on to a bigger stage. And she, the mother , will be there to keep watch.

And those prophetic words have come true today – thousands of young men and women in search of a new Sri Lanka, one beyond the evil grip of one power hungry family, have come together to show the world that this indeed is the Sri Lanka we yearn for, now within our grasp.

Nanda Malini’s power packed lyrics have become a signature call for the people to rally to Galle Face, where they are determined to stay put – until they see change.

This is Sri Lanka’s finest moment. The best we can remember in a lifetime.

And the fact that she was there, the familiar figure in white, only added the lustre to the war cry.

යදමින් බැඳ විලංගුලා – මගේ පුතා රැගෙන යන්
ඉදිකටු ඇන ඇඟිලි තලා – දෙතිස්වදය පමුනුවන්
අළුත් ලොවක් ගැන සිතීම – දඩුවම් දෙන වරද නම්
කුමට එරට අධිකරනය – නීතිය සහ විනිසුරන්.

කකා බිබී නටන අතර – නරුම යහළු යෙළියන්
පන්දු කෙලින අතර ඉහල – පාසල් වල අමනයන්
රටගිනි ගෙන ඇති වග දුටු – මගේ එකම පුතනුවන්
එගිනි නිවන මඟ සෙවීම – වරදක් දැයි මට කියන්

ගිනිගන්නා රටක කෙලින – මී හරකුන් වැනි පුතුන්
කුමටද මට මහ විරුවෙකි – සිරගෙයි මල මගෙ පුතුන්
කෝටිගණන් බිහිවේවා – මගෙ පුතු වැනි තව පුතුන්
කිරි මව්ලස මම ඉන්නම් – එවන් පුතුන් ලඟ උතුම්

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