A requiem for Wassim “Wassa” Thajudeen – Esto Perpetua

A requiem for Wassim “Wassa” Thajudeen – Esto Perpetua

At the school by the sea, the boys are introduced to sports at an early age.

The Thomians like to stress on their balanced education system, one in which sports and knowledge go hand in hand in order to build the personality of young men walking the hallowed portals of learning at Mount Lavinia.

My son, now 17, switched to rowing later on but at STC, he started rugby early on. Rugby is a Thomian passion, one they take very seriously. For the ruggerites of STC, it is more than a sport ; they live and love the game during and after the season. Wassim Thajudeen was no exception – he was a fine young player who showed much promise. In true Thomian fashion, he cared not for false bravado displays of so called false princes, true pretenders to a throne that seemed very real at the time. In the end, that was too much for the demons who could not stand his unspoken dominance, his talent, his capability on the rugby field.  Wassim “Wassa” Thajudeen, as he was affectionately known among his fellow Thomians, was a true blue “Preppite”, a boy from the STC Colpetty, my son tells me, and was indeed much loved.

I can understand that very well. At S.Thomas’, the boys didn’t know each other by their religion, cast or creed but by the fellowship they shared among a brotherhood of Sinhalese, Tamils and Moslems, Christians, Buddhists and Hindus. It never occurred to them to divide their fellow students among ethnic or religious lines.How so unlike the false royal family and its bunch of rogues.

In Wassa, S. Thomas – and Sri Lanka lost a fine young rugby player who would have had a stellar career had he been allowed to live. In retrospect, we realise that we as a nation lived through such dark times that only the mercy of his Allah and my God could have seen us through. Today, as his mother still mourns the untimely loss of her beloved son, I can understand her pain. When you lose your son, you lose your world. And it is never the same again.

The fact that he was tortured and murdered has always been known albeit limited to the circles of Colombo’s dinner circuits – it was a whispered secret that today, is loud enough to be heard in the highest portals of justice. Yet no one dared to point fingers back then. Unless one wanted a free ride in a white van, never to return. But today, thanks be to God, it is different. We can take comfort in knowing that justice has come full circle. For Wassa and the many others whose lives were cruelly snatched during those cursed years of Rajapakse rule, there will be justice. That’s what Good Governance is all about.

Back in the day, I recall telling myself that this, too shall pass.

And it did. On January 08th 2015 – who can forget the sense of liberation and freedom of waking up to a Sri Lanka finally free of the Rajapakse curse.  As we stand on the threshold of yet another election, one that seeks to bring back the demons of injustice, murder, we would do well to remember his death and the deaths of countless others murdered during those long and dark Rajapakse years. Their blood, spilled long before their time and spilled in the most inhumane manner imaginable, cries out for justice.

All mothers still yearn for their little boys inside their grown sons – Wassa’s mother would have been no different. In her heart, I’m sure she still can hear his laughter, his little foot steps echo in the hall way. And what pain it must be to have to live through it. Losing a child is a lifelong nightmare. And there is a lesson for us all in that nightmare.

We owe a responsibility to Wassim Thajudeen, Prageeth Eknaligods and all those brave Sri Lankans whose deaths must not be in vain – we as a nation must ensure they are given peace in death, that justice is done as we head for the polls on the 17th. Let their murders be avenged with the perpetrators brought to justice. That should be our vision – and our goal on the 17th August 2015.

Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all things.Proverbs 28 – 5 – The Bible

“God commands justice and fair dealing…” – Quran 16:90

The grand old ladies who tell grand stories…

The grand old ladies who tell grand stories…

I always love seeing the well put together, grand old ladies going to church on Sunday morning.

There’s something so beautiful, so enriching about them. They usually dress in their Sunday best and are almost impeccable as they come to worship God on the Sabbath. As they sit dignified in the pews and kneel, there are hundred no a million stories about what rich lives they might have lived and served God in their own unique faithful ways.

They grew up during the days when no one dressed in sloth , not just to come to church but for almost every occasion. There was an unspoken dress code. No one did skinny jeans and t shirts and certainly not in church. You took the time to dress, you found the time to match accessories and make sure you were presentable. They didn’t and still don’t walk in with unkempt hair ; they are as well groomed as their age and station in life allows them to.

They are well versed in the art of inter-personal relationships – otherwise known as social skills. They do not look sullen and occupied with cellphones and social media. They know how to greet and make small talk, feats by today’s standards. They are concerned for others and would usually ask after the sick and the absent.

They take their obligations seriously. They are almost always on time and do not make mockery of coming late. Despite old age and aching bones, they can be found well in time in their slots. They belong to a generation that learnt keeping time without cellphones. They probably still own old style alarm clocks that have faithfully served them over the years.

They respect other people and take pride in their knowledge – although some may dismiss it as gossip of sorts. They are not preoccupied with selfies and social media status updates. They go for funerals and remember birthdays and not because Facebook prompts. They are likely to carry little diaries with birthdays and anniversaries faithfully jotted down. Like my mother does, they read obituaries in the newspapers and know if someone’s loved one has passed away.

The grand old ladies (I won’t call them little old ladies because most of them are not little but truly grand, having lived enriching lives) have so much to share with us. I admire the fact that almost all of them can still find the time to wear sari to church, when most of us have trouble finding anything other than jeans and a t shirt. They come from a time when you wore your best to be in God’s house every Sunday. They have always dressed well for whatever the occasion – and they still do.

In their own unique way, they share with us their legacy – a sort of a remembrance of a time when life was lived on different terms. When commitments mattered and one kept one’s word in many different ways. When asking after another was the thing to do – when obligations and values were prized over self-importance and selfishness. When frugality was preferred over wasteful abundance. When children had to learn life’s lessons the hard way.

So the next time you see a grand old lady in church or anywhere else, remember to go up and give her a hug – and ask yourself what you can learn from her. You will cherish the occasion.

THE RANT OF THE LADY WHO DROVE A BMW..

THE RANT OF THE LADY WHO DROVE A BMW..

There are many things that are a firm no no in any civilized country.

Chief among those would be to be courteous, at least civil, when stopped by a police officer. Now it seems impossible after the bout of lawlessness we have had in this country until January 08th ; but I belong to the old school and firmly believe that even though they maybe rude to you ( which naturally would only reflect who they are) it is important for you to be who you are – a decent human being brought up with values.

Having said that, I must add that in my experience, the majority of the police officers on duty in the streets are courteous and generally civil enough.

Concerning our topic at hand, the rant of the lady who drove the BMW at the policemen who stopped her, brings many social aspects into view.

When the video of the rant went viral, it not only went to seal the power of social media yet again in the way we perceive and see the world but it also was a moment that needled the men. Rummaging through comments on a social web site, I couldn’t help but think that some of the men commenting seemed to be indignant about the woman’s ‘inability to be a woman’. Others condemned her for challenging the policemen. When a video shot accidentally by a passer by who had no role to play in the actual happening garners enough views to generate a public opinion for or against her, it seems we are taking our social cues from a platform that no longer requires our wholehearted engagement. Which perhaps is not so comforting.

We forget that there are always two sides to every story.

From the woman’s perspective, maybe there were many reasons for her rant. Why do people rant anyway – it has come to be identified as an outlet for emotional break outs. Indeed, with a two and a half year old whom she is accused of breast feeding while driving – an offense alright but not enough of an offense, in my opinion, to warrant a two week in remand – just look at the big time rogues walking scot free around us and you will see what I mean – she could be suffering from either post natal depression or an emotional imbalance most mothers with young children are subjected to. Her husband too has confirmed this.

Do we as a society take the time to address mental illness as a daily occurrence among the sane and not necessarily the insane behind locked doors. Do we pay enough attention to this – although it is no longer taboo to see a psychiatrist, we still don’t focus enough on the different aspects of mental illness as an everyday malady. In the case of this woman, a sick child, an older child needing to get home soon and other family obligations may have been overwhelming. Most of us know how easily the boundary from tolerance to explosion can shift. This was her explosive moment – it was all too much to take and when the police stopped her, she had to  let it all out.

But sadly for our society, what got everyone’s attention was not even the lady’s rant and the reason for it but the car she drove. She drove a BMW and that sort of cemented why she ranted at the police – she had a BMW attitude. It is an interesting paradigm why a luxury car normally associated in other countries with wealth, elegance and style, gives rise in Sri Lanka to a sense of thuggery. Of course, as it is always the case in Sri Lanka, it has got everything to do with politics. In the recent past, up until the January 08th election, it was an open secret that those who had ill gotten wealth superfluously travelled around in brand new luxury cars such as BMW, Benz and Audi, to name a few. It came to a point that driving a luxury car was enough to get yourself branded as a rogue doing business with the corrupt government. So there lies the connection – she drove a BMW and so her rant somehow, in someway, has to be on the wrong side of the law. And in many ways, it was.

But it wasn’t enough , in my opinion, to warrant a harsh sentence. Wasn’t enough to get herself branded as a woman from the wrong side of the street. We have seen many women ranting over various circumstances – they didn’t know they were being captured on camera and were generally giving full vent to their feelings. This could easily have been one of those moments. Sure , to challenge a police officer and take his helmet away is an offense – but not enough of an offense  when we are daily told how much we have been robbed and stolen from, all in the guise of ‘development’ during the previous regime.Maybe a sound warning and a bout of community service could have sufficed.

My take on this is let’s be kinder to other people. Especially to women like the lady in question here. We don’t know what lives they lead, what their problems are. We cannot view a two minute video clip on Facebook and conclude that she is a woman to be condemned. As a society, we need to bring back empathy and caring. If we can.

Remember, as someone said, be gentle as much as you can – everyone is fighting some kind of a battle somewhere.

A father’s daughter remembers..

A father’s daughter remembers..

I rarely or almost never write on politics, especially Sri Lankan politics.

My late father did ; from his heady days as a lobby reporter for the Daily News until much later, when he left the newspaper world to work for a Ministry and then the overseas mission in Bonn, Germany.

As a child, I remember joining him to visit the old parliament, the one by the sea at Galle Face. It used to be such a pleasant visit – I remember the dignified men and women in the chambers although I don’t remember what they spoke about. Whatever it was, it was decent and perfectly safe for a child to listen in on. What a contrast to today’s one. I remember the sand coloured building so well, facing the sea majestically as it still does. I used to wonder who the serious looking statutes around its court yard were – until my father explained them  patiently to me,one by one.

Most  of all, what I remember were the cheesecakes and the rolls of the parliament canteen, which the press room had aplenty. These were the lean years before 1977 – cheesecakes and fat rolls were a big deal back then. Apples and imported cheese were a big deal too, back then. I still remember my father bringing home apples, much treasured, from an occasional visit to a ship at the harbour.

As a child, I also was a regular visitor to the house by the lake, Lake House. I would hold on to my father’s hand and climb its many steps and stare in wonder at the men and women who manned the desks and typed away. They looked very serious. Back at home, I would sit at my father’s old type writer and type, letter by letter , word by word. I wanted to be a writer even back then.

My father never liked the computer – until he passed away in 2013, which still feels like yesterday, he preferred to use the typewriter. When the typewriter broke, he started to type on the computer at my insistence but never liked it. He didn’t like the way it corrected itself and kept asking whether to save a file. His generation probably was not good at being guided by a machine. It was alien to him have the machine issue commands. If the typewriter was out of commission, he preferred to write – with pen and paper.

I wrote my first article for the Mihira children’s newspaper in 1973. I was in Grade 3 and had just discovered my passion – which came alive when typing away at the keys of my father’s typewriter. It was more than a passion ; it was the way I saw the world around me. My thought patterns were and still are formed around words. My brain understands best the words, the nuances, the meaning and yes, the pleasure of finding just the right word to explain something.

To be a wordsmith, I later learnt, you are most likely to be right brained. Myth or otherwise, those of us who find ourselves best explained in words and sentences are perhaps set apart from those who crunch numbers, in more ways than one.

Not that the writing types cannot be analytical either. Running a business involves analytical skills although not necessarily those crunching numbers. Thathi was a maths genius while being a wordsmith par excellence. Somehow, I didn’t quite get around numbers that well and still find it easier to use the calculator which is now easily available on the smartphone.

Today, we are told that not many young people like to read. Or write. Which is why I am fixed on a mission to get my kids to write and read. Write and read ; that’s their daily mantra.

We are told by the experts that Instagram styled pictures and videos (vids, to be sure) , are more popular than blog posts such as the one I am writing. We are constantly told to stick to more pictures, less words formula on the websites. With http://www.satyn.lk and http://www.yahaloo.com which are two of the websites we manage, it is a tough call, managing just the right content and the right pictures.

Call me old fashioned but I still like to believe that there are many out there who still want to read a good story. They could be my generation now on the threshold of a fast approaching half a century, or the millennials but they are definitely there. A photo may always tell a thousand words but the story is even better when it sets the right mood.

Smartphones and tabs are excellent sources to encourage reading too – from The Bible to the magazines and the books, they can be packed with tons of reading material when you are on the move. The optimum mix happens when you can blend technology with writing and reading.

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin

Lessons from the untimely death of Silicon Valley pioneer Dave Goldberg.

 

Dave Goldberg, a Silicon Valley pioneer and the husband of Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and an icon for working women since publishing her bestseller book “Lean-in”, died tragically in a treadmill accident last week. Dave, who was the CEO of SurveyMonkey at the time of his death, was much loved and truly mourned by the high powered Silicon Valley executives ; President Obama in sending his condolences , called him a true Silicon Valley entrepreneur. In her own tribute posted on Facebook, his wife Sheryl Sandberg penned the most moving words, recalling a husband and a father who was her soul mate and her friend.

As the rich and the famous of Silicon Valley came to pay their respects to the auditorium at the Stanford University along with the Hollywood elite, Bono who sang, George Lucas and Ben Affleck among them, what stood out was how the life of a father , a husband and a true friend was celebrated sincerely. Very little was mentioned about business, although both Dave and Sheryl are globally recognized for their tech related achievements. Although Goldberg was primarily known for his success as an entrepreneur, he was also a man full of life, according to those who were there to remember their friend, their colleague.

In writing about his untimely death at the age of 47, while on vacation with his family in Mexico, Fortune called it a ‘solemn reminder to the workaholics and strivers in the room : life is short and there’s more to it than work’. Which brings me to my chosen topic of the day. A man whom most of us would dream of becoming, whose achievements have formed a part of Silicon Valley history, whose achievements would no doubt make up the textbooks we would love to read up in business school curriculums, died alone on treadmill, miles away from his businesses, a mere room’s distance away from his family. He wasn’t found for hours as he lay there bleeding. What lessons does his death teach us? What insights can we obtain from such a sad and untimely tragedy?

The first one would be of course that there is more to life than work. As much as all of us feel that priority should be given to work not only because it puts the rice on the table but also because it gives us our very own identity. It defines who we are to ourselves and others. And so, without realizing it, we make it our idol. Without comprehending it, some of us become workaholics in the process and can stay that way for a long long time. Clearly, this is a mistake.

It is important to find the time to do other things in life than are truly meaningful. We need to find the time to connect with our families – spend those precious moments with the growing up children. Find time for the spouse. Spend time with them doing the small things that add meaning to life. As Sheryl Sandberg must now recall, the happy moments they spent as a family would help her and the children remember their beloved husband and father with fond memories. Can everyone be sure it would be the same if the call came tomorrow?

Life is in the details. We need to learn the lessons early to stop where we maybe going well over the top. As Fortune so aptly put it, everyone wanted to remember the kind of man Dave Goldberg was – not the entrepreneur founder/ tech guru / internet pioneer and every other title he truly earned in his ground breaking career in Silicon Valley. And that is what does matter in the end.

What kind of a man or a woman are you? Is the office your centre stage, where you play the main role and where you are supremely confident of being in control. Or are you the sort who closes the lid on the lap top and calls it a day and head home to play with the kids and help your wife make dinner? Or worse, you do go home but take the work with you and are back at your computer as the children watch TV?

If you are, then there are many more poignant lessons we can learn from a family that just lost the anchor of their home. People die. Sometimes way too soon. What memories are you leaving behind? In her eulogy, Sheryl said that she felt they didn’t spend enough time together but admitted, through tears, that she was grateful for the memories. Could that be said of you?

Many will say they do not have the time, as if by rote– to spend with the kids and family except perhaps on vacations. But it looks more like a case of finding the time. If we try hard, we can always find the time to do the things that are important to us. In the end, it is not the career that makes us but the time we spend, the memories we leave behind with those who are most precious to us. The other day, I remember reading about yet another tech entrepreneur, an Indian American, who chose to give be his stellar career to watch his daughter grow. Someone had come to his senses – not that we need to take such drastic measures as leaving a career but cutting down work to a sensible level can go a long way in achieving a balance in life.

Finding the time to do the things we love are also important – Dave Goldberg engaged in many charity initiatives, one of which was a project he worked on with Ben Affleck in Africa. What things are we giving back to the community, taking time away from our very busy careers? Those projects that give back to the community, add meaning to life as we lead it and leave a legacy behind that can add significance to our roles as members of the community and society at large.

If there’s anything we can learn from Dave Goldberg’s tragic death, it is that life is a lot more than career or a business. It is in being able to build our lives and our careers anchored on those truths.

May you truly be able to find the time to spend with your family this weekend.

How could they do that to a nine year old little girl?

How could they do that to a nine year old little girl?

It’s a quiet Friday afternoon and my eight and a half year old daughter is taking a nap in her bed, in her room she loves to decorate. She used to like Barbies until she became eight – at which point, she suddenly gave up the Barbies and instead, found the Seven Super Girls on YouTube. I know she is secure in our home, in her room.

Yet, as I write, my heart breaks for two other little girls who have had to face the brunt of man made cruelty and they are both nine year old. Chloe, a nine year old girl was raped and killed by a stranger in her town just a few days ago, in France. Her mother, devastated, is wondering how the twice convicted man got into their part of the country from Poland. In Iraq, a nine year old little girl is made pregnant by ISIS brutes after gang raping her repeatedly. Elsewhere in India last year, a nine year old was raped and was fighting for her life.

Nine year olds are children  – the demons who walk around in human form cannot understand that. Why and how a human being can do that to a little girl who is still happy to play with her dolls, I cannot understand. The world is a terrible terrible place. Mothers need to understand that. Mothers with young children should be more vigilant than they already are.

Sometimes the perpetrators are next door or right in your own home. When you have daughters or sons who are young enough and vulnerable enough, please find the time to take care. Take nothing and no one for granted. All it takes is one moment in time to lose your precious little girl or boy.

Words cannot express the anguish of the mother who has lost her little girl in a moment – Chloe was playing outside ‘under the supervision’ of an adult. Mothers need to be careful of the adults they trust with childcare duties. Are the reliable and will they stand the test? In this case, the person didn’t.

These are definitely the last days – there’s so much of evil hidden behind doors, behind the faces of people wear as masks. As I write, thousands if not millions of little girls and boys are probably being held against their will and tormented or abused in one way or another.

As a mother, I personally believe that our role is to take better care of our children. If all mothers did that, there would be less heartbreaks like this. Pay attention to your children and that means making sure they are in safe environs under safe care. Keep your eyes and ears open – there is a lot that you may not see.

My prayer is for a safer world for all children – and may the law enforcement agencies all over the world out to get the men and women who deliberately and purposely endanger children on line and in real life, be strengthened and empowered to do their work diligently.

What you wish you knew about building a business from nothing…

There’s a learning curve for everything in life. Starting your own business is no different. Often, the learning curve is steeper in the case of becoming an entrepreneur but there’s so much we learn in the process that eventually serves us well as we build the business. There are many ideas we start out with but later on, as the business grows, you realize that there’s so much more that needs to be done in different ways.

Just ask the ones who have travelled that road before. James Green, recognized as one of the new generation CEOs heading Magnetic, an ad technology company, started out with Disney and Pixar. In his career, he has built and sold four tech companies successfully. According to Green, one of the things you can get wrong when building your own business is to get too attached to a business. Some people think of their business as an extension of themselves. It isn’t – it’s just a venture you have created and one that could be sold or transformed without regrets.

“The one thing I wish I’d known when I started a business is that I shouldn’t get emotionally attached to it,” Green says. “Companies have no feelings, and they are things, not people. Put bluntly (and laying aside non-profits and other nontraditional entities), companies are here for one reason and one reason alone: to make money. Everyone knows that money can’t buy you love, and by extension it makes no sense to love your company. There may come a time when you have to change it, dissolve it, close it, give it to someone else to run, cede control to investors, or any other number of things.”

Green is right. Some entrepreneurs cannot bring themselves to think beyond their businesses. But that is not how it should be. It is good to keep in mind that the business did not create you and that you created the business. Yet understandably, some business owners feel fatherly or motherly about a business – when you start one from nothing and watch it become a success, you naturally feel proud of it’s creation. Yet, there are times when the umbilical cord must be cut in order to move on.

Yet another trait start ups get wrong is to assume that everything has to be done by the founder – delegation does not come easy to some. You may have foundered a business but you will not have all the answers so it is imperative to be able to solicit and understand advice. You could be wrong at times. You can be too focused on a business enough to be myopic about it. Often times, fresh insights and different perspectives help. You do not have to hold on to the remote control – you can let go and let others handle some of the decision making functions. The company benefits from such change of direction in the long term.

Some entrepreneurs fail to understand that market dynamics change faster than you could grasp it. As technology advances, so do the markets. How attuned are you to the changing markets and how aware are you of the need to change your own product offering? Are you ready to incorporate the changes or are you merely burying your head in the sand – these are questions you need to ask yourself.

Formulas need to change and those changes need to be incorporated into the product or service mix you are offering. As we all know, refusing to change can be disastrous. You need to keep your ears and eyes open to change and be able to acknowledge in if and when it does happen. Change is inevitable and the best way to handle it is to go along with it and see in what ways it could add a sharper edge to your business.

Being an entrepreneur is a journey, one that takes you to the heights of vistas and sometimes to the depths but the feeling is hard to beat, especially when you know that you have created and built a business that has grown successfully. Yet the challenges as always mount and it is always up to us to be able to successfully navigate those challenges.

India’s Daughter – the story doesn’t end here…

When the story of the brutal rape and murder of a young Indian girl broke in 2012, it was one that brought out the anger in all of us. It went beyond women’s rights – it was a clear instance where young people, men and women, were enraged enough to demand that something must be done to change the system. Their cry was loud and clear and was heard by the powers that be.

This year, as the controversy about India banning the documentary on the brutal rape and murder of Nirbhaya exploded, I found a slot of time on a Friday afternoon to watch the documentary by British film maker Leslee Udwin on You Tube.

Maybe the film maker should not have let her audience connect with the men accused of rape – it was too much to watch the driver of the bus talk about the rape and his take on independent women. But maybe , I realised despite the tears, that the story must be told. The man didn’t look like he repented but in clinical fashion, narrates a story that is not easy to listen to. Especially when he starts narrating , very matter of fact, how the men pulled out her intestines before throwing her on the road..like some carcass of a dog.

It broke my heart to listen to the narrative of the parents. Jyoti came from a traditional Indian family but her parents celebrated the fact that their daughter it seemed, was destined for great things. Her mother wears the traditional pottu and softly tells how Jyoti wanted to be a doctor. Her father, an airport worker, narrates how their daughter was always the apple of their eyes. Jyoti represented a new Indian woman, one who was a part of a changing country. And that perhaps enhanced the punishment the criminals meted out to her on that night, in that bus.

It was shocking to listen to the defense attorney trying to defend how the men were led to the rape. Educated and professional men are not expected to hold such views. He may have a client to defend but making  such sweeping statements which hold women accountable as victims rather than those capable of making decisions, to me, was beyond that of a man holding high office.

Gathering between the words, it emerges that Jyoti and her boyfriend were challenged by the gang in the bus for their ride at night. The men, drunk and looking for some game that night, had been angry when the young couple told them it was none of their business. They raped her and shoved an iron rod into her to ‘teach her a lesson’. The men being interviewed for the documentary suggest that she should have lain back and let them rape her instead of protesting because maybe then, she would have been raped and not tortured!

Today, I read about a young Indian woman who changed her profile description on a marriage proposal site from the one her parents put in to one she herself drafted. She didn’t think she was exactly marriage material in true sense of the word but she for sure depicts the changing womanhood of India – and of course the entire South Asian region. Women are no longer ready to put up with the traditional view of being not heard and seen – they connect with a world that recognises them for their talent and ability and they want to see that change translated into reality back home.

It was good to see young Indian men joining the women in protests that demanded justice for Nirbhaya, as Jyoti had aptly been named. Nirbhaya in Sanskrit means unafraid. Things seem to be changing but not soon enough The documentary states that according to government estimates, one woman is raped in India every 20 minutes. Obviously, a lot needs to change and a lot needs to be done.

For now, Nirbhaya’s story will always be remembered not just for the brutality human beings are capable of, under the right conditions but for the way in which it demanded change. Not just for India but for everywhere else.

Not just for the daughters but also for the sons.

they took my son away…

No one knows the empty, dull ache of a mother’s heart searching for her long lost son.

For thousands of Sri Lankan mothers, both Sinhalese and Tamil, that dull ache had become a daily pain they must endure. Whether the sons were taken away during and in the aftermath of the war in the North or during the infamous youth insurrection of the South, what remains is the heartache common to all mothers. A heartache that refuses to go away, no matter how much you cry. A heartache that lasts as long as there are tears to cry.

They took away my son.

It was a regular Friday and I was reading my favourite Sinhala newspaper Ravaya – I try to savour the excellent articles it always contains and this Friday was no exception. What caught my eye – and touched my heart, was the story of two mothers. One, Mihindukulasooriyage Asilin Nona, a woman who made her living selling wares at the Divulapitiya Junction in Ja ela Sri Lanka, whose son was abducted and never seen again during the insurrection of 1989. And the other was the mother of a young man taken away in 2008 by uniformed men. His name was Loganathan Pradeepan.

Asilin Nona had searched high and low for news, any news of her son at the time. She had letters requesting to know the whereabouts of her son, letters that were thrown away by the powers that be. She cried and pleaded, spent nights yearning for her boy but never found him.

Some twenty years later, in the thick of the civil war, Pradeepan’s mother has the misfortune no mother ever wants – to watch her son taken away by men on trailer bikes. She cried and ran behind the men. They took him and went away. She saw him once just once – and would give an arm and a leg to see him again.

She received letters – written in Sinhala – about her son. She couldn’t read them so she had to walk around – for a month – to find someone who could read Sinhala. Her visits to Colombo usually meant they had to pawn jewellery or borrow money to make the trip.

On one such visit to Boosa, she was questioned. She saw a young man there and for a moment frozen in time, she thought it was her son. No, he didn’t look like her son but maybe, just maybe it was him, now changed after some years. But the boy broke her dream as he told her to tell his mother to come get him – before he was taken away once again.

She has gone to every kovil, worshipped every god there to ask for the safe return of her son. But he never came. She waits to taste death , the same death that most probably took him, and she waits for it with the kind of pain only a mother can understand.

In between Asilin Nona and her, thousands of mothers lost their sons and daughters. Their tears have been frozen in time, seeking justice that would come.

I remember other mothers too – mother of Nimala Rueben, the young man who was murdered while in custody. How she cried when she had to bring out traditional decorations for his funeral -she had been wanting to decorate for his wedding. Mothers whose hearts ache for the sons they held at their breast, fed and clothed, brought up with love and laughter as only a mother can. Only a mother can know the deep bond that severs when one half of her life is taken from her – her children.

I look at my son, a strapping young man, and know instinctively in my heart what pain they must have experienced. This is not about political opinions, vengeance, who’s right and who’s wrong. This is about the mothers who have had to experience the excruciating pain of watching their sons taken away, never to return. Mothers who live and relive a million times in their hearts, those final minutes when their sons were taken away.

It doesn’t matter if they are Tamil , Sinhalese or Moslem. It doesn’t matter that they have been implicated in some way in the political abyss of this country. I am a mother and I can understand and relate to their pain. No one else but a mother can know the dull ache, the ever present nagging emptiness losing a child brings.

I am a writer and when my heart is touched, I express it best in words. When emotions rush and tears crowd my eyes, I let it go in words and words are my refuge this Friday night. Things have changed, I try to assure myself, good governance is firmly in the saddle now. And justice will be delivered.

May mothers who have lost sons and daughters in Sri Lanka be comforted and may they be able to seek the kind of justice they deserve.

Does the elephant know its size?

A popular saying goes that the elephant doesn’t really know it’s size – probably until it gets challenged. In more ways than one, the saying bears resemblance to what we as a nation experienced with the ousting of a dictator regime. Until the 09th rolled around as any other day, there were those among us who couldn’t fathom the width, the height and the breadth of people’s power in action. It seems even after years of being mistaken for masses bottle fed on regime doctrine, there were those brave among us to rise upland challenge a government that was increasingly ignorant of what the people desired.

Now that we have acutely become aware of understanding and comprehending just how the people could challenge tinpot dictatorship, we can take comfort in knowing that this is only the beginning. This is not some foreign news we are watching on CNN, wishing that what was Burma’s can be ours too. This is the change we brought about, you and I and we are heirs to that change. We chose to make a difference because we knew that Sri Lanka without change would have become uninhabitable, at least for those in their right minds.

Now that change has come, is our task done? Or is there still a long way to go. And before we can boast that we would not hesitate to do the same if the new government fails to deliver, let us remind ourselves that this mammoth victory of people did not come overnight. It came after a decade of jackboot dictatorship under a family that increasingly thought of Sri Lanka as their backyard. In the same vein, it would take time before the jackals are brought before the law, before scheming robber barons of the Rajapakse era are brought to book. Yes, it would take time because law is fair to all and cases must be built painstakingly. They say fools rush in where angels fear to tread ; nothing applies better than that adage here.

In the same vein, it must be noted that justice should be delivered to the nation swiftly and without holding anything back. The robber barons, the vile politicians who sucked the blood of the people and the brood of vipers who thought they had an open cheque to rob and steal under the Rajapakses while the masses went to bed hungry, should be dealt with in a manner that will see them punished in the long term. Not for them the satisfaction of becoming heroes in hand cuffs posing for television cameras only to be out on bail a few days later. For them, it must be the slow but steady coil around their necks and long term jail sentences that will hopefully give them enough time to languish at Welikada and contemplate how they can, someday, redeem themselves from their sins. Not for them the in and out facade of going to remand prison but staying actually in all comfort at the prisons hospital.

Judgement at Nuremberg was one of my late father’s favourite movies. An avid Brando fan, he imbibed in me early on a thirst for quality Hollywood movies. He and I used to watch those Hollywood classics and this was one such movie. The film starred two of Thathi’s favourites – Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift and was based on the military tribunals held at Nuremberg to deal with Nazi crimes against humanity. There is a scene in which Montgomery Clift acts as a man persecuted by the Nazis by castration and takes the witness chair. A scene that is packed with emotional impact, as an innocent victim of the Nazi regime finally facing his tormentors.

More than a tit for tat, the movie depicts the human drama of the Nazi war machine that brought about crimes against humanity and the men involved in carrying out those orders. It was a finely woven tapestry of just how an otherwise seemingly law abiding hard working nation such as Germany could fall under one man’s power and stay silent in the face of his regime’s atrocities that even now, shocks the world beyond belief.

There are parallels between Hitler’s Germany and Sri Lanka under the Rajapakse clan. The silence of the people was mistaken for submission on all fronts by the Rajapakses. The fact that we as Sri Lankans waited for the moment when we could use our ballot against his bullet, forms a cornerstone of contemporary Asian history. We dared to take on an all powerful man who was completely lost in his lifetime dictatorship dream and we won. At Nuremberg, there was no fast lane for justice but one that was slowly but surely built upon cases ; justice here was not to be delivered in angst but in the determination of ensuring that the punishment delivered is one that lasts, matching up to the height of atrocities committed.

We need to keep in mind the first post election moments of elation. Moments frozen in time, reminiscent of the first taste of freedom. It was the ultimate dream come true , freedom from the Rajapakses. I will never forget the morning of January 10th 2015 , waking up to a country that was free. A moment we had cherished , prayed fervently for and yearned for. It will always be a moment that will stay in memory and one I will share with the children , reminding them that it took all of our effort as a nation to rescue our country from the brink of disaster. That moment defined my responsibility as a Sri Lankan ; collectively, we had won.

Having secured our nation, we await the next phase of justice, economic empowerment and a citizen-government partnership that will see Sri Lanka get back on the road to success – success on the world stage as a respected nation once again instead of a rogue state, success on the economic stage as a country packed with potential and capability, not with political goons and inefficient yes men.

And that, whether we like it or not, will take time.