What the General Election meant for us as a nation…

What the General Election meant for us as a nation…

It is The Day After.

It’s the day after the General Election. Just a few months ago, I remember waking up on the morning of the 09th January, with a feeling that would always stay etched in my mind. I was free, my family was free, my country was free. From dictatorship and a mad man’s grip. But the nightmare wasn’t really over , bits and pieces kept wanting to take Sri Lanka back by force, if necessary, to those stifling times.

All of which finally ended yesterday. At the ballot box. When millions of Sri Lankans chose to go the polls to elect the best among them, the most deserving, not in terms of adoration and popularity but in terms of making Sri Lanka the kind of place we want to live and thrive in ; one in which our children can live well and be content. I think the word is content – if you are content with your life, you have little to grumble about. Oh, yes, we had a lot to grumble about – not the beautifully paved roads and the gleaming shopping malls where most were window shoppers but the quagmire underneath those facades – one that was rotting with nepotism, vulgarity, mass murder and big time financial misconduct.

So what did it all mean, the election, in which the rogues went on parade once again, seeking votes from the poor and the vulnerable and surprisingly, even from the so called learned who could sadly be labelled the ‘educated but unlearned’. The few good men, if they could be thus called, found the manape pore a tough one but they persisted. I can honestly be glad that I voted for three honest men who contested. In the end, as they say, it is between you and God – you must be honest to your own self not only because you can then sleep well at night but also because it feels right to do so.

This election was unique because it involved the people. From a high octane social media overdrive that saw some of us virtually engaged round the clock, to one to one election campaigning, the people relished the role they played. As never before, Sri Lankans engaged the politicians with questions, queries and lagging doubts. Admittedly, as in the Presidential Election, social media played a key role in giving us voters that platform. Some of the contestants forgot that the ship of voter amnesia had sailed. In the era of smart phones and internet, every word uttered and every promise given, every insult to public intelligence, has been captured and could be plastered all over the web in a matter of minutes. Those who understood the power of voter capacity, did well to play it wise.

So where are we now? We are facing the prospects of a new Sri Lanka not just on economic terms. We face a new Sri Lanka on new terms of engagement. The government will be watched by a populace who are no longer afraid nor incapable of questioning those who are not doing their job. The rogues will be noted and called out. For the first time perhaps in the history of Sri Lankan politics, we have accountability as a key factor present in the new parliament. They will need to keep their promises because we will be monitoring them as the people who voted them in.

We need to stay connected the way we have done during the election – keep playing the role of the engaged active citizen..the citizen journalist…the vigilant..because we are dealing after all, with professional politicians to whom cat and mouse games are easy…our task as citizens is not done..will not be done until this country becomes the kind of place all of us can thrive in..

It is an exciting time to live in – these are indeed life changing times. Someday, we can tell our children and grand children, we remember the great change. The change that heralded in the new Sri Lanka…

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