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Sunday, 27 February 2011

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Dreams I dream

The sun sets. The night dawns. The eyelids close. Another day in my life ends. This day becomes that day. It enters the past. The past becomes the present. I enter the zone of twilight sleep: "Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care The death of each day's life, sore labour's bath Balm of hurt minds, great nature's second course, Chief nourisher in life's feast." ~William Shakespeare, Macbeth.

As I close my eyes for the day, the mind's eye opens. I see faces, faces, faces. Familiar faces, alien faces; ageless faces; ancient faces; formed faces; formless faces; known places; mysterious places. Appearances, appearances, appearances. I migrate. I transcend time. From here to eternity, I travel. I see birth of stars; I see dying stars; I see planets - common and curious - in the making and almost breaking. I see all; and all at once, I see nothing. In this sudden darkness, I see life; I see death. I see it begin, and I see it end: the end that is about to commence its beginning.

Veritable symphony

A veritable symphony of images. The process of genesis; of evolution; of creation. A process in which; we, the human beings, are but a miniscule part - an atom, or even less by comparison. Yet, this morsel of a man, believed to have evolved but a mere 200,000 years ago in the continent of Africa; and, attaining behavioral modernity barely 50,000 years ago; sits on a planet named by him as earth - a planet which for all intent and purpose is but a speck of dust in comparison to the immensity of the cosmos - and, in this relatively short period, in contrast to the timelessness of time, has developed a head which many of the so called human beings find it difficult to carry on their shoulders. The cause of this malady is as varied and limitless as the universe.The head is a source for many metaphors and metonymies in human language. The ancient Greeks had a method for evaluating sexual attractiveness based on the Golden Ratio, part of which included measurements of the head. In many cultures, covering the head is seen as a sign of respect.

However, in this little piece of paradise called Sri Lanka, most heads, though seem to be void and consequently ought to be lighter, are swollen out of proportion. We Sri Lankans imagine, and at every nook and corner of the island hoardings proclaim, that we are the greatest race on earth. May be that it is because we hail from the race of Ravana - the ten headed legendary king of Lanka.

Though some interpret the description of Ravana as a ten-headed person to be an artistic reference to him possessing a very thorough knowledge over the 4 Vedas and 6 Upanishads, which made him as powerful as 10 scholars; I have an alternate theory and interpretation evolved through the observation of, and comparison with, the behaviour pattern of Ravana and his clan to the traits of modern day Sri Lankans - the progeny of the race of Ravana. I believe that he was depicted as ten headed because he is guided by and does not have control over the five senses and five bodily instruments of action which resulted in his ultimate downfall. Compare this with the mannerisms, attributes and habits of the modern day Sri Lankans; and, I am confident that a study of the Evolutionary Biology of Sri Lankans, if it is possible to find a link to Ravana, will show that the genes have not changed over 5000 years.

Ravana, according to some theories, was more of a legendary, rather than a historical, emperor who is supposed to have reigned over Sri Lanka from 2554 BC to 2517 BC. But, at the core of all legend is some element of truth, though twisted by time. Ravana was born to the great Brahmin sage Vishrava (or Vesamuni) and the Daitiya (Rahkshasa or Demonic) princess Nikasha. By some accounts, Nikasha is known as Kaikesi (she is not to be confused with Kaikeyi, the third wife of Dhasaratha, the father of Rama who ultimately killed Ravana in battle). He was born in the Devagana gotra (clan), as his grandfather, the sage Pulastya, was one of the ten Prajapatis or mind-born sons of Brahma and one of the Saptarishi (Seven Great Sages/Rishi) in the first Manvantara (an astronomical period of time measurement in the Hindu and Buddhist calendar. One manvantara equals 306,720,000 human years). Nikasha/Kaikesi's father, Sumali (or Sumalaya), king of the Daityas, wished her to marry the most powerful being in the mortal world, so as to produce an exceptional heir. He rejected the kings of the world, as they were less powerful than him. Nikasha/Kaikesi searched among the sages and finally chose Vishrava, the father of Kubera (or Kuvera). In by gone days, when Lankans adhered to Lankan culture, the concept of bigamy did not exist.

Matter of trust

Marriage, as it ought to be, was a matter of trust and not of law. I suppose, men were also more honourable and trustworthy, then than now, to equally love, cherish and care for the women in their life. Ravana was thus partly Brahmin and partly Daitya (Rahkshasa or Demonic). Readers will do well to note that the terms such as Deva, Rahkshasa, Yaksha, Naga etc. denotes a clan (Gothra) and does not carry the interpretations and/or implications as commonly applied and believed by some. At best, as a surmise, it may have denoted certain qualities - attributes and aspects - of human behaviour, inherent temperament and level of spiritual development that could have been discernible, and might have been predominant, amongst the members of the clan. Thus, those from the Deva gothre might have exhibited mostly divine qualities; and, those of the Rahkshasa gothra may have more or less been demonic in nature; whereas the Nagas possibly were not to be trusted as like the serpent etc. etc. Lanka was an idyllic city, created by the celestial architect Vishwakarma for Kubera, the treasurer of the gods. Kubera, older half brother of Ravana, was the ruler of Lanka before Ravana. He had generously shared all that he owned with Ravana and the latter's siblings, who were Kubera's half-brothers and half-sister through his stepmother Nikasha/Kaikesi. However, Ravana demanded Lanka wholly from him, threatening to take it by force. Vishrava, their father, advised Kubera to give it to Ravana as he was by this time undefeatable on account of the intense penance he performed to acquire absolute invulnerability from and supremacy over gods, heavenly spirits, other rahkshasas, serpents, and wild beasts. Contemptuous of mortal men, he did not ask for protection from man.

Although Ravana usurped Lanka, he was nevertheless regarded as a benevolent and effective ruler. Lanka flourished under his rule, to the extent that it is said that the poorest of houses had vessels of gold to eat and drink off, and hunger was unknown in the kingdom.

If I had dwelled at length on the subject of Ravana, to the extent of boring most of you, it is because I wanted you, the reader to have a glimpse into the origins of our nature and at the same time realize the greatness and richness of Lanka. Memory is a historical faculty. And with history being thought as irrelevant by our modern day educators; legend based ancient history is as foreign to the majority of our people as is Zyryanovsk. A rational and careful analysis of history will teach us to be humble and loving. It will make us realize the fleeting nature of our current existence and thus enable us to eradicate the false ego in us - the type of ego that has brought us from the glorious Lanka of yore to the gory Lanka of today. This ego is nothing but an exaggerated sense of self-importance, exhibited due to ignorance.

The ego comprises that organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Conscious awareness resides in the ego, although not all of the operations of the ego are conscious. It is a quality essential to the well-being of a person when used wisely. Ego, as opposed to conceit, is not a negative human trait when combined with wisdom. However, it becomes a destructive force when used by the foolish and the megalomaniac, both found in abundance in this paradoxical paradise island. Hence, I tell my readers: do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

Negative?

We Sri Lankans have many things to be proud of - from our past to the present. We have many amazing success stories, yet refuse to acknowledge them. We decline to admit our own strengths, our achievements. Instead, we are obsessed with bad news and failures and disasters. Take our media. Evening news on TV is where they begin with 'Good evening' and then proceed to tell you why it isn't. In the newspapers in Sri Lanka, what constitutes news is criticisms, gossips, murders, rape, corruption or crime. Why are we so negative?

I wish to present extracts from an open letter Dr. Abdul Kalam, former President of India, is supposed to have written to his countrymen. I have interpolated it in order to make it more relevant and applicable to Sri Lanka. I hope the original author will forgive and understand the spirit in which it was done.

"I was in Tel Aviv once and I was reading the Israeli newspaper. It was the day after a lot of attacks and bombardments and deaths had taken place. The Hamas had struck. But the front page of the newspaper had the picture of a Jewish gentleman who in five years had transformed his desert into an orchard and a granary. It was this inspiring picture that everyone woke up to. The gory details of killings, bombardments, deaths, were inside in the newspaper, buried among other news...

YOU say that our government is inefficient. YOU say that our laws are too old. YOU say that the municipality does not pick up the garbage. YOU say that the phones don't work, the railways are a joke. The airline is the worst in the world, mails never reach their destination. YOU say that our country has been fed to the dogs and is the absolute pits. YOU say, say and say. What do YOU do about it?

Take a person on his way to Singapore. Give him a name - 'YOURS'. Give him a face - 'YOURS'. YOU walk out of the airport and YOU are at your International best. In Singapore YOU don't throw cigarette butts on the roads or eat in the stores. YOU are as proud of their Underground links as they are. You pay S$5 (approx. SLRs.250) to drive through Orchard Road between 5 PM and 8 PM. Will YOU do so and pay even Rs.10 to drive along Duplication Road or Horton Place and New Parliament Road during the same hours? In a foreign country, YOU come back to the parking lot to punch your parking ticket if you have over stayed in a restaurant or a shopping mall irrespective of your status identity." In Singapore you don't say anything, DO YOU? YOU wouldn't dare to eat in public during Ramadan, in Dubai. YOU would not dare to go out without your head covered in Jeddah. YOU would not dare to buy an employee of the telephone exchange in London at 10 pounds (Rs..650) a month to, 'see to it that my STD and ISD calls are billed to someone else'. YOU would not dare to speed beyond 55 mph (88 km/h) in Washington and then tell the traffic cop, 'Do you know who I am? I am so and so's son. Take your two bucks and get lost'. YOU wouldn't chuck an empty coconut shell anywhere other than the garbage pail on the beaches in Australia and New Zealand... Why don't YOU spit on the streets of Tokyo ? Why don't YOU try and cheat at examinations or buy fake certificates in Boston ??? We are still talking of the same YOU; the YOU who can respect and conform to a foreign system in other countries but cannot in your own; the YOU who will throw papers and cigarettes on the road the moment you touch Sri Lankan ground. If YOU can be an involved and appreciative citizen in an alien country, why cannot YOU be the same here in Sri Lanka ?

In America every dog owner has to clean up after his pet has done the job. It is the same in Japan.

'Will YOU do that here?'... We go to the polls to choose a government and after that forfeit all responsibility. We sit back wanting to be pampered and expect the government to do everything for us whilst our contribution is totally negative. We expect the government to clean up but we are not going to stop chucking garbage all over the place nor are we going to stop to pick up a stray piece of paper and throw it in the bin.

We expect the railways to provide clean bathrooms but we are not going to learn the proper use of bathrooms. We want Sri Lankan Airlines and Mihin Air to provide the best of food and toiletries but we are not going to stop pilfering at the least opportunity. This applies even to the staff who are known not to pass on the service to the public. When it comes to burning social issues like those related to women, children, bribes for school admissions and others; we make loud drawing room protestations and continue to do the reverse at home. Our excuse: 'It's the whole system which has to change, how will it matter if I alone change.' So who's going to change the system unless YOU make the commitment to start with?

What does a system consist of? Very conveniently for us it consists of our neighbours, other households, other cities, other communities and the government. But, definitely, it is not me and YOU.

When it comes to us actually making a positive contribution to the system we lock ourselves along with our families into a safe cocoon and look into the distance at countries far away and wait for a Mr. Clean to come along & work miracles for us with a majestic sweep of his hand or we leave the country and run away. Like lazy cowards hounded by our fears we run to America to bask in their glory and praise their system. When New York becomes insecure we run to England.

When England experiences unemployment, we take the next flight out to the Gulf.

When the Gulf is war struck, we demand to be rescued and brought home by the Sri Lankan government. Everybody is out to abuse and rape the country. Nobody thinks of feeding the system. Our conscience is mortgaged to money."

Well readers, my final dream is that every Sri Lankan reads this and asks his conscience what he thinks of himself now.

See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking, keep laughing. Life is mostly about these two activities. For views, reviews, encomiums and brick-bats : [email protected]
 

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